Setting Goals

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NASB)

I’m in the process of moving my blog over to WordPress.org, where I’ll become simply indebtedmom.com. While that’s happening (and while I care for a sick baby), I decided to throw up a quickie post.

I’ve been mulling over what I want for our financial future. I don’t want to be rich, so let’s start there, but I decided I have some goals other than just getting out of debt and staying home with my girls. And since this blog is all about accountability, I wanted to share these goals and possibly check in on them time to time.

  1. DEBT: pay off three debts a year and be debt free in four years
  2. RETIREMENT: retire by 50. Tall order given that we will only have about 10 years after becoming debt free to save and we haven’t been doing a great job
  3. TOYS: buy Brian a plane before we retire
  4. TRAVEL: after becoming debt free, take family vacations once a year, including some international trips

I also fully intend to set aside some money for our daughters’ college and weddings, but that will be a balancing act. They will be expected to put some money on the table for these things, too.

And so you know that it’s not all about me – I’m toying with ideas on supporting others through this blog. I have a zillion ideas running through my head, so it will take some time to research the possibilities – but expect that it’s coming!

What are your post-debt financial goals?

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America’s Flawed Approach to Maternity Leave

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I was fairly new to my job when I got pregnant the second time around. Two of my male coworkers were having babies while I was silently in my first trimester and I watched in horror as they took off one day to be with their wives. One day. Let that sink in. The first wife had a C-section and her husband was there for the big event, but wasn’t by her side when the baby came home. The second came in to work hours after the baby was born but said he wasn’t really there to work. Whatever.

Then when my belly started to pop, a young, single guy asked me how many days I was taking off for maternity leave. Days. Let that soak in. I told him 12 weeks and his jaw dropped. I then got to explain to him how I picked 12 weeks because it’s the maximum amount of time covered by the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). If I want more than that, my employer could let me go… And that it’s 12 weeks unpaid, so I would be cobbling together short term disability (which covers a fraction of your check for only a portion of the 12 weeks) and vacation time in order to get paid. Because I need to get paid or I wouldn’t have the job in the first place. I told him how most daycares won’t even accept a child until 6 weeks, so many working moms have to scramble to fill the gap for at least that long. How, even at 12 weeks, I’d be coming back sleep deprived and pumping every few hours and how my child would probably get sick at daycare every few weeks, requiring me to take off at least a day. Oh but wait. I’ve used up all my leave… I think I succeeded in scaring him.

When I worked at NASA, we had close relationships with our international counterparts. That was my first exposure to the European-style paid maternity leave. I couldn’t believe that other countries offered 6 months or 1 year paid leave. At first, I thought the stories I was hearing were the exceptions; I slowly came to realize that we are the exception.

My sister recently posted this story on Facebook. Go read it, I’ll wait here.

I can’t really wrap my head around a movement to offer paid maternity leave. Facebook is wonderful for keeping in touch with friends and it’s also “wonderful” because they share their political views with you. My friends are apparently all anti-welfare and I can just see how paid maternity leave would be lumped into that category. They’d say “either women should stay home or they should rush themselves back to work to do their job”.

The link my sister posted goes into some economic benefits but I went off and did a little more research. Here are a few interesting points to consider:

  1. North Korea apparently offers 11 weeks of paid maternity leave. Yup.
  2. Taking additional leave is associated with improved maternal function. Mom is more energetic and less anxious. Do y’all really want to be around the sleepy, on-edge new mom that drug herself back to work just to get paid?
  3. Taking less leave is  associated with impaired motor and social development in children less than two years old.
  4. Longer maternity leaves equal higher breastfeeding rates. Breastmilk provides antibodies to help children get over illnesses more quickly. Since a parent usually has to take off work (paid) for a sick child, it seems to me that we are just robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  5. Apparently children will grow taller if mom takes off longer. This should totally be our top motivator. America could be, like, land of the giants and we’d never have to worry about losing the Olympics in basketball again.
  6. Somehow, extended maternity leaves even affect high school graduation rates.

From some of the above, I’m gathering that an increased maternity leave (which only happens when women can afford to stay home) has lifelong impacts. But let’s remember that increased leave only happens when moms can afford it.

If you are a stay-at-home mom advocate, you should still support paid maternity leave. Why? Item #3 above is probably your very reason for staying home with your children, right? To give them the best start in life. Not every woman that goes back to work wants to go back to work. I know I don’t. The mommy wars have made us believe that every woman has a choice and that the position you see her in (working mom vs. stay at home mom) is all she’s ever dreamed of. That’s not how it is at all. I’m living proof.

So I would support legislation for paid maternity leave. Absolutely. But only because I’m quite sure corporate America (save for some places like Google) are never going to make any changes that they don’t have to. After all, these corporations are the same folks who pay women less just because they are a woman. They aren’t jumping up and down to even give you 12 weeks off, but they do it because it’s the law.

Oh, America. I love you so. I love capitalism. But sometimes I don’t think you love women very much.
 

Mission Impossible: Budget

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OK, call me Captain Obvious, but the first step in getting debt free has got to be to do a budget. We’ve had one lying around that I kinda update here and there, but we do a terrible job living by it, and with a second kiddo going into daycare soon, I knew I needed to see how things worked out on paper. When the older kiddo is occupied and if the baby is napping, I have been slowly plugging away at a new budget. The process of putting together a brand new budget has been eye opening.

Here are the things I learned about our circumstances:

  1. I could afford to stay home if we didn’t have any student loan debt, and it wouldn’t be all that tight. Perhaps it really is time to consider using the 401(k)s toward our debt, but we’d need a plan for getting our retirement funds immediately back on track.
  2. Remember my post about living on 14k a year? Yeah, I proved it would be almost doable here, if we didn’t have student loans, daycare, or a mortgage. We’d still be a bit shy because of the increased costs associated with the harsh climate.
  3. With a second child in daycare, things are tighter than they would be if I stayed home with the student loan debt paid off
  4. We will not be able to afford to put anything toward savings or debt reduction
  5. The new budget makes almost no room for vacations. At best, it looks like we can do a “staycation” and do 1-2 cheap family activities – if we save a few month’s worth of activity budget
  6. I feel better about this budget than previous attempts because it’s accounting for home repairs (important when your home is 100 years old) and vehicle repairs. Before, I just pretended these would never be needed.
  7. On the other hand, I do not feel great about this budget because it doesn’t take into account our car payment. As I mentioned in a previous post, my in-laws have pledged the payments for a couple of years, so they either need to keep paying it, we need to sell the vehicle, or we need to earn an additional $5k a year. Ugh.
  8. One note for us to consider is our FSA. Brian has $5k taken out of his checks each year and placed in an FSA, which reimburses us for daycare expenses. I did not account for the reimbursement in our budget, so we actually do have money to cover the car payments if we need to. Otherwise, we can put that money straight toward debt reduction and/or savings.

The budget still needs to be reviewed by my husband, but I think we can safely start rolling with this and make tweaks as we need to. In a sick way, I’m looking forward to challenging ourselves. We will have to stop hopping in the car and running out for just one more tool for a project or just one more item for dinner. We’ll have to find ways to enjoy our family time without driving all over (we live pretty far out from the main attractions) because gas doesn’t get a huge allotment in the budget. And I’ll certainly be challenged to make our grocery bill smaller, but given how much food I throw out at the end of the week, I think it’s doable with smart meal planning (I already meal plan, but I don’t do a great job of sticking to the plan).

Wish us luck, we definitely need it!

Do you have a budget? If so, do you actually stick with it?

Alone

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Excuse the grainy selfie taken in a dark room 😉

When my friend texted me on Thursday that she would finally get to be a stay-at-home mom, I cried tears of joy. And maybe every other tear was a tear for me, because suddenly I was alone. I’ve never really known anyone else who wanted – yearned – to stay home with their child, but who couldn’t afford it.

I Google this stuff all the time: “afford to be stay at home mom”, “stay at home mom income ideas”, “want to be a stay at home mom”… And I look for blogs, blogs, and more blogs, trying to find kindred souls. But what I find, of course, are the mommy wars.

I find articles written about why you should stay home and articles written about why you shouldn’t. I find post after post addressing the topic of a working mom who is thinking about quitting her job, but doesn’t want to lose herself. But what I don’t read about are moms that don’t have a choice in the matter – who have to work…

I read about how all you have to do is clip coupons and give up one vehicle and voila! You have an instant way to be a stay-at-home mom. I think these articles are insulting: if all you have to do is save $10 a week to be a stay at home mom or cut out one major bill, you ought to be able to figure that out for yourself. What do you do who you literally need half your rocket scientist paycheck and you don’t even have a car payment? Well, I think I know the answer: you resign yourself to working and to attempting to be the best mom you can be in the few short hours you get each day. There, I said it. I guess that’s why I can’t find the blogs for women like me. It’s depressing.

Others like me do exist. I’m sure of it. I just don’t know where they are or how to reach out to them, which is perhaps a small reason for this blog. “Come find me!! I can’t seem to figure out where you are!”

I want to know how these other women have coped with the flood of sadness as maternity leave ends (’cause I am doing a terrible job). I want to know I’m really not alone. And I’d love to cry on the shoulder (even virtually) of just one woman who gets it.

As I was crying my selfish tears, I read a beautiful post over at Hugs, Kisses, and Dirty Diapers that strengthened my resolve on one matter: I would tell my girls that they can be anything they want to be, but somehow I will let them know that mommy is the most important job they can ever aspire to have. I’ll let them know that it’s OK to choose that as their career, and to not listen to anyone who tells them differently. I already pray every day that they will grow up loving the Lord, following His ways, and serving Him (and what better service is there than as a mommy?), but I also pray that this is a decision that is really up to them. Because it’s not up to me.

Do you talk to your children about careers? If you do, do you ever talk about stay-at-home moms?

Affording a Stay at Home Mom Career

I get to surf the internet a lot right now as a mom on maternity leave. It might just be during the late night feeding sessions, but it’s amazing how I sometimes feel like I’ve reached the end of the net!!

Since I started this blog, it seems like articles related to the finances of stay at home moms keep popping up. I found this one interesting because it paints a picture that doesn’t jive with my own social circle – it says that fewer moms are staying home and those that do are often living in or near poverty. Hmmm… Not my experience with the stay at home moms I’ve known mostly through church. In fact, a dear friend texted me yesterday to let me know that she was finally able to afford giving up her part-time job and was staying home with her adopted two-year old son.

The adoption was itself a long time coming for my friend and there was unimaginable heartache preceding it. And then the adoption expenses grew and grew, more than draining their savings. In fact, I set up a gofundme.com fundraiser to help offset the unexpected legal fees. It’s taken awhile, but now they are in a manageable place. I’d say she makes more than her husband, like me. But they got there.

So back to the article, at least it’s comforting to me, as an outsider looking longingly inside, that I’m not the only one… And maybe I don’t want to be on the inside? Maybe I wouldn’t want to accept the cost? Or maybe that’s why I’m not on the inside – because I can’t accept the sacrifices required, and it’s shown in our “budget” (quotation marks because we don’t have anything on paper anymore).

How about you? Are you a stay at home mom who intends to pick up where your career left off someday? Or is the title Mommy all you’ve ever hoped for?