middle class motherhood. anybody?

Here’s the thing. Nobody is talking about the realities of middle class parenting. Maybe that’s because everyone else has their finances figured out, always has more than they need, never frets about lunch money and the cost of (yet another pair) of new shoes. If that’s you, I am sincerely envious – though not so much so that I can’t also feel so happy for you I could cry. But the statistics don’t lie, and I know there are mams out there like me.


My husband and I both have full time jobs. These jobs are better paying than average. They are moderately satisfying and offer us not only predictable income, but also health insurance and extraordinary flexibility. That said, they don’t provide quite enough money to cover our overhead. So we also both have what I affectionately refer to as side hustles. He paints houses part time, and I do freelance web development and copy writing. We wake up early, he leaves for work first while I get the kids to their places. When he’s done at his first job he heads to his second job. I leave work to pick up the kiddos from school and daycare drop them off at grandmas, then I return to work or meet with clients to work on paid projects. He leaves his second job in enough to time to scoop up the boys and get them to soccer practice (where he is the coach). I pick up the baby girls and land home just in enough time to start dinner before the guys get home from soccer, close to 8pm.


Hello… is there anyone on this same boat with me?  


Why are we all so quiet about the fact that finances are a source of chronic stress? Or, more articulately, the source of enough worry to fuel 60 hour work weeks.


I know I can’t be the only one who stays up at night worrying about money. There has got to be other mamas who so carefully trims the grocery budget in order to plump the winter coat budget, while holding her breath that nothing unexpected (ie: expensive) happens in the meantime.


We have some old debt that we’re paying off. We pay for two in full time daycare. We have a mortgage for a modest home. And it all adds up, and it weighs heavily on my heart.


And don’t come at me with a gratitude crusade. You must already know that I’m intensely grateful for all that I have. We have worked damn hard to have anything at all. We started in a basement apartment with no furniture. I’m not even kidding. We lived in that basement apartment with office chairs as living room furniture for a year until our upstairs neighbor got her fourth DUI and had to go to jail. The landlord sold us her saggy, worn, blue/brown upholstered couch for $10. That couch was a prized possession. We loved it, and we were so smitten to have somewhere to sit together.  


I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong. But I’m tired. And I’m tired of pretending that I’m not tired of working so hard to eek by another month.


Maybe it was easier when the kids were younger. When they didn’t need internet for school work, when they didn’t play sports with a registration fee equal to twice our weekly grocery budget, when they didn’t need pool passes, and rental trumpets, and new shoes (PE, soccer, regular sneakers, summer sandals, and winter boots) all.the.time.


It’s bigger than money, you see. It always is. In order to make the money that it takes to manage my home and family, I’m so busy working that I don’t get to spend a lot of time in my home with my family. I am too busy to discern whether or not I feel guilty about that. We don’t get to spend as much time helping the boys with homework, chatting at the dinner table, or reading before bed as I would like. There simply isn’t time. That is painful for me to be honest about, and I pray to God that we’ve packed our village with so much love and support that our kids will be no worse for the wear. We have the best village.


And, I know, we all need to stop glorifying busy as a symbol for worthiness. I’m here to tell ya that it has nothing to do with worthiness, it has to do with paying the bills while still shopping second hand.


We aren’t poor. We’ve been poor, we’ve been blessed with state assistance when we couldn’t have survived without it. Our annual income is good. And, it’s true, we pay for things that some people would argue that we don’t need. Things like date nights, trips to the pumpkin patch, and a diet composed primarily of whole food. These are things we have decided are priorities for our family, and we recognize that to have the ability to decide this is a great privilege.


I guess this is all to say that I’m here, too. I know there are others around me in similar scenarios feeling alone, tired, guilty, overwhelmed. I know that there has to be other mamas who cringe at how quickly the time passes, because she’s so damn afraid that she’ll wake up and her babies will be grown and she’ll have regrets about not savoring the moment because she was preoccupied providing for the moments. If anything, we’re not alone.


Maybe this is a facet of modern motherhood. And if so, nobody benefits from saving face. Especially not the mama who is paralyzed by guilt and exhaustion, who feels like she’s doing everything wrong, who is stricken with the grief of missing out on so much with her babies trying her best to provide for them. Let’s get honest about what it looks like to be a working woman with children and a mortgage. Let’s normalize these feelings and let’s normalize these conversations.


This is for you, mama: You are doing it. You are showing your chickies what it means to work hard, chase dreams, and make life happen. Surround yourself with people who love your babies as much as you do, let them help. Surround yourself with friends who will send pizzas to your house on your busiest night of the week. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, but don’t forget to look up every once and awhile to appreciate just how far you’ve come. It’s true this life is short, but promise me that you won’t wait until you feel like you’ve got enough to start living. Even when you’re busy making ends meet - kiss your husband goodnight. Have a dance party with the kids when you make dinner – they don’t care that it’s 8:05pm.