Trying to Figure This All Out

My husband wants me to focus on the present. He’s right. I need to stop worrying about the future. I need to stop spinning on the same concerns and focus on now. Maybe then I’d find happiness or at least contentment. And I’d get things done.

I’ve been having panic attacks lately about the cost of life and my inability to maintain my career. We want to have children soon – I’m turning 33 in a month – yet I feel so horribly unprepared. Yes, I have $400k in the bank when most people who have kids are still in debt, but that just doesn’t feel like enough. What I need is a job that I can see myself in 30 years from now while also being able to be the mother I want to be. I don’t see that in my current job. I have no idea what I can do that makes enough money to support the life I want.

My husband is set on becoming a teacher at 35, which means he’ll be starting out at $40k-$50k. I hate how unhappy that makes me. I want to be supportive of him and his dreams. And I think he’ll be a GREAT teacher. He’ll be the type of teacher that inspires generations of students. He should be a teacher. But the income is just so low — and it scares me so much. I don’t want to be one of those women who expects her husband to earn more than she does, and clearly that will never happen with a career as a public school teacher, but I just wish there was some acknowledgement on his part of how this will effect our lives. When I bring it up I sound like a crazy gold digging complainer. I can’t have a rational conversation about it because I don’t even know what I think… I want to be supportive, I think he should do it, but then it puts me in a really tough situation of having to making at least $150k a year for the rest of my working life (and ideally even more income.)

I just cannot sustain that, especially not when I have children. I don’t know how to handle the reality of what’s to come. I should probably just pat myself on the back for managing to have a job that earns almost $200k now and for being on track to a half million in savings before I give birth – but that feels like nothing. That IS nothing. I need a $150k-$200k job for the next 35 years. That’s my life. If I’m lucky. I can’t lose my job. I can’t fall victim to my depression and anxiety. I will really be the breadwinner. I will be trapped.

And the fear of being trapped is what scares me the most. Even though I’m depressed and anxious and an utter emotional mess, knowing I can pick myself up and start over again is the one saving grace to my sanity right now.

So you’d think I shouldn’t have kids. But I really want kids. At least one kid, hopefully two. I know the meaning of life is family, not work. I don’t want work to become the reason I never let myself live.

And I’m so terrified of it all.

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12 comments

  1. David says:

    I think your husband is a fiscally smarter guy than you give him credit for. As a teacher he has the potential to earn $40-50k in areas of the country with a far lower cost of living than the SF Bay Area. You make more money but have far less geographic flexibility and are limited to an area of the country with an astronomical cost of living. Teaching is also a more stable profession than tech. I’m in tech but I have friends and family who are teachers. The low salaries were tough for them when young but the stability has paid dividends as they’ve approached middle age.

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      True. But hubby wants to stay here too as his family is here and he grew up here and has more roots here. I really have no reason to stay other than that it generally makes me happy because it’s so beautiful. But I agree that teaching is more stable than tech. Maybe in 20 years it will be a much better job to have. Stability is a good thing.

  2. Josh says:

    Hi Joy, long time reader here but never commented. I agree with Taylor Lee, you put yourself through the same problems. I recently moved to Denver for a new job, and it’s great here. The housing market is crazy here but you can get a nice townhome for 350-400k.

    There is a good startup scene here too so I’m sure you can find a job. If renting for a bit, a one bedroom will run you 1500-2000 depending on where you live. And this is for a luxury apartment rental… which is most of the new apartments they are building.

    Your pay may take a hit… but you would be way better off than in the bay. Just food for thought.

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Thanks for your comment, and for being a long-time reader. 🙂 We have considered Denver. I don’t have any family there and I prefer to be near a large body of water, but I agree denver has a pretty good tech community and more affordable housing than the bay area. I think we’re leaning towards Seattle if we’re going to move, or back to the east coast where I’m from.

  3. We are in the very real situation of realizing that while we live on half of our income, we could not do what we do on his salary. If/when we have a kiddo, my (unpaid) maternity leave will be really interesting. At least his school pays for a very brief paternity leave.

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      That is a very “real” situation and sounds very difficult. Sorry to hear your maternity leave is unpaid. Mine should be paid fully for 6 weeks if I stay in my current company. that’s not enough time but at least it’s something. If I change companies it will be unpaid prob. I can’t imagine no paid maternity leave.

  4. Lisa says:

    I always think of this song when I’m thinking about similar topics:

    ‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life
    Try to make ends meet
    You’re a slave to money then you die

    I wish I was more optimistic!

  5. Azure says:

    I think you would feel a lot less pressure if you left the Bay Area. I live in Chicago now and it’s a completely different world–there are families here making $100K or less who own their homes and have a comfortable middle class life.

    I do miss the Bay Area and we would like to move back, but I feel like that’s only possible because we don’t want kids and we have a high HHI here (we moved for my husband’s finance job which is very high paying, with the idea that we could bank a lot of money and then move back). I’m trying to save as much as possible and not scale up our lifestyle because I feel the same way about my job as you do about yours–that it’s not sustainable and I am always on the verge of being let go. If I were the breadwinner I would not want that kind of pressure with the cost of living in the Bay Area. Sometimes I think it’s crazy that we have such a high HHI and live so frugally, but I know how fickle the tech industry is and how much job could disappear in a moment. I’m 41 and am already one of the oldest people in my company. I want to be done before 50 because I may not have a choice.

  6. Joy, I feel like you cycle through these problems again and again because the fundamentals of your life– low earning significant other, difficulty with startup culture, living in a very high COL area, imminent family planning– have not changed.

    You and your husband should talk over making major changes in your life to take some of this really heavy burdensome stress off you, perhaps even drawing up an exit plan with a short time window to move away from the Bay Area. Your husband’s income as a teacher would go a lot farther, your current stash of cash could buy you a real house that you want, and you could find a job with a much shorter commute and outside the startup stress frenzy.

    I really think making a couple of, albeit big, changes could really improve your overall quality of life.

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I agree to some extent – but what worries me more about moving somewhere else is that I won’t be able to get a job. At least here there are companies willing to hire me. Maybe it’s not the best fit but at least I’ve been able to pick up when I’ve gotten let go in the past and find a new role within 2-3 months. Elsewhere this might not be the case. I don’t know. I’m not sure what kind of job I would be able to get outside of tech.

  7. NZ Muse says:

    Girl, I hear you. Although sometimes I kinda shake my head at your $400k (a world away from me) as a female breadwinner it ain’t easy. (Post on that this week).

    ” I don’t want to be one of those women who expects her husband to earn more than she does, and clearly that will never happen with a career as a public school teacher, but I just wish there was some acknowledgement on his part of how this will effect our lives.”

    What terrifies me most is the unknown. The what ifs. If I got sick, the baby got sick, I suddenly decided I wanted to be a housewife…. if HE was the breadwinner, then all these things would be ok. But it’s not. Any of those things could throw our livelihood into jeopardy because we rely on my income. He simply does not earn enough to support 2, let alone 3.

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