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October 13, 2008

A New Reality

J0433131_5 Our lives changed in the blink of two weeks.  My husband's income, which is directly tied to the value of our financial markets, has taken a substantial hit. In two short weeks, I've gone from being a mom with the luxury of choosing to work to one that now works out of necessity.

Generally our goal is to be able to maintain our lifestyle even if one of our salaries suddenly went away.   While I'm still working, we can afford our comfortable life.  But Hubby and I took a close look at what it would mean for us to exist on only his salary as it stands in this new reality and it wasn't pretty.  Hubby, his parents and my own have reminded me this weekend how blessed we are that I still have a steady job and that we are not facing the extraordinarily difficult circumstances that some are facing right now with job losses and home foreclosures. Of course I know that everyone is feeling the burden of this new reality in one way or another.

But I can't help but feel just a bit peeved to have my choice to work taken away. All working moms, those who choose to work or not, know how unbelievably hard it is to juggle the demands of work and home.  My choice afforded me a psychological safety net -- knowing that at any time I could march into my boss' office and announce, "I'm done," helped to maintain my sanity. Lately I'd been thinking about the prospect of not working more so than usual.  I've been feeling the incredible physical and emotional stress of working and wondering if chasing my ambition was really worth the toll it's been taking on my mental health. Knowing that I don't have an option right now puts even greater undue pressure on me.

Just like the big gaping hole that now exists in our savings, I know this situation is temporary.  We'll eventually get back to where we were and move forward with our lives.  But on behalf of all the families that have done everything "right" -- lived within our means, accumulated minimal debt, diligently saved for retirement and our children's college funds and made sound investments -- may I say this whole thing blows. I can't help but be angry with those who knowingly spent more than they earned in pursuit of "stuff," the banks who lulled them into a false sense of wealth and security with cheap credit, Wall Street for capitalizing on it and our government for encouraging it all and then being asleep at the wheel when it was apparent we were heading for trouble.

I'm hoping that out of all of this mess there's a silver lining. Perhaps now we can see that having big houses, and cars and lots of stuff isn't the end game here.  Pursuing our passions and living our best lives with the people we love is the end game.  Having money is not the end itself -- it's just a means to an end.  Perhaps out of all of this we will end up with a government that understands that by supporting average Americans and the pursuit of their passions -- who they want to be, not just what they want to have -- all boats will rise with the tide.   Perhaps out of all of this we will redefine the American dream.  That's a new reality that I am willing to sacrifice for.

An original Deep South Moms blog post.  Amy@UWM lives with her Hubby and two young daughters in Atlanta and blogs at her personal blog Up With Moms.

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