The struggle is real. Get a grip.

I’ve haven’t been up for writing about our efforts to save in the face of chronic disease lately.


Get a grip
Get a grip

We can’t save @#$%.

It’s one thing to write about success getting out of the struggle, another to admit the struggle is real. It’s maddening! It’s terrifying! It’s like we’re standing on a precipice and the next gust is gonna knock us to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Admitting it makes me feel like a contestant on ‘Naked and Afraid.’

Our financial struggle revolves around paying for childcare.

In Eli’s first year of life, I worked a wonky schedule to save a little on childcare expenses. We paid off medical expenses for two cystic fibrosis-related surgeries and stint in Neonatal Intensive Care.

Eli’s 2, the medical debt is gone, I’m back to a regular work day and Eli and Laila have a nanny full-time. It is super convenient and super expensive for a journalist and a teacher to swing. Eli has a fatal (polite: life-threatening) lung disease, and I can’t handle sending him into a day care in the slobbery, germy tot phase.

We have made adjustments to our spending habits that I would never call ‘sacrifice’ to afford nanny.

Planning weekly meals, cooking at home, not sucking down lattes, canceling cable and budgeting monthly are a few examples. We’re so bored we do things like buy balloons at the dollar store and hit them around the living room.


Still, we put away a relatively small amount each week. Without fail, any time our little savings account reaches Dave Ramsey ’emergency fund’ territory, we have a minor emergency or a string of them. An errant medical bill. Car maintenance. The tax man. Whatever!

Of course, we are responsible for every life decision and spending decision that led us here. Like, I write stories for a living (working so far…shhh). Mark teaches the youth of America in a state that is 49th/50 for teacher pay. We bred. And only weeks ago, with Mark on a break from teaching and my family on a break from paying for our nanny, we decided to spend 10 days in Florida (four of those driving!) instead of putting money away and batting balloons at each other for two weeks (thank God).

The entire trip cost about $1,600 for our family of four.

We returned to reality after that glorious break from deadlines and laundry avalanche threats.

And there I was, in a Target aisle, freaking because they were out of ‘Frozen’ birthday party invitations. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO THROW LAILA HER FROZEN BDAY IF THERE ARE NO FROZEN INVITES?!

I called Mark in a panic.

OMG, I mean, what should I get? They have Lego, but she’ll hate that! Like, HUGE CRISIS.

This is what I did once I came to my senses and realized we had bigger problems than no ‘Frozen.’ invites. We had bigger problems along the lines of: Hey kids, do we want to eat this week or throw a party for Laila and the schoolmates we barely know? I canceled the party.

No, darling, we don’t get big fancy birthday parties on the heels of a nice vacation.

And a fine substitute is the family roller skate night with two good friends on Thursday (which happens to be Mark’s birthday…ha).

And sweetie, you’re not getting a new bike.

Laila loves her new Easy Bake.

That is not sacrifice. gimmeabreak.

Even so, Mark and I felt like crap parents and a financial failures. A cloud hung over us for days.

I called our new accountant, who I turned into my psychologist.

We feel like big losers. Like we’ll never get ahead ever!

She reminded me that Eli won’t need this type of care forever. She reminded me that we’re not behind or over our heads. She reminded me that once this childcare phase is over, we’ll be able to save a higher percentage of our income than most people bother to.

I knew all that, but hearing her say it out loud brought me so much relief.

Anyhow, the whole reason I hired this accountant is for her expertise in dealing with people who run their own businesses. We don’t do that, really, but I took on a little freelance work in 2014 and so did Mark.

She’s helping us get organized and set goals.

And the goals are the thing.

Our reality right now is that we spend slightly more that one third of our take home pay for a nanny.


Right now the top goal is to save my son’s lung function, a priceless and irreplaceable commodity.

So we’re standing on the edge of a precipice. So what? Let’s take in the view. Do a jig on the mutha$%^&^!. We own the struggle. We’re not low down and busted. It’s ours to conquer. Without problems to solve, what would we do with ourselves?

I’ve vowed to get a grip. Let’s all get a grip.

As God as my witness, I’ll never freak out over ‘Frozen’ birthday party invitations again. *Bites root vegetable.*

So to all those engaged in the struggle – financial, mental, relationship issues, your dog keeps peeing on the rug, you’re lonely, I don’t care what — know this: The struggle is real. We are all works in progress. It’s OK.

All you can do, every day, is better than the day before.


4 thoughts on “The struggle is real. Get a grip.”

  1. I have been following your blog for a long time. It was the first one I found when I started my search. Reaching, grasping for SOMEONE who understood what I was going through. After reading your last post, I felt the need to finally write to you and say YES, I understand the struggle. At the risk of sounding like a teenage girl, “it’s not FAIR”! I also spend a third of my take-home income on a nanny. She is basically a second AND third mortgage for us (as in more than Harvard tuition here in DC) and most of it is taxes. Not to mention our former nanny is suing us for Worker’s Compensation when I had given her a paid day off on the day she supposedly sustained the alleged injury. The Worker’s Compensation Commission incorrectly recorded that I was an uninsured employer and is sending me repeated threatening letters for $5k and $10k fines (from 2 different parts of the WCC divisions) for not having insurance required by law; oh and I just got a letter saying I owe back taxes on my long term disability income I accrued while I was on maternity leave for having a baby, for which was another administrative mistake from my company on my W2. Needless to say, it’s hard enough that my baby, my only son, has this serious disease, but every time I go to the mailbox, I have more garbage to deal with because other people have made mistakes that I can’t ignore because of the serious negative consequences.

    I had come to the same conclusion as you. He will go to school eventually. In the grand scheme of things, this ~5 year period is a small investment to protect his lung function. But, at some point, can a mommy just get a break? You mention that every time you save a little, something comes up. We had a roof leak in the nursery. New roof. Our washer smelled funny, worried it was mold or some other airborne thing, new washer/dryer. Large tree branch has a giant hole in it; call the arborist to clean up the tree branches so it doesn’t fall on our new room… on and on. It’s like a terrible country song.

    So, I get it. I understand why the Frozen invitations set you off. When everything in life is so complicated and unjust; something as simple as birthday invitations were the proverbial straw.

    I will tell you, the only thing keeping me sane is to finally let go of the responsibility to be a people pleaser. I’m not perfect; I don’t get everything done; I sometimes let people down. I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all I can give.


    1. thank you so much for writing! this is one of the posts I put out there and then just immediately felt – well, lame and ashamed! this happens when I am honest – especially about a taboo topic like cash! we will also just continue to do the best we can!


      1. Oh, you know, the thoughts “We work so hard, why can’t we make it? Something must be wrong with us! *Everyone else* seems to be doing so well!” We regularly push those thoughts out of our minds.*Everyone else* is struggling with one thing or the other too…just not so publicly. Writing helps me deal with stress but in the short term all my insecurities bubble up. It’s a struggle to stay positive even as I vow to stay positive.


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