Something was off, but it took time to figure it out.
I had a whole other post on the schedule for today. The idea was to talk about some of the ways I plan to take care of myself in 2022. I had the outline, the headings identified and a few sentences drafted.
The last part was my first clue something was wrong. Those sentences…man, they did not come easy.
Of course, writing isn’t always easy. I worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper for almost six years. I’m not stranger to writer’s block.
This was different.
Each day it felt like I made less progress than the day before. Eventually, it got to the point where I found myself avoiding the task altogether, as if doing so would somehow solve the problem I didn’t know how to define.
When I finally figured it out, I felt relieved…until I realized what it meant.
Writing a post about self-care felt disingenuous. Writing a post about…just about anything felt disingenuous. Because if I’m being completely honest: I’ve been struggling lately. And while I wish I could just ignore that fact, I’m finding it hard to move forward as a writer without acknowledging it.
So, in the interest of moving forward — and in keeping with my mission to keep it real in this space — I wanted to take a moment to share some of what’s been going on lately. I’m hopeful writing these things down will remove them from my brain and allow more space for other things.
So here we go.
It feels like we’re moving backwards
This is really what it comes down to — the last year has, in some ways, felt like moving backwards.
Now, before I say anything else, I need to be very clear: I love the changes this year brought. Becoming a parent has been challenging at times, yes, but more than anything, it’s been awesome. I love our kid. She’s great. Every hard moment has been absolutely worth it. No question.
I also love our house. And our yard. And our neighbourhood. Our little basement apartment was good to us, but it was time to move on. While I’m sure there are some who can (and do!) make a two bedroom basement apartment work after baby, it felt like we were all on top of each other. It just wasn’t sustainable. Buying a house and moving was the right thing to do.
These were massive changes for us. It seems strange to think of it as going backwards because in so many ways, we’ve taken massive strides forward. I have definitely had moments, especially over the last couple months, where I look around and wonder how I ended up here. I barely recognize my life anymore. And that’s not a bad thing!
But that doesn’t mean the season of transition was necessarily easy.
Here’s the truth: maternity leave has been hard in ways I did not anticipate
I didn’t come into maternity leave expecting it to be restful. Quite the opposite, honestly.
I can remember talking to a co-worker before going out on leave who, with good intentions, asked me if I was planning to do any freelance work while I’m out on leave.
My response: No. I’m going to be taking care of a baby.
Even then, I knew life was going to look different after baby arrived. What I didn’t anticipate was just how much my time and energy would become tied to my new role as a mother.
There are factors that have contributed to this. The pandemic and associated isolation has not helped. Like many others right now, we have not been seeing people often in this season, including family. Then there have been my own anxieties related to learning how to be a parent.
I told Jeff the other day that I feel like I’ve been going, going, going ever since my water broke in the bathroom last March. There have been small pockets of reprieve here and there, but it has often felt like those moments are few and far between.
I seriously debated whether or not to say anything about this here. It’s not like I’m the only person in the world right now who feels like they are not getting enough time for themselves to pursue things that fill the cup. The details and circumstances may look different, but the last two years…they just have not been easy for anyone, including those who serve in any sort of care taking role.
But ignoring it felt wrong. Maternity leave has been great in some ways, but hard in others. Regardless of how I feel about it, it’s something that has contributed to how I’ve been feeling.
And then there’s our finances
Also known as the real reason I feel like we’re moving backwards right now. If the hardest part of maternity leave has been the whole not having time for myself thing, the impact on our finances is a close second.
Budgeting has not always been easy. Which is wild, because I actually did a lot to prepare for my leave, including doubling our emergency fund. Understanding we were about to embark on an expensive year on less than half my salary, I tried to put us in the best possible financial position possible.
I’m so glad I did, too, because wow.
Some of the spending has been baby related. For example, when I finally accepted breastfeeding was not working for any of us, we added formula to the budget.
But honestly, the biggest sources of spending have been the house and the car.
The house isn’t surprising. Along with, well, buying it, we have had some immediate things to deal with (like the wasp nest) and some things that came as a surprise (the washing machine dying). We’ll be spending more money on the house in 2022, too, as we work on some of the repairs it needs. It will be nice to get moving on those, even though it will certainly set us back as far as paying off debt goes.
On the other hand, the car has been a huge source of frustration.
In true depreciating-asset fashion, we started having car problems almost as soon as we paid it off. First, it was small-to-medium issues — an alternator here, a gasket there.
This last year, though…woof. We’ve done more than $2K of necessary repairs. The car’s hardly worth that. We’ve talked it over and concluded the best course of action will be to buy a newer car in the spring.
And the only way that can happen is with a car loan.
Thankfully, while our emergency fund has definitely been depleted, it’s still in OK shape. I’d like to add a bit more to it, and even with some of the upcoming expenses (and the addition of daycare to our budget), I’m hoping it’ll be possible.
But this is what I mean when I say it feels like going backwards. While I am grateful to live somewhere that has paid maternity/parental leave, leave has not been kind to our finances at all.
At the end of the day, it will be worth it
At least, I think it will. That’s what I try to tell myself every time I find myself getting down about the idea of taking on more debt when we’ve worked so hard to dig ourselves out.
We very much see this as our forever home. Putting in the work now means we’ll be able to benefit from it longer. I truly believe a house is a terrible financial investment. For me, homeownership was (and remains) an emotional decision.
The car…for where we are (both location wise and in life) and what we do, a safe, reliable mode of transportation is important. Buying used in a private sale would no doubt be cheaper but…I don’t want to do that. I’ve done it before. After the last year, I want a vehicle that doesn’t leave me wondering just how much longer I can drive it before it gives up the ghost.
So…yeah. It feels like we’re going backwards.
It feels good to have all this out of my brain.
Deciding to accept and be OK with going backwards on our financial journey has been the epitome of a bill pickle for me. It’s been hard to not feel like all the work we’ve put into improving our financial position over the last few years has been laid waste by our current reality.
What I’m trying to keep in mind is that it’s the work we have already done that has enabled us to be where we are right now.
Doing what needs to be done now will benefit us later.
Short term pain for long term gain.
Or something like that.
Keeping this simple: have you ever felt like you’re moving backwards instead of forward when working on a goal?