I started my married life with a mortgage-free home, a husband who had a nice, stable job, and a great deal of optimism bordering on self-assurance. I mean… things were looking so great, so why would anything ever go wrong, right?
Then, for almost a full decade, I had done my best to ride out one financial crisis until another, facing the loss of the income and the house that had seemed so secure. Having chosen a remote lifestyle, I had very limited employment opportunities, a bunch of kids, no reliable transportation, and no steady internet connection. So my only available strategy was, tighten that belt… and tighten it more… until it nearly suffocated me.
I believe my great epiphany came at the moment when I was scouring the corners of my freezer for the last bit of flour to make one last loaf of bread. I was feeling utterly helpless, vulnerable, and desperate.
And I realized I don’t ever want to feel this way again. Never. Never.
Today, I am lucky enough to live in improved circumstances and enjoy wider opportunities. I’m in a safe, settled place and am successfully employed in writing and editing. But often, it still feels as though I first shot myself in the foot and then spent years trying to repair the damage.
In a few years, my older children will be starting on the road to adulthood. It’s a sobering thought; they’ll get to make their own choices – and their own mistakes. And if there’s one message I hope to convey to my kids while they are growing, it’s this:
“Don’t be afraid to envision a bright future in which all your dreams come true, but also make a Plan B in case the you-know-what hits the fan. Believe me, you don’t want to burn all your boats and then discover you’re stuck on an island.”
Though nobody like to think of unpleasant things, it’s wise to think of how you’d handle sickness, prolonged unemployment, or the breakup of your marriage. This does happen, and it’s important to have an emergency fund and employment opportunities on the back burner.
I love attachment parenting and will never regret the years when I was “just” Mom, not a freelancer juggling an intense work-from-home situation. But I’ll never forget the panicky feeling of “I need to make an income and I freakin’ don’t know how, and I’m afraid this ship is going to sink if something doesn’t change soon.”
A few years ago, a building contractor in our community, a young and healthy man, fell down from a ladder to his sudden and tragic death, leaving behind a widow and six children. The widow was devastated, but at least her established high-tech job enabled her to keep providing for her kids. Things were horrible for that family, but they could have been so, so much worse if the mom had had no education or employment opportunities.
Be safe. Protect yourself. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” had never gone wrong yet.