I hate writing this story, but I would be dishonest if I didn’t. Right now, I am sitting in my three-bedroom, one bath house with a strong roof over my head. It’s sleeting outside since this winter is refusing to end. It’s March, the month of Madness, St. Paddy’s Day, my property tax due dates, my son’s January hospital bill is due and the time to make good on past gas and electric bills.
Most months, I am fine. I pay our bills, shop for bargains at the grocery store and stay close to home on the weekends. None of my clothes are new. I drink only water, tea and coffee. The thermostat stays lower than most houses and we wear extra clothes. Still, I have finally reached the month where I can’t pay our bills. Close friends have loaned me money to make sure that his daycare bill was paid. Thanks to a salary advance loan from my credit union, I managed to pay the car payment. Now, I have forty dollars in my checking account and ¼ of a tank of gas in the car. There are 14 days until my next paycheck. I keep asking myself, how did I get here?
Becoming a parent has put me in debt that will take me several years to recover. From the first delivery of sperm from the sperm bank to the last payment to my adoption lawyer, I have spent over $60,000 trying to become a mother. It was worth every penny, I don’t regret it but tonight, I am scared. Yes, I can beg someone else for money. My tax refund is late since I claimed the adoption tax credit and the IRS seems to be taken aback by this revelation. It’s frustrating since I know that any day I will have the funds to pay all of my bills, but right now, I am not sure how I will buy groceries for my son until that day comes.
What makes this more painful is that as a child, I watched my mother struggle to feed us after the divorce. There was several nights where my mother made a can of tomato soup feed all four of us kids dinner. To this day, I can’t eat tomato soup because it reminds me of those times. As a child, I wondered why my mother didn’t reach out for more help so that we could eat more than a ¼ of a can a soup at night. It was pride, adults having to admit that they are unable to do something as simple as pay their bills. Now, here I am full of pride dreading the moments where I will have to ask for help.
My son is 14 months old right now and he has no clue about the worry that is going on in my brain. Instead, he is growing out of clothes left and right. During nap time, we wet himself and they had to resort to back-up clothes. When I picked him up, I discovered a cute little boy in a jumpsuit one size too small. Tonight, he was entertained by pushing a box and our laundry basket around the living with his favorite stuffed animal, his rabbit, along for the ride. His giggles made it difficult to stay sad. So glad that he was unaware that his dinner offering was lean and that his mother skipped dinner since I may need that meal later in the week.
Parts of my house and life are falling apart around me. My refrigerator moans like an old man. The tile in my bathroom is cracked from one side to the other. The furnace is old and will need replacing in the near future. My cats are very overdue for a visit to the vet. I just canceled my babysitter for tomorrow night. Tuesday night was my only night each week where I do one thing for myself - workout with a Pilates class then a dance class, but I can’t spend what little I have left on myself when this forty dollars may be my old way to buy groceries and milk for my son.
I have a Master’s degree and a good job, but let’s face it, in these trying times, everyone is one paycheck away from not paying their bills. This is happening for a reason. It’s a time for lessons as I learn to rely on others for assistance. Right now though, I am willing to wait it out a few more days to see if my return magically appears in the mail. My son eats most of his meals at day care anyway. My car gets good gas mileage and I could stand to skip a few meals with beach season just around the corner. Eventually though, I will find my breaking point. The moment I can’t feed my son or the gas gets turned off, all bets are off. Please, oh please universe don’t push us to such limits.