This afternoon, while grabbing a few groceries for dinner, I noticed two women staring intently and taking photographs of a particular magazine cover as I stood in the queue, scanning the shelves for a magazine that caught my eye. Magazines are a real treat to me, and the simple act of buying a magazine often feels like a huge spoil.
I haven’t bought a magazine in about two months, because we’ve been so stressed financially and I’d decided that I was going to cut back wherever possible – including my weekly magazine and cappuccino ritual. Today, for one millisecond, I contemplated spoiling myself and buying a magazine, because it’s been a rough week. Apart from fun things like travelling for work, exciting product launches and the occasional beach stroll, the stress of trying to make ends meet at the end of every month is really starting to get to me. Not to mention the fact that Beanie was sick last week, and I’ve been man-down with the same virus for the past three days. This illness means that I’ve been ridiculously lethargic, but I’ve also been pretty crabby, overly-emotional and sensitive at the best of times – which might explain my over-the-top reaction to the two women fussing over the cover of a magazine in my local Spar (or it may just be the months of stress finally coming to a head).
So, back to the two women taking photographs of the magazine cover in Spar: when the one woman noticed that I was trying to look past them to glance at the magazine covers, she must have thought that I was trying to figure out what it was that they were looking at, so she proudly announced, “that’s my grand daughter on the cover,” pointing at a sweet little baby girl on the cover of a parenting magazine. I congratulated her, and she pointed to the other woman and said, “and this is her mom!” After exchanging niceties for a while, it was my turn to pay, so I walked on over to the till while the proud mom instructed the little girl’s big brother to smile, while pointing at her image on the magazine. It was a very sweet scene, but for some reason, it made me so incredibly sad. So sad, that I almost burst into tears on the spot, and I couldn’t even bring myself to make eye contact with the cashier because I was scared he’d see the tears in my eyes.
Truth be told, I want that. I want to be able to give Beanie a sibling, but I just can’t. Not because I’m struggling to fall pregnant, but because we simply can’t afford it. In fact, things are tense between my husband and I as I type these words, because I snapped at him earlier – bought on by the fact that I hate having to tell my child that I can’t buy him a Super M milkshake (his favourite treat in the world), because we’re on a tight budget.
When I looked at the mom in Spar, she seemed like she had it all together: a little boy in preschool, an adorable little baby girl at home, a trolley-full of groceries and, I suspect, a nice ‘mom’ car, a beautiful home, and more than enough money in the bank.
Those last three are all in my head, of course, so who knows? Maybe they are struggling, too? But lately I feel as though everyone else seems to be doing so well, and I’m sitting here, working myself into an early grave, with not much to show for it.
I spent the first six weeks of this year feeling ridiculously positive and starting each day with the aim to take one small step that would grow my business or lead to success in the coming months; simple things, like sending out an email to a dream client, updating my rates (which was a whole lot more about knowing my worth – but that’s a story for another post!), rebranding my social media business… you get the picture. And yet, tomorrow marks the start of March and I feel like we’re still in the same place. I’m still panicking about how we’re going to pay all our bills, even though I’ve doubled my income this month. It just seems like it’s never quite enough.
I’m at the point now where I’m seriously considering downscaling. I love our home, but it’s just getting too expensive now. We’re still renting, because we can’t afford to buy a house – and at this rate, we never will. It’s time to stop comparing ourselves and our lives (and our home) with others, and to accept that a smaller home might be just what we need (not that we’re living in a huge, fancy house to begin with!) That way, we can save on rent every month, and hopefully be able to start up a savings account again so that we can put money towards buying our own home one day. So, I’ve been looking at homes for rent in our area over the past couple of weeks, but truth of the matter is that we won’t be saving much at all, even if we do move into a small, two bedroom flat. We’d be saving R3000 per month at the most, and given that we both work from home, is it really worth it? The husband would need to find office space, and I’m pretty sure that would cost more than R3000 per month – so we’re back to square one.
I’m only 30 (ok, 31 in 10 sleeps!), but I’ve lost all hope and I don’t see how things can possibly get any better – and I hate that I feel this way. I honestly feel as though this is the way of the world today, and that it’s going to be a struggle like this for the rest of my life. I am only one person; there is only so much work I can take on. And I feel this incredible guilt when it comes to how I’m parenting my son. Most days, I don’t even have the energy to play with him outside – all I can do is sit on the step and watch from afar. I’m snappy and irritable most of the time, and I wish that I could be more present. That was a big goal for me last year, and I think I came a long way towards making that happen: by October last year, work was strictly limited to the mornings, I spent the afternoons with Beanie, and evenings were spent catching up on work, writing blog posts, enjoying dinner with the husband, and having some me-time.
At the time, I let go of some of my clients so that I could focus on a handful of key clients, which meant less money but more freedom and time to spend with my family. It all worked out perfectly back then, when the husband’s business was going well. Now that things in his industry have slowed somewhat, we’re having to rely on my income a lot more – and it’s stressful! I’ve come to the sad realisation that I can’t do it all – I can either be a frikkin’ amazing career woman, or I’m a great mom… I can’t seem to find a balance between the two. Is it just me? Is that wishful thinking?
I’ve been sitting on these emotions for weeks now, and I think I’ve coped pretty well with them up until now – but I just can’t anymore. Don’t get me wrong: there is lots of good in my life, and I know (theoretically) that this is just a chapter and that things will get better, but it just really, really sucks to be in this place right now.
I have no idea what to do with these emotions, but I know that I have to get them out somehow – otherwise I end up fighting with my husband, or I avoid real life by watching reruns of The Bachelor, which doesn’t help anyone. As a writer, it felt good to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard in this case) and to let the emotions pour out. I wasn’t going to share this initially, because I’m proud! As much as I want to be as open and honest when it comes to sharing product reviews and my experiences of motherhood with my readers, this somehow felt a little bit too raw. I’m admitting that we’re struggling financially. That I’ve never felt this stressed out in my life. That I don’t know whether things will get better, and that I don’t know how to make things better.
I’ve even gone so far as to look up positions over on Bizcommunity, but every position I’ve seen that is suited to me and my experience earns a fairly low salary! I’m earning the same – if not more – by working for myself from home, so as it turns out, it’s better for me to continue working from home. If I add fuel costs and childcare, I’d end up making less than what I do now if I get a job working for someone else. How does that work? Why do companies think that it’s ok to pay qualified people who have been working for over 10 years between R10 000 – R25 000 per month? Have you seen how much it costs to rent a 2 bedroom flat in Cape Town and surrounds? Do you know what medical aid costs? How do single parents cope? When I saw these figures, I realised that there must be others who are in the same boat, so I decided that – pride or no pride – I would share this post, so that others would know that they are not alone. So that I wouldn’t feel so alone. For encouragement and support, and for someone to tell me that things can only get better… right?