Two and a half years ago we got pregnant. I was working full time as a nurse at a busy practice in one of the wealthiest counties in America, which is also where I grew up. My husband was the operations manager for a music business management company in Nashville he’d worked at for 3 years.
Together we made plenty of money.
But my husband HATED his job. He watched musicians, producers and bands throw away money on ridiculous things, run up massive debt and continue buying more houses or cars or vacations. His boss kept demanding more clients, more time at work and more responsibilities – all the while she was also taking more trips and buying more cars. As an accountant and business manager, she never seemed worried that most of her clients were in debt.
My very wealthy patients continually begged for more medications, quicker fixes so they could get back to work or so their kids could get back to school. ADHD medication was demanded and expected so they could all keep up. Around Christmas we had a run of 30-something year old men coming in for chest pain or heart conditions that all turned out to be stress and anxiety related.
Back when my husband and I were first dating he asked me to go on a walk one day. He had just met a few of my friends the night before, among them was a guy I had gone out with a couple times. He said simply “If that’s the kind of life you want, you shouldn’t be with me. I don’t ever want to work that much just to make money and never see my family.”
I told him if that’s what I wanted, that’s who I’d be dating. I grew up in Nashville private schools and firstly, I never fit in, but also it wasn’t what I wanted my life to look like. Being a mess of a stay-at-home mom with used cars and budget vacations but with a husband who came to bed with me every night was fine. In fact, it was perfect.
So a few years later after my husband couldn’t handle his overly demanding, greed-inducing job for one more minute, he quit. And then we had to decide what we wanted.
After weeks of discussions and double-checking that the other person was really onboard, we agreed we would rather be broke and live a simpler family-centered life. It was really hard. For about six months.
We lost everything that most people consider essential in just a few months. Meer weeks after our daughter was born we moved in temporarily with my parents (which I DO NOT recommend), sold our car and most of our belonging and completely stopped buying anything that we couldn’t eat.
My husband started his dream job. He entered a graduate program in theology where he works as High School Youth Minister while studying part time. The program pays us just $12,000 a year to live and gives us an additional $12,000 a year in housing allowance.
$24,000. That’s it.
Now even we can’t quite make it on $1,000 a month before taxes with our growing family. My In-Laws help us pay for our health insurance and give us a few hundred dollars a month so we can buy organic groceries. So that brings our grand total to around $30,000 a year. Did I mention I’m pregnant again?
We no longer live with my parent’s but they are still our landlords. They own the house we live in but we pay the mortgage. Nashville is horribly expensive. Thank God they aren’t trying to make money on this place. Because otherwise we’d be 45 minutes out of town in a 2nd story walk up.
Fancy dinners out are fun memories my husband and I talk about wistfully. I haven’t bought a new shirt in 3 years. The eyepieces on my glasses have been broken for 11 months. I can’t even remember what it’s like to have cable or OnDemand.
But you know what? I lived. We discovered I’m actaully a decent cook and my husband had found he loves to make Asian food – and now kicks me out of the kitchen. I’m getting new glasses for my birthday next month from my parents. I’ve even embraced the capsule wardrobe craze. And we have Hulu and the most amazing library system with every TV season known to man on DVD for free.
I’ve never bought A SINGLE THING for my daughter that was new. Have you been to a kids sale or consignment sale? 3-4 times a year gymnasiums and churches all over the city become $3 barely used baby-gear extravaganzas. Last month I got Munchkin’s entire winter wardrobe, an organic toddler mattress and 2 convertible car seats for less than $100 dollars. BOOM.
Frankly I get a little pissed when I see baby clothes for more than $4. Like that must be a NICE shirt to be a $6.
Our broke situation is mostly temporary. In 2 years my husband will graduate with a master’s degree and I’m pretty sure that he’ll make more than $24,000 a year, even if he were to transfer to a smaller church. One day I may even stop getting pregnant and work more! But even then I don’t ever plan to work full time again, and my husband feels strongly that neglecting family time to make more money is not a great example for a minister.
We went into this on purpose. We had saved up a decent emergency fund before our daughter was born which we had been able to keep mostly untouched. It’s used for actual emergency events, like suddenly needing a new transmission that was $800. Even though we are truly living under the poverty line, we worry that any minute we will be bankrupt. Could that happen if we suddenly got sick or hurt? Absolutely. But that was true even when we were making +$65,000 a year.
Is life in America CRAZY expensive? Absolutely.
Do you HAVE to have two incomes (or even one big one)? No.
Do I occasionally freak out that I can’t buy a freakin’ sweater or go to a movie? You bet.
Every day I have to make the decision that I’d rather be home with my daughter than have more money in the bank. Every day my husband has to decide it’s ok to make no money but work at a great church and get up with Munchkin to have daddy-daughter breakfast 5 days a week while Preggo Mommy sleeps in.
Even if our stuff isn’t new, or barely works, we really are just fine.
My name is Megan Whitaker and I’m a pregnant mommy living in Nashville TN with my husband and 2 year old daughter – and 3 chickens. I blog about parenting and natural, holistic living at www.goingcrunchynotcrazy.com, but have wanted to write about this topic for some time. You can also find me at www.instagram.com/goingcrunchynotcrazy