Hey friends! We’re starting a new (somewhat sporadic) series today called “Mom Talks.” The posts are written by Erin’s mom, the illustrious Janet Flippin. Below is Erin’s explanation of how the series got started. Enjoy!
This summer, my mom (who lives 8 hours away. Boo.) came up for a visit. My husband was out of town and I took a few days off work so we just hung out and did mother daughter stuff. Which included talking. About everything. And that’s basically what we did the whole time. We ate. We talked. We shopped. We talked. We went to a water park. And talked. We watched Gilmore Girls. And talked. Isn’t that every girl’s dream?
And I needed it because lately I feel like the adult world is a really, really cold swimming pool that I have to immerse myself in. For the last three years, I’ve been slowly wading in and trying to get acclimated, but you get to certain points every once in a while where you say “Nope, I’m not going any further.”
I’ve always respected my parents. They seem to have it together more than any couple I know. I’ve always thought they juggled marriage, kids, jobs, higher education, finances, etc. like pros. Sure, I’ve seen some setbacks and I know at times, things got out of whack, but the truth is, they are two of the most successful people I know.
So, when my mom came to visit, I had the chance to ask her about it all and how she made “the real world” look so easy, because I finally saw how easy it absolutely is not. I asked her about all the things I’m feeling insecure about now: marriage, career, finances, the craziness of my pursuing my Master’s Degree, my irrational fear of having kids.
And in the typical graceful wisdom of my mom, she told me to chill out.
She told me I had unrealistic expectations of myself. She told me that, of course, she had never had things together as well as I thought she did. And maybe most importantly, she gave me an idea of the bigger picture. She helped me see past the next five or ten years and into the next fifty, and reminded me that God would be on my side through it all and that I couldn’t do any of it without Him anyway.
I wanted to give the rest of you a chance to feel like you’d sat down and talked to my mom. To feel relieved and better about yourself and like everything is going to be okay, so I asked my mom to write about a few of the things we talked about and she agreed, wondering, of course, how what she had to say could possibly help anyone. Oh, mother…
So this will be the first in a series of blog posts called “Mom Talks.”
For the first post, I asked my mom to write about money and finances. My parents are awesome at finances. They buy stuff with cash – cars, college educations, furniture. And it’s not because they’re rolling in dough. My dad works at a church and my mom works in education — two of the lowest paying fields out there.I was telling my mom this summer that I don’t feel like my husband and I are anywhere near where we need to be financially. We make a good amount of money and we try to spend very wisely, but I’m not where I thought we would be two years into marriage and into the working world. I asked my mom where we needed to be and if we were doing something wrong. Below is her response to all of you:
In her introduction, Erin describes me as some wise sage, always at the ready with sound advice. HA! She doesn’t know it, but most of the advice I gave her came from a highly reliable, six-year-old I used to know named Erin. Six-year-old Erin was a bright and precocious girl. She knew no fear—with for one glaring exception—she had a crippling, irrational fear of the wind. This fear kept her from doing the things she loved. I have a picture of her at her own birthday party eating her cake while sitting in the threshold of the door—not wanting to go inside but too afraid to join her friends playing outside either.
This fear plagued her until it finally came to a climax when we went to the lake with my sister and her family. We were all going from the house down to the lake, but because the wind was blowing, Erin chose to stay inside. We begged, encouraged, comforted, and cajoled her but to no avail. I stayed in with her for a while but finally told her I was going down and that we would love to have her join us. I was gone for a little while when I noticed her making her way through the yard and getting into the water. She was cautious at first, but eventually she played and had a great time. Later, I asked her how she was finally able to overcome her fear and join us. That’s when she spoke those immortal, triumphant words to which we often refer:
“I told my brain to shut up!”
Unfortunately, fears and worries don’t stop when you’re a six-year-old. The winds of change keep blowing (pardon the pun) into adulthood, and new fears and worries come around. Probably one of the biggest worries in starting out one’s “adult life” has to do with money and finances. Maybe you feel comfortable enough financially, but you’re worried about where you “should be.” Every day, you see people around you who you perceive are doing things easier, faster, and better than you are. They’re buying houses and cars; they’re having babies and finding jobs, and making it all look effortless.
Maybe you believe that you must be doing something wrong or you, too, would be further along financially.
What seemed to help Erin the most when we talked, and what she believed would help all of you, wasn’t so much my advice or words of encouragement, but my sharing from my own experiences, concerns, fears, and mistakes. It brought some much-needed perspective as she realized she was not alone. I’m not sure how it might help anybody else, but that’s what she has asked me to share with you—so here it goes.
I have always jokingly (kind of) told my husband that I married him for his money—his college grant money. When we got married, we were both going to school full time and working part time. This allowed us to qualify for just about any and all financial aid. We lived very meagerly (even miserly), but we managed and it was some of the best times in our lives. It took us several years before we both had “real” jobs.
As soon as we began to make money, we began to make mistakes with it. We felt the pressures to measure up, fit in, and start making something of ourselves. We went on a spending spree. We bought a house, two cars, furniture, and had our first child. And we did all of this at once. Believe it or not, we got away with these decisions relatively unscathed, but we bought ourselves a lot of worry and frustration.
We would have been much wiser to ease in and handle one change at a time, but we were in such a hurry to buy a house that we didn’t think about the long-term implications. We didn’t think that in a couple of years, when my husband graduated from seminary, we would probably move. We were also young, inexperienced, and impatient—not a very good combination for making wise decisions. We rushed into it and barely had the money we needed for a down payment (in fact, we borrowed a part of it from my husband’s grandparents).
When the local economy crashed, housing prices hit rock bottom. We couldn’t sell it for six years after we moved out of it. Even when the house sold, nine years after buying it, we still sold it for less than we originally paid. We definitely got in over our heads. We also had ourselves stretched so thin financially, and because of our inexperience, we hadn’t taken into account how much more complicated our finances were now. There were taxes on all our newfound income, taxes on our new house, higher insurance for the house, the cars, and all of the unforeseen expenses of a newborn.
After we moved out of our first home, we decided to slow down and rent until we had things under control again. During that six-year period, my husband worked part time and went to seminary. I taught school full time. We paid off the cars and kept driving them. It may have seemed like we took a step back, but we didn’t look at it like that. It felt good. In fact, we were able to prepare to have our second child (the lovely and talented Erin). And because we had life a little more under control, I was able to stay home with our two kids.
Which brings us to something that Erin found very interesting. All this happened about eight years into our marriage, and it took that long for us to finish school, decide on a career path, go back to school, and get a full-time job working in that field. It didn’t happen overnight.
In fact, it didn’t stay worked out either. Like I said, I then took time off to stay at home with my kids. Later, my husband went back to school for another degree. Even as I write, I’m taking time off again to go back to school myself. It’s all a process. You don’t just snap your fingers and arrive. We didn’t finally feel ready to buy another house until we had been married over ten years, and that really should have been the first time we bought a house.
Somehow, hearing all of our misadventures made Erin feel a whole lot better. (Wish I could say the same—It made me feel foolish all over again.) It helped her to hear that we made mistakes, that we rushed into things, and that we started out piecing together part-time jobs, and that we shouldn’t have bought a house until we had been married over ten years. It’s not that she enjoyed our failings, but I think it served the purpose of providing her the perspective she needed.
So, the wind of change might be blowing in your lives, but you don’t have to fear adulthood. There are new responsibilities, worries, and fears, but there are wonderful opportunities too. Don’t let fear keep you from enjoying this awesome time in your life. Just tell your brain to shut up!