I always become a bit melancholy around Mother’s Day. There’s a lot of strong emotion around mothers, whether you have one (or not), whether you are one (or not) and basically just all of the personal experiences we have related to the phenomenon of motherhood.
Interestingly enough, I can relate a number of my stories surrounding motherhood to personal finance. Revealing these facets helps to explain, in part, why I am where I am today in my debt journey.
Excuse me, while I go and grab a box of kleenex.
My Second Mum
She wasn’t really my second Mum, but it sure felt like it. You see, I was blessed with not only my own mother, but a wonderful relationship with my aunt. She was a only a couple of years younger than my Mum, but she acted like our hip Auntie and spoiled us like a generous grandmother. As she never married or had children of her own, we received all the benefit and love that her mothering instincts desired, and then some.
I paid my way through university, as I had the benefit of coop work terms every four months throughout my 5 year degree. However, usually near the end of the school term, cash was getting low for me and my aunt would always seek out in our weekly phone calls the state of my bank account. She was very generous to send a cheque for several hundred dollars to tide me over until I started my next coop work term. No repayment was expected. I was always very thankful for this cash relief as I was trying to finish up my exams and did not want to be distracted by my growling tummy.
Fast forward well past graduation, past my first apartment which I furnished after living at home for a year and saving, on to buying my first home. For some reason the elderly couple I bought from wanted to leave the microwave, which I didn’t need, but took anyways – it was a little bigger than the one I had in my apartment. I offered the one from my apartment to my aunt, and to this day I do not understand why or what got into me to suggest what I said next.
I said that she could pay me $50 (or some such amount) for the microwave, as she didn’t have one and wanted to get one. Well this did not sit well with her, and she became rather withdrawn. Initially, I did not clue into my faux pas. I thought it was actually a pretty good deal (in those days) – it was still fairly new and nice and compact for her condo. Well her sullenness lasted for days until we had a heart-to-heart and she explained how hurt she was after all she did for me when I was in university. Many years had passed since that time, and I had let my busy, selfish, determined self get in the way of seeing the big picture. She had always been so generous and kind to us, and I let that blind me so that it never entered my purview when I made that stupid, ridiculous request. I cried a lot and told her how sorry I was. Of course, we made up instantly, but I have always harboured great guilt over that incident. I loved her dearly, and still miss her like crazy, even though she’s been gone for 15 years.
Suddenly, I’m a Mother
In my late twenties, after a series of some quite long and some shorter relationships, I met a man through a mutual friend. It was a blind date, which I openly confess I only went on because I suspected he might have some single friends. He was a widower with three young children, and I felt assured that he would not meet my criteria, which included having my own children. Well, you know what they say, you find love in all the unsuspected places.
The great part about our relationship, from the beginning, was that he was looking for a wife, not a mother for his kids. They had been managing on their own as a family for 3 years. I was able to slide in with no expectations put on me, which, in all honestly, made me want to assume my new role as Mum, which I did.
Within a year, we had a fourth child. Life was busy but fun. We worked hard and played hard. I loved buying things for my kids, taking them to movies or out for a meal. We had holidays in Florida 3 summers in a row! Life was grand and I loved it and my family!!
Christmas was so exciting – I learned all the tricks of the trade from my aunt. I would plan out our Christmas purchases of toys and clothes, often buying one more thing right up to Christmas eve. Of course, then I had to buy 3 more things, always making sure the appearance and spending was balanced amongst all four kids. I wouldn’t change a thing about those early years!
Life Takes a Turn -> Impact on the Maternal Breadwinner
In the mid-nineties my husband was laid off from his job after a series of Corporate restructurings. Even though we had some indication the cuts were continuing, it still comes as a bit of a shock. Even, when employed, my salary was always higher than his, but it did not mean anything to me. I always felt we fed from the communal trough.
He decided to pursue a different career path, working for himself instead of seeking another full-time position. I won’t go into the details and ups and downs of this avenue, but I know it has had a significant effect on my psyche, having been the primary breadwinner of the family for the last 20 years.
I was always a high achiever, high performer, but with the added stress to keep my position, salary and benefits for the sake of the family, I felt an overwhelming burden. I was no longer a loving wife and a fun mother. I was providing for my family, and I had better not screw anything up. I would work long hours, to ensure my position was always secure.
The stress and pressure could always be relieved by “I deserve” purchases while out shopping, holidays with the family or get-a-ways on our own. Since I was bearing, what felt to me, this great burden, I left The Irishman to manage things more on the homefront, including managing the finances. I worked with a computer and numbers all day, why would I want and why should I do this in my badly needed decompression time?
Mum Goes on a Trip with Nana but Ignores the $igns
Life goes on. The children start to become teenagers and we try to roll with the punches. My dear aunt passes away from cancer at age 64. YOLO ensues. Money is used as a de-stressor. We have enough on our plate.
I decide to take my youngest on a trip to Ireland with my Mum, for her 14 birthday. Exciting times! We are so looking forward to seeing family and I’m ecstatic to show her around the Ireland I’ve come to know and love. I go to pick up the rental car at the airport and my credit card is declined. I manage to contact my husband who calls the bank, something about a lost payment or other.
Mum Misses Nana and Auntie, so YOLO Continues
Youngest daughter develops severe OCD. Life continues to be stressful. We don’t spend willy nilly, but we don’t hold back either.
Mum passes away suddenly almost a year from when we left on our trip to Ireland. Life becomes almost unbearable. So thankful that we did that trip together. Wonderful memories. YOLO continues.
Mum Quits Making Excuses and Gets on the Bandwagon
I wouldn’t have done it, if I didn’t have to, but after a series of ‘signs’ that I chose to ignore, I finally got the big sign that I could no longer hide from. I can’t even remember what it was, probably another credit card decline. It’s not important now. Mum has to either face the music and commit to supporting her husband and family to get out of this mess or have herself committed. I chose door #1.
Mum is Now a Grandma
Most importantly, I want to help my children be good money managers. I feel I’ve let them down in this regard. But it’s been said before that guilt is a wasted emotion. One of my favourite PF blogs has given me the fortitude to face it.
If you are at all touched by this post, you should go check this out too ~ Mea Culpa @ The Pursuit of Riches.
I have forgiven my husband. Now it’s time to forgive myself.
Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, Aunties, Mother-in-laws, Soon-to-be-Mums, Wanna-be-Mums and Chrysanthemums!
Sure hope I didn’t leave any one out!
Don’t forget #FinSavSat blog hop party. I’m co-hosting this week. Just slide on down to previous post and add your link!