22 April 2011

Single Income, Two Kids

Sometimes, I remember fondly the days when we were DINKs (double income, no kids). They were flush. And I sometimes look back and think of how foolishly money gets spent when you have enough of it. Sailing vacations, dinner eaten out on an all-too-regular basis, rounds of drinks at the bar with your friends and your friends' friends, and all the little splurges that we "need" on a regular basis - daily latte at Starbucks, full price magazines from the drugstore instead of paying a percentage of the cost for a subscription, etc. Where did our money go when we were living with two incomes and no kids to support? It must have gone somewhere, because we've been living on one income for over three years and surviving.

I think the same thing happens with our time. Before we had kids, we had so much time on our hands. Free time! G and I always had plenty of activities to fill our weekends and holidays, but we also had a lot of leisure time. Lazy mornings spent making pancakes and reading the paper were pretty common. Evenings spent on the back porch doing nothing but grilling a couple burgers and talking over a beer. Getting time to go out with our friends wasn't a request that required weeks of advance notice and schedule coordination. You want to go hiking with the guys for the weekend? Fine, I'll let the girls know that we're going out that night.

Its just not like that anymore. Much like our money, our time has to be budgeted pretty carefully. G has a limited amount of time with the girls - an hour before leaving for work and an hour when he gets home. During this two hour window, breakfast is eaten, dinner is served, and baths are taken. It's no wonder that EC pleads every morning for Daddy to play with her.

I try to get most of the errands, like grocery shopping and running to the Red Store (known to everyone else as Target) for diapers and toilet paper, done during the week with the girls to leave our weekends free to do something fun as a family. Even that doesn't always work out and we sometimes spend a sunny day running around to appliance stores to replace a broken dryer.

What happens when G or I want to do something solo - like going out to eat twice a year with the people that we used to spend every Friday night with? Well, that has to be coordinated. Calendars have to be checked and the frequency of these outings is closely monitored. As a stay at home mom, I need to make sure that I'm getting out enough - lack of adult interaction is a liability in my line of work. And G needs to make sure that he's getting out often enough to avoid burnout, but not too often as to add to my already enormous amount of time spent with toddlers. Its a juggling act.

Throwing months of studying for registration exams for G into the mix has been, pardon my French, but hellish. We eat dinner, he puts the kids to bed while I do the dishes and then he is off to his desk to study for the night. Weekends are less fun as a family and more time for G spent at the office studying. Its like he's working six or seven days a week, but only getting paid for five. Its like adding a big expense into an already too tight budget.

I'm not posting this as an exercise in feeling sorry for myself. I know that all of you out there can sympathize. Where does all the time go? I cannot even imagine what will happen to our lives when I go back to work, but I know that so many people juggle even more than we do. I guess its like budgeting the money. You can't spend what you don't have and you have to adjust your needs accordingly.

When I left work, we didn't really know how we'd survive on just one income. We had some money saved, but it still seemed impossible. And every year, we've reevaluated whether or not I needed to go back to work. How could we trim a little here and there to keep from needing a second income?

I think we do the same thing, maybe a little less consciously, with our time. We figure out what the priority is for our time for the month, the weekend, the day and we try not to let fun slip too low on the time budget. Family dinners, couple time, family outings, one on one time with each girl, and time to be outside in the fresh air are all things that we prioritize. But, we also have to consider the current mental status of each family member. Do I need a break from being a mommy today? Does EC need a little extra attention from Daddy? Does G need a study break? While, it always seems like there isn't enough time to get it all done, but we manage.

When G and I were both bringing in a paycheck, I think we didn't appreciate the splurges the way we do now. A latte at Starbucks is a special treat and its relished more. I know that when I have a free afternoon without kids or husband or anyone else to tell me what to do, that time is so precious to me that I remember to enjoy it. Just like a latte, a free afternoon was too easy to come by in my former life and it wasn't treasured like it is now. So, maybe we don't have enough free time or spending money as we used to, but what we do have is spent more wisely and appreciated more.

No comments:

Post a Comment