As a SAHM, sometimes I need a little motivation for monotonous work like folding laundry, doing dishes, or…peeling potatoes. Today, I had a happy little discovery that my new stackable wire storage bin, which I bought for holding potatoes or apples in, also doubles as a laptop holder. Woohoo! Now I can watch some youtube organization videos and fix potato soup! And when I’m needing a recipe online while I cook in the kitchen, I’ve got a handy upraised (read: spill-safe) spot for the computer! Now I’m “peelin’ perdy thmart!” It’s the little things that make me smile! What’s adding a bit of bliss to your day today?
Well, my husband and I found out a lot about ourselves and our spending habits by being extra intentional with our spending. We started out strong, using no credit at all, finishing up gift cards and paying cash (including change I found in the car and piggy bank) or going without. Then, after week one, I found out my hubby had used the credit card. Bum-bum-bummmmm! He bought a computer cord replacement. That kinda irked me. I didn’t see it as a necessity. We have two laptops, one “his” and one “mine.” We could have been ok using only one for a few more weeks. I’m all or nothing, right? If we’re doing a no credit challenge, let’s do this thing!! So my bubble popped a little there. However, something positive did occur in that we had to communicate about our expectations of the month a little better, and then hubs had a few “wait lists” for the upcoming months put on Amazon for things we’d like to get, and wanted to plan ahead for, instead of instantaneously ordering.
Yep, we discovered he and I define necessary spending quite differently. We could have kept up the beans and rice dealio…but my hubby requested that we use credit for “necessities” like food. He meant the particular food he wanted, which I saw as not really a necessity. But I value him more than a personal goal, so I got what he wanted, and we used the credit card.
Aaaand, since we had caved and used the credit card, and there was meat on sale, I went ahead and stocked up a little bit to put in our deep freeze. So that was also not just buying the bare minimum. But in the long run, I guess we do save money, because I got $5 off each on a few hams. So we’ll have that for Easter. And there was a fundraising opportunity for an adoption and something else I really believed in so we gave some money for those things as well. We did turn down a birthday party invite (but managed to find a gift to give later on super sale and bought with gift card money) because the venue costed. (And also, my kids don’t yet know how to swim, as the party was for an older kid at a YMCA; I was worn out anyways and didn’t feel like trying to keep two kids 5 and under above water on my own).
Anyhow, my conclusion is that if you know you actually have money to pay for stuff, it’s rather easy to not be uber frugal. I was a little disappointed in how the thing went, but it was good to use up those gift cards and loose change and in general spend a lot less, putting savings towards kids’ school and other important things. We’re not as hardcore as I’d hoped. Oh well. Do you have an awesome no-spend success story to share?
My 5 yr. old son asked for another piece of pizza, a rare treat at our place since I am gluten-free and don’t usually have the energy to make it myself and avoid certain ingredients for my healthy eating standards. He was so happy when I said sure…but when I gave it to him, he kind of stared at the piece and started to zone out as his face fell a little.
I asked him, “What’s wrong, hon?” But I could have guessed. You see, the pizza crust was not big enough for him to hold without getting sauce on his fingers. The sauce went too far up. And as much as he loves pizza, his desire to avoid that messy feeling is greater. He knows he can wipe his hands on a napkin or wash his hands later, but he can’t do it.
I found myself thinking, Wow. He didn’t throw a fit! He didn’t meltdown over it today! He didn’t cry or get angry! That looks like progress to me! And it is. We’ve been working with him a lot about his responses. To be frank, a lot has to do with me not getting upset with his particularities, which was hard at first because I grew up in a family where you weren’t allowed to be “picky.” Then I married a “picky” person…but I see it’s not always about pickiness. It can be about texture. It can be about how tastes hit a person’s brain. My son got a lot of the way his brain works from his dad. They can’t deal with some fabrics (my husband won’t wear “scratchy” wool sweaters, or cotton sweaters that aren’t soft enough). Not only are some things like that a turn-off or irritating, it can just plain overwhelm them, because of how their brains magnify, misinterpret, or translate a sensation. I can see now they’re not “spoiled” or “bratty” because they choose not to flood their brains with highly unpleasant feedback.
The fact that my son got a little sad about not feeling like he could enjoy the pizza he was anticipating so much makes me want to figure out ways to help him cope with his SPD more. Because sometimes, you can’t change the way things are. But in this case, it was an easy fix because the pizza was thin crust, and I just folded it over onto itself so the back of the pizza could be more of a crust, and that worked for him. No messy fingers. I guess another solution could have been cutting it up and eating it with a fork, which he has done in the past, but whatever the issue, the triumph was that he remained calm and went on to enjoy his pizza.
Another instance of SPD showing occurred when he needed new shoes. I got him some cute ones that only needed to be zipped (because he is also kind of OCD and if the shoes have velcro, he takes forever aligning the velcro just right…more than one strap? You’ll be waiting a while) and was thrilled when he put them on, ran and hopped around, and wore them to school the next day.
After a day of school, however, with all the movements an active 5 yr. old does, he informed me they felt bumpy at the top when he knelt. So brand new shoes that I can’t return now? Tah-tah. And today, I can be okay with that. (And also thankful I mostly only buy things on sale or second-hand). Previously, I would have gotten mad that I went through the trouble to find the shoes, spent the money, and he didn’t like them after all. Life is better when I accept his issues and treat him with dignity instead of trying to fit him into my idea of the way things should be. I would want somebody to do the same for me. My husband does not get mad or rant or resent me (though it may exhaust him) when I get stuck in anxious mode and he has to hear all about my fears knowing he can’t fix me. He makes life better for me by hearing me, understanding it’s hard for me, and loving me unconditionally. I want to do that for my son.
I sometimes see my son trying to mask his SPD reactions. When we were looking for shoes another occasion, he tried to use logic to reason his way into a new pair of Paw Patrol light-up shoes. They looked perfect! But the first thing he said when he tried them on before I asked or anything was, “hmm, I feel a bump on the bottom.” Then seeing my face, and knowing I would not get them if he had a complaint, he immediately tried to reason it away, saying, “BUT I think they’ll be fine after I wear them a little while and get used to them!” Experience has taught me that if it’s annoying initially, that’ll always be the case. There were tears shed over those Paw Patrol shoes, but I wouldn’t budge.
Similarly, his little sister got some brand new PINK tennis shoes after searching many stores. They were NIKE! (We were given a gift card to the store). She LOVES pink! She tried them on. She danced around! She was so happy. She WANTED them to work! But when it came down to it, she couldn’t stand them for longer than a minute every time we tried them on after that. She’d put them on, then get stuck like glue with her bottom on the floor, not being able to get up and walk in them. It’s like her brain just shut down with them on her feet.
I am not very patient when we’re getting ready to go and people don’t have their shoes on when I asked 15 minutes earlier. A 20 minute delay really irks me. One day she tried on 3 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of shoes, and we were so late. I definitely returned the pink shoes. I was disappointed because of the amount of effort searching, and feeling exhausted and dreading that now another kid is manifesting some real SPD stuff. (It’s SO draining for me to figure out how to do life with SPD! And not just one kid’s particularities! But two…If you add in their dad’s preferences, three sensory processing packages! I guess it is draining to HAVE the SPD oneself, though, eh?!) But I was SO GLAD I know it’s just not worth it to try to MAKE something work that just isn’t going to work.
Like the pretty dress I’d bought when she was a baby, waiting for her to fit into it. It was a perfect Easter dress!
She would not wear it. She wanted to! She put it on, excited to dance and spin in it…But it was “too scratchy,” and she freaked out and cried until she got it off. Just like when she put on the brand new shirt with a seam across the chest (which I also had bought in advance. I think I have learned my lesson. “Saving money” buying things when they’re a good deal doesn’t always save money. I am also glad I can let things go by embracing minimalism and saying if it doesn’t work for me, we can pass it on, no problem. Why waste my emotional energy on it, looking at it and feeling bothered it was supposed to work but didn’t?!)
Anyhow, that’s just a glimpse of some examples of everyday issues that crop up with family members with SPD. There are more, believe me…there are more. But I can say that with a smile. Life is not over; it is just more interesting.
Finding joy as a mother has been a long journey for me. Yes, there was the instant joy and love during the bonding phase with each of my children as newborns. After that, however, I really struggled with the realities of life as a mother…
Mainly, the lack of sleep. Lots of anxiety. The postpartum depression. The moving (we lived in 5 different homes since my now-preK aged son was born). Probably a lot of hormonal stuff after the first that I didn’t catch onto, but definitely after my second child to a degree we couldn’t ignore anymore.
I was surviving, fueled by love and God’s mercies, but I was hanging on by a thread. I am honestly amazed my marriage survived the past 4 years, because it was so tough on not only me but also my husband. Looking back, I see there were the many, many heartwarming, good times. But the overall feeling of the last 4 years for me has often been sheer exhaustion. I say this a little hesitantly because I don’t want people considering having kids to have fear, or to avoid it because of the possibility of struggles. I do, however, think it’s important for those who are willing to share to be open about that sort of thing, because awareness is key to navigating issues. I would not have realized what postpartum depression looked like (and how it can look so different for so many people) if women did not publicly share their stories, and it could have turned out much more seriously than it did, because I finally realized what was going on when my youngest was over a year old through random articles about PPD online.
I really had to fight through daily and weekly struggles, mainly my health struggles (mental/emotional, chronic fatigue, hormone/cycle related PMDD) and then my son’s sensory-processing issues (now my daughter as well), which made for intense times almost nonstop throughout the day. One of the light spots I remember during the darkest parts of this time was that I took a ton of photos and videos of the cutest moments whenever I was able that, later on at the end of each week, I’d review late at night after the kids finally went to bed, that made me smile.
(I am so thankful for how our neurochemistry works. That activity may be one of the key positive habits helping me make it through the darker periods of postpartum. If you like neurochemistry/psychology type stuff, check out http://www.pnas.org/content/114/9/2361.abstract . Basically, the amygdala, or the part of the brain responsible for social behavior, motivation and emotions, of mothers produces dopamine, which creates pleasure or rewarding sensations, when they view images of their children. Although they wore me out, my kids existence also motivated me to keep going.)
All that to say, my youngest is almost 4 now, and it’s only really been in the past year that life has been on the sunny side most of the time. My husband and I have grown in so many ways and changed how we do things, finding healthier ways to cope with stress. We’ve in general altered our lifestyle, especially food-wise, to promote our familial well-being.
So, to get to the main theme I was aiming at when I began typing…Finding joy in motherhood has been a long journey for me. On the days when I did not, or occasionally still, do not have the natural energetic enthusiasm to actively engage positively with my kids, sometimes choosing to do so regardless of how I feel is the best thing to create an environment of contentment and delight. Not just for them, either. Intentionally involving myself in my busy little people’s worlds can be difficult when my mind is preoccupied by you-name-it…But it’s the BEST way to spark joy. Because I was MADE for this.
(Let me clarify: I have a ton of potential I could invest anywhere I want. Got the degrees, got a lot of interests, talents and dreams. I am not limited to my home. [Hello, women’s rights movement? All things are permissible for me…But I don’t personally find them all beneficial.] Yet right now, I am mainly focused at home. This is the work I want to do, building my kids’ safe haven and our family’s HQ. I am choosing my family to invest into during this season of my life, when the foundations of my kids’ lives are being laid. And I find I am most fulfilled and healthy when I am whole-heartedly committed to my calling. I’ve known what I want to do since I was little, pretending to be a wife and mommy as early as I can remember, putting on my mom’s high heels, and directing the neighborhood kids in activities. [Some may call me bossy…I like to say I just have the skills of an administrator.])
Joy shows up when I am an active, caring participant in the lives of my family members. You know what I despise? Frigid temperatures. A cold nose and fingers and toes. (Also, being hot makes me feel grumpy, but that’s a bunny trail…). Know what else stresses me out like mad? The fact that getting winter gear on my daughter is a long battle filled with howling in pain (at least, her senses are telling her that she’s in pain) over “bumpy stuff” in her gloves, endless pairs of socks and boots. (We turn the socks inside out and have some other coping strategies, but I’m so emotionally exhausted after each session).
But you know what my son in particular loves? Playing in the snow. So I had to ask, what was more important? Me feeling comfortable, inside and warm folding laundry? Lack of stress interacting with my daughter (who, generally speaking, is the more cuddly, happy child)? Or my son’s heart? Him feeling valued, too, even though his temperament is often intense, needing lots of direction and correction to keep him calm rather than reacting with eruptions of anger or other meltdowns.
So I had a choice. I could base my success as a homemaker on my productivity–getting the laundry done (finally off the couch!). Or I could find meaning in my calling, using my gifts of creativity and sensitivity to care for and encourage those in my life as I am strengthened by the unconditional love of my Creator.
It’s not easy to choose what doesn’t always feel easy. I’m thankful for snowboarding pants to keep me from turning into a popsicle, and a seriously poofy winter coat and sturdy boots to hold me over for a good 45 minutes of outdoor winter playtime. I steeled my jaw to face the cold, hopped into the car with a couple of ladles, and we went on a mission for fun.
“Mom! What are you doing with the soup thingies?” My three year old asked me. I chuckled mischievously and said mysteriously, “You’ll see, babe…Wait and see.” And in a few minutes, my kids’ eyes sparkled. You see, intentional moms are magical creatures in the eyes of their children. You know what really makes us magical, though? Seeing that sparkle in their eyes and knowing we put it there.
Turns out ladles make some pretty spectacular snowball-scoopers and are just right for carving out snow-caves in snow mounds the plows made out of a parking lot of a mere 1.5″ snowfall.
This week while grabbing more veggies and milk at Target (which doesn’t have the best deals–I prefer Aldi– but that’s where we had a gift card to, and Ibotta* gives back a little) I conversed a bit with the cashier. She thought my little girl was cute, and thankfully Threenager didn’t give her a stinkface and prove her wrong (this time).
The cashier mentioned she was new there. I said I hope she enjoys her job, and as she lifted the heavy milk jug up to hand me, I noted aloud that it included the perk of a workout. She said yeah, it’s nice, and she needs it because before that she was a stay-at-home-mom for 8 years. I interjected, “Oh, that’s what I do.” To which she replied, “It really sucks!” I paused, not sure if she meant not working out when she stayed at home, or if she was saying my profession sucks, so I asked, “Oh? What does?” “Staying at home!” She exclaimed, giving me knowing eyes and nodding her head. “It’s so boring! I didn’t get to see my friends or get out and do things!” And she had a bit more to say before I paid and left.
It seemed like she just needed to talk. So I didn’t say what I was thinking, that being a Stay-At-Home-Mom can be hard. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. I have never struggled so much as I have as a mother trying to balance house duties and keeping little people alive 24-7, with hardly a moment off. I’ve been a “Messy” the first 30 years of my life, totally disorganized, and I’m not really a great cook. I was confident with caring for other people’s kids, but mine have been harder to figure out. Yet, things are improving, and this is the most meaningful thing I have invested into. I wouldn’t trade my job for any other.
And, because it would have been totally rude, I also didn’t say the saying that popped into my mind that my momma would say about the word “boring.” It goes, Only boring people get bored. I’d personally modify it to say that being bored is simply the result of a sleeping imagination.
So my heart went away sad. Sad that she was utterly discontent during those 8 years. Sad that perhaps her children hear her saying it was torture to stay at home with them. Sad that this was how my profession was being represented to a public that, generally speaking, also looks down on staying at home.
I wish that she had known how to thrive in it. Admittedly, I am still learning more about that. But I know that I do NOT think my job sucks. As for her complaints, I think there were solutions to them. The thing is, as SAHMs, complaining to the manager is…complaining to ourselves. And a wise manager can fix the issues rather than let them pile up into a big mess of get-me-outta-here.
News flash. SAHMs can have an exercise routine. A lot of gyms have childcare available. I personally use youtube videos as my workout routine since I don’t have gym membership (and don’t want one). I like Cocolime Fitness, Lucy Wyndham-Read, and Jessica Smith TV channels and videos because they are good for chronic fatigue and don’t wipe me out like the higher intensity ones would.
Being a homemaker doesn’t have to be lonely, because you can find your tribe and make your own schedule, which can and should include socializing with others who share your interests. Play dates can start by exchanging contact info with a mom and meeting up the next week at Chick-fil-a on a rainy day, and progress to the home atmosphere later on. It may not be the drinks-after-work some career women are used to, but it’s socializing. You find time for what is important to you, and if working out and friend time is important, you make it happen.
I recently read or heard that people who had life-altering injuries were followed-up with a year after their injuries to find they had returned to their former baseline happiness levels. (Which also made me think of how people who win the lottery are often much more miserable afterwards, and wish they had not won the lottery. Maybe an unmet expectations issue?) Basically, the point is that eventually, after life changes we return (or decline) to whatever level of contentment we maintain now. So my mind questions whether this new cashier job will fix the lonely cashier’s happy-o-meter.
Next time, I might be grocery shopping with a fussy kid. I might be a frustrated momma, even. But I hope even in the least ideal of circumstances, I aim to represent my profession well. I can remind myself what matters–caring for these little people, creating a loving home, and being fulfilled in a life I am choosing.
(P.S. If you are unfamiliar with Ibotta, it’s an easier way to coupon, in a smart phone app, by simply selecting items you are going to buy from whatever store you’re going to get in advance, then scanning or photographing the receipt after you’ve purchased the items of your selection. There’s even a way to link store loyalty cards. I forget to use physical paper coupons usually, but taking a minute to scan a receipt after the hubub of the store checkout line is much easier and doable for me! Here’s a link for you to get started saving if you’re interested, and you should get a bonus for joining, maybe $10 or so. After you have saved $20 you can cash out. https://ibotta.com/r/tiasrax )
After a search for podcasts online about ways to successfully save money to “get in the zone” and distract/motivate me as I folded laundry, I discovered a lot of people do a no-spend challenge. (Which, in actuality, really means no impulse buys, because people still need to buy food to eat, in most cases, for those of us who are not farmers with a food cellar stocked up.) Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast by a financial advisor, Amanda Abella,* in which she mentions that after noticing some larger spending, she wanted to practice going without just to start building into savings more again. One thing she pointed out that is so true is how shopping venues have really made it easy for you to spend mindlessly, for example, the Amazon One-Click order button. Your credit info is already in there, and you “need” something? Want it? Get it! To delay gratification isn’t really something happening in this day and age. (So her advice was getting rid of the Amazon One-Click, unsubscribe to seller adverts in your inbox, and lose the store cards.)
Well, as Amazon Prime members ourselves, with “free shipping!” so enticingly easy, we had been in the habit of ordering something as we thought we needed it; for me, this was because I was so forgetful when I went shopping, and usually distracted by two kids. It was easy to just remember while near a computer, and click away until we had acquired whatever we had forgotten at the store. And why delay when you can get it in two days? So, a week into our no-credit month, my husband and I found ourselves having several conversations about “needs” and “wants”. And I had a couple of chuckles at the fact that my husband, who generally looks at me as the “spender” in the family, and himself as the “saver” with few wants, was the one mentioning stuff to buy more frequently than I was! I had to remind him that he’ll have to wait for next month. So he has a growing wish list for February. Thank you, no-credit-month challenge, for building my credibility again in his eyes as someone not ruled by impulse. *smug smirk*
Somewhat irksome to him, but not regrettable to me, is that I recently gave to a homeless drive the long johns he used to wear snowboarding, but didn’t plan to use again anytime soon, and hadn’t used in several years. Although a cold snap arrived making him want them again, I do not feel badly for having gotten rid of them because of the fact that arriving at the point where I can part with stuff was a big milestone for me. (And another chuckle might have slipped out because he’s the one saying we have too much stuff, and wanted us to be minimalists. We had a conversation and he agreed the thermal unders could go.) But now that he found himself wanting them again, well…Guess we’ll put them on the wish list.
The cool thing about grocery shopping without credit has been that money has turned up…change in the car amounting to enough with the money a friend paid me for something to get just what we need, within 25 cents of what I had in total going through the checkout. Then, I found a bag of flour sack towels that I needed to return to Walmart because they weren’t nice enough to embroider as gifts as I’d intended (with unsightly fiber runs in them), which provided another $8.50 that I’ll be able to use for veggies or whatnot next time we need them. Which is probably today. There’s another something I can return to a store to get about $12, which makes me feel pretty confident that although we need sour cream (to go in the potato soup I plan to make with the pocket change potatoes I got at Aldi), eggs, carrots, cheddar, and greens, we’ll be able to get all that without feeling majorly deprived this month.
I’ve been using what’s in my freezer, which is awesome, instead of just refilling it atop what’s already in there. So for fruit, after our apples run out, we’ll be using up the pear slices and pear sauce my mom gave me from their trees. I “roasted” the two organic super-sale chickens in my big crock pot to debone, make broth, and use the meat this month. That turned out really tasty and I will be looking for more sale chickens next month to restock the freezer with. Then we’ve been having a variety of dried bean dishes (thanks, instant pot, for making those not seem intimidating!) like white chicken chili and beefy chili. Perfect for extra-chilly weather. I made fried rice with frozen veggies and some uncured bacon we had in our freezer (because I bought a few on sale b1g1 last month). That was a hit, for sure. We love bacon! I’d already had some ham cubed and frozen from Thanksgiving as well a turkey meat, for a variety of other dishes with those. I am finding I’m actually a better meal planner and cook when there is less in my fridge and freezer to work with, ironically.
So that’s recap of week one. I don’t think we’ll feel deprived this week either, because on my husband’s day off we’ll be using a gift card we got for our anniversary to go to a restaurant with the kids. We’ll definitely have to make sure we stay under the amount on the card enough to include tip, because we’re out of cash! So I’m guessing we’ll skip drinks and go with water, no real biggie.
Have you ever had to or wanted to pinch pennies? What were some tips that worked well for you?
*P.S. This podcaster had some good insights, but I should mention that earbuds are necessary if you look her up as some words she uses are not for little ears, IMO. In our home we try to limit screen time, so when my kids watch their Octonauts or Little Einsteins show, I do a podcast or youtube with my earbuds in. Nobody’s being ignored or needing attention that way.
As I take down and prepare to recycle our 8-year old, pre-lit, 4 ft. Christmas tree that slowly dwindled down to having only 1/5th of the lights working, I start to think about how I might miss out on the after-Christmas sales, where I was hoping to snag a replacement. They’re probably all sold out by now! I worry. (Did I mention how I am an expert? At least at worrying. I’m trying to lose that credential lately.) Even if they weren’t, I spent the cash, mostly piggy bank quarters, on groceries and now we’re not using credit this month! I think, defeated.
Then I catch myself and say, as it is a new year, how about a shift in thinking? I am determining to stay on the sunny side of life this year. The past several years were way too wearing on me, full of anxiety and more often than I’d like to admit, negativity (which grows easily when you’re chronically fatigued), and I’m ready for an improved point of view. (And hormone health…but that’s for another post!)
My January goal, as mentioned earlier, is not using credit. After December and gift buying, mostly on Amazon (where Discover offered 5% cash back on purchases!!), my husband showed me our mint info…and there was a lot of red. Actually, in more than just December. Because we don’t buy what we can’t afford, I didn’t think of it as a problem. I’m the acquisitions expert in the family. (Read: shopper extraordinaire). We had money in savings. I discussed everything beforehand with my financial partner, my handsome hubs. But with over half the year drawing from it (mostly for medical bills and health efforts like buying organic and gluten free foods), maybe it’s time to scale back in other ways? So, thought-pattern shifting time!
I don’t really do things half-heartedly. I’m kind of all or nothing. So when my husband suggested we be careful the next few months and try to save, I got curious. What if we didn’t use credit AT ALL this month?! (With the exception of buying gas, which Discover offers 5% cash back on, again…that’s making money, you know)?! How much could we save then? The possibility was rather exciting.
The goals? Save for our kids’ next year at a private school, be able to afford plane tickets to visit my brother on the other side of the US, and budget for a dog (wasn’t that like $1,000 a year including vet bills?).
So, no impulse buys this month. Empty our pantry. Get creative with meals, only use gift cards ($40 to Target, $25 to Amazon, and the rest of our cash, which was about $20 in bills, and $10 in coins) to restock the empty fridge with fresh milk, fruit and veggies for the kids after returning from Christmas vacation. Put all “wants” on a list for next month. I got this. So I think.
P.S. Back to the Christmas Tree…I changed my thinking to more outside the box. I’ve always wanted a little 2-3 ft. live one that come in cute little pots at Lowes! So that’s my plan. Next year, we’ll have a tree/bush to plant outside after adding some live greenery to our home. No artificial one in storage(we don’t really have storage spaces in our home) for me! How’s that for a step towards minimalism? I should pat myself on the back for that triumph out of decor-tragedy!