On Being A Mom, Financially Speaking

My son is a good kid, so far. He doesn’t sleep much at night, but we’re working on that. Despite telling myself I will not buy frivolous things for my child I have bough frivolous things for my child… mostly clothes, some toys, and a few overpriced items like a swing that he uses on occasion that last a few months. If my spending patterns in the last two months tell us anything about how much this kid is going to cost me, my whole “I will NOT spend $250,000 on my kid before he goes to college” motto might as well be thrown out the window.

At the moment, living in this one bedroom apartment makes me feel OK about spending some amount of frivolous money on my son (I mean, gosh, those 3 month old clothes on sale at Gymboree are just TOO CUTE.) And, I feel rather hopeless around being able to afford big ticket items at this point, so the $10 shirts are fun to buy. I have hand-me downs from a number of friends (benefit of being one of the last to have kids) but the styles are so, bleh. It doesn’t matter AT ALL but I want my son to look not just nice, but appropriately styled to be my (/our) son. And, $5-$10 for an outfit just seems so cheap, even it it only lasts 3 months. Hey, I’m breastfeeding so at least he’s food is free, right?

What’s most challenging is this massive fear that I will never have a stable job. No job is really stable, but I’ve been in this industry/role type for over 10 years now and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and that I don’t deserve my paycheck. in fact, I’m half convinced when I go back to work from maternity leave my boss will see how horrible I am in the role, wait until she’s safe from firing a “new mom” and then poof, I’m gone. I’ve gotten to the point where I think I can probably get another job, but it could take months, and who knows what it would pay. This job happens to pay a lot, especially with my bonus (if I get my bonus), but that’s temporary. How could I ever commit to a monthly mortgage payment for 30 years (!!!) when I can’t imagine holding and keeping a job for longer than 6 months at any given time?

It would be nice if my husband’s income was enough to support our family just in case  I can’t get a job… but that’s not how it is either. He makes $85k a year in consulting income, which is pennies for an area where a basic mortgage with PITI will cost us $5k-$7k a month, and that’s with a hefty downpayment. I know people do it here on “low” incomes, but certainly not as home owners. I’m somewhat ok with renting, especially in a good school district once my son is old enough to go to public school, but my husband really wants to buy. I’d rather buy–for the stability and to feel like I’ve “made it” but I don’t know, I don’t know if I have it in me to make that kind of terrifying commitment.

My networth right now is about $620k and should be closer to $700k by the end of the year, depending on stock market performance (and if I can stop myself from buying more cute things for my son.) For most people, that should be more than enough to provide comfort in financial security, at least enough to buy a house. But it feels like pocket change to me. I’m pretty sure once I get to $1M I’ll start to feel like I an afford to buy a house. That’s still what I think about my home purchase plan… but I’m worried I’ll wait to long as housing prices have already doubled in the last 10 years here and interest rates are going up. Or have I really already missed my opportunity to buy here and the smart thing to do would be to leave?

Besides buying a home, there are lots of things I want to purchase for my son over the years, including a sibling or two. 🙂 Even if I have only one kid, there’s enrichment activities (especially since the school systems do not offer arts education here), summer camps, traveling, etc. We don’t have to spend a fortune but I’d like to give him some semblance of a middle class childhood–one that I had when I grew up. And–if I can keep my current income of $170,000 a year, give or take, and we rent or find a home that is somehow cheap enough to go in on with my husband’s parents (and live with them) that our monthly payments aren’t, like $9000 a month (which I guess we could qualify for but WTF how could we spend $9000 a month on a mortgage when we take home about $10k a month after taxes. Something doesn’t add up.

Well, I feel all sorts of shitty… knowing I’ll probably never make enough money (*consistently, for the next 30 years*) to give my son the life I want to give him. We’re saving now on daycare since my husband is working PT from home and his parents are helping out (which is great) but I still want him to experience preschool at some point in the next few years. If I can keep this job I may be able to make over $300k for this year and the next 3 years. That’s amazing. I don’t want to count on it, but it will be nice. After tax, it’s still not a lot… it would be great if I make $300k a year for the next 30 years of my life, but let’s be real… that’s not happening.

…A big chunk of that income is in options which happen to have increased in value a lot–but they can also decrease in value before I get them and after my options are all acquired, I won’t have any worth that much. I’ll be back to my $170 salary… or less, if I need to find another job (although I made $200k at my last job, when I was interviewing this time around offers were more in the $150k range at startups–where I’m more likely to get hired.) If my husband made $150k and I made $150k, we’d be doing ok… I feel like one can live on $300k joint here, and even on $150k should one partner lose their job for a while. But… $250k, and, $80k (should I lose my job) is not doable. Better yet, we’d both be making $250k consistently… but he hasn’t asked for a raise in years and refuses to take on any other clients (now at least it makes sense since he’s taking care of our son during the day)… and I, well, I’m not moving up at work ever. My title and likely pay is already inflated. I’m just trying to stay where I am and not rock the boat.

I’m scared. Scared, but not too scared, as long as we are renting a one bedroom for $2450 a month. No matter what happens, I feel like we can afford that. We can afford that on his $85,000 self employment income. We can afford that on a job I can find for $100k if I lose other jobs. But any more than that? Even renting a two bedroom for $3200+… I just, don’t feel ready for that. I don’t think I ever will.

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