Money. It makes the world go round. You need it, you love it, you hate it.
If you've ever known poverty, you may understand what I mean when I say that money is my obsession. My life often seems to revolve around our lack of money. I am constantly trying to think of how I can stretch it, where I should spend it, and how I can make more of it. Nothing can make me feel more ill or bring me to a panic attack more quickly than thinking about finances, or our financial future.
I keep expecting things to change. I keep looking to the future and expecting to be in a better spot, only to find myself still struggling when I get there. I was never one to think I was going to end up with some large house and a nice nest egg. I did marry a pastor, so I knew that in all likelihood, there would be a whole lot more "poorer" than "richer". But autism changed not only how we would spend our money, it seriously impacted our ability to bring it in in the first place. And with each diagnosis, I felt our future financial stability crumble bit by bit.
Autism families struggle to pay the bills. Whatever money we have goes to giving our kids the best shot at success. I've seen families that are easily middle class still struggle with keeping the lights on. It happens much more than you would ever believe. To add to the stress of the now, we also look to the future and have no idea what to expect and what kind of help our kids may need for the rest of their lives. My kids may grow up to be financially independent. Or they may not. I can't count on either, but have to prepare for the likelihood that they will need us. Considering that I am currently able to provide for them fully, this thought overwhelms me. Every bit of pride I have just cowers in shame and fear.
I don't feel like a bad parent because I sometimes yell. I don't feel like a bad parent because I let them watch plenty of Disney movies or don't play outside enough. I feel like a bad parent because I need help just to keep them clothed and fed and housed and therapied (is that a word?) People tell me all the time that my kids are lucky to have been born into this family and so often I think that if they were lucky, they would have been born into a family that had plenty of money to care for their distinct and sometimes overwhelming needs.
I know that money holds too much power over me. When I drift off to sleep, night after night, trying to calculate how much I need to sell to make ends meet, I know that I've reached an unhealthy place. When a little light blinks on the dashboard of my minivan and it causes an instant pounding in my heart and drop in my stomach, I've reached an unhealthy place. The fact that money brings about such strong feelings of shame and embarrassment and jealousy...well, that's not the kind of person I want to be.
I want to be the kind of person that works hard and goes to bed at night knowing that I've done my best. And letting that be enough. I want to be the kind of person who looks at pictures of my friends on vacation and is happy for them, not envious. Yes, our financial situation needs to change. There are things I can do to work towards that, and I am doing them. But more importantly, my attitude about money needs to change.
I don't want to let money (or my lack of it) rob me of joy. Life won't get put on hold until my finances look better. And let's be honest- would I suddenly find myself full of happiness the moment my bank account has more zeros? Probably not. Especially if I spend my whole life obsessing over money and feeding into negativity and misery.
So, today I'm going to start. I'm going to be grateful for the help we've had instead of ashamed. I'm going to be grateful for the home we are moving into instead of obsessing over what we can't buy for it. I'm going to enjoy my children today and hope for the best for their futures.
There are so many people in my life to cherish...I'll save my love for them.