I am in a really dark place right now and see no hope of any light. I'm writing this because I have to get this out somewhere. I don't feel like there is anyone in this world whom I can discuss these feelings with because they either end up telling me all the things that are wrong with me and these thoughts I keep having or they try to fix me. I don't need to be fixed. Changed, maybe. But if you're going to try and fix me, it's a lost cause. Mostly, I just need a listening ear. Maybe some hope. Because hope is not something I feel right now. The world through my eyes right now is bleak and hopeless. And I'm writing this here because I doubt anybody ever looks at what I write any more. So it most likely won't get read.
When I was first married, I knew we'd have tough times financially. And so we did. And still are. When my husband first went into management, there were levels, or steps. When he was at the lowest level of management, there was hope. Times were hard financially, but the promotion was always around the corner and things could improve. But now, well, he's at the top for now. Unless he sets different goals to move up even more, which wasn't ever in the plan, he is stuck at what he is making now. We've had our ups and downs with debt (more downs than up, but anyway), and currently we are in a major down. We came awfully close to paying off a lot and then we had about six different things happen that we couldn't pay for but couldn't live without (hello, hot water and air conditioning in the hot, humid South) and racked up the credit card again. Now we are worse off than ever. Since his salary isn't going to improve anytime soon, we are stuck. Stuck in a rut of debt and not enough income. So now I have to do something.
I looked at my options. I'm trained as a teacher, but I don't hold a current teaching credential/license/whatever you call it these days in my state. To get one, I'd need to fork over more money (that I don't have) and take about three big tests (that I'm not prepared for, having been out of school for 17 years). I could get a job where my husband works and work opposite shifts as him (not at his location, at another one), but I crunched numbers and figured that unless I do that full time, it won't bring in enough extra to really make a dent. So I decided to try and do a home preschool. I'm trained as a teacher; I've worked with the primary grades and taught my own kids in preschool, and I have even taught others. I'm pretty good at it, actually. But home preschool where I live is an anomaly. Here, they confuse the distinction between a "preschool", which is an early learning program designed to prepare a child for formal school and usually begins the year before said school, sometimes two years, and "daycare/childcare", which is when children are taken care of while their parents both work, sometimes the program involves enrichment to keep children stimulated and sometimes it does not. This includes children of all ages, many of whom are babies up to school age (because when they get to school age, they are then at school for much of the day and there is no longer a need for full time childcare. Also confusing is the notorious "mother's day out" where a parent drops their child off for a few hours a couple times a week so they can have a break, and sometimes the program can be more enriching and academically stimulating than other times. At these, generally speaking, children play games and do crafts, but they are not designed to prepare the child for formal schooling. Since all of these terms are used interchangeably where I live, things can get pretty confusing. I'm not required to have a business license to run a home preschool or even a child care license if I have less than 13 students. But potential clients are always asking about these things and it is often a deterrent when I don't have such a thing.
The other thing I do is teach piano lessons. I charge a lot less than most private music lessons cost around here. There are two reasons for this. Number one is that I was never formally trained in the piano myself. I had a brief stint of private lessons right around the third grade, again in tenth grade, and then one semester in college. For the most part, though, I am self-taught. That isn't to say that I don't know music and can't play well, because I am actually pretty good considering I am self taught. And I did have several years of private violin lessons, plus played for several years in school orchestras, and I spent several years in school choirs and church choirs. So I do know quite a bit about music theory and techniques and can teach beginning and intermediate lessons. But if I were questioned on my background, I feel like students (okay, their parents) would be less than willing to pay a steeper price for someone so unclassically trained. The second reason is because I understand. I understand what it is like to have very little money to spend on such things and want to be able to help people have a child in music lessons who otherwise couldn't be if they had to pay more. This might be the wrong approach, I don't know. It seems there are people who would put their children in music lessons no matter the cost and then there are people who will only do it at the right price. I guess my target market is the latter, which I think is broader, but charging less than the norm around here makes some people think I don't know what I'm doing.
The problem with these things is, that while they bring in income (and, I might add, after crunching numbers, more than I could make part time at most other jobs) and allow me to be home with my kids, they also make me very trapped. I am tied to a very strict schedule. I can't go anywhere or plan anything on Mondays from 3-5:30, Tuesdays from 9-12 and 3-6, Wednesdays from 9-12 and Thursdays from 9-12 and 3-5:30. This includes kids' activities and programs. Gymnastics class is only at 4 pm on Tuesday? Unless I can arrange a ride there and back, my daughter can't do it. Child number five has a school program on Thursday at 5:30? Well, I will either not make it or be late. And try scheduling doctor, dentist, and orthodontist appointments for seven kids and two adults when the only times you have to work with are Monday mornings and Wednesday afternoons (can't do early afternoons because of baby's nap schedule). Fridays are okay, except neither the dentist nor the orthodontist see patients on Fridays. At least the doctor does (so far).
This is where I get all cranky. I have a serious problem with coveting and jealousy, specifically over this lack of freedom. I look at my family members who are in better places financially and envy, to a huge degree, the enormous amount of freedom their blessed finances have allowed them.
I hate going into all the beautifully decorated, airy and spacious homes around here for activities or visits and then having to return to my home, which seems so dark and dingy and ugly when I return. I hate that things never seem to get any better for us. No, we aren't perfect and we make a lot of mistakes but I feel like we are punished endlessly for our financial mistakes. And I feel enormous guilt over the things we can't afford to do for our children--for the band trips they won't get to take, for the school shirts and yearbooks they won't get to own, for the memories they won't get to make because we can't afford to go anywhere other than to visit family in other states (and only that every few years).
I wish we could figure out how to get out of debt, stay out of debt, and stop incurring more debt, but with nine mouths to feed, I find that an impossible task. Yes, I've read all the financial books people always so aptly suggest. I've looked into programs to figure it out. But I've never been able to sit down with someone who can look over our budget and tell us what to do tailored to us, and also give us advice on what to do when an emergency comes up that we can't pay for. Last year when our water heaters went out (yes, both of them), we had to pay $1100 per unit to replace them, and that was WITH a home warranty. What are we supposed to do because we can't pay for it out of pocket--go without hot water until we can? Well, it's a year later and at this point, we still wouldn't have been able to come up with $2200. Same thing happened with the AC. I know, we are supposed to have a savings account that will cover at least 3 months of bills plus anything else that could potentially go wrong. So let's see, we're supposed to have $18,000 to cover three months of bills + $2200 for the unexpected water heater deaths + $1500 for the unexpected air conditioning death + $5300 for the homeowners' deductible for when things like hailstorms hit, so in savings from the day we bought this house we should have had $27,000. So unless we had at least that in our savings account, we probably should not have bought this house? Well, why wasn't there anyone there to tell us that was the amount we needed? And even then, who could have foreseen that we'd be bringing in nearly $30,000 less per year only a few years down the road from when we purchased the home? Any money we did have in savings has been drained from using it to just pay regular bills because our income has decreased. Typically, managers make more every year, not less, so this is unusual for his work. How could we have predicted this? We did have some savings but it is mostly gone now.
We try. We do. We aren't perfect and sometimes we buy things that we shouldn't, I know that. I feel horrible guilt anytime I buy anything at all, actually. Even groceries. Even gas for my car. If I happen to buy my child new (okay, used from the thrift store or a Facebook seller site) shoes, I feel terrible guilt that I spent money when I have debt. Yes, I know more than anyone can tell me how debt is bondage. I KNOW! I KNOW! That's why I want to change it. But I feel like until I no longer have growing children who NEED things, the possibility of ever ending this depression-and-anxiety-inducing cycle is ZERO.
And so I am hopeless. I feel nothing but darkness. There is no light at the end of my tunnel. Only darkness. Why should Heavenly Father care about me and my self-induced problems? Since I (we--it's my spouse too, though I seem to bear the burden entirely on my shoulder because he just isn't bogged down by the problem like I am) have made financial mistakes, I must bear the consequences of my choices and never have another monetary blessing again until I have paid for my actions. Which will take a lifetime. I feel like I need to just accept that I will be in this horrible financial situation forever. I even try to do that sometimes, but then I see how blissful everyone else is who have so many resources at their fingertips and feel so hopeless because I will never have that. It's drudgery.
And I have been called toxic because I can't get past these feelings of hopelessness and self-hate. I can't even bear to be around other people because I end up feeling so much more hopeless. I am worthless, hopeless and don't see any way out of these feelings.