Slowing Down

Lots of things have changed since my last post. Our lives have suddenly become quit a bit simpler–partly through choice and partly out of necessity. Let me run through the list:

My kids were struggling.

It started with one of my children struggling in school. After a forty-five minute conference with the teacher, my husband and I walked out feeling like something had to change. We didn’t know what but it was clear that we were failing our child in certain areas and we needed to fix it. On top of that, nearly every day my daughter was begging us for “family time”. We were obviously failing there, too.

My husband’s work schedule changed.

My hubby has always worked weird hours–night shift, second shift, rotating shift, etc. Such is the life of a printer. But then his work went through a couple of rounds of lay-offs (which was terrifying) and they put everybody left on normal hours–8-4, five days a week. It was glorious! Never before had we such consistency! It was all too good to be true. And it was. Around February/March, they decided to return to a rotating schedule. We were back to our erratic way of life…which meant me working on all of his off days instead of a couple nights a week and Saturdays. We started to realize that our chaotic lifestyle was impacting our kids.

I quit my job.

I hated to do it. I love the library and quitting my job felt like a breakup. I was fully aware that my choice to quit was a privilege. Other people don’t have this option…including people I worked with who said to me several times that they wished they could stay home with their kids but money was a problem. Life as a full-time stay at home mom looks a lot different when it is a choice as opposed to the only option. Before I worked at the library, it felt like the only option. Now it feels like a choice and I am so grateful to have a financial situation stable enough to be able to make that choice.

Our second car died.

Of course as soon as I quit, my husband’s car died. It was the Honda I had purchased when I was 18, so it had lived a good long life. There never seems to be a good time to die, however, so my hubby is currently carpooling with a guy from work until my daughter’s preschool is done (we’d already paid her tuition to the end of the term and she gets such joy from it that I could not fathom pulling her out early). We discussed buying a cheap beater car for him to drive to work but the reality is we are too poor to buy cheap. Or to get a car payment. So the current plan is to be a one-car family until we can save enough to buy a decent car. Our van is in pretty good shape and (fingers crossed) will most likely last another few years.

What it all means now.

We’ve always tried to live a simple life but these new circumstances have really forced us to get serious about being debt free. We have one loan standing between us and being debt free (excluding our mortgage) and it has taken us years to pay it off. It should be paid off. But we’ve always added onto it in small chunks, thinking…oh, it’s no big deal, we’ll pay for it. The result was what should have been a five year loan turning into in almost ten year loan. I cringe when I think of that. We were not smart. But we are going to be smart now. We’ve set a goal to pay it off in two years. This has included taking steps to shut off our cable and our gym membership. We also radically simplified our budget down to the very bare necessities. We’ve been considering giving up our phones and getting a landline and a couple of burners for emergencies but I think that I’ve hit my limit on what I’m able to give up. For now.

The bright side.

The bright side is that we’ve slowed down quite a bit and have been spending more time together as a family. Family dinners are now a more regular thing on my husband’s off days, whereas before we were all tired from working and ate in front of our respective screens. The weather is warmer, which is helpful, so we’ve been going outside. The fact that we cancelled our gym membership is going to force us to be outdoors even more and I can’t really complain about that. My children have more consistency in their schedules and are showing improvement at school. My daughter no longer begs for family time. I spend a lot of time cooking, reading, writing, and being outdoors–all things that I enjoy. My husband is less stressed since he gets to come home to dinner and a clean house (most of the time). This summer I plan to take my kids on adventures via public transit–something that I have never done before. Camping is also something I would like to try with the kids but my husband insists I pass the backyard test first. Fair enough, husband.

But our lives are definitely more slow paced and simple now. The needs and goals are clear. I won’t sit here and pretend that I’m all righteous and doing things the right way. There is no one right way of managing a family. It’s really making the best of not-so-awesome situation…and I’m fairly certain that with all of the kids home this summer, I may have some stuck at home meltdowns and fret that we have no money for a second car. But I (and others) remind myself daily that many people would love to have my life. I’m very fortunate. So it’s best to live gratefully and to the best of my ability. Even more so now than before.