Lucky

18 Mar

This blog isn’t only a baby book for my little boy, but it’s a place for me to open up about having a child while in grad school. Spending the time and money on higher education (both money on education and lost income) is one of many choices a family can make, and not always a popular one when you’re 30 and living in relative poverty. It is a great time/terrible time to have a baby. It can be easy to focus on the difficulties of being pregnant/having a baby right now, but there are a ton of positives as well. I want to take a moment to reflect on this – and remind myself just how LUCKY we are!

Here are a few reminders:

1. CAREER- When we made the decision for me to go back to school in 2008, we were a happily married couple. My husband has his own business and he was making a bit of money and growing his business. I was in a decent job making a bit of money but completely unfulfilled. I could have waited one more year to leave the job, but I got into my “dream” MA program with a 1st year TA-ship (unusual for my MA program), so we went for it–I quit my job and entered graduate school! Now I’m 4 years in, have my masters degree and I’m continuing to study for my PhD. I’m closer to done than not, so it’s worth it to continue so I can fulfill a dream. My husband’s business has had its ups and downs, but for each event he films we’re making double to three times more than when we started. I now know more clearly what I actually want to do (and I’m much closer to an actual topic of study/dissertation subject than previously) and we have learned a lot about how we do and don’t want to do business. We are thankful that the frustrations/limitations of parenthood have taught us to be more careful with our time. There are days we live day-to-day financially, but we have been thankful to utilize government benefits, and at times it is scary and challenging to manage money. We definitely can’t live like we would like to, but we are learning how to live better.

2. Babies cost MONEY. This is true/not true. Money makes the world go ’round and as a grad student, I have very little. Babies by themselves are not that expensive. Babies require a little bit of clothing, something to cover their poopy bums, food in their bellies, and a place to sleep. As they grow, they need safe places to play. Our consumer culture means that baby=cool things! I think in many ways our lack of finances has helped us resist the urge to *buy*new*stuff* for baby all the time. Sure, we have fun buying a new sleeper or something, but for the most part, we make do with the things we have, take advantage of hand-me-downs, and live simply. On the flip side, though, we should be saving. We should have a college fund open for the babe, we should be building our savings, and we need an emergency fund. Our college savings is the fact that I will hopefully be a professor and that’ll pay for his education. Our emergency fund is my parents. Our savings right now is our investment in my future profession. I KNOW that in a couple years our earning potential will be higher, but it’s hard to not get bogged down in finances now.

3. The big benefit to being in grad school with a baby is FLEXIBILITY! This, in many ways, mitigates the babies are expensive part because we don’t have to worry about child care (yet). With my really flexible RA-ship, lack of classwork (due to being in my comprehensive exam year), and the fact that hubs works at home, we can pass the boy between us when one of us really needs to work/has meetings. I’m glad we don’t have to deal with the cost of daycare, for now. Things will get more challenging this summer when both our jobs get busier and next fall as the babe gets mobile, but we’re taking each milestone a step at a time.

4. Tied into the flexibility issue is the HEALTH issue – we are lucky that we get to stay at home with the babe and expose him to less germs. As we hear about whooping cough outbreaks and hear about poor babies suffering during cold & flu season, we’re so glad we aren’t spreading germs to our babe. Again, we couldn’t even afford daycare if we wanted/needed, but we are SO lucky, too, that we are able to work and work from home to keep our babe with us. So many people don’t have this ability.

5. Our family unit works as a TEAM. We’ve had to work thru the lack of sleep, the commitments that go with not having a traditional maternity leave schedule (as in, I didn’t get any), the choices we have to make having very little money. We get tired of each other. We go to bat for each other. We relieve each other. It’s good and bad but we’re together and for that we are LUCKY! Not all families have the luxury to be so available for their children and we need to remember how lucky we are that our son gets to be raised by a mom and a dad who love him from day one. Money sure can’t beat that.

There are days when it is hard to juggle – do everything for work and care for the babe. There are days when we have no money (and we dig coins out of the piggybank). I have to visit public assistance offices to get on government support (pregnancy medical, one year of baby medical, WIC, and briefly food stamps). I have learned how to appreciate what I do have and what I don’t and realize how lucky we are for the support we have and for the love in our home!

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