On the Same Page?

Last night I sat my man down and told him exactly how I feel about TTC#2. The problem is I’m not even sure how I feel. So I laid it all out and explained how uncertain and unsure all of it felt.

Basically, this is what I said:

- There is a part of me, the part I believe is driven by my biological imperative, that wants to have a baby right her and right now, come hell or high water. This voice is oscillates between a loud shouting and a quiet whisper and is fairly persistant, though frequently drowned out by the day to day.

- Another part of me, the part I believe is driven by my perpetual state of anxiety, is well, anxious. I’m worried about all the uncertainty, the myriad “what if”s? I’m scared it will take a long time to get pregnant, I’m terrified we’ll suffer another a loss (or God forbid multiple losses or a still birth). I’m worried that TTC#2 will be road we’re struggling down for years. I don’t know if I can handle that.

- Another cause of (considerable) anxiety is that a second child will be the nail in our relationship’s coffin. The way I see it – worst worst case scenario: a second child before we’re both ready would be the end of our relationship. Best worst case scenario: we’re totally miserable for one or two years and it takes another one or two for us to recover.

- Of course our financial ability (or better said, inability) to have another child is also a huge reason to put this whole TTC#2 business on hold, big time.

I said all of this very calmly; even I was impressed with how collected I was during my whole spiel. The fact is I’m feeling pretty calm about the whole thing, despite my oscillating thoughts and feelings about it. I think I’m realizing that there is no best answer, that every approach has considerable positives and negatives and we’re just going to have to make a decision and hope for the best.

The surprising part of all of this is not my new found understanding but Mi.Vida’s response to it. Turns out Mi.Vida is similarly conflicted by all of this. I assumed he thought waiting was the obviously more appropriate choice. In reality, Mi.Vida sees positives to jumping into TTC#2 sooner rather than later too. For one, he isn’t so interested in stretching the baby/toddler years out so that they span the better part of a decade; he would rather the babyhood of the second baby overlap with the toddlerhood of the our darling daughter, thus shortening the overall span. He also likes the idea of our children being closer in age so that they can more easily and appropriately play together (or course being close in age doesn’t guarantee friendship but might make it more plausible). He also mentioned being worried that it might take a while and/or that we might experience more loss, which I really appreciated.

Of course he’s terrified of the financial implication of two children, especially since we’ve determined he’s the one responsible for making more money. He also shares my trepidation surrounding how a second child might test the mettle of our relationship. This past year does seem to suggest that we might be found lacking.

So where does all of this leave us? As you know, I need to have some sort of plan so currently what we’re doing is this: In January we will start our first ever stint of “not trying but not not trying”. We originally planned that for right now but I eventually conceded I would be unable to have unprotected sex without secretly (or even subconsciously) trying to get pregnant. Now, I fully believe that I can, in fact, do that. So in January we’ll throw out the condoms and see if any of our bedroom antics have (somewhat) unintended affects. During this time we’ll also be working to increase our fertility, eating less processed foods, taking supplements, and keeping hot computers off our junk – you know, that kind of thing. Then later, maybe three months, maybe six, we’ll start going at it for realsies.

So yeah, that is our plan, and I feel strangely at peace with it. I know it’s not perfect but I realize now no option is. I feel this plan is the best mix of caution and courage that we can muster right now.

I hope I’m right.

The Plus Side

I figure I’ve subjected all of you (and me) to enough negativety for the time being and that it would probably benefit all of us if I were to acknowledge some of the good in my life right now because the truth is, there is lots of good.

I must confess, the three days since I published my holy-shit-we-can’t-take-this post have been pretty good. Mi.Vida and I have been more open and loving towards each other and on Thursday night his parents treated us to a yummy dinner. Before we went to bed on Wednesday we had a talk and conceded that while this was hard, it was only temporary and that things would probably get better sooner rather than later. The best part is, I think we actually believe that.

So, on to the (other) positives.

We are living within our means. I know I bitch and moan (incessantly) about how expensive it is here and how ridiculous it is that our decent salaries aren’t sufficient but the reality is, we are living off of what we make. Right now we are getting by without dipping into our savings, which is a great improvement over last year. I think I tend to obsess over all we’re sacrificing to live within our means, but fail to acknowledge the magnitude of the final result. Of course we need to start saving too, but maybe that won’t happen much until I’ve paid off my student loans, and that’s okay.

We are healthy. My probable depression aside, we’re all healthy right now and that is easy to take for granted when no one in your immediate family has ever been very sick. I know I forget how fortunate we are to be thriving physically and I don’t want to do that. We’re healthy, our parents are healthy and our daughter is healthy. In the end, that is really all the matters.

Yoga. Yoga has been so amazing for me. When I’m at yoga I feel strong, confident and self-assured. My body can do things in practice it could never do before I had a baby. I don’t think I’ve been this committed to yoga in all the years I’ve practiced and I can see how my body is benefiting from the investment. I’m eager to see what I’ll achieve after three more months of work.

My pre-pregnancy jeans fit. And I mean “my jeans,” my favorite jeans, not the random other pairs I own that I don’t really like. After just three months of yoga I’m within three pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight (I was lingering about 10-15lbs above it for months), and that was a weight I only achieved after many months of a restrictive TCM diet. To have achieved this weight while indulging in bread, pastas and processed foods is pretty impressive. I would venture to say I look better than I did before I got pregnant, at least in 95% of my body. Of course my stomach will never be the same, but that’s okay – my wardrobe has always been designed to hide my tummy flab.

We are learning valuable life skills. While the financial clamp down is stressful, I appreciate how it’s forced us to learn valuable skills for saving money. Not only am I changing the way I shop, I’m overhauling what we keep in the house, creating a less cluttered, more livable apartment for all of us. Not buying anything new allows me to  rediscover older clothes that have been tucked away for years. Even really wanting something I can’t have has it’s benefits. By the end of this year I will be certain of what materials things are most important to me. The items I still covet after six months (*cough, cough* Olympus PEN E-P3) are probably worth saving for. The stuff I forgot about? Well, I can’t buy something I don’t even remember wanting. We are also learning how to cope when our old fall backs aren’t an option. Throwing together a quick and easy dinner is no longer as difficult as it once was and I’m learning to semi-deep clean the house (or parts of it) in a reasonable amount of time.

Working part time. My current job situation has many pros and cons. For me the biggest pro is having the opportunity to see if I like it. I’ve always assumed that working part time would be an ideal situation and now I get to see if that’s true. Of course I’d much prefer four full days to five shortened days but that won’t happen with my position so I’ll take what I can get. And while this new situation makes me feel isolated and will force me to bring a lot of work home, I do appreciate have one less class to prep, teach and grade. Leaving early also means never worrying about hitting traffic, which is truly wonderful; I’m probably spending 2 hours less a week in the car. I also get to see Isa a little more, though it’s not much as she’s napping for the majority of my extra time at home. During nap time I have more opportunities to clean the house and do laundry; there is never anyone using the machines at 2pm so I can always get a load in. Finally, working part time is actually saving us money, as we are so fortunate to have people watching Isa for free during the day. I know how lucky we are to have that set up and I hope it allows us to save some money for next year.

We have support. The only reason working part time saves me money is because my FIL is kind enough to watch Isa for free four mornings a week. On Tuesdays a good friend is generous enough to watch her. Between my parents (who live about 45 minutes away, near my work) and Mi.Vida’s parents (who live less than 10 minutes away) we almost always have someone to watch Isa for us. They help us out constantly, watching Isa while we run errands or taking her for us so we can go out. They also do laundry for us (or just let us use their machines – which saves us $5 a load!), get us organic milk and yogurt at the store and drop off fully prepared meals; they even clean our house occasionally when we’re not around! Our parents are the main reason we haven’t really considered moving away from this insanely expensive city and that is because they provide endless support for us. We are truly lucky to have them around.

So yeah, there is A LOT of good in our lives. A lot. And I would be remiss in mentioning it here. Despite the very real difficulties it’s not all bad. Not by a long shot.

Confessional Fridays: Secondary (Circumstantial) Infertility?

As most of you know financial realities have forced us to postpone our TTC#2 plans indefinitely. Originally we were going to start trying again in October. Our thinking was, if we (miraculously) got pregnant right away, and everything went off without a hitch, the baby would be born right after Isa turned two. This age difference felt a little close and overwhelming to us but we believed we could handle it. And of course we assumed it would not happen right away and wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to let it happen. Even if it took a year, or longer, we wouldn’t feel particularly stressed (hah, well in theory anyway).

I have to admit there was a part of me that was sure we’d get pregnant right away, just because we were scared to. And I was so looking forward to trying without the pressure of having it happen quickly. Now none of that matters because we are not trying in October. We’re not trying in the foreseeable future. I don’t know when we do plan to start trying again, in fact. And it kind of terrifies me.

With that in mind, cut to pregnant bellies.

I have always been kind of obsessed with pregnant bellies. Even before I was TTC I’d look longingly at them. When I was in my early twenties, long before I really felt (or was) ready to have a baby, I was jealous of pregnant bellies. They are just so, I don’t know, awesome. I truly hope that my obsession with pregnant bellies will stop one day. I don’t think anyone condones a 60 year old woman staring wistfully at every burgeoning baby bump that happens by.

Of course when we started TTC my pregnant belly obsession became markedly more pronounced. Especially after my loss, I immediately checked every woman in the vicinity, wondering whether she were pregnant. It got marginally better after I had Isa, but I I still felt drawn to pregnant bellies, now longing for that idyllic (as I always choose to remember it) time of excitement and potential.

I will admit that now, if I see a pregnant woman walking alone I no longer feel jealous of what she has, after all, I had it to once (though I might feel a twinge of envy that she still has it). But then I remember how when I was pregnant and I saw people with babies I coveted the assurance that everything would be alright. I do remember (vividly) how uncertain that time was and I have no desire to resume the anxious worry that accompanied my pregnancies.

Oh course seeing a woman with a pregnant belly and a small child in tow? That has felt a little different. That woman has something I do not yet have. And even when I wasn’t ready to have it, it still stung. But now? Now that TTC#2 is postponed indefinitely? Now I it stings something fierce. Now it’s more akin to a dagger in my heart than the small but persistant paper cuts of before. Now it’s really hard.

I don’t know what it is exactly that hurts so much about seeing someone with what I want. Is it just a reminder of what I can’t yet have? Or is it the reminder of how easily others achieve it? Does it just suck when it’s pointed out that we are being prohibited from growing our family as we’d hoped? Is it shameful that we can’t manage what others so easily afford? I really don’t know. All I know is it hurts. More than I expected.

Yesterday I took Isa to a children’s museum. In the Tot Room, which is for children who are no taller than 42 inches, there were dozens of mothers and their kids. I would venture to guess about 1/3 of them were noticeably pregnant. So many beautiful pregnant bellies being rubbed incessantly. It was kind of overwhelming and it made me want to leave. It was the first time, since our postponed family planning, that I’d seen one pregnant-mom-of-a-toddler let alone 10+ in an enclosed space. I was even informed of a totally un-pregnant (and super skinny) looking well-to-do mother’s “fragile state” when she barged into the room (which admittedly did wreak of poop – someone’s kid needed a diaper change STAT) proclaiming that as a newly pregnant lady she could just NOT TOLERATE the stench. And then she went on to repeat how newly pregnant she was multiple times, lest we had other more personally relevant issues to consider.

Recently someone posted an article on Prompt-ly about “circumstantial infertility”. The author was a 40-something woman who had always wanted children but never found the right man. She claimed that her suffering was similar to her medically infertile counterparts – after all, they all wanted a child but were denied the chance due to circumstances outside of their control. This article inspired a really interesting conversation about the idea of “circumstantial infertility” and if someone who can’t have a child when she wants to because she lacks a partner or her partner is currently deployed or otherwise unable to participate in the necessary physical act should be considered infertile. What about same sex couples or single moms by choice (SMBC) who have to pursue ART? Are they also circumstantially infertile, even if they do achieve pregnancy through medical means? Does my (financial) inability to have a child now, when I want to, make me a sufferer of secondary circumstantial infertility? Is there such a thing as financial infertility and if so does someone who has to wait a mere year to continue building her family even quality?

I want to clarify that I in no way believe I am circumstantially infertile. Nor do I claim membership in the infertility community. I have always flashed my loss card in this space and when commenting on others’ blogs (though I believe my history of amenorrhea and the thousands I spent proactively on acupuncture blur that line somewhat – more on this forthcoming). I would never assume that my current frustration and pain mirrors that of a woman who needed to pursue ART to achieve her first pregnancy and isn’t sure she can afford it, or if it will even work, a second time. I personally believe the suffering when one has to pursue ART due to what might be perceived as a “failure” of one’s body is of a different caliber than of those who can’t build a family because of other circumstances.

I remember waiting for Mi.Vida to be ready to have a child. I remember being frustrated and angry when others got pregnant during that time because I wanted so much for us to be at that place too. But it was a different pain than when we were actively TTC and not getting pregnant. The disappointment of “we’re doing that too, but for it’s not working for us” was much more visceral than what was felt when I was waiting for it to be our time. For that reason, and many others, I believe that the truly (medically) infertile suffer a different kind of loss than those who might claim circumstantial infertility.

I remember when we started trying again after my loss. When my fear of amenorrhea was overshadowed completely by fear of another ectopic. I remember bargaining in my stages of grief, that if I could only have one child, I’d be happy. I only need one, I pleaded, and I’ll be okay. And you know what. It’s true. I will be okay with one child. The desperation I felt of just wanting to be a mother, is not there this time. I am a mother and while I will grieve deeply if I can’t build my family the way I’d hoped to, I will always be so thankful for the daughter I have. I know how lucky I am to have experienced pregnancy and motherhood and I will let my desire for another child overshadow the gratitude I feel for those special blessings.

Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really want to have another baby. A lot.

What are your thoughts on “circumstantial infertility”? How would you compare it with medical infertility? How would you compare primary and secondary infertility? Or is it infertility is infertility, is infertility?

Gratitude and Regret

This is actually an apology note, but it’s also a thank you card of sorts. I want to apologize for yesterday’s post – for its dismissive, disrepectful tone and its divisive content. I also want to thank you for not only engaging in what I felt was a very interesting and constructive but dialogue, but also for calling me out on the inherent negativity of my post. I really, really appreciate the fact that instead of telling me off, as you had every right to do, you provided me with constructive criticism that allowed me to learn more myself and my thoughts and feelings.

In St. Louis I spent a week with my cousin and her baby. This is the cousin who got pregnant the first month she was “not trying but not not trying”. This is the cousin who just bought a house. This is the cousin who left her teaching job and is staying home indefinitely with her daughter. This is the cousin that I love dearly but that also awakens the green monster in me.

And I realize I feel a lot of jealousy towards other SAHMs too. I want to be a SAHM. I don’t think I realized, until this week, who worn down my WOHM schedule was making me. I don’t think I realized how little I was seeing my daughter until I started seeing her all the time. I don’t think I knew how great it would felt to be home with her again until I was home with her again.

I was so lucky to have almost six months off when Isa was born. I had my summer break and then my three months of FMLA leave. It was truly amazing to spend those months with her and I am forever grateful for them. And then I went back and it was hard. Harder than I thought it would be. But I sucked it up because I didn’t have a choice. I took comfort in the fact that my very capable and loving SIL was taking care of Isa and soldiered on. I even convinced myself I didn’t mind working so much, that it wasn’t that bad. I tried hard to adopt a Buddhist attitude of acceptance and mindfulness, getting through each day and being grateful for the good in those 24 hours. I cherished the time that I had with my daughter, but I was also, deep down, always wishing for more.

Lately the financial realities of our situation have become increasingly clear. We can barely afford the life we are living. Having another child, if we’re lucky enough to do so, will bring even more financial hardship. My big dream of staying at home for one year, with two children, looks less and less likely. Unless Mi.Vida finds a new job, I will never be able to stay home. I will have to say goodbye to what feels like a modest dream and I’m resentful of that.

Of course this is assuming we can get pregnant and have another healthy baby. I know I’m already asking for too much. I know I’m already asking for everything, and then I want even more.

But other people get to have it. Why not me? Why can’t I have two healthy children and my own year at home with them?

I think I’m mourning what I will probably never have. I’m mourning the chance to be a SAHM. My heart keeps saying that maybe we can make it happen, perhaps we can swing it, but my head sees that writing on the wall. We can’t afford it. We just can’t.

I’m trying to focus on what I do have, my healthy daughter, my loving husband, a FIL who is willing to watch Isa for us next year and a job that is allowing me a part time schedule… and of course the next six weeks of summer. I have so much. I am truly fortunate. I know this is in my head and in my heart and yet I still feel this emptiness, the place where “what I can’t have” lives.

It’s that empty place that drove me to write yesterday’s post. It’s “what I can’t have” that makes me feel those things. I love being home with Isa and I want it so much. Does it make it easier for me when I lash out at those that have what I want? No. In fact it makes me feel worse but I still seem to do it. Self-destructive behavior is so strange that way.

I apologize again to everyone who was rubbed the wrong way by Friday’s post, to all the SAHM and WOHM who don’t want to further fuel the war between two kinds of mothers that really aren’t all that different to be being with. I’m sorry for sinking to that level of antagonism and I thank you for helping me find my way back to the surface of understanding and acceptance.

I hope we can all remain friends.

Stumbling Financially

Well my week off is over. I’m trying hard not to dwell on returning to work Monday morning. I’m also trying hard not to start the countdown to my Spring break in late April. I was actually doing a really good job of living in the day this month and it helped this break come faster and allowed me to enjoy it without lamenting how fast it was coming to an end. Usually I feel intense depression at the end of weeks off because the anticipation for them is so great that their brevity ultimately disappoints. I didn’t do that this time and I’m proud. We’ll see if I can last the six week (I couldn’t help but count it out) before my next week with my daughter without counting down.

The in-home child care place was NOT what we were looking for. It was incredibly depressing, in fact. Mi.Vida said he almost had a panic attack when we walked in. It would have been a great deal though, at only $900 a month, but I know now that the “clearance” option is not what I will be choosing for my daughter.

I’ve started looking into other in-home child care opportunities. Two have already said they do not have space for an infant this fall. Our situation is restrictive because we only have one car and I take it to work very early in the morning. So an in-home child care would either have to be open by 7am so that I could drop my daughter off with the car on my way out of the city or it has to be on a light rail/bus line so that Mi.Vida could get her there on public transport and then get himself to work without it taking two hours. I’m currently calling Spanish speaking places exclusively, but I have my list of English-only in-home care places to fall back on. I still hope to find something. It seems there should be possibilities that cost (and are worth) more than $900 somewhere in the city. Of course, finding one with space for an infant is probably going to be difficult.

On the nanny front, we already know of a woman who has been recommended by my SIL and the woman who runs the City College Child Observation class that I used to go to. She has been working part time for a family of three for many years. Her daughter is just starting Kindergarten so she wants to start working full time and would love to work on the school year schedule (get the school breaks off). She seems like she would be a great fit for us, but she’s (a relative deal at) $16/hour. That is over $2,500 a month for what rounds out to 9 months. In case you are crappy at mental math (like me) that is almost $23,000 for the school year. That is more than I paid for my graduate degree.

Some people have mentioned nanny shares but I’m a little hesitant about that, mostly because I just don’t see our apartment being a good fit for a nanny share. We don’t really have plans to baby-proof it to the nines, which we’d have to do (and would be pretty much impossible). Also, it’s so small, I can’t imagine where we’d put a Pack n’Play for the other baby to sleep in. Finally, I just get nervous about the liability of having another child in my house half of the year. Plus, we’d have to find someone willing to share on our strange, school-year-driven schedule. It just causes me anxiety. And the reality is, nanny shares cost about $12/hour so we wouldn’t be saving ourselves that much anyway (about $630 a month), which has us spending $18,000 all told. Good gracious these are insane sums for ONE year of child care. And it’s not including the summer or four weeks of vacation during the year!

Needles to say, Mi.Vida and I have had some difficult conversations about money. Money sucks.

I read recently somewhere that ours is the first generation that will not be as financially well off as their parents (and the generation that is currently in school is the first to have less education than their parents). I know that for me that is definitely the case. My parents were quite financially comfortable, definitely upper middle class (Mi.Vida says upper upper middle class). My dad made six figures. My mom was a teacher and made the “spending money” I suppose. They didn’t start out with anything but a job overseas, all expenses paid, allowed them to pay off their debt and start paying off their mortgage while my dad’s company paid their rent in Hong Kong. Of course that kind of thing never happens anymore. Anyway, we went on fun vacations all over the world, I was given a (used) car when I turned 16. And when I crashed it 36 hours after I got my license I was given another (used) car (I did have to wait five months). My parents paid for my undergraduate education, completely. Despite many different bouts with unemployment my parents were always well off.

Mi.Vida’s parents were less secure financially, but definitely middle class (Mi.Vida says upper middle class). They made it in San Francisco with only his dad working for most of their childhood. His mom sometimes worked part time at a pre-school. They were able to buy a condo because he was a city employee and they won a lottery for the opportunity. His dad worked for the city for 35 years, gradually earning himself an impressive salary and an insane pension. They helped pay for Mi.Vida to go to college but they had to take out loans and so did he.

I didn’t realize until I had kids that I expected to be in a similar relationship, one where the man made the “money” and my job was helpful but not essential to the family’s financial stability. Of course, that is not the case, and I’m struggling with the fact that my meager teacher’s salary contributes more (just barely) to our household income.

I realize that we will not be able to give our children the life that we had. We will probably never buy a house, which means they will not have that asset when we’re gone. I will not get to show my children the world. I will not be buying my kids cars (which, if we live in SF, they won’t need anyway). I know that my kids will not have the things that I had, and that is fine. I don’t feel I needed those things to be happy, they are not what I look back on when I think of how fortunate I was. I’m content giving my children a loving mother and father in a close relationship, a good (but probably free) education and a safe home.

I also want some financial security. I want to be able to rent an apartment that fits our family’s needs, both in location and size. I want to at least help my children pay for their undergraduate degrees. If they really want to go to a reasonably priced summer camp, I’d love to give them that experience. I know I will struggle with not providing my children the life that I had, but I think I can do it and still be content. I would hope that I can.

Figuring all of this out is hard. We cannot draw so much from our parents’ stories as they are not relevant to our situation. In the short time since they had children things have changed. It’s even more important that families have two earners than it was back then. Instead we have to look for guidance from friends who are trying to build their families, but as lawyers or employees in the private sector, none of them make the kind of money we do. So we’re just kind of left to figure it out for ourselves. And I suppose we’ll do that.

I just don’t want us to wake up ten years from now and realize we don’t have the things we want and that if we’d done things differently we might have been able to have them. I just want us to have a plan.

Right now the plan is to sit down and figure out the plan at the end of this school year. I guess it’s a start.

Confessional Fridays: I am the Reason…

… we can’t buy a house.

I’m horrible with money. I really am. Today I took a “reality check” survey with my Study Skills class where you say what kind of house you want to live in, car you want to drive and lifestyle you want to live and they tell you how much you have to make. For my “preferred lifestyle” in San Francisco I’d have to make almost twice what I do. No wonder I’m having such a hard time!

During the survey it would ask how much you want to spend on different things every month. After you’d click a number it would show how much more your annual income would have to be. Watching the fact that I’d like to spend $100 a month on something became $1,200 a year got me thinking. I’ve easily spent $100 a month of stuff I don’t need; DVDs, books, clothes, toys for Isa, hair products, make-up, you name it. I can safely say I’ve done that every month for at least the past decade. That is $12,000 I just frittered away. Probably more. Maybe much more.

I can’t believe it.

So much money and for what? Things that have been lost, thrown away, given away. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I’ve been trying to get a hold of my spending since Isa was born, but I’m not doing a great job. It’s a compulsion for me. I can physically feel the anxiety before I spend money. It’s not the spending that causes the anxiety, the unsettled feeling is there to begin with. The shopping calms the anxiety. The shopping makes it go away.

I’m not trying to say I have no control over the waste I’ve incurred. I believe that as an adult I have to take responsibility for my emotions, and the actions that result. But I do admit that there is something at work here, something deeper than just simple desire to participate in inconspicuous consumption.

There were also lessons that never learned. My parents did not have much as children, my mom had nothing. I think she wanted to give us all she never had. And she too likes to shop, though she’s a bargain hunger and great with her finances. Still, all of what I needed in life was paid for. I worked hard, made lots of money, and when I had no necessities to budget for, I learned to spend it on other, more frivolous things. If I ever wanted anything really big, a new computer when my old one broke, a new iPod when my old one was stolen, they got it for me. The trend continued in college. By the time I struck out on my own, I had horrible spending habits. I literally didn’t know what it felt like to not get something I wanted. I’m embarrassed to say it, but it’s true.

I never learned to save, just spend. I have no savings to speak of. None. I have literally $0.02 in my savings account right now. I have been putting $300 away in a retirement account for the past two years, so I guess that is something. But if I see it in my account, I assume it’s fair game. I’ve also never paid interest on my credit card, though twice I’ve enrolled in a no-interest for one year card to roll over balances. I’m currently paying off one of those. So I guess my spending habits could be worse, but not much worse.

So here I am, wallowing in the consequences of my actions. Mi.Vida says I shouldn’t dwell in the past, beating myself up over what I’ve done. But the idea that I’ve squandered possibly tens of thousands of dollars is soul crushing. And I believe I have to feel the shame and guilt of that irresponsibility fully if I’m going to learn from what I’ve done. If I just brush it aside I won’t make better choices in the future.

And I need to make better choices, for my family’s future, for Isa’s future. I need to make better choices so I can give my daughter was she needs in life, quality health care, a good education, a safe and nurturing environment. I also need to teach her, though my own actions, what it means to go without something you want, and the importance of saving. I know my mom taught me those ideals with her words, but I now see that I didn’t learn the lesson. I’m already thinking of ways that I can teach my daughter better what it means to spend wisely. Our financial situation will probably guarantee that lesson will be learned, and for that, at least, I am thankful.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Big Picture Priorities

Last week I wrote about making how our day to day choices both reflect, and define, who we are. Realizing that I would not be able to focus on all the things that are important to me in a given day, I had to start making hard decisions about how I would spend my valuable, and fleeting, time. I’m still figuring all of that out, and realizing that on different days and when different situations arise, different priorities surface. Yesterday I had every intention of going to bed early, as Mi.Vida already had (he’s not feeling well these days). Then I found a bloggy friend on Face.book and we started “chatting”. I consciously watched my bedtime come and go but chose to “talk” with her because I could tell she needed my support. As I fell asleep a little after 11pm I felt great about that choice. Earlier in the week I stayed up well past 11pm to finish my Tuesdays 2 Think post for amoment2think. I had promised to contribute to her blog and that promise was important to me, even though I got a late start and would literally lose sleep over it. While certain aspects of my participation on her blog didn’t go as I had hoped, it was still important to me to fulfill my end of the bargain. I felt my integrity as a blogger was at stake.

But this post is not about those every day choices. This post is about the big ticket items. This post is about prioritizing my life in the grander sense. And these priorities can’t change from day to day.

Last night some good friends called to tell us some big news. Their daughter had not arrived early as I first suspected, instead they had bought a house! I was very happy for them. I know they had been looking for a long time. I thought they were kind of crazy for closing escrow literally days after their baby was due but I understood that they didn’t want to waste an opportunity. It was very exciting news.

When I hung up, I felt a funk fall over me. How could my friends possibly buy a house and have a baby? Two years ago we looked briefly for a house but realized quickly that while we could afford it at the time, a child would render us unable to pay our mortgage. I was sad to realize we couldn’t invest in the most basic of the American dream but I was easily distracted by TTC and looking forward to a future with the baby I so longed for. My desire to own a house paled in comparison.

Since then the housing market has continued to fall and interest rates have stayed down. Everyone is talking about what a GREAT time it is for first time buyers. Even in our area, which has a relatively stable housing market, there are some good deals out there. It’s hard not to feel that by not buying a house now we’re missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s hard not to feel that if we don’t buy a house now, we’ll never buy a house.

So last night I got to thinking. How can my friends afford their new house? Do they make more than us? Surely yes, but how much more? Do they have free child care lined up for when she goes back to work? (She’s taking 6 months off too!) I don’t think so; I know both of their parents and doubt they will be watching their new baby. Do they save money better than us? Definitely better than I do, but Mi.Vida is quite frugal.

While I know I can save my money better, and have plans to do so, it seems that what it boils down to is we don’t make enough. At least not to live in this expensive city we call home.

So, having pinpointed the cause of the problem, what are the possible solutions?

We could move to a cheaper area (as our friends did), leaving the city where my partner grew up and where we enjoy the myriad cultural opportunities available. I could get a different job, one that would take me away from my daughter on a daily basis and during the breaks I have as a teacher. I could also sacrifice the year I hope to take off when we (hopefully) have our second child. Mi.Vida could get a new job, probably one that doesn’t promote socially conscious efforts. We could drastically change the way we live, rarely indulging in nights out or new clothes and not visiting family and friends that live far away.

There are smaller choices that can be made. Looking for Spanish immersion child care opportunities I realize we may have to get another one-on-one nanny, spending considerably more than we would on in-home child care. Do I sacrifice that ideal, my daughter speaking Spanish, to save us money?

These are all important questions, ones that I feel like we need to make consciously after thought and discussion and not by the default of indecision. Now that we have a daughter each choice carries extra weight. Not only do our decisions affect us, they affect her, they affect our family. It’s interesting how we sometimes feel capable of making sub-par choices for ourselves but when someone we care about is a part of the equation, our standards become more rigid and we are unbending in our adherence to the same principals we once neglected.

Now we need to make decisions that truly reflect who we are while simultaneously defining us. What is most important? The financial stability (?!) and status of owning a house with a yard and a fence? Living in a city where our daughter can be exposed to diversity and culture while fostering independence and curiosity? Having careers that contribute meaningfully to society? Having jobs that allow us to spend time at home, with our children?

These are all very important questions and I hope we can find satisfactory answers.

In the meantime, I could lament the fact that living our lives and buying a house are currently mutually exclusive. Or I could see the discrepancy as an opportunity to make important decisions mindfully, guiding my life with intention and not ambivalence. And in appreciating the dilemma that way, I am further defining who I am and who I hope to be.