I like money. I know it doesn’t bring happiness, but it certainly helps. I’ve always worked hard for my money. I got my first job at a local café when I was only 13 and earned a measly $20 a day, but it meant I was free to go down to the local corner store and buy a big bag of mixed lollies for 20c, a Bonny Belle lip gloss from the chemist and one of those horoscope scrolls that I lived my life by at the time.
My next job was at a health food store where I had the awful job of packing sultanas. I also ran a pretty successful babysitting operation at the same time. It felt so good to have a sense of independence and not relying on my parents for handouts made me, and mum and dad, proud.
I studied hard at school and uni and when I got my first job in magazines, the pay was so dismal I worked three nights a week waiting tables so I could save up enough money for a deposit for my first apartment. When you’re earning $23K a year, it takes a long time to save up $30K, so I stayed at home and kept the two-job scenario going until I reached my goal at the age of 25.
Everyone knows that you don’t work in magazines for the money, but my pay of course improved over the 18 years I spent working in publishing and when I left the industry two years ago I was earning a very respectable salary. It allowed me to live in a beautiful house, have a nice car, go on overseas holidays, eat out at restaurants a couple of times a week, generously donate to charities, maintain an enviable beauty and health regime and last but not least, my wardrobe was pretty great (it had to be, I worked in fashion). I knew how lucky I was and there wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t grateful for all that I had. I’d worked hard and it had paid off. I let myself believe it would only ever get better.
Enter redundancy and two young children and my financial situation these days is nothing like what I’ve just described. Four weeks after I was made redundant two years ago, I fell pregnant with our second baby, a beautiful gift who is now one-year-old Max. I don’t want anyone to think I am ungratefulwhat I’m about to say as my children are hands-down the most important little creatures and I love them with all that I have. But being made redundant doesn’t do wonders for your self-confidence and not many employers are looking to hire women who are pregnant and realistically not going to be able to work for a big chunk of time. I get it. Plus, you want to spend the first two years at any new job impressing and giving it your all and that’s tricky when a baby is on the way.
I decided to go freelance on a number of projects and then went into business with my sister, creating our own fashion line, We Are Kindred. But I’m not earning anywhere close to what I was pulling in when I was a full-time employee. We have a huge mortgage and massive childcare costs that we simply can’t afford.
So I find myself in a situation that I never thought I’d be in in my 40th year. I am broke. I am watching friends go on incredible family holidays, upgrading their cars, buying the latest bags and shoes that I once coveted, but this just isn’t on the cards for me anymore. I watch families pay for two children to attend childcare full time and even though I have enough work to fill five days a week, there is no way we can afford care for that many days, which means I go into the office a few days a week and on the others, I work late at night and very early in the morning.
We get asked to go out for dinner a fair bit, but the invitations are drying up as we’ve had to say no so many times. We’ve declined invitations to go on dreamy holidays with other families. The simple fact is, we can’t afford it. We are on a tight budget and there is no room to move. I really struggled with it at first, but now I’m viewing it as a few years of belt-tightening and I’m confident it won’t last forever. Both my husband and I are self employed, we work really hard and we’re good at what we do, so it will pay off. And thank God we’ll only be paying childcare fees for the next three years.
For the meantime, I’m thankful we have two beautiful children who we spend a lot of time with due to our flexible hours, we’re all healthy and happy and all of the material stuff can have a rest for a while. When I was growing up my family didn’t have much money and it really taught me its value. I’m actually glad our children are seeing us struggle a little. Our three-year-old, Luella, is going through that stage where she wants to buy everything she sees on TV or in the supermarket aisle, but she’s getting used to me saying she will have to wait. Patience is a virtue I’ve never been very good at, so we’re learning how to be patient together. And while I went through a stage of jealousy over what others seemed to be endlessly flaunting on Instagram, what’s happened in Nepal and Bali of late is so sad and humbling that I don’t think I’ll ever allow myself to feel jealous again because we really are so incredibly fortunate.
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