This year has been all about being mindful for me. I feel like after I had my first baby, I let life happen all around me and I wasn’t really paying attention. I went with the flow, with no intention or purpose. I did things I thought I was supposed to do.
My whole life changed as soon as we had our daughter, Thea. I was a new mom without much knowledge on the whole parenting thing. I didn’t have any mommy friends or anyone that I felt was going through the same experience. I was overwhelmed, tired, worried I was doing everything wrong. I lost myself for a while there.
All of a sudden, everything was about this little human. I had to be there 24/7, nurse her, change her, get her to sleep (usually on me or in my arms), play with her, pretty much do everything with her in mind. I wasn’t just me anymore, I was now mom. I was T’s mom.
I had no idea what a baby needed. As soon as we knew we were definitely pregnant, I had to go buy everything I thought we would need. I’m the kind of person who always needs to be prepared. Luckily, my husband was able to convince me we didn’t need to buy everything right away, we could wait and see if the product went on sale. Or we could buy one that fit in our budget, not necessarily the most expensive one. I now know this was because I was trying to silence all my fears by buying things and hoping that would fix everything.
I used to have a full time job before we had T. When she was born, I stayed home with her and I didn’t go back to work after my year was up. I want to stay home and raise my kids; it’s a blessing and I’m extremely grateful. But it’s not always easy. I used to think I would never become one of those women who let their husbands control the finances and have no clue what is going on. But that’s exactly what I did.
I was too stressed out every time I checked our bank accounts so I just stopped doing it. I let my husband be in charge and I didn’t help him. I had no idea how much we were spending every month or what was coming in. I had no idea we were slowly digging ourselves a big hole of debt. I thought we were doing everything we were supposed to be doing – got married, had kids, bought groceries, took care of kids. Pay for dog grooming, pay for take out, pay for expensive maternity clothes, pay for an expensive new car. As long as we could keep buying and keeping up appearances we should be ok right?
Except we weren’t really paying for any of it; we were racking up debt. Consumer debt.
So after about two and half years, I finally started to pay attention and be more mindful in my actions. It was like the fog was clearing and I could suddenly see what was around me again. I was starting to learn who I was now, as a mom but also still me. I was also starting to see where we had ended up. After two and a half years of unchecked spending, of believing more is better, of buying expensive clothes I thought I would need, of buying baby products we didn’t even use, I could finally see where that had gotten us. It was scary to say the least.
I remember looking at our bank accounts and adding up all the credit card balances we owed. It was close to $15, 000. I called J and asked him if he knew this. Certainly it couldn’t be true! Sadly, it was and he didn’t have the heart to tell me. He knew I would worry and he didn’t want to stress me out more.
How did we manage to spend so much money? If you ask me today where it all went, I couldn’t tell you. I can’t point to one certain product and say “Well, yea this cost a lot. And there were these other things that were expensive that we needed.” or “Yea, that was that awesome trip we took to Romania to see our family!” It was nothing like that. It honestly feels like I was someone else for a while and I don’t remember how I got here.
So this year, it was time to pay attention. To buckle down and get things sorted out. This lifestyle we were living wasn’t working. We spent a lot and don’t have much to show for it. Sure, we could blame the economy, or inflation, or that we now live on one income. Those are certainly factors. But the biggest factor is that we weren’t mindful in our spending. We were going through life as mindless consumers, until one day I had enough.
Enough clothes, enough baby toys, enough baby blankets, enough stuff everywhere taking up so much room. Physically and mentally. It made me anxious to look at it scattered all over our home. It stressed me out to even think about how many chores I had to get done and how much time I would have to spend cleaning. All this stuff, that we somehow spent $15 000 on and most of it didn’t even bring me joy.
I had enough of people trying to sell me things. Enough of people pretending to care how you’re doing and trying to start a conversation, and in the end always coming back to trying to sell you something. I felt like no one actually cared anymore. They were all in this rat race, everyone had to sell to make money, so they could spend it on more stuff. I wanted no part of it anymore.
This year we took control of our finances and responsibility for where our money is going. I became aware of how much we spend on bills, on groceries, on things that I didn’t think added up to much, but over time really did. Together, J and I were able to cut some things out completely (like cable), lower the cost of others (phone and internet) and actually have a budget. We know where we stand and we are focusing on getting rid of our debt. I never liked the feeling of owing someone and I really don’t like it now. So I’m sure I will be beyond happy when we get rid of this debt that’s dragging us down. We have already paid off around $2500 of it, which isn’t much, but it’s way better than spending that instead.
For me, becoming mindful of our every day actions was liberating. I can now see where we are and where we can go. It’s like the blurry picture is suddenly clear. I know what I want and I live with intention and purpose! I value simpler things in life and I know I don’t need to buy things to be happy. I know I have enough already.
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