Can you imagine a guy telling his colleagues that the thing he’s most looking forward to in the new year is starting a family?
I’ve seen this happen (incidentally, he a) left for another company early not long after, and b) is now expecting a baby too – but that’s by the by) and you know what, that really stunned me.
I cannot ever, EVER imagine saying the same thing as a woman. It seems too great of a risk.
I saw a tweet ages ago that went something like ‘in the old days, men could say they needed a raise so they could start a family”.
I suspect if a woman were to pull that the reaction would be quite different. Even though if she was the breadwinner, she would need that raise WAY more than any dude in the equivalent situation.
Who earns what matters. Here’s why
For those who say it doesn’t who matter who makes more…
Let’s say he makes $40k.
She makes $80k.
The time she takes off results in a loss of 2/3 of the household income.
If we reverse that….
He makes $80k.
She makes $40k.
The time she takes off results in a loss of 1/3 of the household income.
I’m terrible at maths but even I can immediately see that’s there’s a huge, gaping difference there.
Because yes, she’s going to need SOME time off to push a mini human out of her body and recover from that process … even if they elect for him to be the primary caregiver.
I guess ironically, at some income levels this matters less. If you’re making a much higher income, your surplus makes it easier to save large amounts to cover those months you won’t be earning for.
But for your average middle class couple, this is a pretty major consideration.
How much my maternity leave cost me
I was uber fortunate to have a very generous employer – the company I worked for while pregnant offers 3 months of leave at full pay. (I’d still be there were it not for the mass layoffs that took place shortly before I was due to return to work.) That’s super rare, and they were definitely a market leader in regard to this benefit. Very few companies here offer any paid parental leave at all, much less at full pay and for that long. Most people only get the 22 weeks worth of paid government leave that clocks in at something like $480 a week post-tax, maximum.
I wound up taking about 7.5 months off, which included the 3 months of paid parental leave, and another month of annual leave that I’d saved up.
That meant 3.5 months of lost income from my day job, which adds up to over $15k of takehome income.
Add to that over $3.5k in missed superannuation contributions (between my contributions and employer contributions – again, my old employer was very generous on that front) plus any gains that amount would have made in the market.
All up, my brief (by NZ standards) parental leave meant I lost out on nearly $20k. And if I’d worked almost anywhere else, that amount would have probably doubled, as I wouldn’t have benefited from any fully-paid leave. Straight up, I wouldn’t have been able to take that much time off to stay home with Spud.
Q: What do you get when two pregnant, breadwinning coworkers are on the train home together?
A: Slightly snarky (okay, envious) conversation about another colleague who’s living an Insta-perfect life on maternity leave with her baby, a husband who makes all the money AND does the cooking (score!).
But look, we all have our own problems (like a fairly horrendous pregnancy in that person’s case and I’m sure there are others) – it was just nice to vent honestly to each other knowing we’re in the same boat and not going to judge each other for our feelings. That it would be nice to have the option to stay home for however long we wanted. To not be the one responsible for incubating our children AND bearing the financial load to boot. Options, I’m all about options.
And I know we’re not alone. Just check out Google’s suggested related searches for the phrase ‘female breadwinner’:
All of that, I think, gets exacerbated in pregnancy. I had a fairly easy one. And I was still SO DONE by 8 months. Even taking it a day at a time was slightly torturous. No, pregnancy is not a disability … but I was definitely nowhere near 100%. And thanks to my extra lame immune system, I just kept getting sick what seemed like every month.
Don’t get me wrong; I was thankful to have made it that far and that healthy. I mean, nobody wants to experience pregnancy complications, but when your income is what keeps the household afloat, being put on early rest is going to be a huge financial blow (unless perhaps you shorten your maternity leave by the same amount of time, and get less time with the baby post-birth. Yay.)
I had to book in my leave plans at the 6 month mark, which was a bit tough. On the one hand, I had no idea how I would physically feel in those final weeks. People kept telling me how hard it was going to get and how I wouldn’t want to work up to 38 or 39 weeks, to which I clenched my teeth and smiled and nodded.
Because on the other hand, I didn’t want to fritter away my leave days. Simply put, every week I’m off pre-delivery means a week less post-birth to spend with baby. It’s a gamble – baby might come early, robbing you of that precious downtime at the end. But then again, baby might be late and leave you sitting around waiting! There’s just no telling. I’d rather err on the side of not wasting too much precious leave beforehand.
So in the end, I was planning to work up until 38 weeks and hoping to get a couple of lazy weeks in at home. (I was counting on the fact that first-time mothers are usually late … but then I read that Asian women often give birth early?!) And that seems to be quite late by usual standards around here, it seems more common to finish up a month before you’re due or sometimes even earlier. And I totally get it, pregnancy gets so more uncomfortable in the third trimester! The fatigue, the fogginess, and holy shit the reflux.
Of course, that was all a moot point when I went into labour at 36 weeks. September was always meant to be our month to get things properly ready ahead of Spud’s arrival, but that did not happen at all. His arrival in early (instead of late) October meant a mad scramble to take care of stuff – thank goodness for family chipping in to help a little bit, bringing food, helping clean up the house, going out to look for baby clothes in preemie sizes. I had no time off at all to myself and never got to wrap things up at work in the way I’d planned.
I’m over halfway through my maternity leave now, which is crazy. Financially, it’s been way more stressful than expected (a long story for another post, another time). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t battling a lot of resentment, given I’d done my part with planning and budgeting and carried all that out. It’s definitely put a bit of a damper on things.
That said, I’ve enjoyed being able to stay home and watch Spud grow. It’s also really fucking hard work sometimes, and I’m looking forward to sending him to daycare – I think he’s going to thrive on the stimulation. While, as I’ve said before, it’d be really nice to have the option to take a year off … personally, I don’t think I’d be cut out for it anyway. Lucky, that!
I learned to start trusting my instincts and Spud got both harder and more rewarding to deal with.
Formula to the rescue
We started doing more formula top ups, more regularly. I remember one afternoon when he wouldn’t stop crying even after feeding for hours. I decided to try making up a bottle and offered it to him – magic! Most nights we do a last bottle before bed (though it doesn’t always get finished or sometimes is barely touched) and sometimes when he gets hungry later in the day and I seem to have dried up, we’ll top him up.
The sleep struggle
Speaking of trying things, another time along with the fussing he was showing early signs of tiredness so I popped him into the pram, fully prepared to rock him for awhile. He went to sleep in minutes though and I felt like a rockstar! Naps now take work, sadly. They don’t just happen automatically anymore…
We set new nighttime sleep records almost every weekend. I suspect our Thursday osteo appointments may have helped. On his two month anniversary I woke up amazed that he’d slept through – over 7 hours! A feat yet to be repeated, sadly.
The osteo showed me how to get him to take a dummy by tapping it while in his mouth. But that was a onetime thing; I could never get it to work again after that…
D-MER no more
I had sometimes been feeling a weird wave of emotion at the start of each feeding. Like an overwhelming sense of frustration. That went away this month, and I think it was a bout of dysphoric milk ejection. The things you learn when endlessly scrolling FB and Reddit…
Our escape artist (thank god for structured industrial strength swaddles)
People say he’s the wriggliest baby ever. I have nothing else to compare him to but I do feel validated…he never stays still! Head butts while holding him upright for burps or fun – just a daily hazard of the job. And muslins weren’t cutting it as swaddles anymore as he’d break free right away. I bought a few straightjacket-like swaddles and they were a godsend.
Smiles! Real smiles. So many! And he started to spend more time awake after feeding, making playtime A Thing at last.
I have poo envy. Seriously. Between this kid’s explosive poops (sounds like a drain emptying ferociously) and T spending forever in the toilet, it seems just silly that I’m more clogged up than I was while pregnant.
That said, this poop machine dialed it back a bit especially overnight, until most nights he would only have wet (not dirty) diapers. Although he outgrew size one in Huggies he didn’t fit the next size up. Thank goodness for Japanese brands! A subject for another post… While he still isn’t big enough for my OSFM reusables, we have two newborn cloth nappies that are getting some use. But I’m baffled as to how we’re supposed to get a good fit with domes/snaps; Velcro seems like the only way to go. Still can’t quite get them sitting right, as in not too loose or too tight.
I accepted that spews and spills were just going to be our new normal and that he was going to be a refluxy baby. Stuff coming out both ends while up on the change table? Just another day in our lives…
Getting out of the house
I became a baby wearing fan. The first time I had him in the front pack snuggled up to me, it felt so much like being pregnant again. His squirming around was just like the movements he used to make in utero.
We went out on our first solo walk. It. Felt. Amazing! We ventured down the local cycleway to the pony farm and back. Sadly I can’t wrangle both a pram and a dog, let alone two. Any dog walks are done one at a time and only while I’m babywearing.
Other bits and bobs
I came across the Dunstan baby cries theory and at first it was a game changer, then not so much. He basically has only two cries I can discern and hungry/tired are the same.
We survived our first vaccinations! He was fussier in the following days and came up with a new sad whimpering cry, and also had a bit of diarrhoea, I think. But overall, could have been worse.
Time truly is flying, and balancing today with tomorrow is still tough as ever…
I barely had time to prep for labour, let alone baby’s first few weeks. And so it’s been a learning curve!
The first couple of weeks were easy. He slept a lot and only fed for 10 mins at a time, going straight back to snoozing after. Cries were easily soothed by a feed or a nappy change! I managed to get in a bit of freelance work and house cleaning along with the daily dishes and laundry.
Then he grew bigger, and more alert, and the trouble started. Right around his original due date in fact. We went from 3-4 hour sleeps to maybe 1-2 tops, constant crying, extended feeds and terrible gas! He spits up, burps and farts but none of it seems to come easy, so that’s what we spend ages trying to coax out of his tiny body. Routine has been totally thrown out the window … just as I was thinking I’d like to try to stick to more of a schedule going forward.
The first week at home, with T
Oh, you’re exhausted? Oh, you’re sick of loading the dishwasher? I’m the one who just gave birth and spent nearly a week in hospital!
The second week at home, solo
Oh, this is when you have to start to change their outfits constantly! Oh, this is what it’s like to get peed on, and watch him pee on his own face!
The third week at home
Oh, that’s what people mean when they say their baby is noisy at night! The sounds he makes in his sleep now are crazy.
The fourth week at home
Oh wow, how much wind is in this child? Each cycle is so much longer now that I have to try and get the gas out of him.
Things that have surprised me so far
No period for nine months = awesome. More than making up for that in the weeks post partum = ugh.
The fact you can collect colostrum off your nips (and then syringe it into baby’s mouth). Not something I ever ever ever could have fathomed doing.
How long it takes Spud to latch on sometimes. Watching him play with my nips is equal parts hilarious and frustrating.
The first time I started leaking milk when I heard him cry. WTF.
The cost of parking. Not that I ever imagined we’d be in hospital so long…
How long adrenaline keeps you going. The hormones got me through those long nights the first couple of weeks (though during pregnancy I surprised myself with how well I managed on reduced sleep even then).
So thirsty. All the time. Feeding another human is seriously draining!
My belly is still pretty huge. And yet I DGAF.
How many bibs this kid goes through in a day. So spitty.
Time is flying. We just hit six weeks and took him for his first shots … Christmas ain’t far off and I feel like May (when I go back to work) is going to be here in no time…
Confessions from the trenches
I sometimes fall asleep during night feedings – I know, it’s terrible.
Related: when he won’t settle after a night feed, I used to bring him into bed (I’ve stopped now).
They say you’ll know… but I honestly couldn’t tell if I was in real labour. My contractions started 5 mins apart and stayed that way for over 12 hours. Up till the morning I was wondering if I should suck it up and go to work. Then I thought okay, I’ll stay home but T should go to work and I’ll call him if anything progresses. (Thankfully he decided to stay put in the end!)
I was set on equal parenting and splitting duties evenly. The reality, especially to start, was nowhere near. The first couple nights I did all the night wake ups; he wasn’t managing the sleep deprivation well at all despite talking a big game. Not looking after himself while we were in hospital meant he was in worse shape than I was (thanks hormones) on the first night we finally came home.
With him working and me breastfeeding (along with some expressing and the odd bottle of formula) the scales are still tipped pretty far towards moi. Throw in the fact Spud is feeding so often now (my friend with an even more prem baby finds the same) and for so much longer, and I’m spending literally hours and hours of the day attached to him.
That said, when I’m at wits end or totally drained – usually at 3am – I’ll hand off once in awhile. And if T’s having an insomniac night, he’ll take the wheel – he’s given me a handful of full or part nights off, which have been glorious. I may have the milk, but he’s got the burping and swaddling magic.
He just couldn’t wait a moment longer. And when your baby decides it’s time to join the world, there’s not a lot you can do about it!
Our son’s changed our lives irrevocably and I don’t think I’ve quite adjusted to the fact that this is my new reality.
And now here we are, tasked with spending the rest of our lives keeping this little guy alive. Crazy.
An exorcism (the birth story)
It all started on a Monday evening…
We were walking the dogs after dinner when I thought I felt my first Braxton Hicks (an assumption based on being 36 weeks). They kept coming once we got home and eventually I started timing – 5-7 mins apart, almost like clockwork.
There was no sleep for me that night as they started to get a bit stronger; I muddled through with some Birthful podcast episodes I hadn’t got to yet, and one from Michelle is Money Hungry 😉 – all while rotating through tons of positions. Lying, standing, kneeling, sitting, with and without cushions, etc. At one point I went rooting around the house for paracetamol, and though I finally found some, it did crap all for the pain.
Tuesday morning came at last…
And with it, what looked like my bloody show. At that point it really started to sink in that this was likely real labour, and I started to get scared.
Doubly so an hour or so later, when I started bleeding a bit and called my midwife. I’d texted her earlier and she’s said it could still be a few days, and to try to relax – that hopefully we could make it to 37 weeks! But a photo of my bloody pad was enough to convince her it was time to go in. Being so early, no birthing centre for me 😥 instead, it was off to the hospital.
A little old lady volunteer popped me in a wheelchair and took me to maternity, where my midwife turned up shortly after and set me up in a room. It was nothing like I’d envisioned birth, though of course I knew better than to fixate on anything about this whole process. Still, I never really imagined I’d be on a bed, hooked up to a baby heartbeat monitor and also an IV.
A doctor came in to examine me and Spud was fine, luckily, but labour wasn’t really progressing (contractions not speeding up, dilation stuck around 4cm) so eventually they broke my waters on the bed.
The afternoon rolled around…
That sped things up, and I got on the gas not long after. We prepared for an epidural as well since we were in hospital but I was still keen to try get through without.
I got off the bed and was sitting backwards on a chair, with the gas basically putting me to sleep between contractions (a welcome relief to super sleep deprived me). At some point it all intensified and I knew I had to change positions as it was getting unbearable … like the most epic bouts of constipation ever.
That’s when I hopped back on the bed, hanging on to the raised back for dear life. I hadn’t got round to creating a birthing playlist, so my Happy playlist had to get me through. At some point I kind of lost consciousness, retreating into myself as each wave came faster. I couldn’t focus on active birthing techniques anymore, only sucking on the gas to get through, sliding down the bed every time.
What if I can’t do this? I wondered. I might need something more.
The next level up would be morphine, they said, but it could slow things down (which I definitely did not want). They knew I was close, I guess, and kept encouraging me through.
Pushing on my lower back helped with the pain, and cold flannels on my face and neck were a big relief. I was sweating buckets, not helped by whatever they were doing in the background to get ready for Spud that apparently included heating the room. I could hear a flurry of activity around and behind me, and that was reassuring – I didn’t have the energy to speak and ask but figured they must be setting up for the final stage.
Someone else came in to help and introduced herself just as I hit a big one and all I greeted her with was a scream. Likewise, the person bringing in my dinner tray (seriously, a little preoccupied right now!).
I remember my midwife commenting on the giant backpack we brought, which led to them talking about our RTW trip. If I’d had the capacity I would have yelled shut the fuck up why are you talking about travel right now when I’m dying?!
I think I pushed for less than an hour – though at the time it seemed eternal. Making progress and then regressing, never ending and disheartening. Screaming bloody murder.
By the time he came out at 6.59pm, 24 hours after those first contractions, I was SHATTERED and had zero interest in this weird dirty bundle. But they put him on me, and after taking a few minutes to recover and come back to the present, I was ready to marvel at him.
Although they used a local anaesthetic to stitch me up I could still feel them somewhat – and frankly the injections and the stitches were about on par with each other… He came out with one hand up which apparently is what caused the tearing (thanks dude).
As we wound things up, I could hear another woman somewhere else in the ward shouting I can’t do this!
I wanted to yell back you can and you will. Cheesy as it sounds, that day and every one since, has hammered home just how much strength lies within us.
I may not have gotten the birthing pool, the walking around, or any of that, but it all worked out in the end.
Feeling like a badass for getting through labour!
Luckily I didn’t experience the ring of fire, and going to the toilet post partum wasn’t too bad,,
Surviving my first diaper change, tarry black poop and all.
All the well wishes and support from everyone. I swear, anyone I’ve ever known has reached out, and everyone one I even vaguely know with kids has offered advice and congratulations. It’s like we’ve been inducted into this secret club, in a way. This week has definitely been social media at its best 🙂
T organising a brief escape on Saturday morning – I needed that respite. We just went home to hang out with the animals, enjoy some normalcy for an hour and so I could see all the work he’d done to get the house ready.
Coming home on Sunday. Nuff said!
Spending 5 nights in hospital. Playing the waiting game every day, not knowing if we would get discharged or not. First it was concerns about his weight and whether he was producing enough wet diapers, then it was jaundice.
T telling me how hard it was for him to leave us every day after visiting and how it made him sadder each time. Broke my heart.
Pumping (they got me onto pumping after the second night) and having the lactation consultant all over my boobs (yes I know it’s her job). Particularly at night – the feed, burp, change cycle was manageable but adding a pumping session with all the logistics after every feed as well – ugh. Trying to soothe him while hooked up to the machine at 4am was a major low.
Nights 3 and 4 by myself in the hospital. See above. Wrangling everything was so hard and lonely and depressing. (Partners can’t stay overnight in hospital. That said, we were in a private room the last two nights, because of the jaundice / UV lights, and kinda smuggled him in on the last night. While it didn’t take as much off the load as I’d hoped, just not being alone with baby helped immensely.)
Probably not helping was what I’m pretty sure was a light spell of flu or a terrible cold around the second month thrown in there.
However much was due to my growing a human vs legit illness, I spent literally weeks out of action beyond making it to work and home again (and not even that, some days). Evenings and weekends, the only place you’d find me was flat on my back in bed. And even now, my (never great) energy levels aren’t what they used to be, so I need even more rest and sleep than normal. On top of that, the occasional dizzy spell likes to come out of nowhere, relegating me to the nearest seat (or better, bed) to recover.
I had to get over my guilt about doing nothing pretty quick smart, and embrace marathoning Jane the Virgin.
A happiness hack
Separately, I’d already been working for a while on reframing how I think about the nonproductive hours in my week.
I guess you could even spin it as optimising my time, though maybe not in the traditional way.
The things is, I hate waiting. Seriously hate it.
But instead of resenting the commute, I’m starting to enjoy it (maybe even look forward to it sometimes) as it’s often the only time I can carve out to decompress and meditate.
And now that the days are getting shorter and it’s dark earlier, I’m switching it up. Normally I bus to the train station in the morning, and walk home from the train in the evening; these days I’m walking in the morning (bonus: it warms me up for the day, gets the blood flowing on wintry mornings!) and bus back from the station home.
The same with walking the dogs. It’s gotta be done. Sometimes it can be doubled up as a run for me, but not every walk can be a run – and these days I’m just not up for running at all, to be honest. Some walks need to be training walks, and some need to be relaxing sniffy walks where they can just be dogs – walks when I can let my mind roam free and work on visualisations and mantras.
Rather than impatiently waiting for these ‘unproductive’ times to end, I’m trying to use them in better ways. Repurposing them from hours to be endured with the help of Spotify and podcasts, to precious flow and meditation time.
Baby fever/biological clock, whatever you want to call it, hit me hard in the past couple of years. It just crept up.
But I have always been acutely aware of the pressure that being the breadwinner places on me. What if health issues meant I had to stop work early? What if I went into labour prematurely (as happened to a coworker at my last job, whose waters broke at the office weeks early)? or what if my own, or the kid’s health, stopped me returning to work as planned?
I’m really lucky to currently have an employer that provides good benefits, including paid parental leave over and above the (pretty pathetic) legal requirements. I won’t lie, this was a big draw for me. Which brings me to my point…
I’m growing a human!
Terrifying, but exciting.
Which means … I’ve survived the first trimester, and you’ll get to hear all about my experiences with the maternity system, gripes about gender and societal stuff, and the financial side too. I Have Thoughts. And I will be sharing them.
But for now, all I have to say is: carbs are life. The aversions and appetite changes/ups and downs are no joke. I’m living for super plain food (cereal/toast etc) … or curry (what can I say, Malaysian/Indian is my comfort food). And lemonade – so much lemonade.
Being selfless is good. Selfish is a dirty word. Right?!
Nay, my friends. On the contrary. Learning to be selfish is the single best thing you can do for your finances. (And life in general.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned over and over in my 20s, it is the importance of putting myself squarely first.
It is the key to making more money, to hanging on to your money, and that is what will enable you to build the life you want – and ultimately, give back consciously and deliberately in ways that are meaningful for you.
It’s particularly important for women, I think. We tend to struggle more with self-confidence, imposter syndrome and negotiating; bad relationships tend to be more financially devastating for us. And that is where selfishness comes into play.
Here are my best tips for stepping up your game, based off my personal experiences and observations of others around me.
Be an advocate for yourself
Let’s face it, nobody else will. No one else will put your best financial interests first. Your employer does not exist to help you make money. It’s up to you to learn to track your accomplishments, trot them out, and use that to ask for raises or negotiate higher salaries. Those who don’t ask, don’t get.
(Well, generally. Some will do the right thing – when I applied for my first non-journalism job, I secretly wanted to make $60k but I couldn’t, deep down, fathom anyone paying me that much. It just seemed outrageous. So on the application form, I wrote $58k in the desired salary field. They offered me $65k – a full 12% more. But it would be a mistake to count on any employer ever doing that again!)
Listen to your mentors
Okay, so maybe you need an external nudge? Hopefully, you have senior people to give you a reality check! Take their advice.
One told me to ask for a raise. I didn’t. I was planning to go travelling soon, which would either mean taking extended leave or resigning, and it seemed like bad faith to ask for more money right before that. Plus, I had terrible imposter syndrome and suspected I was overpaid. Ugh.
Another told me to quote high on some freelance work. I took that on board, and as a result, for the first time ever, charged $50 an hour. A preposterous sum of money to me, probably a fair professional rate in their view.
Do not give too much away
You work hard for the money. Don’t let it trickle away with lax boundaries.
I’m talking about giving too much to the people closest to you. You might feel obligated to help them out with money, or they might actually outright pressure you into it.
Don’t do it. You must put your own financial security first. That has to be your top priority. You will know when you can afford to be generous, and in most cases, this is not that time.
Get over your mental blocks
Easier said than done, I know.
There are so many messy messages wrapped up with money. You might think making money means selling out. There’s nobility in being a struggling artist. Rich people are assholes. Liking money makes you greedy or a bad person somehow.
If you stop to really reflect on your most deep-rooted perceptions around money, and wheel them out for inspection in broad daylight, you start to realise how unfounded and illogical many of them are.
There is nothing wrong with earning or enjoying money. Sure, if you were a tosser before, you’ll still be a tosser – having money won’t change that. But if you’re a decent human being, having money won’t change that either. If you’re starting from a reasonable baseline, then you’re good. You’ll still be you. Promise.
And selfishly? If you’re anything like me, you have dreams and those dreams ain’t free.
But you know what I hate? Being constrained financially. Being FORCED into frugality, into cutting costs and pinching pennies. I never want to be limited by money. Particularly as we live in a capitalist society, where inflation ensures life only gets more (not less) expensive.
There’s no use feeling guilty about your financial situation, either. So lots of people do much harder jobs for lower pay; so some people struggle. The answer does not lie with you. If you were to earn less, this would not magically level the field for everyone. You having more does not mean someone else automatically has less. Your success does not take anything away from others. If anything, you could argue it’s your responsibility to reach your maximum earning potential so that you can use that money to give back.
Go get it.
After more inspiration? Head over here this International Women’s Day and have a read of all the other awesome #WomenRockMoney content.
Amazingly … it made a difference. I wouldn’t say it changed my core personality – I’m definitely still a realist, with the same sarcastic tongue and sense of humour – but it actually did wonders for my state of mind and made me a more pleasant person to be around.
Hell, I even changed my passwords like some say to do, so that your goal is front of mind each time you type it in.
Is it helping? Can’t hurt, I figure … there’s nothing to lose. At the very least, it reminds me of my goals multiple times a day.
Of course, not everything is within our control and shit happens. Positive thinking doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand and blinding yourself to reality.
But it can definitely shore up your ability to cope with setbacks and manage stress. I’ve found that opening up my mind like this has led to me to see more possibilities and think differently in order to succeed.
Balancing these viewpoints, I’ve come to realise that this is something I’ve basically always proclaimed to aspire to:
That was my reaction a few weeks ago when the first pay day of the year arrived … and I hadn’t been paid.
My mind immediately went into overdrive.
Where was the money? Was it just delayed due to the New Year public holidays? Had it not been processed by the finance team? What if I wasn’t going to get paid at all? What would this mean for cashflow for the next week, and the week after, and the week after, and the week after? I’d have to tap into savings, maybe take some from the house renovation fund …
And so on and so forth. Straight into the worst case scenario and all the disastrous consequences.
It’s so easy to spiral – but I managed to take a deep breath before spinning totally out of control and reassess.
I had enough in that account to pay the mortgage – priority numero uno.
Cash savings elsewhere would tide me over for all the other expenses.
And that was all I truly needed to think about right then and there.
No use immediately jumping to catastrophic conclusions and getting lost down the paths of endless what ifs.
Worrying isn’t always a bad thing, if you know when to stop
There’s the productive kind that leads to making contingency plans.
But then there’s needless stressing. It’s like picking a scab.
It serves no purpose whatsoever – aside, perhaps, from giving your mind something to do. And the only possible result is that you make yourself feel worse and worse as it drives you into a frenzy of fear and self pity (you know exactly what I’m talking about).
That’s unhelpful, unhealthy, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to cut out.
It doesn’t sound like much, but I was super proud of myself for catching myself in the act and nipping it in the bud.
Because as it turns out, my biggest downfall is my own hyperactive mind. Some might abuse substances, or food; my destructive behaviour manifests as compulsive, obsessive stressing.
Happy ending! The money came through sometime between then and the next time I checked back – which I refrained from doing until the next day. All that fretting would have been for nothing.
The urge to scratch that itch was strong, but every time I stamp it down it gets a little easier.
Rewiring your mind
Another example: several months ago I got a letter from the owner/landlord of the neighbouring property. They wanted to put up a new fence … and their estimate was over $6,000, or $3,000 for my half.
Now, a new fence is on the roadmap for us, and it’s something we wanted to get done as soon as possible. But not just yet (the kitchen comes first) and certainly not at that price. $3k for a fence was not in the budget any time soon.
I stressed out majorly about this. Raged, worried, spent ages researching the law and our obligations. Wrote back outlining my viewpoint and countering their proposal (which boiled down to, we do not currently have the funds or desire to do this right now).
Then it was just a matter of waiting. Time enough for me to review the situation with a clearer mind and reassure myself that even if this were to go ahead, I could absorb the expense. Sure, it would make a massive dent in my savings and postpone our kitchen project for who knows how long … but it wouldn’t ruin me.
Time passed and no response came, so: crisis averted. We can tackle the fence later when we’re in a position to do so.
And that was a huge exercise in resetting my emotional reactions, and a big leap forward for me. In fact, I think it was my biggest breakthrough in terms of stopping the spiral before it went too far.
Breaking the cycle
Since then, I’ve taught myself to allow less and less time to freak the fuck out, and more quickly move on to considering the options, and accepting the possible outcomes. Stop panicking. Stop spiralling. Stop freaking out about money.
Overwriting that thought pattern takes time, just like building any muscle or habit. Developing the self awareness and self control so that you can catch yourself before the worrying stops being productive and crosses over into self flagellation.
You’ve got to be able to recognise when you’re heading down that path, and make the choice to break the cycle right there.
It’ll do wonders for your happiness. Seriously, learning to not let my scarcity mindset drag me down is probably my favourite life hack ever.