As is the case with many of us, the current economic climate has forced us to do things we never imagined we’d have to do. For some, giving up premium cable channels and a daily latte is enough to ease the budget. For others like me, more drastic actions are required.
Last year, I wrote about having to sell various items including some family jewelry pieces in order to pay some bills. I thought at the time that I’d sunk to the lowest depths of the lows.
I was wrong.
I’ve now reached a whole new level of low; one that I never dreamed existed.
Tonight I had to ask my 9-year-old son for money so that I could pay the mortgage.
What sort of mother asks her young child for money? A desperate one, that’s who. The recession of 2007-2008-2009-and-now-2010 has dumped quite a bit of financial rubbish on our family. It’s not enough that we’re members of the most forgotten segment of the population – the middle class – but we also have the extreme misfortune of trying to eke out a living in the most cursed of all industries: construction.
We were not among those who profited from the housing boom. We do not build houses, we fix them. We renovate kitchens, update bathrooms, and build sunrooms. We remodel basements and build decks. It’s not work that will make you rich, but it used to be work that could earn you a living.
Not any more. A dozen or so years ago, when everyone decided that they needed to buy brand-new McMansions rather than purchase existing starter homes, the need for remodeling contractors dwindled. Thanks to the sub-prime mortgage and housing debacle, work has dried up even more. Not only is no one spending any money on home improvements, but we’re now competing with people out on work comp or who’ve lost their jobs in other industries for the few jobs that are out there. If we hope to have work at all, we have to bid for it at 1986 prices. Unfortunately, no matter how creative your math skills, 1986 prices fail to pay 2010 costs. We’ve been sinking ever deeper in financial quicksand for three years now.
When you struggle for so long, you eventually find yourself with nothing left to fall back on. Savings have been exhausted, expenses have been cut to the bare minimum, and credit has either been maxed out or evaporated altogether. We’re left without a safety net even as we find ourselves in a dangerous free fall.
The past few weeks find us with the wolves once again at the door but this time, we’ve got nothing to feed them. You see, our perfect storm wasn’t quite perfect enough. We needed an unexpected injury to really make things challenging and that’s exactly what we got.
When you can’t afford to hire employees, you’re forced to work alone. My husband lifted something by himself that ordinarily would have been lifted by two people. At the same time, he slipped on a wet truck bumper, leaving him with a hernia. A hernia means surgery, 5 weeks of recovery time, and lifting restrictions of nothing heavier than a gallon of milk. Unfortunately, there’s not much in construction that’s lightweight. One loaded tool box weighs more than several gallons of milk. Light duty is non-existent in this business so that means no work at all for 5 weeks. No work equals no money when you’re self-employed.
Needless to say, we’re currently unable to pay many of our bills. We’re desperately trying to pay the mortgage, though. Despite snagging every last dollar from every possible place, we’re still woefully short. I don’t think I can pull a rabbit out of my hat this time.
Regardless of the fact that I work three jobs, the money doesn’t go far enough without his income. Plus, if he doesn’t work, I don’t get paid either since one of my jobs is working for him. Each week, we’re falling further and further behind; exactly what we can’t afford to do. Our proverbial rainy day has morphed into a full-blown monsoon and we don’t even have an umbrella.
Even with all of our hardships, I never expected that I’d be reduced to having to borrow money from my kid. Everything about that is wrong. Parents are supposed to keep their children safe and secure, not borrow their Christmas money so that they can live in a house for one more month. Is this what he’s going to remember when he’s grown, the time Mom had to ask him for money? How secure does he feel right now, knowing that his family is so broke that his mom had to ask for his Christmas money?
I pray that I will live long enough to come out on the other side of this. I want to be able to look back with gratitude that we were able to survive such overwhelming economic challenges. I’d like to have the luxury of thinking about something other than where the next dollar is coming from.
Most of all, I don’t ever – ever - want to have to ask my child for money again.