Monday, September 20, 2010

Diary of a Working Mom - Part something-or-other

So in the interest of sensible budgeting, we cut the housekeeper down to once a month. And you can tell. Or you could, except that I won't let you past the front door.

Sigh. It's not that it's a mess when she doesn't come by for 4 weeks because we do tidy up, vacuum and mop, it's just a tad dusty and the clutter breeds in the corners when we don't have to clear surfaces as often. We did dust for a dinner guest last week, but seeing as it's cobweb season (that is a season in my house, please don't ask) I noticed a few spiderwebs we missed after our guest left.

I'm not ready to give up my housekeeper yet. We could - it's $90 that we'd save, but it's still a lifesaver for us, so we've given up other things first. Eventually we'll probably have to - our income is still less than outgo with Sander out of work.

Interestingly, cutting back hasn't really bothered us too much. We miss our wine club, and a few other things, but we're not missing too much. We're even getting out some. More for picnics than lunches or dinners out, but we've made efforts to get out and do things, since we have time now.

In November we'll finally see some unemployment checks. We're not clear whether he'll be eligible for any extensions so we're assuming that we'll have unemployment from November-June, and at that point, we'll make hard decisions if this is still going on. Fortunately, we should be able to bank a little with unemployment to make up for some of the savings we've burned down.

Refinancing the house will save us about $360 a month, less than we hoped for, but definitely still worth doing. We decided to take the offered gift to pay off our 2nd mortgage, but as a loan. Still, our payments until he returns to work are about 1/2 the 2nd mortgage. And once he returns, we'll pay that loan off very aggressively.

We're going to a 25 year loan, and when Sander goes back to work, we'll return to the biweekly repayment plan that takes an additional 4 or so years off the loan. We're hoping to pay it off before we're making college tuition payments, so we'll up the ante as we can over the years. While we don't intend to retire here, we would like to stay for a long time.

So where does that leave us? With a fairly small delta of income to outgo, maybe $800 or so, maybe less, once unemployment runs out. If we get to that point, which I hope we don't. The sort of thing that can be made up for with part time work.

Assuming all goes well on my employment end, we should see my income rise a bit over the next few years as well. So eventually we could be fine, if we just hold out. And so we've tied the knot, and are going to hang on.

This whole process has been a learning experience for all of us. It's tough to get laid off, and it's tough to transition from income earner to full-time caregiver. My husband is a wonderful Dad, but there are some long days for him. For me, it's been tough to plan, and I'm a planner - giving up a bit of control-freakishness is good, but hard for me. For Kiera, she has seen tons of routine disruption and less social time with other kids, primarily her cousins. On the upside, she loves being with her Dad, and we're working hard to make sure she gets to spend time with other kids.

And it's been an adjustment to figure out our roles for all of us. But we've been lucky - if anything, this experience has made our marriage stronger, and taking full control of our daughter's routines (okay, she's got a lot of control there too, just try to make her nap when she doesn't want to) has probably made us better parents. When she returns to child care, I think we'll have a much better picture of what works for us as a family and what works for her in terms of environment.

Sander losing his job has ultimately been a mixed blessing. We've got less money but more time. We've had to react to circumstances instead of being able to choose the course, in many ways. But I think on the other end, I'm going to come to the conclusion that I wouldn't have traded this experience for an easier time of it. Watching my daughter and my husband bond like they have, and learning how to pull together even more than ever have been lessons that no amount of income can replace.

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