General

Hacks for Happy on One Income

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When we got married, I knew that when I had kids I wanted to be at home with them. I had the clarity of having experience with both, being a child with a mother at home and being a teenager with a single mother working and I knew that I wanted to be at home, if at all possible, at least when my kids were home.

Gratefully, those children came along and with them the real life decisions of how to live on one income. It was an evolutionary quest.

At first, I babysat so that I could be with our first child at home until my husband finished a graduate degree and we moved into the working

world. Then for a stretch, we were paying off student loans, so we kept to our simple budget of spending mostly for necessities. This was about the time I started thrift shopping (way before it was considered en vogue) to help keep the burden of supplying food and clothing for our little ones, as light as possible. For a few dollars, I could find books and clothes and even home decor and it was pretty thrilling and has become a talent I have worked on and enjoy!

Later, as the kids started into school, we decided that we would offer them two options for extra activities. If they wanted to take piano lessons and a dance class, that was great. And if they wanted to try something else, they would need to choose between their new interest and the older ones. Some may think that they might have had more opportunities if we had put more money into lessons and interests, but what it seems to have done was give them opportunities to be kids. They learned from their teachers and lessons but they also had time to ride their bikes through the neighborhood! They had homework and practicing, but also fun times with friends and reading good books and playing ball. When I see kids today who are scheduled to death, it makes me sad to think they may be missing the only time in their lives when they will get to be young and free!

As it turns out, two of our three kids play the piano, one is a violinist, one played the saxophone, one danced on pointe, and one tried gymnastics. Even with the limit, that made for a lot of lessons and driving to and from! I’m so grateful for the ways that our kids took advantage of the chances for learning they each had.

When we went school shopping, to save money, we went to stores in a certain order: first to thrift shops, then to department stores and last to the mall! By the time we got to the most expensive items, we usually had gathered some good basics at much lower prices.

We also set up a system, or token economy, for funneling money through the kids! {James Jones, Let’s Fix The Kids} This idea changed the expectation of mom and dad buying what the kids needed or wanted, to the kids taking the money they had earned at home and making the choices themselves of how much they wanted to spend for clothing etc. It surely makes a difference how you think about money and how you use money when you have put forth effort to earn it. Our kids are very good with managing their finances, and I hope that this experience was part of what has made them successful in this arena. I also see them accustomed to working hard and caring for what they earn and have now and it is wonderful to see!

Being free of the need of a second income, in many cases, takes thinking outside the box and being willing to honestly look at needs versus wants, at focusing on your family and not on what the neighbors have or what they are doing and learning new skills to take care of the things you have or to create what you need. For instance, sewing has become a fun skill to have, though born of necessity, and I’ve spent many enjoyable hours making Christmas gifts, jackets, baby gifts, quilts (though I’m not much good at quilts!), prom dresses, etc.

It also requires unplugging from an “entitlement mindset” to finding contentment in the blessings you have, materially speaking but also in the richness of time spent with each other and the simplicity of doing less, owning less and caring for less.

Softening into the unspeakably precious opportunity to care for your own children is worth it. It can be a process and may take concerted mental re-centering, but the dividends are great. If your efforts at earning money are required for your family to stay afloat, may God bless you to find success and peace in that scenario too. Women amaze me with their resilience and strength!

Love to you and kudos for every courageous act you perform today! You are amazing!

Jacque

 

 

 

The Burden of Babylon

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A little preaching to the choir today! I know that you know, but just for clarity-sake, let’s kick this around…

“Neurotic: to be in conflict.”  {Erica Komisar, Being There; Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters}

I would add, to be confused about what will truly give you the validation and fulfillment you hope for in life! Which is much of the inferred content of Komisar’s book, and has given me much food for thought!

Is it really going to make me happier if I can say I earn as much money as my husband, because women are supposed to prove their equality? Will it lead to better outcomes for my children’s future if I can have newer cars or a flashier wardrobe or maybe the prestige of a promotion in my career? Reading this book has led me to thinking about the “why’s” of the societal illness she describes where children are increasingly set aside and as a result, are increasingly troubled with mental illness and eating disorders. The reasons we have swung from mothers caring for their children to a society looking to government or work-sponsored daycare making a pitiful attempt to secure social, emotional and psychological (not to mention spiritual) health, in up and coming generations. I’d like to offer a few thoughts about why we are seeing, “neurotic repetition” in generations. (If this is all sounding too intense or serious, I’ll say that the statistics for children opting out of life by suicide are staggering. This alone demands our attention!)

The short answer is that as a society we aren’t looking for and thus finding win/win solutions for families. That’s our job my friends! And I believe that perspective can only be achieved if the conversation begins with the health and well-being of children being at the center, or in other words, if we create a child-centric paradigm. The discussions would begin with, what is best for the children? Is it best for them to have a primary care-giver to whom they can connect and receive neurological, emotional, physical, social and spiritual support? Is it best for children to have a mother and a father? Is it crucial for children to have a woman/mother because women and men are different? Is it best for children to have their biological parents available to them to love and be loved by? Do women have to lose so that children can win? Could it be that when children win, women win too? So why, as a society, are we not asking these crucial questions and answering them honestly with our adult decisions and behavior?

We have to get clear on what is fulfilling. Healthy. Building. Sustainable. Validating, which ultimately means, what connects us to God, to ourselves, to our family members and friends.

We’ve taken a detour, while attempting to correct the status of women in society. To correct the status did not require women behaving as men. Or women giving up womanliness (lest there be nothing of unique, feminine value to defend!) What a burden it has become for women to be torn in half seeking to prove themselves in battle and the workforce, while straining themselves to bear children with their bodies and then deny themselves the experience that giving birth offers them by nursing that child and spending years protecting, guiding, nurturing and teaching that child: creating a resilient family, which then creates a resilient society. A very validating process I must say.

So society at large is screaming that women must have “it all, and it all at once,” in order to claim their rightful place, and the women I know are simply wanting to be validated as women in society in general, and in the family specifically. We’ve literally created a neurotic society when it comes to women’s roles. What a burden to be confused and unhappy, when we could relax and enjoy our children! “A long-term longitudinal study on happiness and living a good life at Harvard University followed 724 men over seventy-seven years to understand what makes people happy. The conclusion: It wasn’t money, power, and fame that made people happy, but relationships.”¹

It seems to me that this pattern is continuing because with each successive, evermore disconnected generation, the validation we seek as human beings is one generation further from reach. If you were a young girl whose mother lacked connection with her mother (and so on) you may be searching high and low for that connection. But society says, in order to realize your potential and take your place in the world, you must get back to work, you must get back to the right size, you must make you and your goals the top priority. “The underlying work culture sends the message that if you’re really committed, you’re here all the time.” ² But alas, with that hungry, adult-centric mindset, we proliferate another disconnection. And the hunger gets bigger.

Let’s break it down. Being ‘validation starved’ isn’t pretty because it makes us ravenous and taking, self-seeking and self-centered black holes of need. Ha! And aren’t there many ways that a person can become starved? Lacking connection with those who are meant to be our caregivers? Receiving, instead of protection and care, criticism and conditional affection and support? And worse, in some cases, being victimized, when out of the care of our parents? “There has been an increase of 400 percent in mental illness in children and adolescents in the past decade.”³

Then when that child grows up, what does her hungry heart do? Whatever it takes! Our culture says you can get admiration and kudos (pseudo validation) for having a great job, car or the latest clothes? Gotta make more money! Our culture says that “stuff” is what makes you worth something, so we pile it on! And the competition and stress that comes from comparing is amplified and stratified and categorized and hyped! What a burden to place our value on things. “If a very young child’s environment–which is their mother–impacts their mental health, then it doesn’t matter whether that mother lives in a $2 million apartment on Park Avenue, in a suburban colonial outside of Chicago, in a mobile home in Alabama, or in public housing in Detroit if she is emotionally and physically present.”4

All this = Pride+Materialism+Selfishness≠Real Validation

Upcoming:
more conversations about Real Validation;
ways to make one income work if at all possible;
ways to connect with your most important people;
ways to grow yourself and your goals while you are growing children;
etc.

We get one shot at this moment, let’s understand what is at stake and let’s make it work!

I’m right behind you cheering as loudly as I can! You’re doing great things!

Love,

Jacque

¹ Erica Komisar, page 193

²Erica Komisar, page 192

³Erica Komisar, page 203

4Erica Komisar, page 167

Time for Climate Change?

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“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.  If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

“Love does not dominate, it cultivates!”

Johann Wonlfgang von Goethe

I love these quotes! {Thank you for sharing Becky!}

What do you need to change?

Will it make the future brighter for those you love?

If you need motivation, think of them!

Love,

Jacque

 

 

1, 2, 3

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Some days, for some reason, when we begin to think about what needs to be done, a whole week or even a month of a mental to do list can hit us all at once! And then overwhelm hits, followed closely by paralyzation!

Does that ever happen to you? Not since last Christmas? Good for you, you’re doing well!

I’ve found that in those over-thinking moments, I need to sit down and download every thing that is running through my mind onto a piece of paper. Once it’s on paper and out of my head, I can prioritize the things I need to do, make lists and spread my to-do’s out onto appropriate days or weeks. Then, what relief, I can see the baby steps I need to take that will get me where I want to go.

Sometimes making the list serves me by letting me see that I’m expecting too much of myself in the time I have and I need to pare those expectations down or look for different ways to get the same things accomplished.

Then other times, I make the list and think it’s going to take a week to check it off, and what do you know, within a few days each item is done! The weight I was feeling in my mind as I thought about things I need to do didn’t accurately represent the real amount of time and effort actually required. And that is telling isn’t it?

If you have moments of overwhelm, whether it is because of a big to-do list or if it is emotional weight you are carrying, grab a pencil and start writing! Get it out of your head so that you can observe yourself more clearly. Then, seeing things, probably closer to how they really are, you can set about making a plan to help yourself get from point A to point B, and hopefully with some grace and ease.

And please remember the truth that self-care is crucial during this time of year! Listen to the mothering, nurturing voice in your head and do what she says! If you get rundown and feeling run over, it won’t be pretty for the rest of the family. {You’ll notice that you’ve gotten too far when you start thinking that other people are being unreasonable and snappy! Uh hem, it’s most likely not them…}

All my love,

Jacque

 

 

 

We Could…

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You could take up a collection, sew 1000 quilts, start a company, fund a charity, open a shelter,

give away your savings, or a million and one other good things in an effort to make a difference.

But what about the sleepy child that just asked you for a story?

Or the husband who could use a listening ear after a difficult day?

And what about the Christmas tradition you started years ago that will linger in your family’s lives through precious, lasting memories?

Is there a lonely person living next door? Or a bird feeder to be filled or a friend who could use a hug?

Where you are is the best place to give.

And many of those giving moments will be meaningful and lasting because it was you; the one who could give what only you can give because of your relationships, your knowing, your experience and your love.

Bring it back to here. Bring it back to now. Keep it small and make it sweet.

The glorious present is what we have and where our happiness and power lie.

I wish you a blessed Christmas season!

Love,

Jacque

Merry Christmas from our house to yours! That’s our puppy “Chief” who fell asleep on the tree skirt the moment after I put it there. Since then he has pulled it off so many times, I’ve decided we will enjoy the tree stand without the skirt!