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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

Lets-Panic.com → 

« I know it’s a day early… | Main | The meme that started out promising, but then everything went wrong—just like life. »
Friday
Feb102006

Don’t read this.

Yesterday was one of the worst days Henry and I have ever had together. Truly, I have never seen him like that before. I’ve never seen me like that. We clashed on every topic (Are Dried Cranberries An Acceptable Dinner? Could He Watch TV For Just Another Minute? Why Couldn’t He Head Butt Me Repeatedly In the Groin While I Am Talking To the Mortgage Broker?) and each time Henry’s demands escalated into full-blown weepy hysteria; we went to our separate corners to enjoy our respective time-outs; we came back to each other to hug and declare our undying love; then it all started again. At one point I found myself yelling and clenching my fists and hopping up and down. Hopping. And I slammed doors. Twice. I am an excellent role model.

I could point to Henry and say IT’S HIS FAULT and say WHO STOLE MY CHILD AND REPLACED HIM WITH THIS MONSTROSITY? But the thing is, I know what’s going on. He’s reacting to me. I am distracted and frazzled and depressed and it’s making him anxious as hell.

We sold our place for more money than we thought we could, which is great. We’re thrilled. But our large margin of profit is not quite what we thought it was. Not quite enough for the house we want. Take the large amount and remove the $20,000 of closing fees and moving expenses, the huge tax bill we’ll have for 2005, the money we’ll need to put down for a car, the small amount of savings we’ll need in case any expenses come up with the house, and you have a much smaller number. Factor in the added expenses of owning a house—the insurance, the car, the heating bills, the inevitable repairs, the hefty real estate tax bill—and the number shrinks even further.

We could take more of a risk and put more down if, say, one of us had reliable employment. Without going into detail about my husband’s job, we don’t, not really. Not reliable in the benefits-and-vacation-time, check-every-two-weeks, severance-pay-guaranteed sense. It’s a great job for his industry, which is not known for its steadiness. We’ve been lucky for a while, but there’s always the spectre of the work drying up. If the work isn’t there, he doesn’t get money. So we have to be careful. We’ve been careful for years, we know the drill. But now we’re looking for a house, and being careful doesn’t jibe with finding a good and safe place for our family, and it feels like the air is being sucked out of the room.

We decided on this neighborhood in New Jersey; it’s close to the city, the trains are right there, the prices for the small homes with small lots (the kind we want, as we are city folk) are not unreasonable. We have friends nearby. But now it seems that if we want to be in the parts of town that have good schools, we have to extend ourselves past our comfort level. Last week we bid on a great house; we were right at the brink of what we could afford, and the taxes were astronomical, and we were stressed out and fighting about the expense. But the school there is wonderful, and I read the description of the school and I thought of Henry being at that school, and I wanted him to live there. I walked around that house and I thought, We will be happy here. We could just barely afford it, but we could afford it, so we bid. And then one other bidder came in at way over the asking price and swooped it up. This isn’t the first time this has happened; such is the market these days. Even if the numbers indicate we can afford it, we can’t really afford it.

We’ve looked at the less-fancy parts of town, that have relatively decent schools, at least we think, and taxes that aren’t so high. But every house we’ve seen in that area has low ceilings and dark musty kitchens and shag rugs and the neighbor’s windows so close you could pass cups of sugar back and forth, and I know this isn’t what we want. We’re not asking for a lot, but we’re asking for a little more than this.

So maybe I feel entitled. Maybe I’m a stuck-up bitch and I should get over myself and living in the cramped smelly house that after all we could fix up. That is probably a valid opinion.

But this is all symptomatic of the larger problem here. We don’t have enough money. We’re not making enough. Every optional expense has been cut out, and yet there’s still not enough. And it’s hurting us. It’s a constant source of tension; there’s no escaping it. Everywhere we look there’s a sign that we need more money. The dog is overdue for a vet appointment. We don’t have the money. Here’s the list of good preschools in Jersey. We don’t have the money. Let’s get food delivered because I’m exhausted and Henry didn’t let me even get near the kitchen all day, he’s been so clingy. We don’t have the money. Well, okay, maybe pizza. But let’s not go crazy with the toppings.

(We want another baby. We don’t have the money.)

Please don’t tell me I should write a book to make money. Or rather: tell me to write a book, and thank you for having faith in my abilities, really, but understand that such an undertaking takes years, years of nonpaid work, and also no one should write a book for the money. It just doesn’t work that way.

Do you want to know what I am wearing now, O Internet? (Especially those members of the Internet who send me hate mail because of my fabulous bloggy existence?) I am wearing jeans that have enormous holes in the crotch and across one knee. They are dirty, as I wear them every day. They are one of two pairs of jeans that I own; the others were pre-pregnancy and are now laughingly small on me. (Size 4! BLAHHAHAHAHA.) In addition to my crappy pilly too-small and too-old Gap sweater, I am also wearing ugly black leather shoes that I bought when I was pregnant, and thus are now one size too big. I trip in them every day. On most days I wear the too-big shoes and the ripped-up jeans. I could probably buy myself new jeans and new shoes, but the idea fills me with guilt. How can I buy something like clothing when we might not be able to pay for Henry’s preschool?

I know how whiny I sound here, I do. I know many many people have lives infinitely more difficult than this one. I know how lucky I am. Please don’t yell at me because I’m whining about my shoes. It’s just—I feel like I’m decaying, a little. I feel unattractive and like I don’t have the right to feel attractive. I feel like god there has to be more money somewhere, except there’s no time to get the money and no money (for childcare, that is) to get more money. I feel like my creative life is dying because all I do is worry and crunch numbers and do the little writing jobs that might bring in enough to pay the cable bill. (Yes, we still have cable. The indulgence! I know!) I feel like there has to be an answer somewhere and where’s the answer and aren’t I smart enough haven’t I been good don’t I have the education and the intelligence and resources to figure this out why can’t I figure this out?

I know, I know. I’m feeling sorry for myself. I should snap out of it, right? You can tell me.

(p.s. If anyone knows anything about the school system in the above-mentioned town—it’s linked to, right up there—please, please email me.)

Reader Comments (209)

Ah, the no money thing. We have that too. Ok, we can order pizza tonight, but we'll put our own toppings on. No cable tv, but we have Netflix, so sue us. Or wait - *I* could sue us because guess what, I'm a lawyer! But, still...no money. And no big fancy house and no big fancy schools for our kids. I don't know why the hell we have no money except that kids and grocery stores and (not even very nice) cars are expensive. I did splurge on a new pair of jeans recently. Old Navy, Alice! Hang in there. It will work out.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
Oh, Alice;I have no practical advice, and I know nothing about NJ, except for the far Western part where my brother lives (Alphaville, Phillipsburg, etc). And that's practically in Penna.

But I do want you to know that I totally empathize (except that I'm the one w/ the FT job, which actually is reasonably stable, and my husband is the writer/stay at home parent.) And I feel frumpy, and out of shape, and would love to get my hair highlighted, not to mention get a new rug for the living room, not mention get a bigger house in a neighborhood which actually has some other kids living in it. And the house needs to be painted (inside & out), and I need shoes plus work clothes, and Clara needs a big-girl bed, and and and ad nauseum. And no money. And even if we had money, no time to deal w/ all of these things. So, w/o hijacking your blog totally, just know that you're not alone.

My SIL (a writer/editor/SAHM) and her husband, who's a software engineer of some sort, currently live in Brooklyn (and probably are your neighbors) and are looking at moving to Rsch Triangle (decent job prospects for him, affordable houses). I don't know why I just told you that, except that your life reminds me of theirs.

I hope it gets better for you. You'll find a place soon, and it will be wonderful.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenternate
I don't post often (read:ever), but I was in a similar situation about 5 months ago, sold our apartment for good money, still didn't have enough to move up to more space or enough income for the bank to lend it to us...

In my case, my parents stepped in to lend us some money for a couple of years until we can either re-mortgage or have more income...they are not wealthy, but were so happy to help us now, when we needed it the most. I don't know your situation at all - but any chance your parents could help?
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hi!

I haven't commented on your site before, but, for what it's worth, I just wanted to say "hang in there"! I've felt many times like it. is. just. never. going. to. get. better. but then! Out of the blue something great happens and makes everything that much more bearable. And even if something great doesn't happen, it sounds like you have a wonderful family, and that in itself is pretty great.

All the best!OHV
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterOneHotVintage
Oh, Alice. I never comment - except for Creepy Lurker De-Lurking Day - but I want to let you know that there are tons of people out here in the ether pulling for you. You're one of my favorite Internet People and I'm crossing my fingers that you get to that peaceful place ASAP.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSara
Welcome to the NFHMFC! For those who don't know, that's the No-Fun-Having-Mother-Fuckers-Club. Sounds like we're all pretty much in that club. Sometimes we stop going to the meetings for a while but it seems that we all end up back there at some point or other. Here's hoping you don't have to come to the meetings for too long.

P.S. - I still hoard saline solution because when I was in your shoes (big though they may be) I could never afford to buy it. Things are better now so I hoard to ward off the bad times.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenternot-that-Andrea
Gah. Isn't real estate in NJ ridiculous? And the property taxes are so out of control ... it seems like we are always compromising - ok, we'll drive old cars and have a small house and take no vacations and use coupons for cheap pizza on Tuesdays so we can have ... medicore overcrowded schools and pothole filled roads ... Have you considered renting for a year?

I love NJ, lived here forever, and despite the above, think it's the best of all worlds - close to NYC, close to the shore, close to the mountains, close to almost everything. However, all the "closeness" does come at a price ... probably the price of our sanity! Deep breaths, keep looking, and eventually it will all happen the way it is supposed.

(Ha - if you knew me, you know I need someone to tell me that in real life!)

Good luck!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermar
I know how you feel. We're recovering from the 18 months Aaron was unemployed. He's now making less than his starting salary at his former job, and 3 kids aren't cheap. I'm thinking of going back to work. It's very hard scraping by, and I'm sorry it's putting undue stress on y'all.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl
I rarely comment, I think maybe only once I did. But I read every last post you write. This one tugged on my heart strings because I know what it is that you are going through, and I feel for you. I have no advice to give you, but just know that I am sending out good vibes, and Irish Luck, and hoping that they reach you! Take care, Alice!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLana
Long time lurker here. First must say: I love your writing, love your site, and I feel so much of what you're talking about. If you had a book out I'd by gazillions of copies and put it on my credit card and not even care (this coming from another pearly sweater ripped jeans girl).

So my kid is a bit older that yours, and my husband and I have struggled through the financial crapola on and off for years -- also with freelance jobs that can pay well but are often inconsistant, and don't give us things like health insurance and vacations. If I didn't feel so much like I've been in your boat, I would never be so bold as to make suggestions, but here I am... Hopefully this is not assvise:

Sounds like you're doing this, but I'll say it anyway: spend to the top of what you can afford, even though it's stressful as hell. Ask for help from family if there's anyone who can give it to you (I had a cousin who lent me a very small amound of money, just enough so I felt like I had the smallest of pads, and it helped). As you know, once you buy, chances are your house will go up in value, and if you're in the school district you think is best for Henry, your stress level will go down immensely in about 2 years (that seems like forever, I know, but it'll go quick).

If you can bare to suck up being in a fixer upper, go for it. Buy the worst house in the best place instead of the other way around. You will make it better, you will make it into the place where you will all be happy.

Know that these next weeks, or months will be crazy stressful and busy, and be kind and gentle with yourself. Let dried cranberries be dinner, give yourself and Henry an oatmeal facial, take a bath and have a good cry. It will be hard. It will pass.

From the outside looking in, I have so much faith that you guys will make a great decision and that it while it will be stressful as hell, and you will make it work. Henry will alternate between clinging and being amazing, and both will be incredible.

I second those who say go for more ads. Put up a tip jar for jeans, too. I'd add to it.

I think a trip to see the crazy dancers is in order.



February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNina
Sending good thoughts your way...and hoping for the best.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNorthern_Girl
That was so much longer that I meant for it to be. I hope I don't seem like a total stupid know it all rambler. So sorry if I do.

Sending you so many good wishes and thoughts.

February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenternina
Finslippy,

I live in a suburb of NY so I know the pain of which you speak. My DH stays home so it's just me earning a living and we are doing the same thing, eeeking by on my living. I know your pain and feel it. Please know that there are others that understand. I hope you can find a way to make it work.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBean
Alice, I constantly look around me and wonder where people get the money to own new cars, good clothes, nice houses, etc. Have they all bought money trees at some secret nursery? My car is old and semi-worn out, my clothes are clearance items from a particular "bullseye" store, my house is paid for but in dire need of repairs...oh, and my dogs both need to go to the vet but have to wait until I can afford it.

I feel your pain and I'm not even on the brink of major changes like your family is. If I find seeds for growing money trees, I will certainly let you know -- which of course does you no good right now. In the meantime, my bestest bestest wishes for the Finslippy household.

Believe everything works out for the BEST!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMysh
Oh, sweetie!

Usually, I just lurk and read your stuff. You are so funny and many of the experiences you've had and are now having, I've had or will probably have. No money coming in sucks, that is for sure. There's nothing that anybody can tell you that will make you feel better, although, for all the laughs you have given me, I sure wish I could. Getting your kid into a good school is tough at the best of times. Mine busses half an hour each way to an 'alternative' school. I suck it up because that's where I want him to go and we have given up quite a few things for this chance for him. Stuff he doesn't understand giving up. He's eight and still, even after I explain that we can't afford something because this *five bucks* needs to be used for gas, he just doesn't get it. It's only *five bucks* but it's become so meaningful in the context that *five bucks* is enough gas to get the car back and forth on its appointed rounds for *two days*. Anyway, I'm rambling but I just wanted to say that I feel for you... and I'll keep my fingers crossed for you! Good thoughts for you!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAgent_Orange
I know how you feel - we're in the same boat right now. Plus, my husbands company is going through a merger and we have no idea how the two pilot groups are going to integrate. He may be out of work within a year.

We've therefore decided to hang on to our current home in case we need to "cut and run", i.e. sell for profit, pay off debt, and start over.

Fun stuff to think about.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAndie D.
I <3 finslippy. sad that you're sad!!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commentererinire
Sounds like we're all in the same leaky, damp, uncomfortable damn boat and bailing with teaspoons. It really helped to read the comments about having been in the same situation and now more secure. I've suspected that for awhile - at some point, you become solvent for no apparent reason. Not that it will solve the current real estate situation in New Jersey, but I would for sure buy a finslippy t-shirt.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkelli
You have such good friends. When I bitch to my (older) friends or relations on this matter, they get all misty-eyed and talk about how I'll remember this as the "good old days". How many years in hell do you get for wanting to give your grandmother a swift kick in the ass?
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranne nahm
I know how you feel. Oh, how I know. We lived with it for a while. We even made some major changes (we moved!) so we could survive (we moved). Last fall I went back to work. It helped me in other ways other than our family financially, the time was right for me. Even with me working, things were tight. Not "can't pay this bill this month" tight, but still "not comfortable" tight. OH how I know about the job security, no benefits, etc. My husband did have a normal sort of job, but for a very small company that didn't have any sort of benefits. We paid out the wazoo for our family's health insurance, about $800/month. Even transfering health insurance through my job ($128/month! Hello what a difference!) after I started working was a huge help.Things got better. He is starting a NEW job next week that pays him what he's worth. We'll finally be able to start some savings for ourselves and our kids. I hope a change comes for you and your family too. I just ache for you, I do. You just vent and purge as much as you like, chica!Good thoughts going to you,-amy
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramy
I just wanted to point out the "shameless" link on the top left corner of finslippy's (ok alice's) blog. lets at least buy her some jeans!

i too am sympathetic and think you are awesome and hope things gets better ASAP. also, perhaps don't sell Henry to the gypsies, but rent him out?

xoxoxo
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterjenB
ok, not a link as much as a heading for other things. but you can donate via amazon. :-)
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterjenB
Love your blog, finslippy! So sorry things are so rough for you right now. It really seems nigh impossible these days to get the nice house/good school combo.This will sound crazy but I did the math and it is actually considerably cheaper for us to stay in our not-so-expensive area with not-great schools...and send our 2 kids to private school (an AMAZING Montessori school)...than to move to a place with great public schools, really high mortgages and really high taxes, if you look at it over the long-term. Just a thought... Hang in there!!

p.s. Does clicking on the ads on your site give you money or more desirability to advertisers? Just say the word and I will click away!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAML
Don't ever feel like you're whining. I just closed one week ago on my first home purchase and still go back and forth on whether or not we can afford it. Plus, my 8 year old will have to change schools at the beginning of the next school year and has yet to allow me to live that down (you know it's ruining his life). Just take comfort in the fact that you are not allow and for each tear dropped due to stress, you will experience twice as many smiles over the future years.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa
Not going to tell you to suck it up. Really, would it help?

What you're going through *is* hard, it's perfectly reasonable to express how hard it is. We are social creatures: shared pain is lessened and shared joy is increased.

Depressed people have a better grasp of the reality of their situation than happy people, studies have shown this. But they also have a diminished view of their own strength and resourcefulness. You are much stonger than you preceive yourself to be and one day you're going to look back and go "Wow, that sucked and how hard do I rock for getting through that?" "R.A.W.K., that's how hard!"

You will get through this, full stop.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCoelecanth

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