To sum up my life, I am whole-heartedly grateful and blessed beyond measure. I have a wonderful finance career, two healthy, beautiful kids ages 3 (Quinn) and 20 months (Matthew James “MJ”). My husband (Matt) is an Allstate agent who started from zero clients 4 years ago, to expanding to a second office just a month ago, on his 4-year anniversary.
But here’s the deal, its still hard! Working full time, starting a new business, raising two toddlers to be decent human beings, and then throw in a purchasing a foreclosed home closer to our jobs before selling our former home which took 18 months to sell while maintaining payroll for a staff of 4 and don’t get me started on daycare costs! All of this leads to a lot of stress – financial stress, marital stress, and emotional stress. I certainly don’t have this all figured out, but I’d like to share a couple of critical things that help me thrive during this beautiful period of chaos.
- Financial freedom – I started really listening to Dave Ramsey – and rather than “kind of” adapting it, we went all in. We had credit card debt, business debt, car loans and the stress of two mortgages (in addition to ongoing bills – did I mention daycare already?). We got on a budget, the house finally sold, we now sit with no personal debt other than our house. We even owner-financed the new business (the business owner receives 100% of the profit of our new location until we pay him off – no interest, no risk). If we really want something, we cash flow it. Just having a plan has significantly reduced the stress on our life and the feeling like we were sinking. The other big thing is, that we talk about money. This has been a huge relief for me, as I was the one who handled all the finance-related matters in our life. I needed a partner in this, and this new process has really helped bring Matt and I together in this area of our lives.
- “Our nights” – being a mom started to make me slip away from my own identity, from being a great friend, and from self-care (more on that later). Here’s what my husband and I now do: we both get our own night, every week, to do whatever it is we want. For me this looks like golf league in the summer with co-workers, dinner with girlfriends, hot yoga, or even grocery shopping alone! For Matt, it looks like drinks with the guys, sneaking up north for a night of hunting, or fishing with my Dad or with friends. For the current season of life that we are in, our kids require 110% from daycare pickup to bedtime, and getting a break to do something that makes your heart sing outside of parenting is critical. Neither of our nights requires babysitting money or anything super expensive. The big one that changed things for us though, was adding a date night, ideally once/week but at a minimum twice a month. Date night includes not coming home until the kids are in bed. Typically, its going for dinner, but during the summer we like to take our boat out on the river in Green Bay or play 9 holes of golf. I always find it amazing how much I learn about Matt’s day-to-day that I truly never hear otherwise. We get to talk to each other. We laugh, a lot. Sure, we look at pictures of our kids and laugh about the silly things they say, but it’s mostly about us just being together and remembering what started all of this. One bonus we found by doing this, is that we have teachers right in our daycare that babysit! This has been wonderful for us because they already know our kids so well, and our kids love to show the teachers whatever new fun toy or show is cool at our house.
- Self-Care – I have always been a fan of exercise, but it slipped away from me in the period of 4 years of being pregnant and nursing. About a year ago, after dreaming of owning a Peloton bike (check my google searches for a good 2+years), I bit the bullet and purchased one (using some work bonus dollars of course – no added debt!). I haven’t looked back. This bike that goes nowhere, sits in my office overlooking the street, and it has been the perfect instrument for exercise, stress relief and with the in-home flexibility that I need. I promise this isn’t an ad for the company, I just speak from personal experience that it has been the perfect instrument at the perfect time in my life. I have lost the baby weight, gained muscle and confidence, and gained a community of people in all walks of life that support perfectly imperfect strangers. Once I started carving out 4 days a week to do this new self-care routine, I found that my mental clarity, my patience, my exhaustion – all these areas of my life improved. I also got to shop (for free!) in my own closet since I fit into some pre-baby sizes!
As I mentioned, I am blessed beyond measure. This is a crazy beautiful season of life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I hope these couple of tips for “thriving” during this season of life might reach a few others. I love to talk about all these areas and would be happy to get into more detail (especially in the finance area) if people are looking for ideas or ways to take back some control in the chaos!