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For Richer or Poorer: Being Broke Doesn’t Break You


by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

I half feel like our whole For Richer, For Poorer series was just a lead up to this, from (new!) APW staffer Liz. Here Liz dives into the meat of the thing: being young, having a baby (surprise!), and not having enough money to eat, let alone pay the bills. (For the record, the situation has improved somewhat, and Liz and her family are eating three squares a day. We don’t have starving staffers!) The amazing thing about Liz is first, how much grace she’s shown navigating through this whole experience. I’ve watched with wonder (and offers to help) remembering my own broke twenties, and trying to figure out how I would have managed with an adorable kid as well. But more than that, Liz is able to tell us what she’s learned, not just how she’s managed. And that’s true grace.For Richer or Poorer: Being Broke Doesnt Break You | A Practical Wedding

I’m a bit of a pro at being broke. It’s something I’m accomplished in, the way some people are skilled and knowledgeable in playing piano or building a birdhouse. I have a knack for not having money.

We have never been financially comfortable in our short stint of marriage. We’re both young (I was twenty-three when we married), and particularly in this economy but also in general, that spells “broke.” That’s fine, I guess, when you’re both starting out in your chosen fields and haven’t made your way just yet. But, it gets a little harder when you find out—surprise!—you’re having a baby.

During the nine months I was pregnant, we were both lucky to find lucrative jobs. We weren’t in the clear, but we were able to go to an OBGYN and even buy a crib and some picture books in anticipation of the baby. Choosing to leave my job was difficult. I was passionate about what I did and it offered the true breadwinning paycheck, but I already loved my son so fiercely—and I hadn’t even met him yet.

Very shortly after I quit my job, Josh lost his.

We had dealt with unemployment and late electricity payments before, but this job loss, unlike the others before it, brought a special kind of panic. Now we had this awesome little creature relying on us. And he liked to eat.

We did everything we could think to do. Resumes and job applications, temp agencies, and websites for networking consumed our days. I began to focus more ardently on my blog and Etsy shop and Josh started his own business. These things helped a little money trickle in, but nothing that made any sort of dent. Who are these magical people who quit their jobs and start taking pictures of their outfits or knitting toilet paper cozies and can still afford rent? WHO ARE THEY?

Luckily, we had the decency to keep our freak-out moments staggered. I would break down into terrified, shaking sobs in the middle of the day and Josh would somehow keep it together enough to encourage me. Later, Josh would flip out and yell about all of the unanswered job applications, and I would comfort him and tell him something was bound to happen soon.

For Richer or Poorer: Being Broke Doesnt Break You | A Practical Wedding

Friends and family kept us afloat for several months with their generosity. We’d accept a gift from a friend just in time to make rent, or we’d borrow a quick bit of cash from mom so our credit card payment wouldn’t be late. Then, we could use that same credit card to buy groceries. We kept weird hopeful parameters. It’s okay if everything else is late, as long as we pay the things that have late fees. It’s okay if all the other bills aren’t paid, as long as we keep paying the credit cards on time and protect our credit rating. It’s okay now that we can’t afford the credit payments, because the rent is still being paid. Eventually, though, nothing was paid on time. Then, nothing was paid at all. We’d get a bit of cash from a project and use it to turn our cell phones back on—enabling our job search to continue. We’d get a bit more cash and dream of all the debts we’ll be able to catch up on, but then quickly realized that the late fees and increases in interest made such catching up impossible.

I cried so much. I cried because I was angry that our dual job searches were fruitless. I cried because I was sad that I couldn’t buy my son special treats. I cried because I was overwhelmed with happiness by the generosity of friends who sent bits of cash to help us scrape by. I cried because my hopes for easier days stung with sharp unreality.

We were eating fried eggs, ramen or pasta for every meal every day. A check would come in the mail, and I’d rush to the store for a bulk pack of ramen and two-dozen eggs—a grocery bill that totaled only $8 for several days of meals. The rest of the money was spent on the baby. Diapers, wipes, and little cups of mashed vegetables add up very fast. Eventually, I started to realize that the $8 designated for me and Josh would stretch farther if I ate just one egg for breakfast instead of two. Then, simple math seemed to indicate the eggs would stretch even farther than that if I didn’t eat breakfast at all. I told Josh, “I’m just not hungry.”

For Richer or Poorer: Being Broke Doesnt Break You | A Practical Wedding

It was undeniably hard. But there were bright sides. The moments of sadness, stress, guilt—they were real and intense. But, rare. The majority of my time was spent enjoying this unusual opportunity of being with my little family all day long. Optimism prevailed. I could laugh and joke about our situation with friends. I could feel genuine happiness for friends who could afford fancy luxuries that were far out of our own reach. I could shrug off the bills because, after so many months of being afraid of what these people demanding money will do, I realized—we’re okay. Our situation wasn’t ideal, but we weren’t dead or homeless or imprisoned for these late bills. I realized my time and energy were wasted by dwelling on what payments we were missing and who would shut off which utility next. The money wasn’t there. This guilt nagging me, pestering me about my “irresponsibility” in not making timely payments was silly and unfounded. I would pay the bills if I could, but I can’t. So I chose not to think about it, and suddenly, was able to enjoy this weird place of fried eggs and Netflix and wearing my husband’s deodorant.

Friends around me freak out about late payments or complain about not being able to afford a vacation. While I can relate, I don’t know how to convey to them what I feel I’ve learned the hard way—that being without is difficult and scary, but it doesn’t break you. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

As a result of our hardest points of financial struggle, I’ve gained a new perspective of all of the fear and guilt tied to money. Plus, my relationships with friends and family are bolstered by the love I experienced from them generously giving what I hadn’t earned. I’m humbled. I’m grateful. I’m anxious to do the same for others. My relationship with my husband was strengthened immeasurably as we both faced the same tough time and helped one another through it.

For Richer or Poorer: Being Broke Doesnt Break You | A Practical Wedding

Things are improving but we’re not out of the woods, yet. And that’s okay. I have this new knowledge rooted in real experience, now. Knowledge that we are one of those families that band together rather than being torn apart during difficult times. We can face this stuff. We’ve already done it.

Photos of the past year from Liz’s personal Instagram collection

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • luc

    So awesome. My husband and I have been broke students the whole time we’ve been together too – right down to having a few bucks to feed us for three days til the next Centrelink (welfare) payment came through. We also had amazing fun days in between the tears and anger and frustration of always having no money. We have also seen that we pull together rather than apart when faced with adversity, and that is an awesome thing to know about yourselves in a young marriage. Well done to you, lady. Sending good vibes your way from Perth, Australia xox

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

    I really needed to hear this, and now I’m sniffling and hiccuping on the bus, trying not to burst into outright sobs. I have been looking forward to establishing a household with a weird mixture of joy and fear: “…but what if it all goes wrong?”

    There is no way to put how I feel, after reading this, into words. Thank you so much, and best wishes from the midwest. (Also, your son is adorable!!)

  • kathleen

    Liz- this is such an articulate, important capture of what so many folks are dealing with– and captures both the stress and unexpected peace that comes with knowing being broke can’t break you.

    I’m sending many good thoughts to you and your family, and hope that you get to write your “for richer” post from the other side very very soon.

  • Sarah

    From one professional broke person to another, thank you so much for sharing your story. Everything about this, the 8 dollars to stretch a couple weeks of food, the vacillation between crippling guilt about being “irresponsible” and between letting those feelings melt away because the money simply was Not There, and having a partner there to balance the freak outs, so much rang true to me. I cannot imagine trying to do this with a child (something that was always in the back of my mind around day 17 of only ramen for every meal, between sodium headaches, can one breast feed while surviving on salty brown water and noodles? what if i had a baby to take care of, instead of just a cat?)
    thanks again, you are very brave. it will get better. keep fighting.

  • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

    This makes me have very mixed feelings – I feel both guilty and so incredibly blessed that I haven’t had struggles like this. It also makes me want to go out and just write checks for all of the awesome people out there who are struggling. No one should have to make the sorts of decisions that Liz did.

  • One More Sara

    thank you. thank you. thank you. My man (A) and I got knocked up at 20 (I turned 21 days before our son was born.) When we started our journey as a family, A didn’t have a “real” job, I was still in college, and we didn’t live on the same continent. In the almost 3 (!) years since we started our family, we live together (in the same country), bought our own apartment, and still manage to fly back to America once in a while to see my family of origin. Between the international move and not finishing college yet (I know tsk. tsk. I have to learn another language before I can restart. I’m almost there.), I’ve felt like a bit of a dead weight. Whenever I’m feeling especially guilty I’m going to come back to this and realize at the end of the day, as long as we are happy and tummies are full, there’s not much else that matters.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Congrats on making it to the same country. That is a huge achievement because the immigration process is not easy. Hang in there through the language learning and the time of putting down roots in your new country. It takes time to build a life in a new place (and in a new language). I know it is easy to feel impatient to have a life that felt like your life before in your home country, but try not be discouraged if it takes longer than you would want. For me, the idea of liminality was really meaningful. This Wikipedia article on it, which covers the liminal state and rites of passages was helpful as I was processing my own journey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality
      Good luck!

      • One More Sara

        Thanks for that article! I can definitely relate. I’ve lived here in NL for 2 years now, and things are starting to get “back to normal.” I’m getting ready to take the language proficiency test required to study here, and I’m also finally starting to make my own friends. I think what was hardest for me was the order of our life events is so wacky. 1 baby. 2 live together (with his parents and sister). 3 buy home. 4 (finally!) getting married. I’m definitely still in an “in between” stage, but now I can see where the pieces will likely fall, and it feels so. good.

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          Yes, it does feel good to finally be getting to the place of (re) building a life! I just started working in Canada last fall and have begun making a few more friends finally too. I hope you do awesome on the proficiency test!

  • http://warrenpimp.blogspot.com/ Contessa

    When I was first married and going to college I remember living on one .50 cent street bagel for breakfast on the way through Manhattan and the second one I’d bought was for lunch. I also remember the panic of feeling like a failure and the release when I realized that if nothing got paid…it just didn’t get paid.

    The silver lining for me was that my kids were too young to remember when we were really broke and we decided in that period to never spoil them when we had the money and to always set realistic expectations for them so that in case we were ever in the soup again they wouldn’t be disappointed.

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      My Manhattan bagels were $1.25. I SO know what you mean. New York can be a hell of a bitch.

      • meg

        Yes and no… I spend my dark broke years in New York, and I found it easier to be poor there than lots of places (oddly). My friends were all pretty broke, and in big parts of the city (hello Brooklyn!) having next to nothing is oddly ok. I mean, I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, I’m just saying THANK GOD I didn’t have to do it in a yuppie town like San Francisco, or whatever. Those bagels are a life saver ;)

        • http://warrenpimp.blogspot.com/ Contessa

          Street cart bagels and coffee in a blue cup kept me alive through the Fall semester of 1997.

        • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

          Very true! Plus, working my ass off, holding down multiple jobs to pay my rent in New York, taught me how to be an adult and gave me some of the best experiences of my life. I agree; if you’re going to be poor and you’re a resourceful person, New York is a great place to be.

          (I miss it. And I REALLY miss the bagels).

          • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

            Same . . . I kinda feel that since I lived through the post-college need-to-pay-rent-but-HOW? brokeness in New York, I can live through it in a variety of other places and circumstances. Hollaaaaaa.

          • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

            Really? I’m broke-ish (non-profit wages) in Brooklyn and am finding it almost unsustainable to live here. The rent is too damn high! Neighborhoods that used to be relatively affordable are just not anymore. I’m hearing this from other artist and non-profit friends too. At least you don’t need a car here…

          • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

            Danielle (for some reason, I can’t reply to you directly),

            I left New York in 2009, so I’m not sure how much things have gone up in price since then (although I’m SURE they have).

            I lived in Queens (Astoria, to be precise) and had a STEAL of a gorgeous, huge, sunny two bedroom apartment for a total of $1600 per month. I had a roommate and we split rent 50/50 at $800 each. I believe the monthly metrocard was $103 when I left, but my memory’s a little hazy on that. I know it was only $86 when I first moved there.

            I worked in book publishing, and despite having worked my ass off with big-name, reputable houses and building a solid career, I was STILL making under $30k.

            Between my rent and my metrocard most of my net pay was gone, and what little I had left went to food (and, ok, booze). It was a tight, tight, tight living.

            But the thing I learned in New York, that I can now apply to just about all areas of my life, is that it CAN be done. I did it. I did it for a long time, and truthfully, if I didn’t have to relocate to be with my fiancé, I’d still be doing it now. And a lot of the time it SUCKED. But it was awesome a lot of the time, too.

          • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

            Hi Kelly,

            I’m glad you had an awesome time! It’s awesome for me too, sometimes (often?). But I sometimes feel really worn down and just sick of being broke and not having enough $ to spend on fun things.

            I grew up here and have seen prices (rent esp) go up so much in the past 15+ years.

            Maybe I should move to Queens.

          • meg

            Hey Danielle,
            I lived in the part of Brooklyn where people got shot on my street. Hint: it’s still cheap there. Our rent was $1500 for THREE people. I could never have afforded more.

          • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

            Hi Meg,
            I live by myself in a relatively (by NY standards) affordable neighborhood. There are probably ways I could cut down on my spending, like get roommates, but at this point (in my early 30s), I just don’t want to do that. My main goal is to make more $$, which may mean switching sectors or getting a 2nd job.

        • http://www.verhext.com tamerajane

          When I had to do it in SF, my studio apartment was only $500!!! I don’t know how people do it now. I guess they live in Oakland.

          Also, having done it in Philly from 93-95, my rent was WAY less than Liz’s’s’s’ess (we had this conversation on twitter) and a slice of Lorenzos pizza (all I ate all day) was only $1.25. WHOO.

          • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

            LORENZO’S. I miss that place. Philly is a great town for being broke.

          • http://notsolittlethings.blogspot.com Stephanie

            Yep, Oakland is the place to be. Well, at least it used to be. The year I made a whopping $12,000 I moved from SF to live with my boyfriend (now husband) in a warehouse between two meth houses because my share of the rent would be $200. Now a room in the same warehouse is $1000 because its near Uptown which is where all the travel magazines say is on a must visit list. Gentrification is a strange thing.

          • meg

            I think now it’s down to WEST Oakland. With all the foreclosures, the rents in Oakland are what the rents in SF were when we moved…

        • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

          I know, right? SF didn’t used to be so yuppie, either.

          • http://notsolittlethings.blogspot.com Stephanie

            Yeah, MLK used to be considered West Oakland. Amazing how boundaries change when one block means another $1000 in rent, even if it is still a food desert.

  • Brefiks

    What stuck out to me was the phrase “giving what I hadn’t earned.”

    We talk a lot on here about being able to accept gratuitous gifts, and after all, you’ve never really earned a gift–that’s what makes it so hard to accept, and such a proof of love, doesn’t it?

    Beautiful reflection, thank you for your bravery.

  • Ashley

    This was so great! I so completely understand you perspective. I’m in the process of planning my wedding and broke is definitely the theme…or how to be broke and still have something nice. It’s tough but it makes me real. We can’t change the economy or student loan bills but we can use this time to get to know each other in a better way… And to support each other in the struggle.
    You are growing into a resourceful wife and mother and whether you have money or not that will be a useful skill. Thank you for sharing this.

    • http://www.abuttercreamwedding.com Sara C.

      Just remember – your wedding will be nice because it’s Your wedding. you might not love it (or, at least not all the time), and it may not be “blog-worthy,” but I’m fairly certain that it will be nice – and hopefully “you.”

      Also, you may enjoy this (if you haven’t read it yet) from the archives:
      http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/07/ask-meg-fck-the-economy-get-married-now/

      It’s been my mantra for the past 14 months of engagement :-).

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

    Here is wishing that things get better real soon. Your family is lovely and that is the most important thing. And you are very wise, for realizing the things that matter. Hugs.

  • rachel

    I hesitate to write this, but in the spirit of constructive disagreement, I must admit that I was turned off from the message of the post upon reading, “Choosing to leave my job was difficult. I was passionate about what I did and it offered the true breadwinning paycheck, but I already loved my son so fiercely—and I hadn’t even met him yet.”

    I’m sorry, but quitting a job before a child is born and quitting a good job — rather than simply taking maternity leave and working things out (e.g., father becomes stay-at-home parent when he loses a job) seems simply irresponsible to me on a personal level, not to mention a setback for women who want to be working mothers. What kind of message does it send when a woman with a perfectly good job quits it *in anticipation* of a child — whose health is unknown, who may need extra financial resources for a variety of reasons, and who will certainly need food and shelter? What kind of message does it send when a mother chooses to be broke when work was an option? What kind of message does it send when poverty is a choice not a structurally imposed reality, as experienced by so many — especially non-white people? It smacks of white privilege to quit a perfectly good job rather than be a working mother.

    I’m glad that Liz and Josh found a way to make this work and things are on the upswing, but this isn’t a model of life, parenting, or feminism I can endorse, comprehend, or even sympathize with.

    • Liz

      Hi, Rachel! I’m the Liz from the post. I quit my job AFTER the baby was born. (I’m a teacher, so I was able to give birth in January, finish out the school year, and then just not go back the next).

      The reason I mentioned quitting my job is because as women, that decision is guilt-ridden no matter which direction you choose. I already felt torn between job and baby, and then I made my decision, and then disaster struck. Can you imagine the guilt that I faced after my husband lost his job? There were days when I wondered, “What if I hadn’t quit…?” But how was I to know that Josh would be let go? We can’t make decisions based on what MIGHT befall us- because even if the worst does, we can still get through.

      You mention feminism, so I just want to be clear. The “feminist” choice is not always to work versus stay home. The feminist choice is to do what you want that makes sense for your family. At the time, my husband was employed. It made sense for my family for me to stay home.

      • http://notsolittlethings.blogspot.com Stephanie

        Liz – yes, yes, yes!

        In our case, the best choice for our family looks like THE feminist choice – I work while my husband stays home – but it was because it made the most sense financially and for our souls. As much as I love our son I do not do well staying home, and my husband thrives at it, and he can work on becoming the artist he has always wanted to be.

        Still consciously quitting a job when you have spent your like making sure you have one (even if it is a crappy temp one) in a crappy economy is very hard. I can’t imagine the blow it must have been for Josh to lose his. But, I’m so glad to hear that you are okay with how things are shaping up. I love reading your blog. You’re strength is amazing.

    • Kristy

      Whew – you said it, and I tend to agree with you. In my law firm we have 13% female partners. That’s it. Because most of the women lawyers have babies and then stay home. That’s fine- that’s feminism and they can choose it. But it makes me wince every time it happens. I’m getting married soon and I’m in my 30’s, and yes, I plan on having kids. BUT I’M STILL TRYING TO MAKE PARTNER. And I’m already being judged as likely to fall off the trail, because that’s what working women tend to do around here when they get married and have kids. Sigh.

      Liz- I love your honesty in this post. I love that you love your family and I love the things you learned in dealing with your money. I’m sure a ton of people can relate to it, and I’m sure that since you’ve had to go trying to get a job again, that maybe you wouldn’t have quit while pregnant if you could see then what you see now. Regardless, may your family be blessed and you all able to have everything you need, and a lot of what you want as well!

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Kristy, the fact that the choices of a majority or a good proportion of women have consequences for other women who are planning on very different choices is something we all need to think and talk more about. It really isn’t right that managing partners still think, “Oh, Elisabeth’s engaged? I wonder how long before her husband’s job makes them move away. I wonder how long before she quits to have babies. Let’s not give her big assignments.” Or just, “She’d better keep her billables up while planning the wedding.” But it happens, and that keeps women down, professionally, no matter how dedicated we are individually to our jobs.

        Still, we need to come up with ways that quash those ideas in partners’ heads while not guilt-tripping women for putting their families before womankind.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

      Well, like it has been said here, the feminist thing is to actually have the choice. And what if the cost of daycare or the salary difference per month would be so little that for a certain family it is worth it /makes sense, even financial sense, for one of the partners to be a stay-at-home parent? I don’t think it is white privilege or unfeminism, these are just very personal decisions each family has to make .

      • http://laurenmcglynnphotography.com Lauren

        I don’t think is smacks of white privilege at all- it smacks of living in a country with completely backwards financial priorities. If you have a baby in Scandinavia or Europe you get mandatory paid maternity leave for a year. The government will even give you paid time off if you are self employed. You get grants for having babies. You can still keep your job & you can still advance in your career. You can split your paid maternity time between both parents however you see fit, so it doesn’t have to be the woman. Afterwords there is subsidized high quality daycare.

        For all the “family values” rhetoric, America has the most anti-family policies in place. People in the UK & Europe look on in horror at the choices that American families are forced to make when a new baby has arrived.

        • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

          Yes, this. The fact is there need to be systems in place to support growing families as they add babies to the mix. Goverments talk about children being the future – well, part of that is creating a system that makes it easier for parents to take time off in the first year of their life.

        • anna

          As a side note, actually, there are only a few countries in Europe where you get paid maternity leave for that long… in Holland,where I live, you get 16 weeks in total paid maternity leave (of which 10-12 weeks are after the baby is born). Dads get 2 days. Yes, it’s better than nothing, but nowhere near 52 weeks… The system you’re talking about (splitting between parents, still making advancements in your career, etc) is very much typically Scandinavian and not at all that common in other European countries, unfortunately.
          But I do concur on looking in horror at the choices American women make. Even in the UK, many women work right up until the birth, which I’m so happy not to have to do (even if it’s just because working until that late in pregnancy results in a lower birth weight for babies).

          • http://greyandshiny.wordpress.com/ Nina

            Actually this is also the case in Canada – you get a year and that can be split between the parents as they choose. And that’s as it should be – it takes a village after all (or a country).

        • http://www.tinyperfectbites.com Cristina

          To be fair, in many European countries known for excellent maternity/paternity benefits (the U.K., Sweden, Norway) , the birth rate is very low, so it’s logical that the government would try to ease the process of having children. A low birth rate increases the need to encourage reproduction, and it also makes these programs more affordable for the government to provide. The U.S. is a) broke at the moment, and b) does not have a low birth rate.

          • http://laurenmcglynn.com Lauren

            I’d much rather give Liz paid maternity leave than pay for 2 wars, give billions of dollars to weapons manufactures, & provide corporations with hefty tax breaks. Just sayin’.

          • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

            Actually, the birth rate in Scandinavia, which has the most generous parental benefits, is higher than in other parts of Europe. It’s MUCH higher than the birth rate in Southern Europe. You can read about it in a 2008 NYT Magazine article.

            Also, the US government is broke because we have low revenue (taxes) and a much stronger anti-tax political movement than Europe. The deficit crisis is artificial and the real threat is health care costs, not parental leave.

      • rachel

        Liz, thanks for responding. It wasn’t clear from the wording when you quit, and it read to me as though you quit before your son was born. Thanks for the clarification, as it makes more sense now.

        That said, I disagree that choice feminism is “the” feminism. I think there is a challenging balancing act between making individual decisions that work for any given person/family and making decisions that help move women forward as a group. I find it quite problematic to see women quit their jobs when they have children, because while it may strike them as the best personal decision (and may well be, given a variety of circumstances), I don’t see men making similar accommodations — whether quitting their jobs or going part-time or changing their hours. Sure, some do, but they’re in the tiny tiny minority.

        Thus, like Kristy, I wince when women quit their jobs. I worry about the fact that she knows she is “being judged as likely to fall off the trail, because that’s what working women tend to do around here when they get married and have kids. Sigh.” I see quitting work as a setback not only for individuals — for who knows when they may need a job and/or a foundation for one when life throws unexpected curveballs — as well as for women as a group and society writ large. It sends the message to companies, to firms, to hiring organizations that women in their 20s and 30s aren’t a good bet. It creates unstated assumptions that women will leave and aren’t worth the risk. It generates unconscious hiring and promotion decisions that favor men over women.

        So until men start to push the workforce to accommodate parenting in equal numbers to women, I will continue to wince when I hear of women quitting jobs to have children. It’s not that it’s the wrong decision for a particular person, but to me it’s the wrong message to send about women writ large. I realize this is not necessarily a popular position and many will disagree me. But choice feminism only works when men are making similar decisions to women and everyone has those choices. Right now, few men make similar decisions and only privileged women even have choices to make.

        • Liz

          The fact that women are forced to examine what “message” their personal choices send to the rest of the world demonstrates an extreme inequality, indeed. Men do not determine if each of their personal decisions reflect well on the rest of male-kind. Likewise, if I consider myself truly equal, I’ll make the decision that is personally best for me (assuming it is causing no one else personal harm) rather than make my decisions based on what makes the best statement. Because, in the end, making a personal choice does make a statement. That my choices, made for personal reasons, are valid, despite being a woman.

        • http://www.verhext.com tamerajane

          Your assumption is that feminism = the desire to be locked into a corporate career.

          I’d argue that NO ONE should feel locked into a corporate career, male or female. Personally, I cheer when someone quits their job – after 15+ years in a corporate environment I want to do the same. Likewise, many men I know would LOVE to be stay at home dads, but I’d say the nursing aspect is the #1 reason it ends up being the woman.

          If you find satisfaction in your career path – awesome. Don’t assume every other person does, or wants to work on a trajectory that’s intolerant of taking time off, or that other people can’t be flexible and clever with the way they make their lives work outside of the hamster wheel. A career doesn’t make you a better woman, or a feminist, it makes you another cog in the machine.

          • Stella

            I agree with this, too.

            I am childfree, but I’d love to quit my job, because wage slavery is bullshit. Just because I’m a feminist who doesn’t want kids, I’m not automatically a “career woman,” either. Hardly.

            We need flexible work, paid maternity AND paternity leave, and universal healthcare NOW. This country is barbaric.

        • http://www.littlepieceseverywhere.com Sarah

          Please be careful. You’re making broad assumptions based on your narrow (in the same way anyone else’s is narrow, no offense intended) experience. What you’ve seen is not always the overall truth. Let me share mine:

          My father was the stay-at-home parent for many years. When he did work, he had flexible hours. When my mother took a job that allowed her that flexible time, he worked more regularly. That was 30 years ago. I’d like to think that’s not so uncommon now.

          And in my experience, it’s not. Of my friends with children, I’d say for those that don’t both work full time, the flexible/stay-at-home parent is 50% of the time the father. What’s more, no one seems to question it.

          Furthermore, when I took a position with my company, they made clear what their (generous) maternity policy was. And honestly? It was comforting. They made a point of making sure I knew they WANTED to hire me, and WANTED to make sure I could move up. By explaining their policy in depth, it was clear that they valued me, and needed me to know, in advance, that should I decide to have children they would be nothing but happy for me, and value my continued employment with them just as much. This, from a national top-tier company.

          While this is MY narrow experience, I think when you combine yours and mine you realize there is a bigger picture, and progress IS being made. I disagree that the “message” of Liz’s post was damaging. In fact, I don’t believe there was intended to be a message at all. In no way was she saying “This is what you should do.” She said “this is what I did, here’s what I learned from it.”

          I think it would do us all well to remember that.

        • Stella

          I agree wholeheartedly regarding your critique of “choice” feminism generally. Though only 32, I am more of a Second Waver, I suppose. Definitely not a choice feminist. Just because a woman makes a choice, that choice isn’t automatically a feminist one. Sarah Palin says she’s a feminist. Is she?

          • http://www.the-briefness.blogspot.com Rachelle

            Well Sarah Palin being or not being a feminist obviously doesn’t hinge on her being a “working mom” so there you go.

          • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

            Sarah Palin is sorta an awkward example. She’s an individual so I lean towards not wanting to judge whether her actions are or are not feminist. The only reason I think she’s fair game for the judging is her VERY public status.

          • http://www.verhext.com tamerajane

            Well, here’s the thing. Women have not had a choice, at all, for thousands of years. The fact that we can even have these discussions = feminism. We are not being -forced- to stay at home with kids. We are not being forced to HAVE kids. If Liz wanted desperately to keep working, she could. That hasn’t always been the case, and that’s what we mean when we relate the “luxury” of choice to feminism.

          • meg

            While that’s great, that’s not the kind of feminism we promote at APW. We’re more fourth wave feminists, I hope. But beyond that, second wave feminists didn’t think that everyone had to work no matter what, they thought that choice was what was lacking (go read The Feminine Mystique, I just did). Anyway, while I see where you’re coming from, I’m not ok with a comment narrative on this site that judges other feminist women for making choices that are best for THEM. If that’s not what we are fighting for, than I don’t see the point of feminism, frankly.

          • Liz

            Feminists don’t make women pay for their own rape kits. Full stop.

        • http://www.christytylerphotography.com Christy T

          I think one thing that most people are failing to notice here is that Liz does own and run a small business! It’s not like she is sitting around at home twiddling her thumbs! Having this time at home affords her the opportunity to be with her son AND the time to focus on growing her own business (& her blog) – which she has most definitely been doing since leaving her day job. If being a female entrepreneur doesn’t scream ‘feminism’ I don’t know what does…

          • Vmed

            Yes definitely, but even if Liz weren’t a small business owner (which, obviously, Rock on Liz!) while being a stay at home mom, we, as outsiders to her family, have no basis to say that being a mother isn’t job enough.

            Maybe one mom’s child needs a lot more attention than average, or sleeps less than other kids, or whatever. Maybe in order to get the family errands done she spends hours in transit because of where she lives. Or whatever.

            Any woman who is raising her family as best she knows how (even if that’s all she does) is promoting human dignity. And feminism at its core is definitely about ensuring that every person, across the whole human spectrum, is accorded dignity.

          • http://www.christytylerphotography.com Christy T

            VMED – (I can’t reply to you because there is no button left so I’m replying here again. I hope you see it!)
            I just wanted to clarify that – goodness, that is not at all what I was saying. I was simply replying to the people who were essentially saying Liz was affecting the status of feminism as a whole by “not working” (even though it’s obvious that staying home with a child IS work, lots of it!), by countering their point to let them know that she is also running her own small business on top of everything else she has on her plate. I certainly didn’t mean to make it seem that staying at home itself isn’t enough, because that is so far from what I believe – it’s laughable. (My own mom stayed home to raise 5 children before we were all school-aged, and I’m thankful every day for that time I had with her as a child.) I’m sorry if you misinterpreted what I posted and thought I was saying anything different than I was…

          • Vmed

            Christy t,

            I wasn’t taking your comment a bad way, (I saw you giving props where props are due) and thought that by agreeing at the beginning of my comment, I wouldn’t give the impression that I took offense.

            I just wanted to bring dignity into the discussion as a counterpoint to the thread’s general implication that capitalist production is the best way to be a feminist.

            I think if we could keep human dignity at the forefront of our conversations on feminism, we could avoid things getting unnecessarily hairy.

            From my end, we are totally good. :)

          • http://www.christytylerphotography.com Christy

            VMED… Ok, good to hear!! :-) I saw your comment initially and thought, “Dang it, I was trying to be supportive and now I’ve offended someone else…” Happy to hear that wasn’t the case… And I second you on the dignity point!

        • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

          I think that maybe this is where it’s so easy to get into disagreements about feminism and about how our choices align with feminism. I know that speaking for myself when presented with the idea that I have to make certain choices (such as to work rather than to stay at home with a family in this context, but it also applies to things like whether or not to change my name) in order to be a good feminist.

          A lot of those choices are not right for me. Which in turn makes me feel like I have to choose between being true to myself and being a “bad feminist” OR being a “good feminist” but making myself unhappy. It’s a lose lose situation. And it’s ridiculous.

          I think that as long as we assume that there are “right” and “wrong” choices for a woman to make in her life that we really haven’t gained any more personal freedom. I don’t think that the idea beyond feminism is that women should HAVE TO have careers and make those the priority in their decision making process.

          If we don’t respect a woman’s right to make the choices that are best for her and her life as much as we do a man’s we really don’t have any sense of equality there.

          • http://againstthegrain2013.blogspot.com/ Skittle

            God, yes. This. Way more articulate than I could have made it. Thank you.

          • meg

            YES.

        • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

          Rachel, when you say that leaving work to stay home “generates unconscious hiring and promotion decisions that favor men over women,” I wonder if you realize that you’re putting the blame for sexism on individual women who are making the best choices they can for their personal situations. I don’t think that’s where the responsibility for sexist outcomes lies. No individual woman can actually get rid of those unconscious biases, partly because she’s only one person and partly because they’re biases, so people discount contradictory information.

          Instead, I’d like to see us holding employers accountable for the actual hiring, tenure, promotion, and benefit practices that lead to sexist outcomes. I’d also like to see us pushing the men in our lives — partners, friends, etc — to assume that time off is equally on the table for them and to advocate for parenting benefits for all. We certainly should examine the context of the choices we make. But we should also think about where responsibility for that context lies, and not push the people who have the least power to make the biggest sacrifices.

      • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

        “And what if the cost of daycare or the salary difference per month would be so little that for a certain family it is worth it /makes sense, even financial sense, for one of the partners to be a stay-at-home parent?”

        Sure, but Liz points out that she was the higher earner, so that in fact doesn’t make “financial sense.” (Sorry, Liz, not trying to drag you over the coals here, and I’m getting to my point in a second).

        Yes, feminism is about choice. But I think that sometimes we forget that we aren’t making these choices in a vacuum, and it’s worth questioning them (in a spirit of constructive dialogue, not attacking each other).

        If it made sense for Liz and her family for Liz to quit, then yay for choice! But when patterns start to emerge where women – despite being the higher earner – are still making up the majority of the stay-at-home-parent, we need to start looking for underlying causes of that. Is it because women are being “mommy tracked” at work? Is it because there isn’t any flexibility for breast-feeding (ie, pumping at work)? Is it because she’s being shamed about leaving her baby with strangers and having people freak her out about the horrors of daycare?

        You can (and I do) consider feminism to be the ability of women to make whatever choices best suit their families’ needs, but you can’t insist that nobody ever discuss those choices, or even question or critique them (and there’s a BIG and important difference between a dialogue and an attack on the individual, which this is vehemently NOT).

        TL;DR – Choices are good, but when everyone starts making the same choice it’s worth discussing WHY that is, and if there’s an underlying policy issue at play. And Liz is great.

        • rachel

          Thank you, Meaghan, for expressing what I intended so much more eloquently than I could.

          And Lauren, I fully agree with you that the US has backwards “family values” policies. But it is still overwhelmingly white women who are in the position to opt out of the workforce, and that’s worth thinking about in the context of why, in general, women who are the high earners in a family opt out even when financially, it would make more sense for male partners to do so (in the heteronormative world in which we sadly live).

          • Liz

            The logical conclusion for me is not to assign blame or place undue weight on personal choice. Instead, we must rethink the framework of how we get equality. It’s not enough to acknowledge that the US is backward (I think that’s putting it generously, I would describe it as viciously anti-woman) and then demand that all mothers work. We must demand policies that actually make raising a family possible.

            Programs that help everyone like: single payer health care, actual paid maternity leave (I’d like a year, I’ll take six months), high quality, affordable child care. While we’re at it, let’s through in communal kitchens and laundry.

            When I describe feminism as “about choice” I am also acknowledging that a lot of women aren’t in a place where they can really choose freely. That’s bullsh*t. But I find it very limiting, and not all that empowering, to tell women that they must make decisions that weigh their political beliefs more heavily than their families.

        • Liz

          Financially wise or no, I wanted to be home. We can blame it on biology or post partum, but I practically NEEDED to be home. I know many women who feel the same way, but feel trapped working because they’re the breadwinners. Either way, the choice is difficult and guilt-ridden and intensely personal.

          • ambi

            I just wanted to comment that I am in AWE of your poise and grace in answering these difficult questions, Liz. While I understand the point of some of the other commenters, and I am always pro-discussion, I absolutely know that if I were in your shoes I’d feel attacked. The fact that you can clearly articulate your position, and be so KIND in doing so, even in the face of what I imagine every mom dreads (having someone criticize them for deeply personal choices about which they, of course, feel a natural level of insecurity and internal guilt – because every mom has those feelings, regardless of what choice she made regarding work), well it just proves that you are pretty damn amazing. I wouldn’t worry for one minute what kind of message you are sending your child- in my opinion, whatever message that you may or may not be sending to an infant regarding work is far outweighed by the fact that you are very clearly modeling to your child how to be a good, decent person and carry yourself with grace and dignity in the face of adversity. I will post more later on the substance of your (amazing) post, but I just wanted to comment that, in all the time I have followed APW, I am not sure that I have every seen someone deal with challenging comments from readers so well. Bravo!

          • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

            Word to what AMBI said.

          • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

            And I want to stress that I fully support that you made that choice – you have to do what’s right for you and your family. But when a woman is maybe ambivalent or even wants to return to work, but the “choice” becomes to stay at home because daycare is so effing expensive, then it’s not really a choice, regardless of how the individual frames it (and I think that sometimes we’re more likely to frame it as a choice to avoid judgement when it would be more valuable to the cause to say “I want to work but have shitty options”).

            Also, I feel the need to clarify that I’m Canadian and childless, so I apologize if I’m over-simplifying or misrepresenting the issues in any way.

          • MDBethann

            Liz, you rock. I second (third?) everything that Ambi said.

        • http://warrenpimp.blogspot.com/ Contessa

          I just did an assignment on the relationship between women’s production and reproduction; the relationship between the choices she makes in work and the resulting available choices in her family and vice versa. It occurred to me in a flash that as soon as we make the first choice (What type of career we want, an early baby, buying a house in the suburbs, the choice of a husband and his earning power) we are instantly limited in all our other choices and we can only make the best choice within the options available at the time and with the information at hand.

          I agree that feminism is about choice but I agree VEHEMENTLY that those choices do not occur in a vaccum and if we’re going to judge someone else’s choices we should be respectful enough to judge them in the context in which they were made.

        • CarMar

          Great comment Meaghan: “But when patterns start to emerge where women – despite being the higher earner – are still making up the majority of the stay-at-home-parent, we need to start looking for underlying causes of that.” From personal experience in what is a very male-driven sub-field of law (big firms), it doesn’t really feel like there is a “choice” when it comes to having a family. There are major issues with some work cultures where it feels impossible to have kids and keep your job. And it’s worth discussing, without judging people for the very personal decisions they make.

          Great post, Liz. Thank you so much for your honesty!

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Personally, I do not see how law firm life can be made family-friendly as long as the measure of lawyers’ performance is hours billed. I mean, it can in small ways: It’s great when firms say, “We don’t care where or what time of day you bill your hours, as long as you do,” allowing associates to work from home and have flexible hours. But as long as we get proverbial brownie points every time we spend an hour working instead of with our families, we’re screwed.

          • ambi

            ElizabethJoanne-
            Just a note, from a non-big-firm lawyer – there are are LOTS of career opportunities out there for attorneys other than bill-by-the-hour defense firms. Government work, Plaintiff’s (contingency) work, academia, judicial staff, non-profits, smaller firms that charge set fees for certain work rather than hourly rates, and many many more. I used to be one of those big firm lawyers struggling to meet my billable hours, and I just got tired of it. I am so much happier now as a government lawyer, doing really interesting and challenging work. Does it pay less? Absolutely. But was the trade off worth it for my quality of life? You bet. So, just a small word of warning to all those law students out there – don’t let yourself get brainwashed like I did thinking that you are competing for the “best” jobs (i.e. highest paying, with the biggest firms). Even if you are the editor of the law review and have the grades to land one of those jobs, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily what you want!

          • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

            Another non-big-firm lawyer here (I just quit my job, yay!). I agree that private legal practice is not very friendly to women who want families, and I (naturally) abhor billing by the hour. BUT, I don’t think billable hours are the root of the problem. I think *we* (lawyers) are the problem. I can envision a firm where the billable hours are reduced and there is not so much pressure to go above and beyond. This would be much more compatible with raising a family, or at least as compatible as any job where you have to work a certain number of hours (either full or part time). The problem is that so many lawyers, especially big firm lawyers, are high achievers, who want to be seen as on-par (at least) with their peers. I’m working to make the legal profession a better place for me by resisting the urge to compete with my colleagues. At my new smaller firm, people work less hours, because they want time with their families. I think more workplaces could be like that if lawyers bill what is required of them and don’t strive to go above and beyond (in terms of hours), if they take advantage of part-time options, and leave jobs that suck every hour out of their day in favor of different types of jobs, like the ones Ambi describes. In any case, I’m always glad to hear from lady lawyers, and best of luck to you all.

          • meg

            I mean, David’s not at a firm (he probably never will be at a firm, nor will want to be at a firm) and things are pretty family friendly, which I think is equally important for men and women. He’s at a small firm now, which is super flexible. But if he switches back to a PD’s office at some point, it’s still family friendly. You have to not even THINK about what people make at firms (which is arguably totally absurd anyway) and just enjoy making a good salary doing what you love.

          • N

            I’m in house counsel for a great company. I know every company is different, but I work a 9-5 and have awesome flexibility.

          • http://lillight.wordpress.com Jennifer Lyn

            It all sort of depends. I worked for a nonprofit law firm a few years ago (Legal Aid type), and while it was a lot of work, I LOVED it. I think it just depends on how you go about it.

            Some of the attorneys had farms and showed horses and only came in three times a week while others worked six days straight. It just sort of happened organically. And it was valuable for me because the whole point of it was getting the help to the people who really needed it. I don’t think that’s something incongruent with being a family person. (Also, all the attorneys were female and had families. The only male in that particular branch office was our IT dude).

        • http://laurenmcglynnphotography.com Lauren

          It might also have something to do with the fact that a lot of women WANT care for their babies full time beyond the 6 weeks of measly maternity leave. Women also tend to be the one’s with the breast milk, & for a lot of families pumping doesn’t work. You actually need to be around your baby for the hormones to keep milk production happening. I’m hoping to have a baby soon & I absolutly WANT to be the primary caregiver.

          I would be devastated if I had to leave my baby with strangers after six weeks. I also wouldn’t want my husband to be the primary caregiver. I want that job. & I think parenting is just as, if not more important than the job of brining in the income. I know a lot of women who want to go back to work and that’s great, but I think it highly likely that a lot of women also want to be with their babies.

          I also do know a number of male primary caregivers and I think that’s great if that’s what works for their family. It is absolutly about choice.

          I dont’ think women should make choices just so other women can feel more comfortable making similar choices. We should have a choice and feel empowered to make the choice that is best for our families regardless of what other people do.

          • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

            I strongly agree that parenting is important work — at least as important as earning income — but I take exception to the idea that returning to work as a parent means “leav[ing your] baby with strangers.” Good daycare is not the same as strangers, and that language is usually used to criticize working women, even if that’s not your intent.

          • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

            “I think it highly likely that a lot of women also want to be with their babies.”

            This language is also pretty divisive and shaming for women who want to work AND be with their babies.

          • http://laurenmcglynn.com Lauren

            Absolutly not my intent to shame people with my language. I know that women want to be with their babies & work at the same time. I also know women who would go crazy if they had to be at home by themselves with their babies all day long & I get that. I very much get that, and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that, & I fully expect to feel that way sometimes.

            I work from home mostly so I’m lucky in that I am one of those people who ought to be able to work & be with my baby AT THE SAME TIME. I expect that will be fraught with challenges – but I think my life would be missing something if I couldn’t also have my career. I’m lucky.

            I suppose the strangers comment comes from some of my own rather traumatic experiences with daycare when I was growing up, and things that have happened within my family. I get panicked at the idea of letting my kids go to sleepovers & I know I’m going to need to try & get over that – so that’s personal stuff rather than a judgement on other parents & their choices.

          • meg

            Ok, you guys. This is why we don’t talk parenting on this site, because I can’t get people to talk calmly to each other. Nothing Lauren said was judemental towards women who work, or divisive. She was stating what she wants, and that women should be empowered to have a choice, which I firmly agree with.

          • http://forcause.wordpress.com Sandy

            I think language is important no matter what you’re talking about, whether it be parenting, relationships, money, or work (or, um, all four). Intent is obviously important also, but sometimes we use language without thinking in a way that unconsciously degrades other lifestyles, and it’s valuable to point out when a particular statement might be influenced by social expectations or norms. (Calmly, of course.)

          • Laurel

            Lauren: thanks so much for clarifying. I reacted to the ‘strangers’ thing because it’s a specific phrase that gets used a lot in talking about women and motherhood and work. (Also, I’m sorry you had to deal with traumatic stuff, and I hope your kid is always safe.)

            Meg: I don’t see a problem with the interaction Lauren and I just had. I was talking about the resonance of the language she used, and I think it’s pretty clear from my comment that I’m not assuming that Lauren actually wanted all the baggage that comes with that phrase. Dunno. I felt like we had real, reasonably calm communication there.

        • meg

          Meaghan,
          While I support your general policy argument personally, I’m not comfortable with you (or anyone on this thread) using Liz’s personal choices as fodder to advance your political argument. There is a time and a place for this sort of argument (on APW, lots of the time!) but it’s not *ever* ok for us to dissect and attack someone else’s personal choices in a personal essay to make a political point.

          Meg

          • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

            I tried to stress this as much as possible, and I’m sorry if it didn’t come through, but I was *not* trying to attack Liz in any way.

            When I commented, the thread was a lot shorter and more clear, but I was responding to Amanda’s assertion that it just makes “financial sense” to stay at home, and trying to point out that Liz (like MANY women) made that decision despite being the breadwinner, and that therefore there were perhaps some other issues at play (the most valid of which is Liz’s own personal needs and the needs of her family, but other concerning issues that are most likely systemic in nature and worth looking at in a broader context).

            Once again, not attacking, but trying to point out that the issue isn’t as simple as it “making financial sense” or being simply a matter of choice in a vacuum. Next time, I’ll stick to hypothetical figures instead of using the post as an example of context.

        • Jane

          “Yes, feminism is about choice. But I think that sometimes we forget that we aren’t making these choices in a vacuum, and it’s worth questioning them (in a spirit of constructive dialogue, not attacking each other). ”

          Yes, this. Being a feminist doesn’t mean “I get to make choices and can’t be questioned about those choices, because they were my choices.”

          Moreover, I don’t see any evidence of “attack” here. Liz posted an essay about her life. In doing so, she opens herself up to questions. This is what writing (and living) is all about.

          • Liz

            I agree in general. There are certain choices that women can make that I would think, flat across the board would be “unfeminist.” It’s worth analyzing choices. But analyzing that particular choice isn’t what this post is about.

          • Liz

            I’m not asking to control how people take things. But I do want to make it clear that on this website, this line of conversation typically would not have continued. Putting a story into the public opens you up to criticism, of course, but in this site, Meg seeks to create a safe space to share stories. Because what you mentioned- being opened up to criticism- is exactly why more people DON’T share their stories. And it’s empowering and educational for us all when we do. I may not get to choose how people react, but as the owner of this website, Meg gets to pick which of those reactions get censored in order to create a safe place. And generally, comments that are off-topic and critical are deleted right away.

          • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

            Liz, I so appreciate your willingness to share, and am tremendously impressed by your grit (in the essay) and grace (in talking about it). I also really appreciate what you just said about the value of moderating responses. It’s easy for internet conversations to get mean and snarky in a way people wouldn’t do in person, and then we never hear any stories at all!

    • http://www.verhext.com tamerajane

      Wow, you know what’s anti-feminist? Attacking women for making personal and smart choices about their family. Your “constructive” comment is extremely judgmental and makes a lot of assumptions rather than using the space to clarify with Liz.

      I’m not sure if you’re aware, but here in America, we don’t have paid maternity leave. Liz actually had only SIX WEEKS UNPAID maternity leave, and still went back to work after that. I’m also pretty sure Liz is the only person I know who would consider a schoolteacher position lucrative. For all we know, childcare would have equalled that paycheck, canceling out any benefits of keeping the job.

      The “message” her choice sends her child? It’s that the mother-child bond is more important than another paycheck. I applaud her decision and hope to do the same one day soon, leaving a much much more established career and paycheck in order to nurture a family.

      • rachel

        As the daughter of a schoolteacher who chose to keep teaching while raising her children because she wanted to model working women as excellent mothers, I could choose to be offended by your claim that “It’s that the mother-child bond is more important than another paycheck.” Because parental bonds and paychecks don’t cancel one another out, and there are wonderful things that come from seeing and living with working mothers. Not to mention there are working mothers who are better mothers because they work.

        My primary concern is with the repercussions of individual choices for society; others are more concerned with personal decisions than larger social structures and messages. It’s not an attack to express a preference for one over the other, and perhaps we should just agree that there are multiple voices and opinions out there, and we can disagree with one another passionately without claiming such disagreement as a personal attack.

        • http://www.verhext.com tamerajane

          I’m happy to live in a society where women feel empowered enough to leave their jobs if they want to in order to stay at home with their children. That’s the “repercussion” of this individual choice for society. A society that guilts women for making that choice? No thanks. I’m not sure why it bothers you so much personally when a woman makes that choice, but I assure you, it’s NOT an anti-feminist choice.

          It IS an attack and a VERY clear preference when you told Liz that “this isn’t a model of life, parenting, or feminism I can endorse, comprehend, or even sympathize with.”

          • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

            Amen. My 8-year-old’s response to watching me struggle with job and mothering is that she has an absolute understanding that she can do whatever she wants when she grows up, and she does NOT want to do what I do. Ever. At all. And my job? It’s one of those “dream” jobs that people work really, really hard for and many consider a sign of accomplishment.

        • meg

          Look, this thread started as a not-ok, and not-within-the-APW-commment-policy personal attack. I’m leaving it up because some interesting themes have appeared in the thread, that I think are worth discussing. But these attacks on Liz, veiled as policy arguments are not going to be tolerated, and are going to be removed going forward. My mom is a schoolteacher too, and a feminist, and she stayed home with me and we had way less money because of it. You know why? She’d fought hard (harder than we have fought in this generation) for those choices, and she made a choice that reflected her values. I’m not going to see Liz trashed, or heck, my mother trashed, for those choices. So this conversation is going to move on.

          • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

            “Policy arguments”. I <3 debaters and their tendency to bring it into everyday life.

      • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

        Have you been on the other side of this coin? The side where you make the excruciating choice to continue working 12-18 hour days 6-days a week because you need to keep your family financially stable? Do you have any idea what it is like to watch your BOTH your job and your family suffer because you can’t be truly present for either? Have you gnashed your teeth until you can actually taste them crumble in your mouth at your inability to be good at anything because you are stretched so thin that nothing gets your real and full attention?

        Not every choice is a real “choice.” You may not realize this yet, but sometimes shit happens, and you have no choice but to keep moving forward in the direction you are going, watching every step for a blessed happy left turn that will take you away from the mess you’re in. Sometimes you take that left turn, and it loops right back to where you were.

        Shit happens. I do not believe that sitting here in sanctimonious judgment while someone describes in painful detail the process of surviving is helpful. Having been to both heights of success and depths of despair, I would caution anyone who feels justified in looking down their noses at someone else’s life. Speaking from experience, I can honestly say, karma is, indeed, a bitch.

        • http://warrenpimp.blogspot.com/ Contessa

          Amen. In the attempt to have it all it’s possible to end up with almost nothing.

        • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

          Just to clarify, this was directed toward Rachel, not Tamara.

      • Poeticplatypus

        I completely aggree that Feminism is about choice. It’s wonderful that we can choose to leave work after our children are born or stay. I do also understand the point Meaghan is making. Society does take a view that women in their child bearing years are more likly to step down, which makes it difficult for those of us that don’t want to have children.

        I plan on going into a female dominated career so that issue won’t be a prevealant for me, but I can’t imagine the pressures face by women in male dominated fields.
        We have come a distance in the choices that women and their families get to make, but personally (and I know this is unpopular) we can’t have it all. Some sacrafice has to be made, and the catch is that a sacrifice isn’t a sacrafice til it’s a sacrafrice.

    • Alyssa

      Posts on here are about people’s lives and what they learned in hopes of helping others. To harangue someone for making a decision that was best for their family at the time and say “what message does it send?” Well, any working mother I know if to glean info as they need it and aren’t worried about people making life decisions that will best serve them. There are steep realities that affect decisions like this, such as childcare (which can eat up an entire month’s paycheck of even a good job and make your life working to JUST to pay someone else to take care of your child, no other bills) or parenting decisions (based on how you want to raise your child, especially in the early years, because a stay at home parent does not have to be one forever).
      Maternity leave is not a given in America and Josh being a stay at home parent may not have been a option for whatever reason that wasn’t gone into in this post because that’s not what the post was about. Difficult awful decisions are made regularly in a marriage and to assume it was made lightly, just because it wasn’t the one you’d choose, is harshly judgmental.
      These decisions are made with so much soul searching and worry and weighing of pros and cons and just because Liz didn’t go into paragraphs about it here doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

      And even if it was a bad decision, so what? Because NOBODY has made a bad decision they don’t regret? What good is a post about people making perfect decisions and never having any missteps? If that were true, there wouldn’t be any Wedding Grads or other real women stories on here, it’d just be pretty pictures. How about we not dismiss someone for making what in hindsight has not turned out well, and support them for trying and telling others how they tried and putting themselves and their life out there? And if you can’t then move on and read something else and not try to make someone feel bad about how they chose to live their life.

      Snap judgments like this are why I am terrified of “mommy” boards and communities and why I only read Offbeat Mama. Being a woman and a feminist in a world climate that does not support either is hard enough, and when someone has the courage (like ALL of these ladies who put their stories on here do) to share a part of your life, only to have someone take the time to leave a comment telling them what a terrible model of life, parenting and feminism they are…

      And as a person of color, I take extreme umbrage with the comment on this being white privilege. This is a human decision that many people make, white or not. To bring up white privilege disparages the very real incidents of it in everyday life that DO need to be paid attention to and called out. And if you meant that this is a decision of class rather than race, fine, but I see a deeper sense of privilege in someone making a decision based on the message it sends to the world at large rather than the repercussions it will have on your family as a whole.

      • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

        Alyssa, Liz: *round of applause*

      • lmba

        “And even if it was a bad decision, so what?”

        YES. THANK YOU.

        I think one of the greatest lessons I am learning through marriage is that life is risky business! If you want to push yourself toward a brave, fulfilling and conscious life, you sometimes have to do things that might jeopardize your “security.” Liz quit a reasonably well-paying job to look after her child because she really wanted to, and frankly, SOMEONE HAS TO LOOK AFTER THE KID, so why shouldn’t it be the person who TOTALLY, WITH-ALL-HER-HEART WANTS to do it? Sounds sensible to me. Of course, financially, things turned out differently, and I’m sure there were lots of nights of regret and wishing that she hadn’t left her job! Does that make it a bad choice? It makes it a choice that she probably would have changed if she could go back in time… but that doesn’t mean it was bad. It was a risk that she (and her husband) took for good reasons, and unfortunately in this case it didn’t work out as planned. I have a feeling that living a brave life often requires these kinds of risks. If every time one of those “worst-case scenarios” turns out badly we start piling on blame to the risk-taker, we will soon end up with even fewer risk-takers and even more people who sacrifice their lives on the altars of “financial security,” “career advancement,” and even (gasp) “feminism” because they are afraid of the fall-out that might come from doing what is actually true to themselves.

        And Liz – YOU ARE AWESOME. My husband and I went through the financial wringer in 2011 (living off of credit cards, working minimum wage jobs and literally maxing out EVERY. SINGLE. RESOURCE. we had available to take an opportunity that would be our ticket out of extreme crushing debt) and we are just starting to find stable ground now. I get where you’re coming from, truly, and I know how hard it is to go through that kind of experience with even a shred of grace intact. You seem to have grace by the armloads, so way to go!

    • Claire

      I really don’t see how one woman’s decision to stay home to care for her child rather than working outside the home can be construed as “a setback for women who want to be working mothers”. One woman’s choice is one woman’s choice. It in no way prevents other women from making a different decision.

      Being a mother who works outside the home is a perfectly valid choice, but it is NOT the only correct option. Being a stay-at-home mom might not be the choice you would make, but that does not make it lesser than.

      The author made the choice that she felt made sense for her situation at that point in time and she should be empowered to choose the stay-at-home option without being made to feel guilty for being a “bad feminist”.
      Being a feminist does not dictate that you must work outside the home; its about having options and equality. It distresses me to hear people use the banner of feminism to judge and disparage the choices women make.

      • http://www.advancedlivingforbeginners.com Jen W

        “I really don’t see how one woman’s decision to stay home to care for her child rather than working outside the home can be construed as “a setback for women who want to be working mothers”. One woman’s choice is one woman’s choice.”
        I wish I could “exactly” this 100 more times.

      • Another Meg

        This is just where we are in the fight for equality- we’ve gotten this far, to where we can make the choices, but not far enough that they’re always accepted.
        If your company makes assumptions about you as a woman based on the handful of other women in your office instead of your talents and personal goals, that is not the fault of those women- it’s the fault of your company. A manager who assumes that because SOME women choose to stay home after having children then ALL women will do that forevermore is short-sighted. Generalizing gets us nowhere.
        The tough part now is to keep pushing forward. We can’t sit back on our laurels, ladies- we have much more fighting to do. And to a point, I understand where everyone is coming from. Every time a woman asks a male co-worker to lift something heavy because she can’t might put a chink in our armor. However, does the box still need to go on the top shelf? It damn well does. And you know what, sometimes there isn’t a stool around. You just have to suck it up.
        In a perfect world, men and women could just make the choices that they need to for their families and the rest of the world would assume that there was a lot of thought put into it and not judge. No one knows everything that went into Liz’s decision except for Liz (and most likely her husband). I know we’ll get there soon.
        In the meantime, saying you disagree is fine. Telling someone their tough, intensely personal choices are “un-feminist” is counterproductive to the discussion.
        And now, a link to a very relevant web comic:
        http://xkcd.com/385/

        • CC

          I’m still struggling with my opinion and what I should be doing as a woman with regards to working if/when I have children. This post has reassured me that with the right partner, the decisions will be what they will be, and I’ll be thankful for having someone to lean on, and someone leaning on me. Thank you Liz.

          One thing I know I can do is talk to people about subtle assumptions that many start making when we see patterns, but are unproductive, like assuming all women will stay home after having children. It’s human nature to try and pick up patterns when sometimes there are none there. Those “short-sighted managers” are connected to people, I hope someone will discuss how making generalizations is not helpful with them.

          And now, particularly funny to me, the next comic is also quite relevant.
          http://xkcd.com/386

        • Georgia

          “If your company makes assumptions about you as a woman based on the handful of other women in your office instead of your talents and personal goals, that is not the fault of those women- it’s the fault of your company. A manager who assumes that because SOME women choose to stay home after having children then ALL women will do that forevermore is short-sighted. Generalizing gets us nowhere.”

          This – this is brilliant.

      • streamnerd

        I agree that all have the right to make whatever choices is best for them and their family but individual’s choices do affect others. You don’t see how the decision of women who quit their job to stay home negatively affects those who want to be successful career women and mothers?
        If an employer has had the last 10 female employees quit on them after they had kids, the next time they are hiring, if I walked in there for an interview pregnant and showing and I am the most qualified candidate do you think they would hire me or the second best candidate who is male? I think it would be naive to think that the previous personal choices of their past female employees would not affect their hiring practices and my ability to achieve what I choose.
        Now, the true solution to this is not to tell women they shouldn’t quit their jobs if they want to, it would be to eliminate discrimination in hiring and workplaces but that is not an easy thing to solve.

        • http://www.advancedlivingforbeginners.com Jen W

          The fact that the employer has developed a bias against hiring women is not the fault of the women he has hired in the past.
          I don’t understand why you’re so quick to dismiss the true solution–eliminating discrimination in the workplace–as unachievable.

          • streamnerd

            I did not say “unachievable” I said “not easy”.

          • http://thevoiceofthelobster.wordpress.com Laurel

            The thing is, it’s not the least bit clear to me that women’s individual choices would help much. If an employer is predisposed to think women will stop working when they have kids, one person making that choice is enough to confirm it; meanwhile, men who quit get treated as one-offs. Fighting bias is complicated and hard and not the job of the people who are being discriminated against, partly because it’s not something they can do. Blaming the victim isn’t just mean and unfair, it’s NOT USEFUL.

          • http://www.advancedlivingforbeginners.com Jen W

            Right, I apologize. You said not easy.

        • Claire

          I agree that the solution – to eliminate discrimination in hiring and workplaces – is not an easy one. However, it is one that I feel is worth fighting for.

          I feel it is oppressive to women and further disenfranchises us when some of our options are taken off the “good feminist” table. Women should not be expected to sacrifice the well-being of themselves and their own families in order to send the “right” message to the patriarchy. Placing the burden collectively on all women, to disprove this type of gender bias and workplace discrimination seems like a step backwards.

          It seems like adding insult to injury to look at workplace discrimination and blame women for not being treated fairly. If women (collectively) want a fair shake then each and every one of them should work outside the home without taking time off for child bearing/rearing? Only then can we expect to be treated equally? And if you’re a woman and choose to leave the workplace then you’re part of the problem and contributing to the discrimination? I don’t subscribe to that (and I’m not implying that you do either).

          My responsibility is to create the best life I can (ethically) for myself and my family. I am not going to play a martyr and give up the best options that are available to me in the name of advancing what someone else deems to be feminism.

          • streamnerd

            I did not mean to blame women for causing discrimination, sorry if it sounded that way.

            I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can say it is all about individual choice but as long as discrimination against women exists, I think it is a false choice.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      Rachel,
      I’d also like to point out that when it comes to having a baby, it’s not so simple as just taking maternity leave. That assumes you’re eligible for it (you may not be depending on how big your employer is, how long you have been employed, are you part-time or full-time, etc) and have an employer that essentially offers paid leave (and many do not). AND depending on what leave you take, you can still find yourself jobless as depending on the leave, your employer may or may not be required to hold your job.

      I just wanted to point that out when we question other people’s choices based on our limited view of their lives we have gleaned from a guest post on a blog.

  • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

    As I’ve read your blog for the past year or so, I’ve come to really admire you, Liz. The way keep it all together, but are real and honest. The way you fight for the things you value most, and are able to make yourself let go of the other stuff. The beautiful way you’re raising little J. You inspire me.

    I’m currently the breadwinner, stuck in a very stressful job, and my husband is working his way through grad school on a small stipend. Sometimes I worry about what would happen if we unexpectedly got pregnant– I already know I’d be staying home. And while sometimes those thoughts terrify me, I think to myself “look at Liz. she’s doing it. it’ll be okay. maybe your baby will be THAT adorable.” :) so, thanks for sharing your story with us. It’s one I’ve needed to hear.

    • http://www.breakingdownthebank.blogspot.com EmilyEF

      Same here – My SO starts grad school full time in the fall while I try to move to a new city, find a job that will support both of us (+ his non-subsidized loans) and I wake up screaming from nightmares where I’ve become pregnant and have to be a Mom too. Storys like Liz’s help me breath through those terrors and unknowns. Thanks for providing such an important perspective on womanhood, motherhood, and the things that frighten so many of us to tears.

      • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

        “Thanks for providing such an important perspective on womanhood, motherhood, and the things that frighten so many of us to tears.”

        Meg, and all the APW staff, this is for you. From all of us. :)

  • http://thecelebrationgirl.com Marcela

    Excellent post. Your resilience through these rough times will get you through the other side with a completely different perspective on life. Things will get better and you will be stronger.

    I struggled with poverty all my life, more or less until the time I met my husband. He struggled with the financial hardships that come with war in his home country, at the same time that all the financial crisis of Argentina hit my own family really hard. When we met, we knew we understood each other in ways other people couldn’t understand us, we knew that money was great to have but we also knew what is truly indispensable and what isn’t, and I believe it is that knowledge that lets us enjoy even more our current (relative) stability and appreciate greatly all the non-monetary blessings that we have.

    I am sending you all my energy for awesome, very well-paid jobs to come your way…and-why not?- a winning lotery ticket! :) Hugs from Cyprus.

  • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

    Liz, thank you for this post. As another newly-married young couple who struggled with dual unemployment for months and months last year, I feel your pain. (As one commenter above said, though, we at least only have furbabies to take care of and not ACTUAL babies!) I now have a steady paycheck, but my wife is still looking. It is frustrating and hard and sad, and it was so difficult to go from always paying our credit card bill off every month to suddenly not being able to- and then relying on it for food and utilities- and now, even when I have a job, STILL not being able to pay it off completely. (And the student loan payments kicked in then, too, of course.) It is inspiring to hear your thoughts about this, though, and uplifting to see your bravery. I’ve followed your blog for a long time, and I’m glad you posted about this over here as well.

    Also, for the record, I 100% agree with your statement above that feminism is absolutely NOT about working vs. staying home. Feminism is about having a choice between the two.

  • Elemjay

    This why the welfare state was invented. Where is the safety net that helps out when both parents are trying to get work and can’t? I have to say I am glad I live in “socialist” Europe…..

    • Kat

      and why I’m glad I live in “socialist” Canada!!

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        As someone who just collected my first EI payment for mat leave, I cannot exactly this enough.

        • Jacqui

          And “socialist” Australia for me. My absolute amazement and confusion at seeing poor Americans lobbying against free health care and welfare for the unemployed (amongst other things we take for granted in our welfare state) will never cease.

    • MDBethann

      As an American, I am incredibly jealous. I wish the idea of a community (local, state, and national) supporting the individuals within it during challenging times – unemployment, maternity, illness, etc. – wasn’t viewed pejoratively in this country and that the idea of “socialism” wasn’t treated with such contempt. There’s a reason that European countries and Canada often show up much higher on quality of life and happiness studies than the U.S. does. I love my country, but sometimes I think we have our priorities backwards.

  • Kimberly

    Thanks, Liz! I just lost my job last week, am 14 weeks pregnant, and have 2 toddlers. This is on the heels of losing the house we were renting back in December. Needless to say (but we always say it anyway, right?), I’ve been freaking out. This post has struck home for me. There are things we just can’t control. Right now, after going through my 7 stages of grief over the job I loved so much, I’m ready to embrace staying home with my kids and crafting and writing and swimming all summer long. As much as I hated everyone who told me that this was a blessing in disguise, I can see now that they were right. I can’t worry about the future (though I have applied for every welfare program possible), so I might as well live for today.

    Oh, and with just 2 months until our wedding (that I have not spent much time planning because of work), I’m happy to finally have time to spend on making the wedding we want.

    • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

      Having gone through many similar upheavals in the past three years, let me just say, *hugs.*

    • http://midwestlantern.blogspot.com/ Midwest Melissa

      Holy crap girl, hugs to you!

  • julia

    Thanks for this…it puts my freakouts about having very little savings (when it seems like everyone around me is buying their first home) in perspective. Glad you three are getting back on your feet.

  • http://www.servicedriven.org Sharon T-B

    Hi Liz, Thank you for this honest post. I appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable so that others can learn from your story.

    Because of my experience with local government and nonprofit human services programs, I’m wondering if you would be willing to share if your family sought help from any organizations. You mention getting help from family and friends but not organizations that are designed to help families who are struggling with unemployment. If you chose not to seek help from these programs, what kept you from doing so?
    I understand this is very personal, so if you choose not to respond I understand.

    Thanks.

    • Liz

      Hi, Sharon! We qualified for WIC, but had a really hard time making headway with any other agencies. The problem being that my husband was a freelancing contractor, and we had a very difficult time figuring out how to claim the money he was taking in honestly, when the paychecks were irregular and infrequent. These offices are really busy right now, so it was hard to find someone with the time to sit and explain to us how to prove what money was coming in.

      • IRMcK

        This may not apply to you anymore Liz, but for anyone else in a similar situation, ALWAYS check in with your local elected folks when you have problems with agencies. Your Congressperson’s office can help you with federal agencies, your state reps can help with state agencies. Those offices may be busy, too, but it is their job to help you.

        • sb

          To this, I’d add your local legal services program. http://www.lawhelp.org has listings all over the country. I am a public benefits lawyer and really like helping my clients who qualify get food stamps, WIC, TANF, etc. plus refer them to food pantries and other nonprofits.

          Of course, I’d rather them not need the benefits, but I’m glad the benefits exist until they no longer need them.

      • http://www.servicedriven.org Sharon T-B

        Ah yes, the backlog at human services agencies just keeps getting worse in this economy. Of course it varies in every town and city, but the places I have lived and worked (Flagstaff, Arizona and Arlington, VA) had a mix of local, state, and federal resources. Oftentimes the local food bank will have both food box distribution (where you usually need a referral from an agency but can get one pretty easily if you can show you already get WIC or another similar income based program). Many food banks and other food organizations also give you the option of purchasing groceries at a reduced sum. This can be a good option for getting a healthier variety of foods at the same cost as ramen. Our local foodbank in Flagstaff also has a program for hunters to donate venison and other game so that it can be distributed to people who qualify for food boxes. In addition we have a church that hosts a free bbq every Sunday (it is a non-denominational community event) and has live music and activities for kids. Just wanted to provide a few examples of the types of food related options that MIGHT be available.

        Another way that we have gotten free meals and entertainment while unemployed is to volunteer for special events and meals programs (like meals on wheels and a local cafe that operated on a sliding scale). As a volunteer you eat for free and get to help out.

        • LBD

          I used to volunteer at a food bank, and long ago did Americorps, in which I lived hella broke and cheap. At least here in Seattle, they are quite good, with a large variety of foodstuffs, including bread, dairy, and vegetables. The biggest problem is that it can really vary from week to week. Food comes from government agencies and non-profits in addition to the donations of private businesses and citizens. In addition to the food bank services, often the people running them can help put people in touch with non-profits and other people who can help them navigate the process of signing up for needed government assistance programs. A lot of non-profits realize that food banks are a good way to get in touch with people who can benefit from their services, and work with them to get the word out.

          I think a lot of people remember collecting canned goods for the food bank when they were kids and remember the weird cans of god-knows in the back of the pantry their parents sent them in with. It’s A LOT better than that.

          The story about the eggs broke my damn heart. :(

        • Kelley

          There’s also Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that is probably run through your local Community Action Agency (or possibly the state energy office). A quick google search should help!

  • http://warrenpimp.blogspot.com/ Contessa

    Allowing that I’ve already posted here that judging other women’s decisions without knowing her context is wrong and that I agree with Alyssa that web sites full of happy shiny perfect brides are boring and unhelpful can some please explain something to me? This may be ignorant and maybe I’m just not seeing the angle but what is the appropriate way to respond to any of the interesting, non-traditional stories and ideas that we see here (or on OffbeatBride or Mama)? The only acceptable response cannot be “Yay for Liz” because Meg has said that she likes that her site stirs up thought and conversation.

    Is there a best practice for discussing the issues raised without judging the actions, thoughts or motivations? IS the answer in the language we choose to use? Is it even possible to mediate a conversation among so many women when our comments disappear in a vaccum and we can’t see the reactions of the people we address?

    • ambi

      My opinion is that the language is very important. I think we should be able to express our views as long as it is done in a very respectful way. One way to do that is to focus on the larger issues that we really want to talk about, rather than attacking the individual. For example, regarding the discussion above (and let me make a caveat by saying that I don’t personally agree with this point of view), it might have been more palatable to discuss it in terms of:

      “I think Liz’s post brings up a very interesting issue related to feminism and the choice to stay home with children. While I understand that Liz made the choice that was right for her family, I’d love for us to talk about the different feminist perspectives on staying home vs. working, and how financial considerations play into those choices. To me, feminism is about choice, but sometimes we have to sacrifice that choice in order to make ends meet.”

      Maybe I am wrong- maybe tripping over ourselves not to be offensive isn’t the answer. But in my own idealistic world, I feel like we as a community should be able to come up with ways to talk about these issues, and express our views and disagreements in ways that are not attacks on any individual.

      I do think it is really important that we keep having this discussion (the discussion about how to discuss!) – censorship of competing viewpoints isn’t the answer, and allowing this site to turn into a snarky and critical mommy-board type atmosphere isn’t the answer either. It is a fine balance, and while I have personally disagreed with specific things that Meg & Co. have chosen to censor, or not, I generally agree that they are on the right track in fostering a safe and kind community where people discuss big, emotional, difficult issues without being mean to each other.

    • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

      I would think a discussion, as opposed to an attack like above, would be framed like “wow, quitting your job and then having Josh lose his must have brought about an extra layer of difficulty, since I know if it had been me in this situation the hindsight would have killed me with guilt. I personally can’t imagine quitting a lucrative job even when things are going right. I wonder if Liz would be willing to expand on this decision, because it’s not one I understand very clearly.”

      It conveys your disagreement but frames it as a personal thought rather than a generalized attack. “I” statements as well as acknowledging the other person’s feelings goes a loooooong way to create discussion instead of hurting feelings.

    • Lizzie

      Interesting point. I love APW, but there is a kinda funny “out” to some of the most provocative discussions that come up by virtue of saying “This is a personal story and not open to judgment or criticism”. But of course, people are sharing very personal, intimate stories here, so that’s exactly as it should be, and very likely there wouldn’t be as many of us reading this site as regularly without the hooks of beautifully-written real life stories. That said, I certainly found myself bristling at and empathisizing with a variety of comments in the above thread and wanting to jump into the discussion all over the place, but not feeling like it would be particularly constructive or clear if I did so. And I will echo others above in saying – kudos to you, Liz, for the grace of your responses.

      Maybe an occasional more formal and more abstract debate-style discussion on a particular nugget of contested feminist territory would let us flex our rhetoric muscles in a way that was still engaging but less personal?

      • http://warrenpimp.blogspot.com/ Contessa

        I like that Lizzie! If there was a way to post on a theory without the theory attached to a person that might make it less personal. Of course there’s still the personal stories in the comment section to deal with…

        • ambi

          I love that idea! We have so many smart, educated APW readers who clearly know so much about feminist theory, it would be really really interesting to see a post from one of them that was somewhat scholarly and theoretical – presenting competing feminist perspectives on a particular issue (staying at home vs. working, for example, since there is a TON of scholarly literature on that subject), and then we could discuss it openly. People will still end up talking about their own personal choices and views, but it might be a nice change of pace and a way to clearly express very differing viewpoints in a more less intimidating way. And, the nerd in me would just love to have a smart academic discussion based on actual sources and theories. It would be really educational and informative (as well as, I expect, sparking a good debate).

      • Liz

        I think I’m on board with what Lizzie is saying. Usually a personal post isn’t the place- especially if you’re picking at something that isn’t central to the point of the post. If someone started arguing against the purpose of this post (I don’t know, “I don’t think marriages can survive financial crisis!!” or something), that’s worthwhile, I guess. But if one wants to discuss the ramifications of certain decisions in light of feminism, the place to do that would be on an opinion piece- not a personal story.

        And if there isn’t one already, Meg is always up for suggestions. Trust me, lady likes to write about her opinions.

        • christa

          Most of the reason I still read this blog is because of how clearly thought
          out and interesting Meg’s (and now Liz and Alyssa and everyone else on the team) opinions are.

          The Oxford-style debate format (the economist uses it right now to foster discussion on loaded topics) has seemed to work really well for internet based media. An example of a recent debate on the value of the TSA is here: http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/820

          With two guest authors writing, the “only” extra work for team APW would be moderating comments, and the authors would be more prepared for critique on any personal anecdotes they include in their statements. If I were Liz, I’d probably be crying at the comments on this thread, and that seems unfair.

      • http://www.servicedriven.org Sharon T-B

        I’m not sure if it is fitting with the style of A Practical Wedding to do as you are suggesting, though I agree with the need for this sort of conversation. Another blog that you might want to check out that does discuss marriage, feminism, etc from an academic perspective grounded in theory is Everyday Sociology. Here’s an example of such a post: http://nortonbooks.typepad.com/everydaysociology/2011/07/marriage-max-weber-and-verstehen.html

        • Lizzie

          Yes – good point. I suppose I just want to be having these discussions with all the women who are here in particular!

          In any case, thanks very much for the link.

    • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

      To add…

      Or, sometimes, it really is the answer to just stay silent. In a community like APW there are forums to discuss the staying home vs working debate. They might be a few months old and you might have to dig for them, or you might need to sit tight and wait for another post that discusses motherhood, feminism, and choices to come back around. But the discussion and debate does and will happen.

      I do think that sometimes its inappropriate to hijack a post by picking on a tiny detail that may have stuck out to you but was absolutely beside the point. This post was very brave of Liz to write and extremely emotional and hard hitting on the point of struggle and not being destroyed. Even if the post was Liz and Josh winning the lottery and squandering it to the point of poverty, commenting with “maybe you shouldn’t have blown your winnings, as that was irresponsible and crazy” is completely unhelpful and only intended to lecture and shame. Sometimes you really should just hold your tongue if you think your comment might be judgemental or beside the point.

      • http://www.verhext.com tamerajane

        Agree. I think what got my gruntle was that the comment seemed very much about SHAMING Liz. That’s a totally uncool way to disagree with someone.

      • ambi

        Cathi – Wow, I find this really interesting. I have to say, I do somewhat disagree (and here is an opportunity for us to disagree with respect and kindness, I hope). One thing I love about APW is the fact that so many readers get vastly different things from each post- what stands out for one person may seem completely beside the point for another. These posts speak to us based on what we are going through at the time and the specifics of our own lives. I personally love the fact that you can have so many threads going on in the comments that are about different facets and issues stemming from the original post. If a thread is about a topic that doesn’t interest you, there is always another one that talks about aspects of the post that did speak to you – or if not, you can start one! So, just personally, I kind of love the fact that our discussions sometimes get off topic. I think it is a really natural and organic part of how we think about and process issues and how so many aspects of our lives are connected (so, dealing with being broke can also bring up feelings of feminist guilt, worrying about changing your name can also bring up issues of class and race, etc.). So, I completely understand and respect your point of view, but I for one would be really sad to see the “off topic” posts go.

        As for staying quiet if your feel your point of view is judgmental, I am so torn on this. I agree that we shouldn’t be judging each other. Absolutely. But I am really interested in reading everyone’s different viewpoints and (sometimes very strong) opinions on each issue. So, and again, this is just my personal preference, I feel like people should be free to express a viewpoint that inherently conflicts with the one expressed by the original poster, but of course, we must all try to do this in a way that isn’t an individual attack. So, to me, there is a difference between “I believe feminism is more about advancing all women and less about making an individual choice to stay home or work, and therefore I think it is a more feminist choice to keep working” is expressing a viewpoint, while “I disagree with your choice to quit your job because it contributes to stereotypes, mommy-tracking, and oppression of women” is more of an individual attack. Yeah, it is all semantics, I guess. But I do hope we can find a way to discuss (and even disagree) about these issues.

        I take your point to mean, and obviously correct me if I am wrong, that we should try to err on the side of being kind and supportive, and just keep quiet if our comments could be judgmental. And I totally respect that position. I just hope it doesn’t come to that- I hope we can all be adults and discuss ISSUES without attacking PEOPLE.

        Love you, Cathi, and I have to say, my Southern mama would 100% agree with your advice – if you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all. :)

        • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

          You’ve summed me up quite well, actually :) I was raised by a wanna-be Southern mama.

          I think the distinction, which I articulated rather roughly and inaccurately and that you’ve helped fill in a bit, is that “off topic” or at least “off the main topic” threads need to be constructive and build the post up, not derailing and tearing it down. If your reaction to a post, especially if it’s someone’s personal story and extra especially if it’s someone’s personal story about The Hard Stuff(tm), is one of distaste and opposition for _whatever_, you should probably take a moment to examine your motives for posting before you do. Are you actually interested in fostering a discussion, hearing the other viewpoint, and sharing your own? Or do you just want to let someone know she’s wrong?

    • Alyssa

      Not looking at today, but overall, I think commenting (not just here, everywhere. And speaking personally, not as former staff) needs to come from a constructive place if there’s disagreement. Is the post the time and place to have a certain discussion? Am I commenting on the point of the post or just one piece of it that I have an opinion on it and MUST share?
      Generally, if I’m feeling ranty about something someone posts (and it’s happened plenty of times on here and Offbeat Mama where my moral outrage ruffled its petticoats and waved it fan rapidly) unless I’m contributing to the conversation as a whole, I rant to friends or my partner or even on Twitter. I try to consider the feelings of someone sharing a story versus someone making a stance. Stances that they think I need to share, I poke at. Personal stories to help others in the same situation, i.e. probably not me, I go about my business.
      OR, I craft my comments carefully, which is why I’m always like 20 minutes behind a discussion. Or say too much. Or don’t comment because someone else said it better. :-)
      I also try to make sure that my opinion is truly something I want to start a conversation and not something ranty that I need to get off my chest and then turn into a conversation later when I get called out on it. We’ve all seen that on other sites less moderated sites, where someone makes a ad-hominem attack or derails the conversation and then when called out say, “I’m just trying to share an opinion. YOU MUST HATE OPINIONS.”
      Bullshit. No, you are over-educated and were just being a horse’s ass. (Not that the over-educated have a monopoly on being a horse’s ass. They just cite bad sources better and use buzz-words.)

      But, generally, following the comment policy as closely as I can, even if it means I end up not commenting. Just because I have an opinion doesn’t mean that it needs to be shared.

      • Catherine B

        Excellent points. Also, why aren’t you blue!?

        • Alyssa

          Because I got so riled up that I started typing up a comment as a reader and forgot to make it so I would be blue. (It involves magic. And naked dancing. And unicorn dust.)

          Which I could have changed, but I also haven’t logged in since because I also want to respect the boundaries of being allowed to be a small part of the staff still. My words were directly at the commenter and while I re-wrote my initial comment many times and said it as best I could, I did not want them to carry any more weight than anyone else’s. (especially on this comment when I’m talking about commenting. It’s not my place to speak to that for APW, but I can talk about how I feel.) I was once called out for that and while I still believe that instance was done correctly, I keep in mind that colored comments represent the values of the site and I need to make SURE that my words reflect that.
          Otherwise Meg might take it away and that would be TERRIBLE. There would be TEARS.

      • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

        You said what I wanted to much more accurately and intelligently. Stop taking so long crafting your well-thought-out responses and letting us less-thought-out commenters get the jump on you!

    • meg

      First, we have a pretty clear policy on all of this. We provide multiple types of posts and threads: some are about discussing and debating ideas, some are personal stories. When someone writes a personal story, it’s never ok on APW to attack them or their choices. If you want to open a discussion of the issues on a personal story, you need to keep in general, and not even tangentially focused on attacking the writer. My first goal is always going to be to keep anyone who contributes personal writing to APW safe: this is not a free for all site. I’d prefer for these sorts of discussions to happen on NON personal posts, which we have plenty of. (For those of you bringing up that we should have these posts, we do. I write a lot of them). That said, all debate on APW has to be civil, period. So language choices should reflect that. I think Ambi has given good examples of what that language could look like.

      As for the moderation people are discussing, I only got to work and started some light moderating on this post five minutes ago. In general, I pay the bills, and I’m not willing to pay to run a site where people snark at each other or attack each other, so we stick with our no-drama commenting policy. I pulled down a few comments, but not many in this round.

      And that said: if you want a site with new rules you can ALWAYS consider starting one!!

      • http://warrenpimp.blogspot.com/ Contessa

        I know that you have posted your thoughts or opinions on feminist issues as posts Meg, but wouldn’t comments on those posts be questioning *your* opinions or experiences? While it could certainly be done in a more non-judgemental and helpful way wouldn’t that still sting you?

        • Liz

          Opinions are much less personal than life choices. If you’re writing, “Here’s what I think!” of course people will say, “I think differently!” and that’s okay. It’s an exchange of ideas.

          But, “Here’s what I did!” and “You shouldn’t have done that,” isn’t an exchange of ideas. It’s judgey.

        • meg

          No, not if it’s framed in the respectful language of civil discourse that we expect from everyone at APW. I write lots of ideas about opinions and ideas. They’re really OpEds. And people debate the ideas like crazy in the comments (this isn’t a theoretical thing, it’s happened in the comments of my posts for years), that is what those comment threads are there for: a place to debate ideas without attacking people personally who are telling something true about their life experience. Yeah, sure, I’m going to debate you back, but that’s the point: lively and civil debate. Now, if I write a personal post about some difficult life experience I’ve just gone through, I’d expect to be treated just as respectfully as anyone else. But I’m currently slightly more likely to write OpEd pieces, and the difference is really clear.

          The point of a post where Liz wrote about being so poor this year she couldn’t afford to eat, and how her marriage grew from it is NOT to attack her as a feminist for choosing to stay home with her son. Full stop.

          • NF

            I wonder if it would work to have a front page link to those “debate” posts/discussions in the comments, so that when people reading a personal piece had thoughts like “hey, how does this relate to feminist principles” they could post on the general discussions instead, but know that other people would still SEE those comments. As is, it often doesn’t seem productive to comment on a post from a month ago, because people aren’t usually still reading that post, so there’s no chance of starting a new discussion in the comments. With the front page link, a reader could say “I wonder what people on APW are thinking about feminism as a result of this last week’s theme,” (or whatever) and go to a (potentially) active discussion.

            I love the current structure of APW and I’m certainly not trying to tell you how to run the site, but I just wonder if something in that direction would help resolve some of the uncertainty about where/when to comment about broader topics.

  • Annie

    Reading Liz’s post made think more than once, not about her personal choices, but more about our societal choices. Having to choose to skip meals or ration food, because there just isn’t enough of it for both you and your husband to eat is awful. It also seems to be a cardinal example of why we need a stronger social safety net and public policy that is more aligned with supporting all families.

  • http://www.rorygordonphoto.com rorygordon

    I think you’ve got a really good point about staggering freak-outs. The rhythm of “you-fall-down-I-catch-you-I-fall-down-you-catch-me” is priceless… and again often times SO not about who is making what payment.

    • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

      Word to that! Both hubs and I make an effort to fall into that give-and-take of emotional support. It’s neat how I’m able to draw on some sort of secret optimism reserves to help him through a rough day, and then he’s able to turn around and do the same for me a couple days later.

      And then every once and a while, we’ll look at each other and say “Huh. We’re both pretty off today I guess.”

      And bust out a couple of beers and some Netflix. You know, for the health of the marriage. ;)

  • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

    All questions of feminism and staying-at-home vs. working shortened hours vs. working full-time aside, I think what I take most out of this post is the bond that you and Josh have been able to DEVELOP during this time. So many young couples would grow apart and their marriage would struggle through a tough financial time rather than turning to each other.

    Womens choices reflect on women and their struggles, certainly. But that “women” is in the grand nondefined “women” sort of sense. When we talk about Liz, the woman, making choices about her family it really is about Liz making choices for HER family–not yours, not the family of the nondefined larger “women.”

    And the choice that Liz, an individual, made for her family? It was her choice. It might not be the one you would make, but there is certainly meat here to drive questioning of your assumptions of what would be best. The attitude she has kept through the whole process, though,THAT should be inspiring to all of us, financially struggling or not. To be constantly reminding yourself that your family is worth fighting and struggling for is the best thing here.

    • Claire

      Agreed. I think the message that this point sent to me was about facing unforeseen hardship with grace and leaning on your partner while also supporting him/her. It was about struggling mightily through periods of devastating circumstances and letting that strengthen your relationships and your marriage and the family you are building. It was about feeling the despair and still reaching for each other instead of taking it out on each other. For me, the post was about resilience.

  • ambi

    I grew up in a family that was pretty broke most of the time. And yeah, I have posted on here that I have developed my own money problems because, in part, I don’t think my parents were able to model good money management for me, so I have never learned (until now) how to be smart with money.

    BUT, and this is a HUGE but, I really loved my childhood and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Liz, you know how you talk about letting things go, taking time to shake off the guilt and panic and just enjoy being with your baby family all day long? Well, that was a big part of what made my childhood great. My parents were pulled too thin, and often they had marital problems because of it, but I have the fondest memories of them being there, really being present, with us as children. Whether it was just playing in the yard in the summer or camping trips in the fall or teaching us to draw or build something – they were really really engaged. I have no idea if this has to do with their financial situation, but when you said that about just enjoying being with your family while you have this time together, a lightbulb went off in my head and I immediately thought about growing up poor with parents who loved me like crazy. I can’t put it into words exactly, but I kind of feel like, because my parents had so much adversity from the outside world for so many years, our little nuclear family became even more important to them, and as children we really felt surrounded by love and protection.

    I wouldn’t give up my poor childhood for a more comfortable one. Not only did it teach me all kinds of life lessons about work, not judging others, doing more with less, being grateful, etc. – it also infused me with this deep feeling that family equals joy, equals happiness and fulfillment. It is SO very hard to explain, but Liz, you know that happiness you feel when you get to spend all day at home with your family, and how you are able to put aside, for a few hours, the stress and panic and worry and just be present and enjoy the silver lining of this situation – well, I can guarantee you that you are also giving that gift to your son.

    • Shiri

      This was beautiful, thank you for it. This is everything (minus the concerns of the first paragraph, of course!) I want to believe about family and success.

      • ambi

        Not to say that poor childhood = lifelong struggles with money management, those are just my own personal issues! Probably shouldn’t have even included that first paragraph, as it is beside the point to my comment. :)

        And who knows if the feelings I have and memories and lessons from childhood really have anything to do with my parent’s lack of money, of if they would have been exactly the same if they would have been well off.

        I just think that Liz and my parents may be kindred spirits because the way she described being happy in the moment, enjoying her time with her family at home while they are both there – that is like taking a snapshot of my childhood. Yep, the picture shows a really small, kind of run down house, old worn out furniture, ragged clothes, and two parents with dark circles under their eyes, both of whom are a little too thin. But it also shows that both parents and children are smiling and laughing and happy. There is an ease there that shows complete comfort and acceptance of each other and our lives. The picture isn’t sad at all – it is really really happy.

        I personally don’t have kids, but I know that no matter how well off I am when I do have them, money will always make me nervous and stressed. I’ll always worry about providing for them. But I really want Liz and all the other parents out there struggling with this to let go of any guilt they may have, any worry, about raising their kids with less. It can be a really happy, really wonderful childhood. And, I will even go so far as to say that you will be teaching your kids amazing lessons that they may not otherwise learn, or at least not until later in life when they are out on their own and suddenly dealing with their own financial struggles for the first time. I recently talked to a good friend about her sons (she was beside herself with stress about how to protect them from the pain of dealing with their father’s terminal illeness), and I tried to help her realize that (in my opinion), your job as a parent isn’t always to keep your kids from feeling pain or dissapointment or sadness, it is to teach them how to deal with those feelings. Personally, I feel like my parents gave me a huge gift by teaching me how to deal with being poor, even though no one would prefer to raise their children in that situation.

        • MDBethann

          I LOVE your final paragraph Ambi. Our society seems to worry so much about “protecting” our children and keeping them happy – “everyone wins a trophy,” giving kids lots of “stuff,” picking them up right after they’ve fallen & not letting them cry, etc. – that we fail to let them learn about losing/not winning, making do with what you have, hurting, pain, coping with disappointment. Kids are a lot more resilient and flexible than we give them credit for and I think the healthier, happier kids are the ones that learn about these things in their childhood (not in heavy doses mind you, just sprinkled throughout their lives) so they aren’t caught unawares when they become adults and don’t get the job they want, have loved ones die, etc.

    • http://notsolittlethings.blogspot.com Stephanie

      I think this is such an important thing to bring up. I was a “joyfully received surprise” while my dad was in medical school and my mom ended up quitting her receptionist job to take care of me so the only income was my dad working as an orderly and school loans while he went to school and was a resident. My sister and I have wonderful memories of that time with my mom and our other family friends who would “chore share” – all the kids would pile into the kitchen/dining room for a meal or run around the backyard while the mom’s helped clean each others houses or garden. Even after he started practicing there were still loans to pay off and I feel like that youth that centered on family and friends instead of things set me up to be a much more successful adult that my step-siblings who came into the picture after the loans were paid off.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      My parents both opted out of lucrative careers to work from home for a much more modest but far more satisfying life. Growing up, I loved having them home all the time. Things weren’t perfect and there were years were money must have been tight, but i never noticed as a kid – I just knew that it was nice having them around all the time.

  • http://www.advancedlivingforbeginners.com Jen W

    Thanks for this post Liz! As someone who’s also part of an underemployed couple, it’s great to read posts like this and be reminded that the money isn’t everything and even if we’re struggling, we’re still building our life together, which is the point, right?

  • Lizzie

    My husband and I had a super-broke phase when we were first dating that I look back on almost nostalgically because of how all the pleasures of life were set in such high relief during that period (this is not to romanticize poverty: it was stressful, but mostly in relation to my own feelings of self-worth, not in the what-am-I-going-to-feed-my-child way). I remember when I finally landed a full-time job with benefits in my actual professional field, we celebrated by going to a bar for the first time in a couple months and SHARING A BEER and it was one of the greatest dates ever.

    • Liz

      Yes! We went out for coffee last week and it was the BEST.

      • http://ahobbitatheart.blogspot.com/ rachel

        Paying for a movie date at the cheap movie theatre in dimes and quarters while I was 40 weeks pregnant and we were broke as all get out? And DQ ice creams cones? One of my favourite dates.

    • ambi

      Yes, yes, yes!

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      Those are sometimes the very best dates!

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    Liz, your experiences really resonate with me right now. Currently I’m out of work and my fiance is weeks away from graduation (for a career change) and hasn’t found a job in the new field yet and it is crazy stressful. Two people in one house getting discouraged by job prospects and freaking out about finances (although luckily it’s more anticipatory freaking out)? That gets pretty high stress sometimes.

    It also gets pretty awesome. Because hey, I get to spend my days partly job searching partly persuing creative projects that I love. I get to see a million times more of my fiance than I did when he was in his old job. We have more time to spend on shared interests and puttering around the house. Just, sometimes the awesome gets buried in the other stuff.

    So thank you for reminding me that being broke and in unfortunate employment situations aren’t the end of the world.

  • http://www.armyamy.wordpress.com Army Amy*

    Thank you for your honesty, Liz. I think your story will help other people feel less alone. I love the message of not being broken. While my current struggles aren’t monetary, I needed the reminder that I’m still strong despite my hard times.

    The other big take away from this is perspective. My troubles have helped me figure out what really matters. I’m so much more appreciative now.*

    • MDBethann

      Broke but not broken. Very wise indeed.

  • http://www.koruwedding.com Koru Kate {Koru Wedding}

    Wow. I remember my broke 20s & I don’t think I could have managed with a baby. Liz, you’ve done your best & that’s amazing. I hope things keep getting better & better for you & your lovely family!!

  • Another Rachel

    I just wanted to say that I found this post really moving. I’ve had different experiences struggling with money and I hope I can learn from you and start to let go of some of the near constant fear and calculations (if I pay X more towards Y, then Z) in my head with regard to finances– at least enough to let in a greater amount of appreciation of the life I am so lucky and happy to have with my fiance/friends/family. And while this post is on the for “poorer” end of the spectrum I think its a message that those on the “richer” end can benefit from as well. Thanks Liz.

    • April

      Definitely a message for everyone – regardless of where they are financially. I’m so humbled by what Liz shared today. I grew up in a large family that was constantly broke, and watched my parents struggle most of my teenage years caring for four kids and trying to pay the bills and keep us fed and clothed when my dad was suddenly unemployed. Looking back on that time, I’m amazed by how we got through it. And while the experience wasn’t fun and I’d never want to go through it again, I remember the many people that helped us during that time and how fortunate we felt for their support.

      Being broke is scary, but it gives everyone in your close circle (be it your family, church, friends, etc.) an opportunity to help. There is a quote I love (from a Yogi teabag tag of all places!): “We are here to love each other, serve each other, and uplift each other.” (Author unknown) So true!

  • http://chilingwang.com Chi-Ling

    I am rooting for you. With respect and well wishes, Chi

  • April

    Dearest Liz – thank you so much for sharing such a deeply personal story, and for bravely replying to the statements in the post too. You’re working hard to “haul up your star”, and doing all you can for your family. Best wishes to you and your sweet little family! XO

  • Jessica

    Thanks for writing this post. While I’ve been lucky enough to have a job since I graduated from college, my husband has not had the same luck. We really never have been at the point of late payments, but last year, I was making myself physically ill when a bill came in because I just did not want to deal with our financial situation. Thank GOD we live in a somewhat cheap area (FWIW, Buffalo, NY- once named one of the best places to ride out the recession) because otherwise we’d be in deep trouble. I can’t imagine all that stress AND a baby too.

    I was going to comment yesterday that hearing about other young couples who are not flush with cash makes me feel better, because I often feel like I’m the only one and that I’m failing the “being an adult” test. It’s so hard to live within your means and be ok with it when your friends and family and coworkers are taking trips every weekend and eating at nice restaurants while a $20 trip to Target is a big deal to you and your “date night” is $12 at McDonald’s.

    • http://magpietrousseau.wordpress.com Magpie

      Oh, wow, I can relate so much to the feeling of failing the “being an adult” test due to financial strains. That sense of failure, while irrational, is at the top of the pile of things that stress me out about being on the “for poorer” end of the spectrum. Thank you so much for posting your comment – you just made me feel less alone! And I’m chiming in so you can feel less alone too.

      • Jessica

        I want to say “Yay! Someone relates!” but it’s not something to cheer really is it? I graduated from college in May 2008, a few months before the start of the “Great Recession,” so unfortunately for me, I haven’t experienced being an adult any other way. I keep telling myself “eventually, it will get better,” but it’s so hard in the meantime!

        • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

          “I graduated from college in May 2008, a few months before the start of the “Great Recession,” so unfortunately for me, I haven’t experienced being an adult any other way.”

          Hear hear! But you know… I think, if we let it, this can be a good opportunity for our generation. Whenever I’d complain to my mom that I was being paid pittance at my teeny-tiny non-profit job, she’d tell me to try to look at it as a character-building exercise and a blessing in disguise because I was learning that money wasn’t everything and to make do with a very modest income while very young. (I didn’t always want to hear this, but I daresay she’s right ;D)

          I’d say that the fortitude it takes to send out resume after resume in a bad economy, the self-control of pinching pennies where needed, the patience needed not to treat life like a race, and the insight that understands material possessions do not equal maturity are the REAL markers of adulthood. Not weekend trips and white picket fences.

  • km

    I am so sad that you can only eat one egg :(

  • KateM

    Liz, I am also in awe of your graciousness. It is a virtue not many of us posses and definitely one I need to work on cultivating.
    I am the oldest of a ton of kids, and my parents had some very very lean years when I was young. I remember being told that we could not have certain things because we could not afford them. My parents made that clear, but I never had any anxiety over money as a child. We may not have gotten happy meals, but we did get milkshake pajama parties. I did not have a car until college and it was shared with two other siblings, but my dad coached every single one of us in either softball or basketball. We went on hikes in state parks and played outside all day, very little TV and no video games. We were fortunate in always somehow having enough, and always having two present parents. Sometimes in the struggle to pay basic living costs, a parent really does have to give up being present in every way other than the sacrifice they are making, working three minimum wage jobs to be able to keep the balls in the air. In my family there is 17 yr difference between me and my youngest sister. I am able to see the difference that finances have made in our upbringing. I am also able to see the difference age has made. My parents were young and broke, now they are older and more secure. There are trade offs in every situation. You being able to let go and be present to your family is amazing.
    I have two aunts that were married at 19. One struggled financially the way you described above, and says it was the best time of their life, the way they were able to love and rely on each other in that time, is still very evident in their marriage 40 years later. The other aunt says she hated every moment of it, and is so anti-young marriage. After a rocky 15 years, they have reached the point that (from the exterior) they now have a good marriage, and are able to trust each other and lean on each other. I would say you sound like you are headed towards a great next 40+ years.

  • suzanna

    Liz, thank you for talking about not being able to buy groceries. Hoo boy, it brought back some gut-wrenching memories for me. The panic of poverty is no fun, and I’m glad things are turning around for you.

    This is why I love APW–it can be really easy to picture everyone on the internet as comfortable middle class people. I really appreciate your honesty, and the diversity of experience being shared here.

    And I’ll throw my 2 cents out there regarding the above “discussion” about feminism: it’s just never OK to judge another woman out of context, or to expect any one of us to be an example of some weird, narrow idea of What A Woman is Supposed To Be. I’m pretty shocked that APW let it go for as long as it did, and it’s a great reminder of why Meg does indeed need to shut down comments sometimes. I support and appreciate APW’s low tolerance of intolerance. We’ve got enough barriers out there in the real, scary, sexist world–we shouldn’t go at each other.

    • Liz

      Suzanna, it went on because I was the one moderating this morning. If Meg had been up (I’m on Eastern Time, holler) she would’ve deleted it with the first one. Those kinds of comments are never okay on personal posts, and if it HADN’T been my own post, I would’ve also deleted to protect the author.

      Just wanted to clarify! And thanks for the kind words!

      • suzanna

        Oh, Liz, I’m sorry–I didn’t mean it as a rebuke! I understand the choice to keep it up, it was just very unusual for this place. Thanks again for all you do.

        • Liz

          No, I didn’t take it as a rebuke! I was looking for a chance to make it clear that 1) those kinds of comments are typically not tolerated and 2) they only were because I moderated them, and I’m the author of the post. You just gave me the excuse to explain. ;)

          • Suzanna

            Fabulous!

      • EM

        Liz, I also want to thank you not only for your thoughtful and kind responses, but also for being willing to allow the conversation to develop organically. This thread has forced me to think about my convictions (and my unspoken assumptions) about what it means to be a good feminist in ways I don’t think I ever have before. Some of the comments I have found most objectionable have actually made me think the most. I don’t think that’s something *any* of us should expect from APW or from any of the people who post on it, but it’s something I am very grateful for today. Above and beyond, Liz — for real.

        One of the many things this post has made me think about how is some of the most heavily female-dominated professions have some of the least flexible policies out there. The maternity leave and nursing policies of OB/GYN residency programs come to mind – and the spectacularly awful sick and maternity leave policies in many school districts in which my friends teach. The only faculty member in my department who goes around telling students that they can’t be successful in our field if they have children is a woman. The one who says, “maternity leave is a good thing because if smart women feel like they can’t have babies we’re all in a mess of trouble” is a man.

        Instead of talking about the choices individual feminists make, can we talk about creating feminist workplaces when we’re the ones making decisions? Because even though a lot of us may be broke and jobless these days, the recent explosion of “trend” stories about the “Mancession” and “The End of Men” has me thinking that day is just over the horizon.

        • ambi

          EM,
          DUDE! Brilliant comment.

        • marbella

          “maternity leave is a good thing because if smart women feel like they can’t have babies we’re all in a mess of trouble”
          well said sir!

        • KH_Tas

          ‘can we talk about creating feminist workplaces when we’re the ones making decisions?’

          Beyond yes. I think this is one of the most important things of all, but also one of the scariest things to do because it’s such a big thing – but such a necessary thing.

  • suzanna

    PS: random note on nutrition and being broke–this is for everyone out there trying to save $ at the store.

    Rice
    Dried Beans
    Cheap vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes, whatever is on sale)

    Save yourself the sodium ramen headaches and get your complete protein. ;)

    I could write a book on feeding yourself while having no money, thanks to an amazing friend of mine who once saved my life by taking me to the store and literally walking me through, pointing out the good cheap stuff, as opposed to the bad cheap stuff.

    Big hugs to everyone out there struggling right now!

    • Kayla

      I’ve found the blog Poor Girl Eats Well to be helpful… http://www.poorgirleatswell.com/

      • http://thecelebrationgirl.com Marcela

        And if I may suggest, for baby food: http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/
        This website really saved us when our twins were eating purées and our budget was tight. It would have been impossible for us to buy jarred food, so we used to buy the groceries once every two weeks (quantities are listed) and I would steam, blend, mix and freeze. We used a combination of plastic containers and ice cube trays for freezing. Since we don’t have a microwave, I used to put the containers in the fridge the night before, so that they would gently thaw overnight. I’m really thankful to that website because those recipes, tips and ideas made it possible for us to feed our babies properly.

        • Jennifer Lyn

          I am bookmarking. I am fairly sure I know a lot of lovely mamas this will be helpful for.

          • Katie

            Great Resources! Thanks for sharing!

        • http://thecelebrationgirl.com Marcela

          And…I can send you a recipe for soya hamburguers that use beans, any vegetable you have on hand and rice. I make around 40 hamburguers with 1 kilo of soya beans, from scratch. I also make lentil hamburguers. That’s how we got protein when we couldn’t afford anything else.Just let me know!

    • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

      Off topic, but mmm, the thought of taking all of those example items and throwing them in a big soup sounds tasty. :)

      • Suzanna

        Annie, YES! One of my favorite recipes this past winter has been split pea soup, which (even with a ham hock in it) costs like $5 to make for seriously like 8 servings. omg so good.

    • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

      Suzanna, Can you write that book? I’m serious! I’d want to read it!

  • Amy March

    I’ve gone through so many emotions on this post, but I think what it comes down to for me is fear. Gut wrenching fear of insecurity that makes me think things like, I can’t quit my job and move to London (even though I really could) or I could never have a baby now (even though my parents raised me on less than I have).

    So, thanks Liz! Because the next time I’m worrying over things, this post is going to remind me that even when things don’t go as planned, life can still be totally glorious.

  • Yet Another Stephanie

    As someone entering my broke twenties (and figuring out how the Gentleman and my relationship fits there), I really, REALLY appreciated this post. I went through a few months this year where I was eating one meal of fried potatoes, apples, and onions every day because I had bought those in bulk in the fall and still had them left. The skipping breakfast thing made me tear up because when the Gentleman learned I was doing that, he went and bought me a bunch of groceries.

    This post along with the post from last week about borrowing from your significant other really hit home for me– I’ve been so embarrassed about borrowing money from my Gentleman (we don’t live together, so all our bills are separate), and I’ve been so embarrassed about being broke, period; it makes me feel irresponsible. Liz helped me realize the obvious: I’m not behind on my bills because I’m irresponsible, I’m behind because I am broke. So it is not my fault, it is just a thing that is.

    Thank you, Liz, for your honesty and your courage and your grace!!

  • http://cupcakeliterati.blogspot.com Joanna

    Liz, thanks for this. Thanks for sharing about something that’s hard and making yourself vulnerable to enrich everyone else’s perspective.

    One thing that seems to be absent from some of the comments is the awareness that one essay cannot possibly tell a person’s entire story. You have no idea what a person’s life is like on a day to day basis, the nitty gritty choices they have to make all the time. I took Liz’s post to be a glimpse into her own experience, but not the sum total of her life. It never could be.

    Sometimes I feel like we’re so used to being attacked as women that we see one sentence of something that isn’t our experience or that we don’t agree with, and we pounce on it like a subway rat on a Cheeto. I wish that I could have just one day where I didn’t feel like my life was scrutinized for every little detail – what I wear, what I eat, what I buy, what I say, where I work, if I have kids, where I live, how I wear my hair for crying out loud – just because I’m a woman. APW is a respite from that scrutiny, for me at least.

    • http://postgraduatepie.wordpress.com Natalie

      Totally unrelated to the substance of your post, but “pounce on it like a subway rat on a Cheeto” is just such an amazing use of the English language I have to give you a shout-out for it.

  • http://takingabraindump.com Jo

    Thumbs up to all of the smart ladies thinking after this post, and to Liz for writing it. Seriously, mega thumbs up to Liz for writing it–that took some brass gonads. (Which I personally like).

    I came from a family with very little (loads of kids, parents out of work, neighbors fed us, we scavenged building materials for our home) and it didn’t hurt me one bit. It made me frugal and creative and appreciative for what I have when it all comes together and the relationships that are left to hold us up when it doesn’t.

    I still have my broke freak-out moments, we still have our money discussions. But it’s so true that money doesn’t define you when you get all the way down to the rock-bottom of it. Liz is an outstanding, shiny bright example of Grace under Pressure. In the subject of the post AND the comments on the post. ;)

    • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

      “Liz is an outstanding, shiny bright example of Grace under Pressure.”

      Indeed.

  • Gigi59

    Liz – What I took away from your wonderful post was the fact that you realized that the hard times were what helped grow your relationships with the people you love. It’s so very hard to see that when you’re in the middle of it. When there’s no money (and I think we’ve all been in that boat at one time), every decision becomes much more difficult and emotional. Sometimes fear and shame tend to overshadow the love. Also, it’s way too easy to lose sight of the fact that those times are temporary. And it’s only with hindsight that you realize everything you learned during them. Congratulations on successfully navigating that tough time in your life. Oh, and CUTE BABY!!!

  • Anne

    Liz — I appreciate you sharing the story of how you and your family have coped with truly challenging finances. Previous commenters have noted the poise with which you moderated the conversation this morning. What equanimity! Your son is lucky to have you.

  • Liz

    So, hey. Is it too late to talk about MONEY, now?

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

      NO! Since I have already been telling you on Twitter all day how much I <3 you, I will just get right down to it.

      Having been close to this level of broke–no child and luckily no rent, so I could pay Sallie Mae instead, but husband and I did used to order one Mexican takeout meal that would last as as ALL THE FOOD for 2-3 days–I can commiserate. It's awful and stressful and builds a level of strength you previously didn't know you had. Good times are better when you've had bad times and gratitude is amazing when you really, really get exactly how much you have to be grateful for.

      BUT. What I'm now navigating, as someone who has been broke on her own and in her current relationship and then two-income flush enough to pay for a not-exactly shoestring wedding, is being the breadwinner while unemployed husband gets to pursue his career dreams. We are fine financially, not great, but making ends meet with some leftover. What is HARD though, in my experience, when you've been broke, is turning down the $$$$$ for the dreams. Sometimes I wish I could say FUCK THE DREAMS, I just want to know what it's like to save for retirement and pay health insurance without crying and buy $500 shoes. I know how much broke sucks and I never want to go back, but I also want to take risks in pursuit of career dreams….

      • http://lillight.wordpress.com Jennifer Lyn

        It is crazy hard. As someone whose husband turned down the $$$ for the dreams, we are only beginning to see the payment now. It makes it worth it but wow— we had the same sort of crazy stressful times there too.

      • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

        I am so battling the decision between dreams and money now. How much can I give up dream wise and still feel happy? How much money do I need to feel secure? Oh this balancing act is driving me nuts.

      • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

        It’s definitely hard to think about going back to being broke. And sometimes it feels like it’s really a choice that shouldn’t be made. We’re planning to add a baby to the family sometime in the next 2-3 years, but my husband will still be in school at that point. I want (have always always wanted) to stay home with a little one, but we won’t really be able to make ends meet on his stipend alone. While we’re saving up for that day, I’m not sure it’ll be enough to cover living expenses, baby expenses, out-of-pocket insurance, etc. Thus, I’m stuck with the internal turmoil of making a choice that essentially dooms us to be broke for a few years, or giving up my dream and working at least part-time. Luckily (fingers crossed), this is a decision that I can put off, at least for a little while…

        • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

          Perhaps as a nurse there’s something else you could do for those years that’s a more flexible schedule or allows you to work from home? My mom was a nurse and single mom and when I was a baby she did product consulting that allowed her to work flexibly. Sometimes she’d be gone on a business trip for a few days (thank god for grandparents), but she at least didn’t have to be away at a hospital or office 40+ hrs a week. Just suggesting brainstorming outside of the box while you still have a couple years in which to hammer out potential paths!

          • http://cheaperthanwisdom.com Emily

            My nurse momma was the school nurse for my kindergarten & elementary school while my brothers and I went there – it was a great solution for her!

      • Liz

        This stuff always pulls me back to the question of responsibility, too. Which turns into the guilt nonsense. “Is it responsible to try out this dream? How long do we wait before we give up on it being lucrative?” It’s so so hard to know.

        • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

          I think the responsibility guilt is why so many “success stories” have gone from the crappy-paying-but-do-gooding job to the high-paying-but-soul-sucking job before finding a sweet spot in the middle. I think some ppl have to really sell their souls to fully comprehend how it is irresponsible to your own well-being and that of everyone around you to be living life miserable.

          But sometimes the less-than-soul-sucking can be more insidious. As someone who took jobs that weren’t her dream to get out of credit card debt 4 years ago and hasn’t left yet, I’ve learned it’s nice to pay the bills, but being complacent can be bad in a whole different way. Don’t want to be 40, 60, etc and think, “what if?”

          • meg

            Yep.

        • http://www.palindromeathome.com Melinda

          I recently visited the Walt Disney Museum here in San Francisco and I was pretty amazed to find out that he went bankrupt several times before making his animation dreams came true with Mickey Mouse. I remember wondering if I could have been his wife and supportive of him chasing his dream. In the end, I think that everyone’s risk aversion and strength of belief in their dreams is different. You guys will be able to decide as a family what that point is and how long to push. I really admire people who choose their dream!

          • meg

            He also did a lot of really horrible things, like not paying his animators back when they did make it big, and then hiring a whole new team to underpay when they went on strike. By which I mean, I guess, when you GET that dream, you have to remember to still treat people well.

        • Suzanna

          It is really hard to know when to give up or postpone a dream so that we can be responsible human beings. Personally, a timeline has really helped me. “If I don’t accomplish X by X date, it’s probably time to move on.” But that’s just me. And thankfully, “failing” at one thing actually led me to do what I really love!

          I also just want to put it out there that being responsible IS making a dream come true–being able to take care of one’s family is nothing to sneeze at. As a child of hippies who never really planned for the future and always just skimmed by, I can tell you that I wish my parents had been more responsible, sucked it up and got better with money/made more money. Now that they can’t retire, they wish they had been more responsible too!

          For all of us who have very heartwarming memories of being poor children, there are some scary memories too that I will do everything in my power to not pass on my own (at this point theoretical) kids. (Now I’m scared that they’ll be spoiled because they’ll never experience hardships, but that’s another topic altogether!)

          As KA said, “finding the sweet spot in the middle” can take some time!

        • lmba

          One of the big problems of my life thus far is figuring out how to make authentic and courageous choices about my life while also reconciling those choices with “responsibility.”

          Example: Giving money away (and being WILLING to give money away) is super important to my worldview. Awesome. But what about when I am in mega-debt and finally have a good household income? Do I keep giving money away? (The answer in our home right now is a resounding yes.)

          What about when I’m not in debt anymore and I have to make decisions about saving money for retirement or a new home? Do I strike a balance between giving and saving? Do I forsake one for the other? WHICH ONE GETS FORSAKEN???? (The answer in our home is totally up in the air.)

          But I LOVE being married because it makes me feel so much more free to really think deeply about these decisions and what they mean for our lives. Are we going to save for a house? Are we going to spend our money on travelling the world and growing our knowledge of others’ lives? Are we going to fund a development project? Are we going to give up “lucrative” careers to go DO development work for a tiny (or non-existent) income? Are we going to have a million kids and provide a lot of good opportunities for them? Are we going to wildly and bravely attempt to do more than one of these things simultaneously?!?! Being married means I have the guts to actually think about these financial choices in a way that I would probably be too afraid to when I was single and knew that if anything went wrong it was all on me. AND being married helps me balance the part of my nature that says, “Screw finances” with the (bigger) part that feels accountable to my spouse and our future and our family. Being able to dream more freely, consider all our options with intentionality, all while feeling the weight of our responsibility to each other… that is something I don’t think I would have come to on my own!

      • http://magpietrousseau.wordpress.com Magpie

        Well, from the other side of this coin…

        We’re also broke. Because I am doing my “dream, not $$$$” job, and because the husband-elect was doing his “dream, not $$$” job until they ran out of money. So we’ve been living on the income from my dream not $$$ job for over a year now. And it’s hard. We’ve been trying all along to get him another dream not $$$ job, and since that hasn’t been working, just any job at all. But, no surprise to anyone here, the economy is in the toilet.

        And my “dream not $$$” job is not so dreamy anymore, because damn it, it’s stressful when your job won’t pay the bills. We’re are going into even more debt in order for me to stay in this job. And I’m starting to resent the job, because it is not enough.

        Here’s what I’m learning from this: THERE CAN BE MORE THAN ONE DREAM. And sometimes, the dream job is a dream job *because* there are enough dollars. I think that we’re arriving at the same point, but perhaps starting from different places. I just want to throw this viewpoint out there because it took me waaaaaaaaay too long to give myself permission to see it this way, so in case there’s anyone else out there who needs that permission: YOU HAVE IT FROM ME.

        • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

          “Here’s what I’m learning from this: THERE CAN BE MORE THAN ONE DREAM.”

          This. Exactly. And sometimes the dream is a career, but sometimes it’s not. I’m not all that happy in my work currently and dream about finding another field entirely… but I also feel that I’m living my dream when it comes to the marriage I’m building with my husband and the friendships and community I have in my life.

          • http://magpietrousseau.wordpress.com Magpie

            Mmmhmmm. The dream you are living right now is the dream I want. At this point, I am OK with a job I just don’t hate…but have some options in the pipeline that I might just like (and that pay the bills).

            But mostly, I just want the job/$$$ worries to go away, so that they stop overshadowing the dream I’m building in my relationship and my life in general.

            I used to kind of laugh at an old joke in my field:

            “To be happy in life you need to be happy with three things: your job, your family, your life (that is not job and family). Now pick two.”

            Haha, right? But the way career advancement works with what I do right now, that’s no joke, it’s the truth, which leans heavily toward, “now pick just one”.

            Congratulations on finding what sounds like a good balance for you! I am inspired, and I wish you all the best in pursuit of your dreams.

        • Maggie

          “And sometimes, the dream job is a dream job *because* there are enough dollars.”

          Or because it doesn’t follow you home from work every night or demand long weekend hours.

          (which I realized after moving away from what I thought was my dream career to take a job that allows me to have a life)

        • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

          Oops, we ran out of threading for me to reply to your comment below, but I wanted to say that I totally relate. You don’t happen to be in academia, do you? Those jokes sound waaaaay familiar! I mean, all our work-life balance seminars start with “Balance, what balance?” jokes.

          Every time I make the choice to keep dreaming the dream of my marriage and family, I’m aware that I’m probably taking a hit as a researcher, that I’m not the academic that others want me to be.

          I used to have a really hard time with that. “All the ways I can prove myself, let me show you them!” But as I meet more and more people in my field, those who get why I dream this way and those who totally don’t, I’m growing more and more okay with feeling the way I do. After all, a degree’s a much colder bedfellow than my husband is.

          All of which is to say that I sympathize with your situation and really hope you can find a job soon that takes away the $$$ woes and allows you to move closer toward the life you’re envisioning!

          • http://magpietrousseau.wordpress.com Magpie

            Haha! You guessed it. I’m currently in academic biomedical research.

            My “favorite” academic joke about work-life balance:

            When “life” = “work”, the equation is always balanced.

            Ooof.

            Yes, I totally hear you on feeling the need to prove yourself. I feel like there can be (is?) a really toxic culture in academic training, in which nothing you do is ever enough, and if you choose a different career trajectory after it all, you’re branded a failure. Not to mention the expectation of monastic devotion and vows of poverty (joking, sort of). I work very hard to insulate my sense of self-worth from this kind of rhetoric – and I succeed often enough that I’m feeling OK about looking at other options. But it’s hard! And on top of that, leaving will mean grieving this career that didn’t pan out the way I had hoped. But that’s OK!

            Thanks for the well-wishes – I’m happy to report that I have some more promising career possibilities in the pipeline. Maybe as soon as this year. And hopefully, stars will align so that we can be a dual-income family again and get out of debt.

            Best wishes to you too!

          • Jane

            “Every time I make the choice to keep dreaming the dream of my marriage and family, I’m aware that I’m probably taking a hit as a researcher, that I’m not the academic that others want me to be.”

            Hm. I think a lot of academic women hear this kind of gloom-and-doom message: “If you pour yourself into your career, you will end up single and living in Nebraska!” Or “so-and-so decided to pursue a PhD–now she is too educated to find a man and her biological clock has run out and she will never have children (i.e. be a complete woman).” I’ve even heard other women say things like this: “Oh, it’s so good that you were able to get your PhD. I tried doing that too; in the end I just decided that I wanted to do what really matters: have a family.” There’s this sense that being a great researcher puts you at odds with having a family, or that you will sacrifice your feminity and fertility to the big altar of academia. Perhaps that’s true in reality, but I don’t think that the solution is to abandon ship altogether. I would rather see women work against this thinly-(or not so thinly)veiled sexism that so often rears its head around sucessful women. And that so often comes from other women. And that runs rampant in the field that is supposedly the most “liberal” and “progressive” in its thinking.

            My dissertation may be a colder bedfellow than my husband, but I still wouldn’t sacrifice the experience of having accomplished such a thing. For anything.

          • Liz

            I guess that’s what’s being reiterated over and over in these comments, though. It’s a personal choice. I wouldn’t sacrifice the time I get to spend with my child for anything. I know moms who wouldn’t sacrifice the ability to provide for them for anything. Not one singular choice is better than the others, and guilting one another into feeling that it is, well… it’s just wrong. For some, PhD outweighs other things. For others, it doesn’t.

          • Eva

            I don’t know who told you that being a wife is at odds with being a researcher, but it’s totally not true. I know tons of women who have had great success in research while raising families. The academic life is hard, but it is also very flexible. If you want it, you can have it.

            Having said that, if it’s not for you, or if you’re not interested in it, then that’s fine because different adventures await you. There’s nothing wrong with deciding that this whole thing isn’t your bag! Just don’t think that having a family will automatically disqualify you or make things so much harder.

    • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

      It’s never too late– those west coasters aren’t even off work yet, are they?

      We lived on a grad student stipend for six months after getting married. I did all the grocery shopping at meijer (a walmart equivalent), which killed my soul a little more every time I went there. We ate rice and beans like it was our job. We found a free art gallery, visited local parks, and generally didn’t go anywhere. Our celebration when my grandma sent a five dollar bill in the mail was like that of people who win the lottery. (We promptly bought ice cream, of course.) It was horrible, but, like Liz points out, it can solidify a marriage.

      Being the unemployed half of the union was terribly difficult, and guilt-inducing. But it showed me how much my husband really loves me. He loves me enough to feed me dinner, instead of going out with his friends. And I loved him enough to pick wildflowers from the woods, and repurpose sheets into curtains, and make our tiny apartment a home– despite our lack of money. For everything we didn’t have, and couldn’t have, we found we really had quite a bit.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      I think it’s interesting how many couples break up because of financial difficulty, and in the case of Liz and Josh, it pulled them closer together.

      I’m wondering what they knew or just instinctively did differently than the couples who break up. Liz or anyone else welcome to respond.

      Is it just luck the Liz and Josh could weather it together, or are couples that pull tighter have some trick the others don’t know?

      • Liz

        I’d like to say we’re just awesome. But I think it’s probably the community of people around us (a lot of them being you internet folks). Because, sure. Sending me a $100 gift helped with tangible needs- paid for a bill or some groceries or allowed us to splurge on coffee and skip the bills altogether- but even more than that, it made me feel hopeful. If that makes sense? Having people around to support us emotionally made it easier to support Josh emotionally. It gave me a reason to stop crying and buck up.

        • Laurel

          That stuff is priceless. It’s one of the reasons it’s so important to me as a partnered person to keep working hard on my outside relationships. We had a rough year in a lot of ways and I NEEDED the people who looked out for us in a pretty real way.

          This is also (nerd alert) one of the moments when coming from at least some privilege is incredibly helpful. When things are rough, you have some people with income and assets in your network who can help share the risk.

          • meg

            Sort of, but I’d also disagree on some level. In my experience, when you’re in trouble, it’s often the families that have ALSO been in trouble (not the privileged families) that are first to jump in and take care of you. They give from what little they have because they know what it’s like. (Not that having people with assets around you is a bad thing… but sometimes those people with assets were flat broke at one point, and that’s why the get it.)

            Says the girl who grew up around poverty.

          • Laurel

            Absolutely. There’s nothing like experience to teach you empathy.

            In talking about networks and assets, I was thinking about Black Wealth/White Wealth, which has a lot of interviews around family, money, and assets, and is a super interesting book. The authors find that white families tend to be part of family networks with assets (for a variety of historical reasons involving extensive government subsidies with explicit or implicit racial restrictions), and as a result can turn to family when broke. (White families also often get family help with down payments, etc.) The African American families they interview report not having that kind of personal network, and in fact one obstacle to asset accumulation for some of the middle and upper-income families interviewed is that they are the wealthiest people in their social networks and thus tend to be tapped when something goes wrong for friends or family. I’m thinking of the privilege that many people — including me, and maybe Liz — have that when we’re broke, we have friends and family who are not broke and can treat us to meals, spot us $50, hire us for small jobs, etc. Being surrounded by people who are able to offer even relatively small amounts of help is a kind of privilege. (I used to teach high school in a big city and can tell you that for many of my students, that help was pretty unavailable.)

            Also, the research suggests that low and middle income people consistently donate higher percentages of their income to charity than high income people. So yeah, experience, empathy, etc.

          • ambi

            It has also been my experience that the families that have the least give the most. I can’t say whether this is true across the board, but it is definitely true in my life. My parents had almost nothing, and yet they were the first people to help give money, clothes, and even a place to live (our house) to another family who lost everything in a fire. They took in not one but two high school girls who had bad home lives and raised them as their own (in a tiny three bedroom home which already held five people – my parents, me, and my sibling). They even found a way to help those girls buy cars and go to college – sacrificing their own savings and financial stability in order to help these girls have better lives. I just come from a place where people, especially poor people, do that. Even if you only have one good dress, if someone else really needs it, you give it away and figure out how to make do without it. And sometimes, you accept those gifts from others as well.

            My partner’s family is different – and I do not want to imply that they are any less loving or charitable or that they aren’t as “good” people as my own family. It is just that they come from a culture of more wealth and money and people are expected to “stand on their own two feet.” When a family member is down and out and swallows their pride to ask for money, they will usually begrudgingly give it, but it becomes a point of tension, and there is a sense that the family member is being a “mooch” or “taking advantage” of more comfortable relatives. In both cases, I guess the family member is helped, but there is definitely a different attitude about it. Now they are very charitable, but it is in a much more organized, corporate type of way (giving large sums to well-established charities that they support, which while very meaningful, tend to be things like arts education and cancer research, which is somewhat different than giving a relative a place to sleep).

            Anyway, cultural differences about giving, accepting, and even defining “charity” are REALLY interesting to me!

          • Liz

            This is true- and something Meg and I talk about all the time. We have wealthy friends around us who nod sympathetically, but don’t offer any help (not that they NEED to). But, the friends who have been there (or are STILL there) send money and gifts and giftcards for groceries. There’s something to be said for understanding and empathy rooted in experience.

        • meg

          Sniffle.

      • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

        I don’t want to put words in Liz’s mouth, but I’ve personally observed that the couples who can weather financial difficulty and grow closer are often the ones who hold to very similar views/values when it comes to money. I imagine it would make an already difficult situation much harder if you and your partner had radically different ideas about how to spend limited funds because you’d so often be fighting each other rather than the situation itself.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          My then-boyfriend was unemployed for 8 months, and I have to credit having very similar financial habits and priorities as helping. We were thankfully never poor – we had EI and my job and good savings. But because we were on the same page about money, we never fought about it. (Er, fine, once, but I blame jet lag, and it was just a bit of snippiness.) It took the edge off a shitty situation.

        • Liz

          This is a good point that I hadn’t considered! We both have very different backgrounds and flaws with handling money, but we have the same perspective of it. (ie: it’s nice to have, but not super important)

        • Maggie

          Agreed. My frequent unemployment over the past few years hasn’t been easy, emotionally or financially, but our frustration was directed at the situation, not each other… and we both had the same perspective on being broke and how to spend what we had.

      • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

        I don’t think it’s just luck. I think, maybe, just like any marriage that works, it’s a choice you both make again and again. To love this person despite the obstacles the world might throw at you.

        • Jessica

          I agree with you that making marriage work despite obstacles is a choice you make over and over. My husband and I have had many a fight about finances (not a lot of $$$ but lots ‘o bills and 12 months of unemployment for him + completely different financial upbringings) but we still make it a point to support each other and I really think it makes a difference.

          • ambi

            I keep going back to my parents. They had financial difficulty and money fights, and it was tough, but I always kind of got the sense that they viewed being poor together as a whole lot better than being poor alone . . .

    • http://www.verhext.com tamerajane

      Nooooo. Here’s what I was thinking while I read your post. This morning. Before my head exploded.

      You’re young and you have each other and you’ll look back on this shit and think “remember when I had to just eat one egg? That sucked!” Then you’ll go out and buy fancy cheese and spend too much on organic veggies and it will be ok. I have no doubt that you’ll make something amazing with your business and build lives that have a GREAT work life balance and enough spot cash money to tell Sallie Mae to shove it.

      You have educations, access to the internet, and a fierce spark of determination. You’re smart, and most importantly, you don’t seem to be AFRAID of money, which is part of what has kept my parents poor. And, you haven’t made little J go collect scrap copper yet, so there is that.

      It’s all uphill from here, kitten!

      • meg

        AGREED. SUPER AGREED AND SECONDED.

    • RJ

      Not at all too late to talk about money! As someone who has come back from credit card maxed out land, overdraft to max, to recently pay off a car, repay loan to parents, set money aside for bills I know what the journey back is like.

      What helped me when I was lowest (this is not necessarily for Liz, but for anyone else stuck at the bottom of the debt cave) was oddly enough, from Grey’s Anatomy.

      Richard Webber said “You can make your way back from anything” and I took inspiration in that.

      And sometimes the progress is slow and it doesn’t happen overnight, but having a plan really helps.

  • Tonya C.

    As someone who DOES NOT consider herself a feminist in any way, shape or form I loved this piece. My husband and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage later this year and it spoke to the early years of our union. We were young when we married (21 and 22). He was fresh out of college. Those years were lean, we had a young child (I brought him with me) and we were just trying to keep our heads above water. We even had those same freak outs! But as hard as it was, it shaped who we are as a unit today–which is extremely solid.

    Keep on keeping on. You and and your little clan will survive this and as a result anything else that may come your way!

    • meg

      Just for the record: the staff and Liz do consider themselves feminists (all of us). And we think there is nothing incompatible about staying home with your kids and believing in equal rights for women. I just want to make that TOTALLY clear!

      • Tonya C.

        Meg,

        I was just trying to take that out of this post, because this kinda turned into the focus. I just wanted to say how awesome it is that she could share this with us, because it probably helped a lot of others out there.

        • meg

          Amen!

  • sarahdipity

    This post made me think about how important community is in supporting a marriage, whether it be your close friends and family or a larger community. While a marriage can help us get through these tough times it really helps to have the support of a community. It made me think about how I spend my money, when I spend it. It helped reaffirm my decision to try to buy things form independent artists/businesses and to make sure that when I can I’m spending my money in places where I feel most comfortable. Liz is just an example of many people who are married and broke. If my buying cards from her, or someone like her, can really make a difference it’s at least something I can do.

    • Liz

      Exactly! The community. My BF always rolls his eyes when I volunteer to make a lasgana/have someone over for soup/pull a loaf of banana bread out of the freezer but I know what’s its like to stare into your fridge and cry. Or feel so completely alone because everyone else around you seems to be frolicking and perfect and wonderfully comfortable.

      I’m so happy when I can help others. I just wish I had more resources to help even more.

  • Liz

    Oh baby, this post was a little too close to some not-so-distant memories.

    I am lucky to have a good-enough job now but I spent 3+ going to school full-time and working 35 hours a week while completely supporting myself. Being broke is so. hard. SO. HARD. I wasn’t eating well and the low level stress just grinds at your stomach.

    I can see so clearly how it can erode your relationship and a lot of the fights that the BF and I had during that time probably could have been avoided if we weren’t so stressed out (oh, and living in a 250 sq ft apartment). Which is to say, it didn’t kill us and managed to make us stronger.

    Thanks, Liz, for reminding us that there is a way out and you can emerge with a stronger relationship.

  • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com Lauren

    I have been blessed not to struggle for money to this extent as an adult (and my heart goes out to you, Liz, for dealing with it with the grace and poise that you have!) But! As a kid, we were poooor. I should clarify- before I was 3, I had a full-time nanny and my mom had an extremely prestigious and high-paying sales job in DC. Then my dad left, and my mom cried so much that she got fired, and then she couldn’t pay the mortgage, and six months later, she was living in the basement of her parents’ house with me and my brother. We ended up living with my grandparents until I graduated from high school (which was amazing) but with my mom’s schoolteacher salary, money was still tight.

    When I think about being a kid, I remember the incredibly awesome fort-like room that my brother and I shared in the basement with sheets for walls, and I remember the glee with which we’d dig for pennies under the car seats to get a hamburger at McDonald’s, while my mom yelled from the front seat “We only need 11 more cents!” and the cashier at the take-out window rolled her eyes. We’d drive away laughing into our french fries.

    My point being- we were broke, but we were HAPPY. We were a family, and I know that even though my mom cried into her pillow every night after we went to sleep, and at times was terrified about how she was going to feed us, she looks back on that time as some of the best years of her life. We had each other, and while I’m a huge fan of having enough money to live the life you want, sometimes it’s the lack of it that lets you see what really matters.

    • Liz

      Thanks for sharing, Lauren.

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

      “We had each other, and while I’m a huge fan of having enough money to live the life you want, sometimes it’s the lack of it that lets you see what really matters.”

      I love this.

    • meg

      Aw man. And THIS is why values matter too (whatever they are for us in any given moment) not just paychecks and jobs and money.

    • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

      my mom used to hide library fines from my dad, because they weren’t in the budget. we didn’t have a/c, and spent hot summer days laying on damp towels under the ceiling fan. we didn’t play organized sports or have cable, but we were probably the happiest kids on the block. we had our mom home with us all day, every day. i wouldn’t trade that for anything.

      • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

        Damp towels under the ceiling fan?!? Now there’s a trick for the next few months . . . And here I was, just wetting my face and sticking it in the freezer.

        • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

          oh yeah! it works best in your underwear… with an ice cube melting on your belly. yeah, my mom is creative. :)

      • ambi

        Caitlin, are you my long lost sister?! We did ALL those things! And by the way, growing up without cable was a WONDERFUL gift – we played outside every day!

    • http://thecelebrationgirl.com Marcela

      Absolutely! I have similar memories, of looking for coins to get an icecream cone from the Mc Donald’s drive through and then eat in in our tiny fiat 600 dreaming of better days and cherishing what we did have: each other.

  • Kathleen M

    This week is great because it reaffirms that tough financial times can strengthen you individually and as a couple and that being financially well-off isn’t a prerequisite for a good marriage. When I first got engaged to my husband, who was at the time and still is collecting part-time jobs (and working very hard at them!), I was finishing up grad school and hadn’t found a job yet (I found one). My mom asked me if I was sure I wanted to get married if we were going to be broke- I told her I’d rather be broke together than be broke alone! She thought I was being romantic- I think I was being practical!

    • http://lillight.wordpress.com Jennifer Lyn

      I agree. This is practical! Husband and I always say that a bad day with our love is better than any day without.

  • http://greyandshiny.wordpress.com/ Nina

    This right here was the most eye-opening statement of this inspiring post:

    “This guilt nagging me, pestering me about my “irresponsibility” in not making timely payments was silly and unfounded. I would pay the bills if I could, but I can’t.”

    While I am fortunate not to have been in this difficult situation, this statement rang so true for me. Money or otherwise, there is something very liberating about letting yourself off the hook for something that, at that moment, is out of your control. Such a great reminder not to let money troubles, or other difficult situations, shame or define you. All you can do is fight an honest and good fight – and kudos to you for doing that and finding so much joy in your family along the way.

  • http://www.little-white-dress.com Alexandra

    An amazing story. The couple being strong together, the family and friends helping out, the attitude Liz takes toward the situation (and the wayward comments), is amazing and inspirational.

    Being broke and in a serious (engaged and living together) relationship has taught me so many things but most important is communication. It’s not easy but what in this life is?

    Side note: Bravo to Liz for choosing what is best for her and her family. THAT is feminism. That is empowerment and don’t let anyone take that away from you.

  • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com HeatherG

    Hey! I want to talk about money!!

    I want to comment on something that may be buried up there, but even if it is, it’s worth saying it again. As an almost psychologist (2 more months) who studies interpersonal relationships, I can say it is remarkable how this story is playing out. TRULY REMARKABLE. Financial stress is a leading cause of marital issues and all around dissatisfaction with life (and health issues, and mental health issues, etc., etc. etc.).

    To band together when all seems lost and to focus on your family is, I think, one of the most heartwarming things I’ve heard. It’s in the spirit of APW and totally in line with what I think marriage and nourishing our baby families (even with just one egg!) is all about.

    AND! Can we give a shout-out to developing new relationships with money?? Who hasn’t felt irresponsible about a bill? Who hasn’t felt so much shame over decisions we made? To work on our relationship with money so it doesn’t own us, or our marriage is also quite remarkable.

    Thank you, Liz, for sharing. This is what marriage is about!!

  • http://medeamaterial.com Jules

    Thank you for this post on how to overcome financial difficulties, and the lessons hard times teach us, but most importantly, how it is easier with someone at your side, watching out for you.
    Whenever I look back on the times I’ve been broke, I feel thankful. Because I had the opportunity to live life with much less, to discover that there’s pleasure and fun even when there isn’t a single penny in the bank, that I now can laugh at the time I took the wrong bus and then had to walk a really long way home in a downpour because I didn’t have money for that extra bus ride.
    I’m thankful for all that it taught me and that I know I can survive, live and things DO get better. But what stuck to me is how you tell of how your marriage has been vital to keeping up the spirits. Certainly I can say that I’m so much more thankful that now I have someone by my side to help me out and give me support and who also knows what it is like to not have money for the basics. Now we can protect each other and prepare for our future: whether there is money in it or not.

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  • http://www.abuttercreamwedding.com Sara C.

    “This guilt nagging me, pestering me about my “irresponsibility” in not making timely payments was silly and unfounded. I would pay the bills if I could, but I can’t.”

    Like Nina, I also found this to be a compelling. It’s heart wrenching that we are so ingrained with cultural norms that we would criticize ourselves as irresponsible when are plans fall through and money comes up short. Paying your debts on time has been imbued with a virtuousness to the point that missing a payment is a moral wrong. The same goes with staying out of debt completely. Motivational speakers have made fortunes convincing people that is Morally wrong to have debt, to miss a payment, and that any bad turn in life is their fault. But if anything, this post should indicate that we need to individually and as a society attempt to separate ourselves from the power that money has on our thoughts and judgments.

    Money is NOT morality. Period. We give it too much power over us and our thoughts & actions. Look at the posts – a common theme is: “we were broke and had no money, and then realized all the ways we were fulfilled as a family/person/partnership despite the fact we didn’t have money! (gasp!)” But, that is it. At the end of the day money is a tool and having it (or not) does not mean your a ‘good’ (or not) or even responsible (or not). It simply means that when all the factors in life combined, you simply got a couple more tools than someone else.

    Personally, I think we moralize and give money too much power out of fear. Deep down most of us know that we are really only one bad thing away from the point of crying when we open our fridges. (See Lauren’s comment above about her mom, think about what would happen if you broke your leg; had an accident and lost your eyesight; was accused of cheating at school and couldn’t graduate, etc.)

    We want it to be that person’s fault – that they made ‘bad’ decisions – that they are in financial distress. Because if it’s not their ‘fault’, then we’re afraid we might end up in the same position.

    • Liz

      That’s an interesting perspective.

      Today, someone was talking about a loan company threatening to arrest her for lack of payment (which, if I have my info right, isn’t possible and after recent banking law changes, is an illegal threat). Banks and lending companies really help to set that mindset in stone when a missed payment is a crime.

      • http://www.abuttercreamwedding.com Sara C.

        I’m in law school, so this is technically not legal advice. BUT there are laws that prevent harassment! Next time they call, tell your friend to inform them she knows what they are doing is illegal.

        Not paying your debts is not ILLEGAL. Thankfully, we as a society have done away with debtor’s prison.

        • Liz

          Thanks! Haha, my husband actually gets on the phone and says, “You’re violating Federal Trade Commission Guidelines….”

          • http://www.abuttercreamwedding.com Sara C.

            Haha – I like it!

      • http://meditatingontherain.wordpress.com Aine

        I’ve been hearing a lot of horror stories like this about banking practices (slacktivist keeps track of a lot of these things- this is just the latest: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/04/03/banks-behaving-badly-5/ )

        So many financial institutions are trying to get away with things like this, and the people who suffer are exactly the ones who feel guilty when they can’t pay bills.

    • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com HeatherG

      OH. I love this comment. Maybe it’s because I have struggled with money in the past? I don’t know, but I find this is so true. And yes, what do we get when we blame others for their money issues (or for any “issue” for that matter)? Some sort of piece of mind that we’re doing it right and thus we are safe, I suppose.

    • MEI

      So true. I work in the bankruptcy law field, and it’s remarkable to me the comments that are made about consumer debtors. This was especially exacerbated around the housing crisis and financial crash — think Rick Santelli yelling that he doesn’t want to pay for “losers” who ended up in shitty mortgage situations. I do a fair bit of work to explain to people how bankruptcy might or might not be a helpful tool for managing their debt — that as much as people on tv might be screaming at them that they were irresponsible, we actually have a whole section of our federal law that really does allow people who get in over their heads to start over — and I think one of the greatest moments for me is when someone realizes, “Hey, I’m not a bad person just because I have an overwhelming debt load.” It’s not only insanely common, but frequently is the result of an accidental circumstances, unseen medical needs, job loss, etc. I think once the stigma is shaken off, and people’s actual facts and stories can be told that defy the normative cultural narrative, we both humanize and normalize the situation for everyone (hello, the point of APW only for weddings instead of debt). So thank you so much, Liz, for telling your story.

      • lmba

        YES YES YES

        My MIL declared bankruptcy when her kids were young and IT WAS SO THE RIGHT CHOICE. I’m sure people looked down on her for declaring bankruptcy and being on welfare, but because of her willingness to do what it took to look after her family (despite being socially stigmatized), she was able to escape an abusive situation, erase her debts and be a great full-time single parent to three kids with no family to help out. (And contrary to popular belief, single parents on welfare are NOT living the high life… they are working f*ing hard to wrestle those few dollars into food and clothes for their children.)

        Credit card companies/student loan holders/banks/whoever are not God. You are not committing a mortal sin if you are unable to give them what you “owe” (which is often super inflated through unfair interest rates and penalties anyway). Do what you can, and then when you CAN’T ANYMORE, stop killing yourself over it!

    • meg

      I think this is why I found the initial comment on Liz’s choices so PAINFUL (false feminist “choices” aside). I think it’s really common to look at someone telling a really painful story about financial hardship, and to know deep down it could happen to us… and then to look for something to blame. “Hey! You chose to stay home with your kid! That’s so irresponsible that you had it coming! Also, it’s destroying feminism!” Instead of just admitting to ourselves that what we’re really thinking is, “There but for the grace of God go I” and “HOLY FUCK THAT’S SCARY.”

      Almost every time I’ve seen people talk about true financial hardship online, at some point in the conversation, someone has blamed them for “Making bad choices.” As someone who grew up around poverty, I find this particularly painful. Poverty is almost NEVER a choice, but it’s so much easier to see it that way when we have the winds of prosperity at our back.

      • Amy March

        Meg- please write more about this! Also why haven’t I read an op-ed by you in the Times?

      • kathleen

        yes yes yes YES. when we get bogged down in the little choices that end up in hard situations for another (whether it be money trouble, a nasty car accident, an ill child- whatever), it is a way to falsely secure and state why that would never happen to us. the honest truth is that we are all a moment away from tragedy (on in the case of this post, hard times), and no single moment or decision is responsible, and to think otherwise is to fool ourselves into the lie: “that would never happen to me.”

        • lmba

          Yep.
          So much judgment over financial issues springs from that deep-down terror that comes from knowing that we are never really “secure.” We pile on blame and point and say, “Look, you did ALL THESE THINGS WRONG and that’s why you’re in financial trouble! It’s TOTALLY YOUR FAULT and I would NEVER do that so therefore I WILL NEVER BE POOR.” It’s a way of giving ourselves a false sense of security rather than confront and deal with the root of the feelings. I have definitely had this kind of judgment (about more things than just money) and I am slowly trying to move out of that mindset and into one that recognizes the fear behind my reactions!!

          • Liz

            Um, DIVORCE? Right? I know that’s my first inclination when I hear about divorce. “Well, here’s what THEY did wrong and why it will NEVER HAPPEN TO ME.”

      • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

        THIS. EXACTLY.

  • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

    The guiding philosophy in our house is, what is the point of a bunch of money if you can’t enjoy your life? People sometimes smile on payday but not like they do when they’re surrounded by the people they love (ugh THERE’S some cheese).

    Unfortunately, as Liz showed here money is very, very real and can mean tough food and housing choices. I’m glad to hear that Liz and Josh had community support but most happy to hear they had each other. It also made me smile a bit to remember that the best parts of my cash strapped days are STILL the best parts of my days now.

  • http://onwardfulltilt.blogspot.com Caitlin

    whew, I think I need a drink after reading through all of these comments (my own fault for coming late to the party as it’s already 6pm on the east coast!).

    Liz, thank you for this. For sharing such a difficult time in your lives, for putting your experience out into the world and letting us in. This was a wonderful post. I’ve seen the word grace used above several times and it really is the best fit. Beautifully done. I’m happy to hear things are better now and I’m wishing you guys all the best (and wishing you dessert-at our most broke I remember just wanting to be able to get frozen yogurt on a summer’s night but knowing it was the least practical thing on the list of what to spend $10 on. It gets better. Your fro-yo, whatever it may be, awaits.)

  • http://foodlinesblog.wordpress.com/ Savannah

    Ok, so. This is ostensibly not a post about wedding planning, and yet, it is to me. Planning a wedding while constantly worrying about how we’ll pay next month’s rent is a surreal and unsettling feeling, and to have a place that acknowledges both weddings and money troubles is so, so valuable. So, thank you Liz, for writing this, and thank you APW, for being that kind helpful, sanity-upkeeping place.

  • http://themisterandmissus.blogspot.com Tiffany M.

    Such a great post that I needed to read RIGHT NOW.

    I am graduating (if finals go well) in May from nursing school. Apparently there is a nursing shortage in other places but not in my metroplex due to the huge number of nursing schools around and the big numbers of students coming out of them. Others have the option to go far and wide for a job, I am stuck here in Dallas because the hubby works here and we already signed a lease on our next place. I did have a job lined up, but with budget cuts (and the VAST number of graduating nurses from the last couple years) the position poofed this weekend. So now I’m hoping I can still get a job. And I’m. Freaking. Out. Because our lease is already signed and secured on our next place that is DOUBLE what we pay now, which wasn’t a problem before. And the hubby makes money to pay the bills now, but it will be tight when we move (and he works tons of overtime to pay the bills now, so if that changes… ugh).

    Liz, your story was encouraging to me because you are coming out of that time (and with a baby!) and I *may* be entering in to it. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.thesongsontheway.com Pamela

    I’m so broke and I know what you mean where your bills aren’t being paid… but it’s okay. You’re not homeless. You’re not a bad person. I’m so there. I understand. And I’m glad you understand. I just don’t worry about my credit. I don’t want it to be the worst in the world, and I try to pay bills, but I know that someday I’ll be able to pay it, and after 7 years things go off your credit, so once we finally get money and get stuff paid off, seven years later we’re good again. lol. You start to realize what you need and what you don’t need. I think having a broke period in life makes you a better person (hopefully) but everyone hopes it’s just a broke period, and not a broke life.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Holy crap comments today.

    But to the post, I think everyone should be poorer than dirt at some point in their life. It teaches you things you can’t learn effectively in any other form.

    • meg

      I could not agree more. It also strips you of the idea of what money is, and what it means, and how it gives you value in about three seconds flat. Bullshit money gives life value. Bullshit.

      • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

        I lived dirt poor as a part-time school teacher/full-time graduate student when I was single. I’m still of the mindset that I’m dirt poor and need to save every penny we can even though we’re doing alright now. Being poor taught me to be creative with my time, money, and all my resources. My poor tendencies make our life fun.

  • Beth

    Thank you, Liz, so much, for sharing your story. I found it inspiring and hopeful; My fiance and I are going through some major life transitions right now, and they’re scary, and ridiculously financially involved. I fear things: like not being able to make the rent, or afford gas (we both drive 45mins one way to work). And I just took a paycut. But that’s okay, because B and I have always found a way to make it work before, and we can do it again. I wish you and your family the very best of luck.

  • Hanna

    I’m currently in the finishing up my ed. degree phase and spent all day looking at jobs around the country. The midwest state I grew up in and love is getting the butt-end of the recession and staying here really isn’t a viable option. Reading about how it was okay to struggle and how you did make it past the worst was so uplifting to me. I’ve been in fear that I would take a job, move myself and boyfriend out of state only to fail and be stuck in a situation where I couldn’t support myself and to have no family or friends as a safety net.

    My mom always told me it’s okay to struggle – that she thought the early years of struggling with my dad helped bring them together. I guess in some ways I could put her situation in the 1980s and say that struggling in the 2010s was a completely different situation. Reading your story gave me hope. It showed me I could struggle today and everything might fall apart, but I can still not break. So thank you Liz, this really gave me hope.

  • ellabynight

    When I first read this post, I felt like I couldn’t relate at all because I’ve never really been poor. I’ve had periods in my life where money didn’t exactly flow freely, but coming from an upper middle class background has always provided me with an ample safety net. Because of that, I felt like I didn’t have anything to contribute to this conversation.

    However, after thinking about it, I realized that the year between my college graduation and my first real job, I was broke enough to be eligible for the state program that subsidizes healthcare for women whose incomes are below the poverty line. I have to admit that because I had a good safety net to fall back on–which meant a place to live and a fiance who made enough to cover the entire grocery bill–I didn’t *live* like my income was well below the poverty line. However, I was in a place where the government assistance was the difference between taking care of myself or letting my health go because I couldn’t afford it.

    Relying on a social program made me realize that not being able to afford basic standards of living doesn’t happen because you made bad choices, but because of a combination of “sh*t happens” bad luck and living in a system that is only meant to benefit the wealthy. Having a good, supportive community around you can be the difference between surviving and perishing. Also, anyone who can make it through rough periods like that deserves to come out on the other side with their family not only intact, but stronger for it. So, even though I thought I couldn’t possibly relate, I have to say, I was wrong, and kudos to you, Liz. You made the best of an awful situation and have come out all the stronger for it. I only hope that I can demonstrate that kind of forbearance, strength of character, and grace if I ever find myself in that type of situation in the future.

  • Claire

    I really want to thank Liz for having the courage to share this very personal story with the APW community and giving us all an example of how marriage and community can help sustain us through the dark times. Not to mention a model of grace and dignity under pressure.

  • Emily

    Liz, you are awesome, and I wish your family all the best. I have managed ok money wise so far in married life (somehow, my grad school stipend and my husband’s odd freelancing work saw us through). I just got a job right out of school which I’m excited about!, but at the same time, terrified. One of my first thoughts after getting the job was about what moving from Canada to the US meant – 6 weeks unpaid maternity leave, instead of the time I saw friends getting in Canada, when they had babies. I had to sit down and talk to my husband about how scared I was and why – the only thing that helped me was considering him taking a regular job with benefits, while I took time off. Reading your post reminded me that him finding a regular job with benefits… could be a lot harder than I imagined. Things may not go as we planned, in many ways. But it also reminded me that whatever happens, it will be ok, and we can get by with a lot less and still be happy. I’m glad to hear that things are better for you now – and thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures!

  • faith

    In my short experience with money in marriage, I’ve learned that if my husband and I don’t trust each other, we grow apart. We have to trust that each of us are doing the best we can with what we have. If we turn on each other it just brings us down. It comes back to us being a team. When I know he’s supporting me, I feel like I can do anything.

    Liz, I don’t think many people could speak of their serious financial problems with such clarity and optimism. I echo another commenter in saying that one day you’ll look back with fondness the years you spent broke. Can being broke be considered a gift?

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Liz, reading your post made me feel hopeful about making it in this economy with a brand new baby. It is scary and sometimes I have a melt down because I wonder how the heck are we going to afford to feed this new baby I just had. Thank you for sharing with us in such an intimate way :-)

  • Claire

    “This guilt nagging me, pestering me about my “irresponsibility” in not making timely payments was silly and unfounded.”

    That right there is serving as a much needed dose of shame blasting for me. Just last week my husband and I finally signed the papers to put his house up for sale. We’ve been resisting this move for YEARS because, realistically, it means that a short sale (or worse, a foreclosure) is in our near future. Just the idea of a short sale has triggered a wave of guilt and shame about failing with a big obligation, not keeping promises, and being perceived as financially irresponsible, etc. Logically, I know we need to short sale (for a host of complex reasons I won’t go into here), but emotionally it’s a process riddled with guilt and fear. So I’m keeping this post in mind as a reminder that even “smart” financial decisions can have unexpected negative consequences; we can face hard financial circumstances and that doesn’t make us bad people. Shame blasters activate!

    Oh, and thanks for the reminder that financial difficulty doesn’t have to tear a marriage apart. It’s sometimes so easy to take out that frustration on your partner or let the stress eat away at your intimacy. You seem to have strengthened your relationships through the hard times. Bravo.

  • Susanna

    Superlative post, Liz. For all interested in the feminism/motherhood/working/staying-at-home discussions, I highly reccommend reading The Second Shift by the wonderful Arlie Hochschild.

  • anon

    Thank you. Thank you for this post, thank you for being honest, thank you for being there. Your experience is one of my biggest fears, and if I’m being honest, it’s kept me from taking some chances and maybe even living my life to the fullest and kept my fiance and I from exploring the potential our marriage and lives could take together. But this post has chipped away a bit at my fear, and helped me to understand that I won’t DIE or the world won’t END if our financial foundation shakes. I have no other words but thank you.

  • Jessica

    These pieces have resonated with me so much. My other half and I are, after 5 years, just starting to combine finances in the most scary way, we are buying a house together (actually, its waay more complicated than that, but anyways). We have not run our own homes before (just student accomodation during university), and our plans to rent together got scuppered by me a) ditching my well-paid job which I hated for a low paid job I loved, then b) ditching low-paid job which I loved but wasn’t going anywhere to go back to university, so having been kindof living in his bedroom at his mum and dad’s we have got to move out because his sister is coming back from New Zealand with a Kiwi boyfriend and needs the room (his parents are saints). Having been poor as a child I never want to return to that, we have been blessed to be sheltered in our early twenties by parents who could spare us the room. We have been able to afford things we couldn’t otherwise have done. But if I can’t get a job when I qualify as a social worker in July, I’m not sure what we’re going to do for money. Its going to be a big test for our relationship either way. But we feel ready for it.

  • http://www.mywedding.com/queerhinduvintage/ Jenni

    Your post brings back so many memories of being young, broke, and home with my baby. It was a frightening but exhilarating time. Now my son is 8 and I work full-time. I still look back on those days with so much love. I tell him about nursing him all day, carrying him around in a sling, and staring into his eyes for hours. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything!!

  • http://www.natalieromano.com Natalie

    Thank you for your bravery in sharing these thoughts. I’m getting married in June after a year-long engagement. I have spent these twelve months obsessing over the ‘what-ifs’ of marriage and financial security. But you know what? I’ve kind of seen along the way that there’s no perfect time for anything, and this post reaffirms that.

    My mom taught me this, and I’m grateful for it. ‘Don’t wait until you have *quote* enough money to have a baby. If you wait for that day, it’ll never come. Money and finances and day-to-day financial issues will always be present in life, and in a marriage. There is no perfect time. Children are a blessing. You will make it, because you just will. And you have to believe that firmly in your heart. As long as you believe you’ll make it, and you are devoted to your marriage emotionally and with your whole heart, you will survive.’

    This post made me sob at my desk at work. I think it’s because I have such anxiety about being a failure in my marriage, and in my life because I don’t have ‘a full-time job.’ I work 2 part time librarian jobs (just finished my Master’s) and I’m barely making it.

    Congratulations on your beautiful family. Your son is very cute!

  • http://www.natalieromano.com Natalie

    Haha—I just read this AGAIN after freaking out about another job rejection after one full year of applying for jobs. I feel humiliated, demoralized, and I’m pretty sure my fiance is ready to kill me! (not literally, but I do freak out about job applications a lot, and I think he’s sick of my emotional instability about my employment situation.)

    Thank you, again, for your thoughtful and courageous post. I love your Etsy shop! and I wish you and your family much joy and success. I hope all is well.

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