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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

Lets-Panic.com → 

« I know it’s a day early… | Main | The meme that started out promising, but then everything went wrong—just like life. »
Friday
Feb102006

Don’t read this.

Yesterday was one of the worst days Henry and I have ever had together. Truly, I have never seen him like that before. I’ve never seen me like that. We clashed on every topic (Are Dried Cranberries An Acceptable Dinner? Could He Watch TV For Just Another Minute? Why Couldn’t He Head Butt Me Repeatedly In the Groin While I Am Talking To the Mortgage Broker?) and each time Henry’s demands escalated into full-blown weepy hysteria; we went to our separate corners to enjoy our respective time-outs; we came back to each other to hug and declare our undying love; then it all started again. At one point I found myself yelling and clenching my fists and hopping up and down. Hopping. And I slammed doors. Twice. I am an excellent role model.

I could point to Henry and say IT’S HIS FAULT and say WHO STOLE MY CHILD AND REPLACED HIM WITH THIS MONSTROSITY? But the thing is, I know what’s going on. He’s reacting to me. I am distracted and frazzled and depressed and it’s making him anxious as hell.

We sold our place for more money than we thought we could, which is great. We’re thrilled. But our large margin of profit is not quite what we thought it was. Not quite enough for the house we want. Take the large amount and remove the $20,000 of closing fees and moving expenses, the huge tax bill we’ll have for 2005, the money we’ll need to put down for a car, the small amount of savings we’ll need in case any expenses come up with the house, and you have a much smaller number. Factor in the added expenses of owning a house—the insurance, the car, the heating bills, the inevitable repairs, the hefty real estate tax bill—and the number shrinks even further.

We could take more of a risk and put more down if, say, one of us had reliable employment. Without going into detail about my husband’s job, we don’t, not really. Not reliable in the benefits-and-vacation-time, check-every-two-weeks, severance-pay-guaranteed sense. It’s a great job for his industry, which is not known for its steadiness. We’ve been lucky for a while, but there’s always the spectre of the work drying up. If the work isn’t there, he doesn’t get money. So we have to be careful. We’ve been careful for years, we know the drill. But now we’re looking for a house, and being careful doesn’t jibe with finding a good and safe place for our family, and it feels like the air is being sucked out of the room.

We decided on this neighborhood in New Jersey; it’s close to the city, the trains are right there, the prices for the small homes with small lots (the kind we want, as we are city folk) are not unreasonable. We have friends nearby. But now it seems that if we want to be in the parts of town that have good schools, we have to extend ourselves past our comfort level. Last week we bid on a great house; we were right at the brink of what we could afford, and the taxes were astronomical, and we were stressed out and fighting about the expense. But the school there is wonderful, and I read the description of the school and I thought of Henry being at that school, and I wanted him to live there. I walked around that house and I thought, We will be happy here. We could just barely afford it, but we could afford it, so we bid. And then one other bidder came in at way over the asking price and swooped it up. This isn’t the first time this has happened; such is the market these days. Even if the numbers indicate we can afford it, we can’t really afford it.

We’ve looked at the less-fancy parts of town, that have relatively decent schools, at least we think, and taxes that aren’t so high. But every house we’ve seen in that area has low ceilings and dark musty kitchens and shag rugs and the neighbor’s windows so close you could pass cups of sugar back and forth, and I know this isn’t what we want. We’re not asking for a lot, but we’re asking for a little more than this.

So maybe I feel entitled. Maybe I’m a stuck-up bitch and I should get over myself and living in the cramped smelly house that after all we could fix up. That is probably a valid opinion.

But this is all symptomatic of the larger problem here. We don’t have enough money. We’re not making enough. Every optional expense has been cut out, and yet there’s still not enough. And it’s hurting us. It’s a constant source of tension; there’s no escaping it. Everywhere we look there’s a sign that we need more money. The dog is overdue for a vet appointment. We don’t have the money. Here’s the list of good preschools in Jersey. We don’t have the money. Let’s get food delivered because I’m exhausted and Henry didn’t let me even get near the kitchen all day, he’s been so clingy. We don’t have the money. Well, okay, maybe pizza. But let’s not go crazy with the toppings.

(We want another baby. We don’t have the money.)

Please don’t tell me I should write a book to make money. Or rather: tell me to write a book, and thank you for having faith in my abilities, really, but understand that such an undertaking takes years, years of nonpaid work, and also no one should write a book for the money. It just doesn’t work that way.

Do you want to know what I am wearing now, O Internet? (Especially those members of the Internet who send me hate mail because of my fabulous bloggy existence?) I am wearing jeans that have enormous holes in the crotch and across one knee. They are dirty, as I wear them every day. They are one of two pairs of jeans that I own; the others were pre-pregnancy and are now laughingly small on me. (Size 4! BLAHHAHAHAHA.) In addition to my crappy pilly too-small and too-old Gap sweater, I am also wearing ugly black leather shoes that I bought when I was pregnant, and thus are now one size too big. I trip in them every day. On most days I wear the too-big shoes and the ripped-up jeans. I could probably buy myself new jeans and new shoes, but the idea fills me with guilt. How can I buy something like clothing when we might not be able to pay for Henry’s preschool?

I know how whiny I sound here, I do. I know many many people have lives infinitely more difficult than this one. I know how lucky I am. Please don’t yell at me because I’m whining about my shoes. It’s just—I feel like I’m decaying, a little. I feel unattractive and like I don’t have the right to feel attractive. I feel like god there has to be more money somewhere, except there’s no time to get the money and no money (for childcare, that is) to get more money. I feel like my creative life is dying because all I do is worry and crunch numbers and do the little writing jobs that might bring in enough to pay the cable bill. (Yes, we still have cable. The indulgence! I know!) I feel like there has to be an answer somewhere and where’s the answer and aren’t I smart enough haven’t I been good don’t I have the education and the intelligence and resources to figure this out why can’t I figure this out?

I know, I know. I’m feeling sorry for myself. I should snap out of it, right? You can tell me.

(p.s. If anyone knows anything about the school system in the above-mentioned town—it’s linked to, right up there—please, please email me.)

Reader Comments (209)

Alice,

Bless your heart. I feel your pain woman. I am one of your lurkers from Mississippi. I am a single mom with a bottom of the totem pole job. My son and I recently moved out of my parents and rented a house. I stress everyday about being able to pay all the expenses by myself. I think that almost everyone excluding royalty and wealthy heirs go through this same thing at least once in their lives. I have read your comments on this post, and you have some extremely wonderful friends. If I had the money I would surely send some your way. When I am feeling low and stressed out I look at all the wonderful things I do have in my life right now and know that it can only get better. Hang in there girl, and if you can use some advertisements to increase your spending money go for it. I do believe you realize we would never judge.

P.S. I wear jeans with holes in them all the time. Here in Mississippi it's a fashion statement.

SmilesShanda
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterShanda
awww man, I've been there too. Alice, I didn't think you sounded whiny at all.I found myself nodding in agreement throughout the post, and I have 2 teenagers now.My hub and I have joked that the more we make, the more we want. We didn't mean expensive toys and vacation trips to Vail...rather, it was always having to come up with the money for things like the preschool you mentioned, and later on braces and camps and a new mattress because the old one sags so much, and new tires and other boring stuff.

And the unexpected medical bills that pop up when you're not expecting them at all.

Through two kids and 4 houses, we have just kept plugging away. I suspect that by the time your kids are grown, you'll be saying the same things.You're a great mom Alice, hang in there! I didn't think you sounded whiny at all. You sounded like all of us. It'll get better in the long run. :)

February 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
In 2001, I left my husband, with my two kids, and have been living as a single parent, since. Money has, all along, been hard, and worse was trying to live somewhere we could afford that also had good schools. Read as: mostly impossible. Furthermore, TWICE we've had to relocate because the housing we were renting was being sold or torn down.

Finally, though, I decided to buy a house, and it was one of the most breathless, difficult, temporarily awful times ever. My loan approval amount went up and down several times, by a fair amount that would make the difference between drive-by territory and a nice place in the suburbs.

Finally, what happened was, frankly, a miracle. A house came available in one of the best local school districts, and it was priced 40,000 dollars below market value. It needed some foundation work, and knowing I couldn't afford to do it, myself, I held my breath and made the offer contingent on the owner paying closing costs and doing the foundation work...and they agreed to do BOTH. I was floored. I have the greatest little house in the woods, now. Walking distance to school for both my kids (across the street from the junior high) big yard, an office for me. Great house.

Money is still tight (I, too, have a pair of pants I wear every day that is fast developing crotch holes. Alas.) but we're making it, and feeling a great deal more settled now. Keep your chin up, and keep looking (don't rely on your realtor to do all the looking for you) and I'm certain you'll find something.
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdivabeq
Just de-lurking to say I hear ya. My mom had to buy me post-pregnancy clothes since I had NOTHING I fit into and no money to buy them with. We're also trying to save on pizza toppings and everything else just to pay the rent that we can't afford. Thank goodness I still have a couple years before I have to really worry about schools, but just thinking about it makes me start to hyperventilate. I should work more, but how do you do that with a baby?
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkate
cute house!

http://www.coldwellbankermoves.com/property/propertydetail.asp?PRM_MLSName=GardenStateNJ&PRM_MLSNumber=2064423&VAR_PREVIEW=

February 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentershannon
Hey - if you would like to live on Long Island for a while until you get yourself together, I've got a really lovely 2 bedroom apartment for rent. It's only $1500 a month, and encompasses the entire first floor of the house. It's newly painted, newly carpeted, and has a new kitchen and bathroom floor. There's a front and back entrance, a fireplace, and the landlord (me) takes care of the grounds. You don't mow or rake or anything. There is storage area in the basement, and it's close to town, parks, and public transportation. We've lived in this town for six years now, and love it!

Some of our former tenants lived in it while saving for their homes, and purchased lovely houses in the same area.

Just a thought.

- M
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarcheline
We just went through the same exact trauma of moving out of the city and trying to find an affordable neighborhood in New Jersey to raise our one year old. We finally settled on East Brunswick...the schools are award winning and the community is very diverse. Bloomfield was also an option for us, but all in all the nicer sections with the good school system were a bit too pricy. Don't give up. We must've seen about 40 houses before we found the right one. Just give it some time...the perfect house for you is out there.
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterP
Hey Alice, I want to say how much it means to me that you can articulate the way I feel so much better than I can. Thank you.I hope things work out for you in the future and I know that you have the strength to get through it. Though if you are anything like me you are tired of that damn strength and just wish it would all work out already. ;)Much love to you girl!

To those commenters who want you to "get a job" perhaps you have never looked into how much childcare FUCKING COSTS. I also stay home and eek out freelance jobs to supplement our income and I can't afford to go back to work as it would eat up all I would make just to put my daughter in daycare. So do some research before you make suggestions that you don't really know anything about.
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertulip
Sending good thoughts (and a little dough) your way, Alice. You are so interesting to read even when the topic is a bummer. My only question for you is, did your feet just swell up temporarily during pregnancy? 'Cause mine got a half size bigger and just stayed that way.Good luck with everything and keep writing!We love you!
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHD
Alice, I'm so sorry. And I love you more than ever because you don't blame society. I'm in the same boat as you and I totally blame society. (In fact, reading this post was terrifying it hit home so bad and you even admit things I can't bring myself to admit so I had to take a break and drink some maalox.) I blame anyone within earshot for my genteel fucking poverty. You don't blame anyone. That's noble. Also, I buy the new sweater on credit and send my child to the cheapest daycare in existence. So I'm even eviler than you. God, I hate moments of reckoning. Moments of reckoning suck the big cold one. I think it will get better but until then, damnit I want you to get a new pair of shoes. And a new sweater. The shoes especially made me sad! I know there are people starving all over (I write about it in fact) but is this a reason you can't buy shoes that fit? No, being terrified about money is not the worst thing but it still stinks. I hope you get a windfall soon.
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterozma
i know everyone has said this already, but i'm in your boat and i'm sending you good vibes, and i would totally buy something from your cafepress when you set it up. really. try me.
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkristin
You have such a gift for writing and judging from the countless comments you have received, a huge audience. Put ads on your site, sell t-shirts, a calendar, whatever. You have have a brand and an audience, you are this close to making the extra cash you need. I wish you luck and will continue to read.
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
I grew up in Bloomfield, it's a great town. If you have questions on areas/schools I'd be happy to help. GOOD LUCK!
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSpamelot
Have you considered renting? Perhaps it's not the greatest time to buy a house, anyhoo (and I work in the mortgage industry, so it hurts me to say this). If you made a nice capital gain, bank it, and spend far less to rent a reasonable place in a nice neighborhood with good school and possibly horses. If prices come down a little (likely) or a lot (possibly), you'll be in better shape.

Also, what's all this about "the huge tax bill we’ll have for 2005"? Unless you made well over $500,000 profit for your last home, you owe no capital gains on the sale of your Brooklyn home. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Also, why is it that you never call? Also, would you ever go hunting with our nation's Vice President? Also, it was 75 degrees here today and you should move to SoCal. How was the weather in NY?



Alex, that's income tax. Also, hi!
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
I'm confused. I'm taking this "offline." I'm also taking this "offshore."
you need to move to the midwest. we will welcome you.
February 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJulia
Hey...just hang in there. I have visited your blog a few times but I have never commented on it. I will surely click on a few ads on your front page. I am sure things will start looking up soon...

Take care
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKeya
I think Alice is a lovely woman, and I hope that she and her family get through this expensive time and find a way to make enough money to live the way they want to live.

I am amazed by the number of comments and the sheer number of people struggling with finances. I don't know how much of the advice is feasible, but I have to admit that some of it, especially about the extension of the ads and maybe merchandising sounds like it might help, if that's what Alice decides.

I also totally support the comment that not being rich doesn't make somebody a lesser person. We all make choices, some of us have choices made for us, some of us have circumstances that just make life hard. Money is important; I want enough of it - hell, if I had the choice I would have more than enough of it. But that doesn't define a person - character and personality and manners and disposition define who we are.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarah King
My advice: Buy one of the crappier houses and learn to pass sugar back and forth or draw the curtain when you'd rather not. Sounds like they're more affordable, and as long as the neighborhood is safe, it'll be fine. Maybe it'll ease some of the money troubles, which we all understand. Henry will be fine. He's got you and Jack. I've been where you are, and I love reading you -- you put into words so many of the feelings I've had/have (eg: how can I buy clothes? selfish selfish!)When you rip out the shag carpet and paint the walls and make the kitchen brighter it'll be YOUR place, and you'll love it. Besides, think how much the neighborhood will improve with you living there!! :)

(PS: I used to live in Park Slope, 15 years ago, gasp, and it was hard for me to leave, too)
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
How is it the more money we make, the more we seem to hemorrhage it like there's no tomorrow?

I'm also a long time reader, and first time-poster. I don't have any advice, except to say so many of us are right where you are right now, and take solace in knowing you're not alone. these comments are so amazing--i hope you feel the sweel of support and comradeship.

my own husband's job is far from secure--yearly contracts, and this time it looks like next year it's a goner. i so know where you are, and the cycle of stress, depression, and resentment. i can't even begin to fathom how we're going to keep our house, pay for daycare, keep the cars, but in the end, we'll work it out somehow. there will be many more days when I am locked in combat with my son too.

I will also go click on ads, and would LOVE to buy me a finslippy shirt.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjoy
I don't know much about the school system in Bloomfield, but my uncle and his family lived there for a few years and absolutely loved it and were very sad when they had to move away. They say they have never lived anywhere as great since.

Hope that helps.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessie
That mayor scares me - are you sure that town is right for you? He looks like a robot.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdoggerelblogger
Agreed, I would totally buy finslippy merch, and click on ads!

My husband and I are in similar financial situation...we have about $30k in old credit card debt that we are trying to pay down, so since our credit looks like ass, we can't get a mortgage (not that we could afford it) so we have to rent and we live in a teeny 1 bedroom right now, but we are trying to start a family, so we are looking for a bigger place in our price range, and they are pretty much non-existant unless they are hovels. We live in the Boston area and I think everything is pretty equilvalent expenses-wise to NY/NJ. It totally sucks. We're lucky in that both of our families live close by, and they have offered free child care to us, so that we can both still work. There is no way we could have a kid otherwise...

Totally sucks.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBertha
Am I really the 170th commenter or was I hallucinating? Well, I'm pretty sure this comment will never see the eyes of anyone except myself, but I am sooooo witcha on the money thing. We never seem to have quite enough, even when we're making double what we're making now. I'm sending good money wishes your way.
February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLucinda

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