Sunday, March 02, 2008

decisions, decisions, decisions

We've been doing some number crunching lately, and the bottom line is that money coming in is not equaling money going out. Even when we spend zero dollars on non-necessities, we still aren't making enough to cover all of our expenses. To be fair, we knew this was a possibility, and before I had Gabe and while I was on maternity leave, we saved as much as we could so that we could have a cushion to cover our expenses. Of course, now that we have the money saved up, it is painful to watch it be drained away by expenses like groceries or gasoline.

Don't get me wrong, Josh makes a good salary, but it is still less than half of what I was making at my law firm. We bought our house based on my salary, not his, so our mortgage takes up a monstrous chunk of our income. We've considered making all kinds of changes, like selling our house, moving to a less expensive suburb, getting rid of a car, or losing our cell phones or cable television. The housing market isn't what it used to be, so selling this house doesn't make much sense, and we really can't survive without both cars. Josh works long hours, and I'm responsible for the bulk of errand running, so I need a car to get around during the day. We're trying to cut our costs wherever possible, like eating only at home, not making unnecessary purchases, taking hand-me-downs for Gabe from friends where possible.

In the end, though, I really think I'm going to have to get a part-time job. Josh is adamantly against it, mainly because he sees that I hate the thought of having to leave Gabe. We're also hoping that this May, at the one year mark of employment for him, he'll receive a raise that will make all the difference. Once we make enough to cover our expenses, enough not to drain our savings, I'm more than happy to live like a pauper. Our parents are extraordinarily generous and are happy to cover our plane tickets to visit them, and all of our expenses once we are there. My mom bought me some new clothes and Gabe some new books while we were visiting. My in-laws help us out with household projects, including putting up new fencing when our old fencing fell over from the weight of a snowstorm. My mother-in-law also provides sporadic babysitting so we don't have to pay someone else to watch Gabe. In short, we are very very lucky, and living like a "pauper" is really not bad at all, even when I haven't been to Starbucks in months. Oh, the tragedy.

It feels so irresponsible to be pulling money from our savings, though, especially when I am perfectly able to work just a few hours a week and give us a little bit of protection on the money front. The problem is that every time I sit down in front of the computer to look up available jobs, I feel paralyzed with the prospect. I left work in such a bad state at the end of my maternity leave, and the idea of putting myself back into a situation like that, is enough to make me nauseous. Logically, of course, I know that not all jobs are the same, and I won't be working at a law firm, I won't be working 70 hours a week, it will be different. But that terrified part of me screams as I revamp my resume, what if it isn't?

Maybe the best thing for us is for me to jump back on the work horse and try something out. It could be good for me emotionally, it could help me face my demons, and it will definitely be good for our budget. The jobs I've been considering are far from full-time, and have flexible hours. I could try it for a while, and if it works, then great. If it doesn't work, we'll reconsider and readjust. Plus, maybe I'll love it. Maybe I'll realize that I've missed the interaction and stimulation of the work force. If I don't, well, let's keep our fingers crossed that May brings a huge raise for Josh.

9 comments:

Corey said...

I understand how you feel. I'm a CPA and the last time I worked was in the height of the tech boom in the Silicon Valley where the firm was understaffed, overworked and underpaid. That was the most stressful time of my career. Full time was 60-100 hours per week, part time was 40 hours per week - not on paper, of course, but in reality. I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that there may be a job out there, in my chosen field, that I would enjoy doing once again.

When I go back to work, it will need to be part time to accommodate sick kids, doctors appointments, oil changes, etc... My husband is military, so there are chances that he'd be away and not be able to help at all.

Good luck with what you decide. I do feel your pain.

Maribeth said...

Take it a day at a time. You may want to find something where you can get some billable hours. Even if it isn't full time. Remember, Gabe is going to grow so fast and soon he will be in school. So whatever you do, try not to miss that.
Good luck!!!

Ninotchka said...

I think you have the right attitude. You don't have to make a "forever" decision. Just try different things and see what sticks. The results might surprise you. :)

My Wombinations said...

Is there any way for you to start your own practice out of your home? Maybe you could do the work on your own time, get some of your old clients and get back into the swing of things without leaving Gabe. One lawyer I know recently did this... Just a thought. These are very hard choices.

The Mommy said...

I feel for you. It's tough no matter what you decide. I've been wondering (worrying) if we'll be okay "financially speaking" when there will only be one income.

Beth & Rob said...

Good luck with your decision...you are s amart cookie so will make the right one either way. Speaking from my very basic and limited experience I have been back at work and it's hard work but also reallt rewarding. Once I knew that Daisy was happy in daycare and sleeping and eating and actually doing more than what she was doing with me at home I felt less guilty about going to work...and getting a coffee and being an adult again. While I miss her desperately when we are apart the home time welcome is the best ever and we can financially breathe for the moment anyway. And you know what I actually really enjoy my 3 days being a grown up. Good luck with the decision... I was lucky as I had a great flexible job to go back to...look at it as a new beginning that might just be a great thing! Good luck...

Meika said...

I'm sorry - that is so not fun! (And sorry because I can already tell this is going to be a looong comment - I just LOVE brainstorming advice!) We can get by on my husband's salary (though we are a one-car family in suburban Michigan) but I've been thinking about doing something part-time, too, and I really do feel like all the different aspects of this decision make it an especially agonizing one.

That said... As a starting point, have you guys figured out about how much income you would need to break even? I think that the idea of starting your own practice from home is an interesting one, though I know that it can take quite a while to build the client base to make that work. Could you do some sort of consulting (again, perhaps from home), maybe for a corporation/nonprofit/municipality/whatever that needs less-than-full-time legal advice? Write wills for people? (I clearly have no idea what kind of law you were practicing...:)

I'm wondering, too, if you know anyone working with a smaller firm that might be interested in taking on someone part-time. Again, I don't know where you were working before, but my impression was that it was a big-city high-powered partner-track kind of position. I wonder if a smaller firm or something might offer a less intense atmosphere.

Another idea - my cousin(-in-law) has worked for a couple judges now and just loved it. Her hours have been pretty flexible, I think, and she and her husband have been able to do without outside child care except for one day a week when Grandma watched the kids (6 and 3 now, I think).

I'm actually a little envious of your position because I think you have so many fun options. My master's is in historical theology...right, not so many consulting opportunities there. :) So I'd leave my daughter with a babysitter to do clerical work? Ughhh.

liz said...

I just wanted to come in and say, what ever you decide to do, you will be okay. You are smart and funny and resourceful.

Jenny said...

I hear ya. I left the law firm life a few years ago and it's been a long, tough road adjusting to a different standard of living. But it's been worth it. You'll find a way.