How Do You Do It?

We are now about two weeks into our new normal: two kids, a working mom, a stay-at-home dad. It is going fine, by the way, though I do miss the kids fiercely sometimes and the bigger kiddo seems to be having some mama angst the last few days. Mr. Monkey is a great parent and though I do wonder how they are doing or what they are doing during the day (though I’ve found that it isn’t helpful to picture them frolicking at the park while I’m trying not to scream about some frustration at work) I never worry if they are doing okay. They are with their Dada. He’s got this.

One thing that has been interesting in the last couple of weeks is the reactions that I get when I tell people that the kids are home with Mr.Monkey. I’d say I get about 75% in the “oh that is awesome” category, 20% in the “my husband would never/men aren’t competent” category, and 5% that were overtly “how do you afford that?”. The 75% seem like the reasonable reaction, the 20% make me roll my eyes a bit and the 5% interest me. I suspect there are more than the 5% who wonder how we are making the finances part of this work, who wonder how we are doing this.

As much as I like talking about personal finance and I’m not uncomfortable talking about how we manage our money, I find it hard to talk about this without sounding, frankly, like kind of a douche about it.

Because here is the truth: we don’t have credit card debt, we do have savings, I make a decent salary and we generally live below our means. We are, and this is the part that sounds perhaps a little douchey, doing what we’re all “supposed” to do where money is concerned.

There isn’t a big secret, no magic trick. It is basically the financial equivilant of trying to figure out how to lose weight (eat right, move your body, lather rinse and repeat forever) and just like losing weight it is more about regular habit than anything else.

Does that mean that I am totally without anxiety about us basically being a family that relies on just my income (Mr.Monkey will be doing some adjunct teaching so we won’t be totally just on me, but mostly)?

Not at all. Anxiety about money is kind of my default setting so even though I’ve run the numbers over and over and I know that while we can’t add a lot to savings for the immediate future, I know we’ll be able to pay our bills. I know the numbers add up. I know that giving up Mr.Monkey’s salary is more than 50% offset by not having to pay for childcare. I know that we’ll save on gas and a few other expenses. I know it will work.

I know, logically and like 99% of the time, that managing our money isn’t magic. It is habit.

Once again I find myself wishing we (the cultural we) talked about money more openly, where we didn’t keep our financial successes and failures so close to the vest.

But maybe I just think it should be easier because my biggest financial failures are (I hope) behind me. There isn’t the same shame about having $25,000 in credit card debt now that it is paid off debt, all past tense. Maybe I want to talk about it more because I am like the zealous new religious convert: where I once was a broke clueless financial sinner, I am now saved and fired up about it.

Maybe I am kind of annoying about it. Maybe I overestimate how much other people wonder about my finances.

Maybe I’m rambling and keep almost deleting this entry because I worry I sound annoying. Maybe I’ll just stop typing now.



One thought on “How Do You Do It?

  1. Gretchen says:

    I know what you mean – it’s odd. I have had “friends” tell me to my face – “We’re so jealous of you” because of where I am financially. OK, they are in the same state pay grade as I am and we are all at the top of that scale. 20 years ago I was laid off and had nothing – literally. I had finally gotten a job after a bad stretch and got laid off 6 months later. I didn’t know how I’d pay for my apartment. I ran up a few thousand in credit card debt for necessities and old car repairs. I walked so I didn’t have to buy gas. Sorry, this is going to be kind of a rant! So 20 years later I’m married (he was also broke 20 yrs ago and he’s in the same pay grade I am), small house is paid for, cars are paid for, no credit card debt. Along the way we learned to live below our means, no matter how much we were making and it paid off. We have savings. If we had to, we could probably make ends meet on one salary. There’s no “luck” involved. One of these friends inherited enough money to pay cash for a house. So don’t be jealous of my “luck” in learning to make good decisions, OK? I don’t think you sound annoying at all, you make sense!

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