The Big 3
August 4, 2020|Adulting & Relationships
STRESS, my brain’s way of saying FU to my ability to sleep and sometimes even my ability to enjoy the small things in life. Stressing is something I do daily, sometimes without even realizing it. Stressing about things you can control is one thing, but I tend to worry about the things that I can’t control. I thought having a second child would be easier. Not in the sense of actually raising two children at once, I’m not oblivious to that fact that it will be one hell of a challenge, but in the sense that I had already experienced pregnancy and childbirth and I was thinking that my stress level the second time around would be lower. How wrong was I!
Finding out I was pregnant again immediately triggered my stress. I started worrying about the small things, like what I would need to buy for a second child: a crib, clothes (depending on the gender), another car seat etc. I honestly spent a week or more just worrying about my stroller. I was trying to make my life easier the second time around and make my stroller and car seat more compatible and functional for two riders. The problem? I bought my stroller second hand and it’s an older model. Plus, with Covid-19, I don’t have the luxury of walking into a store and picking up the things I need. I was lucky enough to find the rumble seat adapter for my Uppababy stroller so I can have both kids on the stroller at the same time, but the car seat I have doesn’t have adapters that work with my stroller. I’ll likely get a different car seat closer to when Baby #2 arrives, which alleviated one of my stressors only to add many more.
After the realization that my stroller wasn’t big enough/ready to accommodate our growing family, the stress of The Big 3 set in. I consider The Big 3 the top, most popular things that adults worry about all or most of the time. To me, they are work-life balance, money, and relationships. I've spent more than my fair share of my adult time stressing about all three. I thought I would share my personal struggle related to these three things in the hopes that someone will find comfort in knowing they are not alone. I feel that moms are expected to hide their stress from their children. I understand that to a point. Kids pick up a lot more than we realize, even from a young age, and parents want their children to grow up happy. I think that to some extent, kids should be oblivious to the struggles of the real world or else they’ll grow up too fast and miss out on the fun of playing and exploring their imagination. That was my parents’ philosophy and I appreciate that they didn’t require me to hold down a job. Instead they encouraged me to focus on my education and participate in extracurricular activities. They rarely asked for help with house work, although looking back, I probably should have offered to help more than I did. Although I had a very enjoyable childhood, my parents may have sheltered me and my brother a little too much. My parents have hidden relationship problems from us, or at least tried to. I could tell that sometimes my parents had trouble getting along, and for the longest time I didn’t understand the difference between an adult discussion and an argument. My parents frequently did both and when I would ask them not to argue, my mom would always tell me they weren’t even when they were. Parents have disagreements, I get it. I wish my parents had been a little more forthcoming with letting me know they disagreed about somethings. I feel as though this would have taught me that having a different opinion is okay and that avoiding arguments and constant compromising isn’t healthy in a relationship. I remember that financial literacy was not a popular topic in our household. Looking back now, I think my parents occasionally struggled with money and had I known, I wouldn’t have pushed for expensive prom dresses and dance classes. I think it’s important for parents to educate their children about adult topics like finances and encourage children to get involved with household chores to teach them responsibility in small ways (my brother is 23 and still lives at home, which would be fine expect that my mom still cooks for him, does his laundry and packs his lunches like he’s in elementary school. If my brother BBQ’s for us once a month I run out and buy a lottery ticket!). I don’t think parents should unload their financial struggles on 6 year olds, but I do want my kids growing up knowing they can ask me questions about money and talk about relationships with me and I’ll be honest with them.
For me, work-life balance and money are closely intertwined. Covid-19 has created a very uncertain world which is causing me a lot of unease around our financial situation. Grayson had been off work for several weeks while we opted to self-isolate. I am incredibly thankful that the Canadian Government and prominent businesses have provided financial aid in various forms to those impacted by Covid-19. While I knew we would qualify for the CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit), I anticipated that it would be a stressful wait for our application to be processed and funds to be given to us. I consider myself a financially literate person(chalk it up to my work) so my first task was to apply for as much financial assistance as we were eligible for to prepare for the financial impact a lack of income or none at all would have on us. Keep in mind that although the CERB offers $1,000 bi-weekly, that is less than Grayson would make had he continued working. As well, my income is still reduced with my maternity leave, so any reduction in his income packed a nasty punch on our budget. I deferred our car payments and our mortgage payments. I applied for credit card interest relief, insurance credits since we were driving less, and was relieved that the government had already deferred OSAP payments. Thankfully, we were approved for everything I applied for, since it took between 4-6 weeks and approximately 800 unsuccessful calls to the CERB hotline before we received any money. It was a rough time. Since we weren’t leaving the house, our spending had been reduced and the payment deferrals definitely kept us afloat, but that didn’t curb my worrying in the slightest. Grayson started getting mad at me for repeatedly checking our bank account and constantly updating the excel sheet I use to keep track of our finances, but I had to know that the bills we couldn’t defer would get paid and that I had money to buy groceries. Was I a little more paranoid than I probably needed to be? Yes, but I couldn’t help it. Pre-baby, if I had to live on cans of soup and toast for a few weeks my waist wouldn’t have liked it, but I would have survived. That’s not really an option when you’re breastfeeding. I try to be conscious of the food I eat so that Thalia is getting plenty of healthy food and the nutrients she needs to grow. Grayson may have eaten a lot of bread and eggs to offset some of my worry over the grocery bill, sorry Gray. Once Grayson returned to work, our situation got a little better and my stress eased slightly until the realization hit that we needed a bigger house.
House hunting right now isn’t my problem. To purchase a new house, we have to sell ours first, and we had put off finishing our renovations earlier in the year due to lack of funds. I went back to my excel file to try and find a way to pay for them so our house would be ready to hit the market in the case we found a home we liked. To be clear, I’m hoping the Covid-19 situation will go away completely or at least be less of a pressing concern before we buy a house. I’m not looking to add more stress to my plate with people coming into my house for showing. I also don’t really want to be going through other people’s homes at a time like this. Somehow, a miracle happened and I was able to find funds to cover the remaining renovations (Grayson may have eaten more toast and eggs to make it happen but he did it without complaint) and now we hope our house is almost ready.
It seems like solving one financial problem generates at least tons more for me to worry about. I had contacted our mortgage broker for guidance and a pre-approval so I could start looking for a bigger house, only to realize that my upcoming maternity leave would be impacting our budget, again! I love having kids, but this maternity pay is for the birds! How does the government expect people to stay home and raise children without constantly being concerned about losing your house? We both make a decent amount of money and our budget was still negative $300 a month with my reduced maternity pay. Grayson and I have a very lean budget. We don’t have monthly subscriptions (except for Spotify and Netflix because we don’t have cable - and honestly, who doesn’t), we rarely go out for dinner or order take out, and most of our shopping is done at second hand stores. When I had to review our budget before my maternity leave, my options for cutting expenses were to sell the house or sell one of our cars, so I can really see why people are having kids later in life. They can’t afford to have them sooner unless they plan to live with their parents until they retire or they’ve saved $25,000 or more! $5,000 to purchase baby supplies like cribs, strollers, car seats etc. and then $20,000 or more to cover the salary deficit maternity pay leaves you with. Since we hadn’t saved any money, I won’t lie, the idea of moving back in with my parents has crossed my mind on more than one occasion and has become a serious contender as an option for my second maternity leave. My mom would love seeing her grandbabies every day so we would be more than welcome. Although, I’m not sure my relationship with Grayson would survive because he’s not a huge fan of extended visits to my mom’s. In a perfect world, I would love to take 18 months for my second maternity leave and get to see my kids grow, but I can’t even begin to dream up a world where that is financially possible. So far, the only plan I can come up with is to sell one of our cars to allow for an increased mortgage to give us the space we need to raise two children. This might work after I go on leave a second time, but to do so now (which I would have liked) would result in me walking to work in London from St. Thomas (where I’m hoping we’ll be buying a house) in our cold Canadian winter weather and that doesn’t seem like the best idea in my last trimester!
Thinking about work leads to yet another thing to worry about. Covid-19 experts are saying we should expect another wave of Covid-19 in the fall. Red alert!!!! If Covid-19 comes back in the fall I think I’m toast. My job is heavily influenced by schools being school-like. If kids aren’t back in the classroom in September, there’s a scary chance I wouldn't have a job to return to. I know my employer would do her best to keep me on as long as possible, but reduced hours would be likely to make that happen. In an ideal world I wouldn’t mind being home with Thalia more. Reduced income isn’t great, but I might be able to work around it. In my actual world, reduced hours or not being able to return at all means that I can’t complete the 600 necessary hours to qualify for maternity leave a second time. My financially literate side is screaming at me that we can’t afford to be off work for any amount of time without any sort of income. Right now, this is my biggest concern.
I told you I’m good at worrying about things I can’t control, didn’t I? This is one of those cases. I have a few other worries about returning to work, like how in the world do I organize childcare for Thalia when everything is closed? I don’t want to leave it too long or I won’t have anything set up for her when I need to go back. Closely related to house hunting, I don’t know how expensive childcare will be and I don’t know how to budget for it, which is impacting my ability to buy a house and so many other things! I’ve never been a huge fan of playing dominos or building card towers because one wrong move can cause the whole thing to topple down, and that’s exactly what it feels like what I’m doing now. I can’t seem to make any decisions definitively because they are all intertwined together which is only causing my stress level to increase by the day!
Does anyone know if it’s possible to win the lottery without buying lottery tickets? I’m not a gambler but I think I’d have a better chance of winning the lottery then trying to create a budget for my second maternity leave with all of the uncertainty. These are just a few of my daily stress inducers, and this is only considering two of The Big 3. I’ll talk about the relationship part of The Big 3 in one of my upcoming articles (click here) so stay tuned for all that drama!