Guest post from Ariel of A Meaningful Motherhood:
I sat at the table and cried.
Our 1100 square foot house was practically choking me. The kitchen cabinets were falling off. The dishwasher had been broken for nearly a year. Our wooden kitchen table was “lovingly” dinged, dented, and wobbly. The children had peeled paint off the wall like a banana peel. We held our breath every time we walked around the garage because we had no idea when it might decide to fall.
Our family of six isn’t getting smaller. We’ve got four kids all under the age of ten in a three bedroom house with one working bathroom. We also homeschool, so there are books everywhere (which, isn’t a huge problem!), and have two Golden Retrievers who shed more hair than they have.
We were in a pit of debt and trying so hard to climb out.
As I sat there sobbing, I felt I’d never see that glistening homeschool room, bookshelves to the ceiling, or perfectly groomed dogs. Everything felt so mountainous.
Our debt was a hindrance in our finances and our marriage. It caused fights, discussions, tears, and holding a magnifying glass over ourselves to find traits and habits we didn’t like. It also made this mountainous climb feel impossible.
The worst was the guilt of wanting money to afford nicer things. So I cried for my guilt and I cried for my foolishness.
Some people will say that being in debt is not forever, that we can get out and change our lives. I believe this is true. But I also am a realist and know that not everything I want will actually happen.
I may never have the homeschool room I desire or gleaming shelves of books. My kitchen may never be lined with fingerprint-free gray cabinetry worthy of HGTV and a dishwasher that cleans cooked-on eggs.
Sometimes it’s disheartening not to have things that make our lives easier or look magazine-worthy or offer us a pleasing aesthetic… but we cannot let that weigh on us. The truth is, even if I eliminate all my debt, that doesn’t mean I’ll have everything I want.
The good news is, both finances and attitudes ARE changeable based on our own perception.
I don’t want to stay at that table and cry. I want to get up and change my outlook and my situation.
I don’t have a working dishwasher, but I have four kids willing to pitch in washing dishes every day.
I don’t have sturdy bookshelves, but it gives me an opportunity to be creative in how to store them.
My dogs will provide many memories for our family, despite the clumps of golden hair I find lurking in every crevice.
What’s a life at the end when you’ve got everything you’ve wanted?
What matters is stewardship of our resources: our time, finances, and relationships.
My situation doesn’t have to define my perspective; I get to choose that. And in the pit of debt, when it’s overwhelming and heavy, perspective is a life-line!
Ariel is a Mid-Western wife to Greg, and stay-at-home mom to four kiddos. She is a freelance writer, homeschooling mom, and blogs about the challenges of motherhood at A Meaningful Motherhood. She loves books, coffee, and avocados.
I started reading your post and thought, “Hey, she has four kids aged ten and under too . . . and a broken dishwasher just like me . . . and debt!” I homeschool my kids too, but I don’t have golden retrievers – any dogs in our house would escape within a few hours ;). Our dishwasher is so broken that it the door doesn’t even stay shut – we have to prop it up or tape it up and even then it still sometimes falls down when we least expect it. It’s been broken for five years or so. I built a table to try and save money, and then one of my sons decided to practice his whittling skills on it with my vegetable peeler – true story!
When things feel really hard, I do try to focus on the things that matter that don’t cost any money. I also sometimes tell myself that I can only do what I can do in regards to paying off the debt, and then I don’t let myself focus on it.
We have made a few changes to our home when we can afford them, things like painting cabinets or trim, or refinishing Craigslist purchases. I set aside birthday money to invest in tools like a miter saw or serger so that I could make things that we needed without having to spend a lot of money. And my husband knows that these things matter to me so he’s helped out a lot with the kids when I need some time to “make.”
I don’t know what your situation is, but I want to encourage you that you will make it. One day, you will be glad you continued to take steps forward in paying off your debt, even if they were small steps. We still have about $43,000 to go, but I am hopeful that we will get there, and in the meantime, not miss the blessings that we have right now.
Amy Marohl says
This is a great article and one that I can relate to! I am a homeschooling mom of 7 with one on the way. Our money troubles led me to start a job that I could do at home in the early morning hours. Sometimes the ends still don’t meet, but I am thankful that we have a old 401K we can dip into at this point, if needed. I have found over 60 verses in the Bible saying that God will provide for us and there are enough “do not fear/worry” verses for every day of the year, but I am human and sometimes cry too. He has a purpose in this time and someday I will “see it”. Thanks for being real.
For several years, my husband and I were underemployed and had to borrow from our emergency fund to pay bills many months. Like you, I learned to thank God for the people in our lives and His blessings (such as the foresight to set up an emergency fund). In the past two years, my income has increased so we don’t have that worry every month. My husband asked one day why didn’t God bless me with more business sooner. My response was that it taught me to rely on Him in a way which I would have never otherwise. Thank you for sharing your story.
I home schooled 5 for 23 years and actually found that I did not like having a school room. With an 11 year age span it was best to be able to have my older two in a separate room working independently. They could not work in the same room where elementary grades required so much talking. We tried it for awhile and we all were very frustrated. Besides, having the younger ones in the kitchen allowed me to get some food prep done while they worked and I was there to keep them working. Having them in another room meant that every time I left the room the work stopped or they just wandered off. Just some thoughts. Things were never Pinterest looking at our house either but we had enough and we had fun and lots of friends who did not have perfect homes either. You can do it!
Athanasia Hester says
Thank you for your honesty! I am in a similar except I have a broken oven, not dishwasher. My husband’s job just asked him to step down from being a full timer to a part timer. And I am a stay at home mom of 4. I look at the situation and wonder why, how, when, who, what. But then I remember that it is not through my abilities that miracles happen, it is through God. And if God is for us, who can be against us. These are definitely growing pains, but they are for good because God is in control. Tears flow down sometimes because of despair but claiming victory in Jesus name makes me smile more.