Today is Family Day, a civic holiday allowing us to enjoy an extra day of family togetherness, in many parts of Canada. One of the ironies of Family Day, though, is how little “regular” time families actually get together, especially as increasingly the average family requires two (or more) incomes to survive.
I really feel for families in this situation. I know a lot of people for whom this is reality. They’ve got mortgages, car payments, student loans… Some of them are cool with it, others feel stuck.
When Emily and I got married, a big question we wrestled with was whether or not Emily would stay home with the kids or if she’d go back to work. We chose for her to stay home, knowing there would be a cost. So we went from a fairly decent two incomes to… less. Like a lot less.
About five years ago, I had a meeting with the pastor of the church we formerly attended. We wound up discussing some of our adjustments to the single income lifestyle, and toward the end of our conversation, he said, with more than a hint of resignation, “The days of the single-income household are gone.”
Around the same time, we watched Maxed Out, a brilliant and troubling documentary chronicling the practices of the credit card industry in the United States, and the stories of many Americans whose lives have been crippled by debt. They can’t escape it, no matter how hard they try, it seems.
We’ve made tremendous mistakes financially over the years, and everything came to a head when we finally decided to sell our house. For us, it came down to a choice about our convictions. Which was more important—owning a home or having Emily stay at home?
We chose Emily staying at home.
We chose to remain at one income, to sacrifice some of the things the world, our friends and even our parents kept telling us we “should” want. Why? Because we’d considered the cost, and found it worth the price we had to pay.
It was better for us to say goodbye to a lifestyle we should have wanted, in order to embrace the one we have. We have everything we need, if not always everything we want.
And that’s okay. This, again, is not to say our decision is the right one for everyone. Some of our friends have decided to go the same route as we have. Others have not.
But when we feel trapped by the expectations of the world, we need to remember: we can always choose to go another way. We don’t need the house. We don’t need the new car. But kids need their mom and dad. Husbands need their wives. Wives need their husbands.
Sometimes we can have it all, and that’s not bad. But sometimes we have to choose between the two. And when we do, it’s always better to choose family over stuff.