You are staring at a huge pile of debt, stressed out of your mind. All of your financial efforts seem to do nothing. You are spinning your wheels. You have roughly two options…spend less money (go frugal) or earn more money.
This classic dilemma was exactly what we faced recently. Well, really for the last several years. I was the single income earner, always striving for the next rung on the corporate ladder of success, always pushing for a bigger income at my job.
My wife, by contrast, was the stay at home mom who kept us grounded financially. She put her efforts where she could, into keeping us frugal and spending less money. She cuts coupons, buys generic brands, buys the “chipper chicken” (movie reference from Father of the Bride, always makes us laugh), and everything else it takes to save money.
Big Changes – Going to Two Incomes
This month we made a big change, an unexpected change for us. We became a two income family when my wife went back to work after a 12+ year absence from the working world. She landed a job at our local elementary school and I couldn’t be happier about the financial impact.
When you view that change from the perspective of debt, income, and finances, there is no downside. It’s all positive. My monthly budget spreadsheet stopped punching me in the face and actually began singing sweet, sweet music to me. What an amazing turn of financial events.
But then something happened. A big dose of reality smacked us in the face.
We were prepared for the immediate changes but didn’t quite calculate for the longer term changes. Up first was taking care of the kids. Making sure someone was home to get them on and off the bus, getting the 3 year old to preschool, getting day car setup for the 3 year old, feeding the kids…it’s like the basics of food, water, shelter. Once we had that settled, we figured we were golden. Or at least I did. I went back to stare at my new improved budget with more income coming in, positivity in full effect.
The Struggles Take Hold
As the days rolled on, we found that we (or really me) hadn’t fully prepared for this new setup. My regular schedule took a big hit. I have a flexible work schedule, allowing me to work from home a couple days a week as needed. Well, now I needed it.
I work from home Monday and Friday and watch the 3 year old on those days because she doesn’t have preschool and we decided to save on the day care. In the mornings, I stay at home until all the kids are on the bus and take the 3 year old to preschool. Not a big deal, but this dad doesn’t know how to do girl hair or really how to dress the girls. It’s a good thing they are fiercely independent by nature and try to do everything themselves anyway. That leaves me with handling the 3 year old, mostly.
Then there are days when I need to come home early from work to handle after school activities, pickups, or just to be home for the busses. What this means is that my work day gets broken up into chunks. I get up before the kids and get some work done, go through the morning routine of breakfast, busses, and school, then go to work for about 5-6 hours, and then try to squeeze in more work at night when I’m back home. It’s tough when I’m in a groove with work and don’t want to stop. The flow is broken and it can be tough to get back.
The Result of Going to Two Incomes
I’m one tired puppy. It doesn’t help that we have a major cold ripping through the house and mom and dad are the two who are really affected most. That never happens. We haven’t been sick like this in years…can’t remember the last time.
I’m actually on my second round of antibiotics because the first round did a whole lot of nothing (I have a major aversion to doctors and the medical community in general, but that’s a whole other can of worms). I only have a sinus infection, but it’s the worst one I can remember and it’s dragged on for a month.
My wife has almost lost her voice and is hanging on at her new job by a thread. She doesn’t want to miss any time and be “that guy” at work. She is being tough and soldiering on, full of cough medicine and more.
Beyond our health, our house has fallen apart around us. Keeping up with four active kids is no easy task to begin with, especially when there is a 3 year old involved who can single-handedly destroy a room in 45 seconds. We’ve got random dirty dishes on the counter, left after rushed rounds of dinners and breakfasts all week long. Then there are dirty clothes laying around from kids dashing out the door for the bus. We can’t keep up. We play catch up on the weekends with cleaning the house, but it never seems to end.
Then there are the meals. We generally have breakfast and lunch figured out for everyone. It’s dinner time when things get interesting. When we went into this, we said that we would meal plan and use the crockpot more, but that hasn’t really happened yet. Thankfully my wife is skilled in the art of throwing together a 30-minute meal and we have gotten by. But if mom goes down, it falls on dad and we’d be eating soup and sandwiches or breakfast for dinner every night…that’s my meal skillset.
I’m sure the parents who deal with all of this already are thinking, “Boohoo, cry me a river big guy.” Well, I just might. This is all new to me. I thought we had this figured out, but we are learning on the fly.
All part of the journey towards financial freedom. I’ll look back at this phase and laugh, I’m sure, but right now it’s not so fun.
Tell me about your struggles with being a two income family in the comments below.