Getting to Where I Want to Be, Part Who’s Counting Anyway

Returning from a romantic weekend with my s/o, I’m tingling with happiness and love. Here is, for the most part, the man of my dreams – kind, gentle, caring, funny, and willing to put up with my shenanigans as well. We spend too much time staring into each other’s eyes and talking about our plans for the future together: getting married in 2014, trying to start a family soon after, and so on.

That’s where I hit a wall. The story I like to dream of still seems impossible. I’m pushing along as hard as possible, setting my mental health issues to the side, trying to save as much as possible without a so-called frugal lifestyle, and here I am, almost at 30, and feel so terribly far behind. I look at my friends (and I know it’s a bad idea to compare oneself to anyone) and they seem somehow more ahead and settled then I’ll be in the next few years. My Facebook newsfeed is filled with images of too-cute babies, some who aren’t even babies anymore, some who have siblings to boot, and all created by people who are my age or younger. The younger sisters and brothers of people in my class are getting married off, some who are 5, 6, 7 years younger than me, are already popping buns out of their ovens.

Here I am, nearing the big 3-0, with no clear direction in my life other than this fantasy of adulthood that doesn’t seem real at all. A very irrational part of me wants to wake up one day a mother. She no longer cares about a big fancy wedding – in fact, she’s been with her s/0 for nearly 7 years and with that practically feels married anyway. Vows are not necessary to prove love. Many marriages end before the seven year anniversary of a couple meeting in real life, what’s to say those marriages are any more real than the one that we haven’t signed documents or been stuck with needles to verify? I’ve always thought marriage was a silly concept. Either you love someone and you’ll stay with them or you won’t, but having a binding legal contract to tie you to another person doesn’t make sense (unless divorce were to be illegal. Otherwise, the only winners are the lawyers.)

What if I don’t get married – or Derek and I run off and elope this spring? What if I beg him not to get down on one knee and propose to me, and instead I request a very informal signing of the documents so we can proceed with our so called lives. I don’t need to have a kid tomorrow, but I wanted to have my first kid by 31 or 32, and given it takes nine months to make a kid after who knows how long of trying, I’m well behind. If we get married in fall of 2014, I’ll be almost 31 when we say our I Dos. I was hoping for a year or two of marriage where we live together and share our adult lives before rushing to procreate, but at 31 there won’t be that luxury, especially if we want more than one kid. Yes, it’s possible to wait until I’m 33 or 34 to have kid #1, and have #2 at 36 or 37, and maybe even a third at 38-40 should I still want to add to the family. But the better plan would be kid #1 at 30, wait a few years, until 33 or 34 to have #2, and then if #3 should make sense we’d be able to have a third when I’m 36 or 37.

Wait a minute, did I really just say I might want three kids? I have no idea how I’ll like being a mother or if I’d even be good at it. Once you have a kid, you can’t just return her/him to the store. But the older I get, the more I see what life is, the more I realize that the only thing I want is to be able to love, care and nurture. Perhaps I’m more of a typical woman than I would ever want to admit. I do not want to get to 40, be the world’s most successful business woman, and face the rest of my life without children. I don’t know how I’ll be able to balance both lives, but clearly people do it, and I’ll make it work somehow.

I say that to remind myself it’s possible, yet I’m sinking into a depression in this last year of my 20s with all the logic in the world flooding my attempted optimism. The whole $1.2M for a decent 3br, 2ba house with a tiny backyard is killing any hope I have of seeing the glass half full. Money can’t buy happiness, but it certainly can’t hurt. I wonder how much in salary I’d need to make to feel like I’ve really made it here. $100k is definitely not enough to comfortably have a family on. If Derek gets a job that pays $60k and I can keep my salary in the $100k range we’d be making $150k+ before taxes, but is that enough? What sort of joint salary is required to live an upper middle class lifestyle in an area where a basic house will cost $1M – $2M? Or, is it time to seriously consider moving back east, or somewhere that cost of living is cheaper – and if I do, will I even be able to maintain my current six-figure salary for the same level of work?

I’m terribly jealous of my friends who have married into money – not great riches – but who have married successful engineers who are likely earning $150k+ at their jobs, with bonuses and raises on top of that for each year of work. The two I’m thinking of both are in jobs that probably make $50k or less each year, and may not even work when they have their own kids, but they don’t need to because they were smart(?) about their romantic decisions. My guy has potential, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking that I’m going to be able to step down on the career front in order to ever experience the life I’ve dreamt of at even the basic levels. And maybe that’s a good thing – I don’t want to be like my mother, who went from a NY fashion designer to a stay-at-home-mom, and never looked back. I need a life that forces me to work, to grow as a person, to challenge myself, to create and never give up.

But I can’t help getting trapped in this feeling of hopelessness. I can allow myself to feel successful in the bubble of my single hood, but the second I start thinking about having a family, all sense of contentment jumps off a cliff into a shimmering shallow pool of the sharpest rocks that slice at that impossible reality.

 

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14 thoughts on “Getting to Where I Want to Be, Part Who’s Counting Anyway”

  1. I’m impressed with your certainty at having kids. And I think that’s a big plus in your favor that you’re not seeing. Right now, I’m 30 and totally up in the air on kids. So that means I’m feeling like I need to plan for scenarios with them or without them at the same time, and those are two very different paths in my eyes.
    As for big fancy-pants weddings, FWIW – we eloped and couldn’t have been happier with how it went. =)

    1. I’m telling myself I want kids. Do I really? Heh. I think I do. I figure I better plan for them and if I don’t end up having them then it couldn’t hurt to have planned appropriately. My s/o definitely wants kids, so if I stay with him we’ll likely have a few! I’m pretty sure I want them now too, not like now, now, but soon.

  2. From the amount that you write about having concerns re: your partner’s
    earning potential, it seems like it is a bigger problem for you than you
    are allowing yourself to realize. You’re not being selfish or greedy
    because you want a man with good earning potential – you’re making a
    great salary yourself and deserve to find a person that manages and
    makes money as well as you do.

    I think the real question you need
    to ask yourself (and be brutally honest with yourself, or this whole exercise is pointless) is if you’re truly comfortable
    being the sole breadwinner for the rest of your relationship, including
    when you have children. Are you ok with needing to work and being
    unable to be a stay at home mom? Your partner has not demonstrated a
    stable job history, and you’re likely to always be the bigger earner. If the
    answer to that is no, I really think you need to reconsider your
    relationship.

    I know you have a lot invested with this man, but
    is he investing in you and your relationship by ignoring something that
    is obviously a big deal for you? Conversely, does he know how important
    it is to you that he has a stable job earning a decent amount of money?

  3. From the amount that you write about having concerns re: your partner’s earning potential, it seems like it is a bigger problem for you than you are allowing yourself to realize. You’re not being selfish or greedy because you want a man with good earning potential – you’re making a great salary yourself and deserve to find a person that manages and makes money as well as you do.

    I think the real question you need to ask yourself (and be brutally honest) is if you’re truly comfortable being the sole breadwinner for the rest of your relationship, including when you have children. Are you ok with needing to work and being unable to be a stay at home mom? Your partner has not demonstrated a stable job history, and you’re likely to be the bigger earner. If the answer to that is no, I really think you need to reconsider your relationship.

    I know you have a lot invested with this man, but is he investing in you and your relationship by ignoring something that is obviously a big deal for you? Conversely, does he know how important it is to you that he has a stable job earning a decent amount of money?

    Edit: I double posted by accident without my name – sorry!

    1. I 100% agree with you. The problem is that he certainly can have solid earning potential in the future. He is strong considering going to graduate school for a technical degree, and with this he will become employable and be able to earn a solid salary. Who knows, one day he could earn more than me even. So it’s not that he doesn’t have the potential. Meanwhile, he makes me extremely happy, personally. I know it’s an issue and we’ve discussed this openly. It concerns me, but no more than my fear of my own depression costing me a job and income in the future. I dislike uncertainty, especially at this point in my life, but to be honest if I were to start from scratch now there’d be much more uncertainty than what I have now. I at least have a man who is clearly going to be a great husband in all senses of the term besides possibly a provider. He will be a wonderful father. I know deep down I’d rather have all those other things if I had to choose one over the other. And the provider part isn’t impossible, it just isn’t a given.

      1. Yes, but that’s what seems to upset you – “he certainly can”. It’s not “he certainly will”, it’s that it’s POSSIBLE, but you don’t know if that will be the case, or if that even MIGHT be the case. He’s “considering” things while living off savings, even when he knows you have a ticking biological clock and only a certain time frame in which to have children. Doesn’t that make you feel crappy? I would feel so hurt my partner was not working toward our joint life goals if they acted this way with me.

        Your partner doesn’t have this same pressure you do. If you broke up, he could easily find someone younger to have kids with… this isn’t often the case with women. My mother (RIP) told me never to marry a man if you’d be unhappy if your children turned out just like him. Can you honestly say you’d be very proud if your kids grew up just like him? If so, he’s probably the right person.

        And, just to commiserate, I REALLY know the feeling. I turn 30 in the fall and live in an extremely high cost of living area too, but it’s near the only family I have left. I feel it’s very important for children to be raised in an environment around family and friends, where familial support (both emotional AND babysitting!) will be available. I think you should strongly consider a move closer to family if you feel this man is your destiny.

        As for your fears? Totally normal. Personally, I’ve been with my partner for six years. I own my home outright (my 2bd2ba apartment was 650k, houses cost the same here as where you live) and am feeling much the same as you do about having enough money for kids. I NEVER feel like I’ll be financially secure enough to have them, despite having an emergency fund that will last me a year, a paid off home, and 50k in dividend/landlord income a year (passive). My partner is also employed in the health care industry with a very secure job. Yet still, I fear I have something I’ve missed that will cost way more than we can afford, and everyone tells me that children are WAY more expensive than you think. I want to give our future kids a good life so badly.

        When I look at my friends, those having children mostly make less. ALL of them rent or have mortgages. Sure, there are some that married rich guys, but by and large most of my friend’s husbands are making 35-75k a year, and about half of the moms are stay at home parents. I’m sure if you delved further into your friend’s lives you’d find many families in that situation. Many of my friends also married into the military, which while secure, isn’t the best paying job. It also ruins their prospects for long-term employment due to moving all the time.

        I honestly think 100k is plenty to raise a family on. Maybe not in the SF Bay area, but certainly elsewhere in the US. The real question is if you’re ok with it long term, and if you’re ok with being the only breadwinner of the family. Are you?

        PS: Sorry for the length of my comment, I just relate to everything you said and absolutely get your situation because I feel a lot of the same things. We’re also the same age and seem to have a lot of the same fears. I truly wish you all the best in your adventures. 🙂

  4. Stop worrying so much about money. Do you need to own a $2 million house to have kids? No. There are a couple million people in the bay area with household incomes less than yours who have kids. There’s nothing wrong with renting and having kids. Most people do it. If your bf gets a job, then great, you’ll be even further ahead than the majority of people. If not, then you don’t have to pay for daycare. You talk so much about wanting kids, that I think you’ll be much happier if you just start living your life and starting a family. It’s obvious that you’ll never have enough money to be fully comfortable having kids. But you’ll figure out a way to manage with what you’ve got. Everyone else does, and with far less than you earn.

  5. Welcome back! Does your partner know you write about him? From my perspective, I honestly would feel a little bummed if I was him.

    Men go through this type of stress all the time (the weight of being the sole breadwinner). It’s healthy to have these thoughts.

    This Facebook phenomenon creating hundreds of Joneses is a rough scenario. What to do but no longer check and stop comparing?

    Don’t read today’s SFGATE.com article about home prices projected to surge in every zip code but one in the Bay Area. It will make you want to move.

    Sam

    1. He knows, and yes he does feel bummed. But I’ve written about my financial life since before I met him and he knows it is important to me. I write anonymously for that reason as well. Anything I write here I would say straight to his face and I do. I’ll probably end up leaving the Bay Area eventually with the cost of living unless I happen to get lucky in the right startup with the right exit. Otherwise, I’ll be moving back east in a few years to afford life.

  6. It sounds like you are trying to reconcile the life you have imagined for yourself with the life you are currently leading and trying to fit the two together. This may not be the best course of action.

    When I think of people I know who are in the happiest relationships, they are the ones who loved their partners first and let life take them (together) on a wonderful journey. Life threw waves in their directions and they rode the waves as they came — scrapping plans along the way.

    I know several others who are having a miserable time in the relationship/dating arena. They are those who had a grand vision for themselves but haven’t found the partner to fit into that vision. I think part of their frustration comes from being unable to find the partner to play the role that has been created for them.

    Life is all about choices. Sounds like you have a few choices to make here. Just decide that whatever choice you make will be the right one, and don’t look back.

  7. Parts of this post resonates with me, more than I want it to. I will say that it sounds like relocation should be something you seriously consider – there are many tech (or non-tech, if you don’t have to stay in that field) companies in cheaper cost of living areas, and your compensation will probably not decrease as much (if at all). $150K in SF is very different than $150K in Austin or Raleigh. How much do you love living in SF? Do you love it more than all things you would have to forgo in order to live there? If not, then I think other areas are worth a hard look. You can buy a really nice house in many parts of the country for $300K-$500K.

  8. I surfed over here on the life coach blog post and became quickly engrossed in this whole blog. Man you’re the daughter my Chinese parents wish they had! If I made what you made, they’d be bragging about me right and left, instead of hiding my shameful existence as the Harvard grad who “voluntarily decided to be poor.”

    It sucks that I’m in the arts/education and not something more rewarded in this society – and man do I know about the facebook phenomenon. (In fact, I started a whole Day in the Life series on my blog to dispel the myths that everyone is having a frickin’ fabulous Sex in the City life – I’d love to feature you if you’re interested!) All day long I see photos of my classmates in Bali, or becoming the doctor for the Brooklyn Nicks, or at a work party at, oh, the WHITE HOUSE, and I virtually slit my wrists just a little more.

    The suckage you’re experiencing is your Saturn returns (yeah yeah I’m being woo woo but our Cali lifestyle allows for it) – my life was slopped sh*t on a hell stick from age 27-29 (part of that time was living in SF) and the second I hit 30, I cried, then had the best party of my life. From 30 on my years have been increasingly better – SO MUCH BETTER than the 20’s. I didn’t want to drink the kool-aid, I thought all the 30 year olds saying this was the best were just old biddies trying to draw me to the dark side of aging, but luckily I haven’t aged that much (yay Asian genes) and I’m emotionally much better equipped to deal with life (your hormones will shift as well, helping with that.)

    Anyway, I know a poor-ass writer telling you it’ll be better isn’t what you need to hear on your road to the lifestyle I can only dream of and cry at night over LOL, but sometimes the envy others helps (it does me!) So just know that sometimes I would trade my nonexistent left nut to have your life and your income and net worth. BTW, I’m going to just tell my parents you’re their new daughter.

    1. Hah! Can you do me a favor and call up my Jewish parents and let them know that the Asian parents will take me? They always ask me about why I don’t own a house yet or why I’m not married with kids. Le sigh. Arts/Education is awesome. I majored in theatre in college and thought I’d end up doing something in the arts. This whole tech thing kind of came from nowhere (though I’ve always been interested in innovation.) I’ve found I really enjoy business, but I admire those who spend their lives pursuing their artistic musings. But I’m sure the grass is always greener. I’m pretty sure smart people with talent and artistic vision win out in the end as long as they keep creating. Money is only a small part of the happiness equation. When you start pursuing a life in business, suddenly it becomes more important. At least as an artist there’s the luxury of accepting the whole point of your career is to create and not necessarily be wealthy.

      I think 30(s) will be good years. Even though I go through lots of depressive episodes today, I’m well ahead of where I was just a few years ago. Life finally feels somewhat stable, and like it’s something I own versus a game that I am forced to play and can’t win.

      I’d gladly be featured on your blog – ping me at hereverycentcounts@yahoo.com to set that up. 🙂 Thanks for the awesome comment, btw, it made my day.

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