I thoroughly enjoyed Afford Anything's most recent podcast on what they're calling radical responsibility...though it's not as scary as that may sound.
As long-time readers know, there were certainly extenuating factors that contributed to my negative net worth and increasing debt obligations.
My journey as a single mom began when my girls were not yet 3 and 6 and I had no job, car or home to call my own and bad credit. X was (and is) a drug addict that didn't (and doesn't) pay child support regularly. For reasons not necessary for this blog post, I was not yet a college graduate.
After finding a steady job, I went back to school, but to do so, I had to take out student loans. I don't regret that for a moment, but it didn't exactly help my financial situation. After getting my B.A., I realized I needed to continue my education before I could really see a substantial difference in my pay. Enter more student loans.
To be clear, I am not recommending this or dissuading it. This is just where I was.
Then, one day, after financial ups and downs for most of my adult life, I was done. I no longer cared whose fault it was, I just had to make it better.
I stopped focusing on our circumstances and just worked the problem.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm still a bleeding heart liberal. I totally get that everyone's circumstances are different, and that it may feel like there simply are no choices.
I am, however, going to offer a different perspective.
Instead of focusing on what I couldn't control, I turned to what I could.
I couldn't count on X giving me child support, but I could re-work my budget to not be dependent upon it - and anytime I did get child support, I would split it between paying off debt and paying for the girls' needs.
I couldn't count on any other sources of income, so I looked to both increase my own while decreasing expenses.
Though many choices felt like choosing between a rock and a hard place, I recognized the choices that we had made. I accepted some, and changed others.
I accepted that I wanted to live in SoCal where the rents are high, but family (and free babysitting) are available. I accepted SoCal rents, but moved when rent got too high.
For a while, we chose to keep cable TV...until we changed our minds. It became a personal challenge to decrease our grocery spending month by month until now, it's a challenge to overspend!
But I think the best thing about taking financial responsibility is how empowered it makes me feel. I mean, I have nowhere near the financial net worth of Paula Pant or Emma Pattee (the ladies on the aforementioned podcast), but I am where I want to be, and I know I am headed in the right direction. Instead of feeling defeated by the problems that arise, I feel like standing taller and saying, "bring it on!" (I mean, not really, but you know what I mean.)
So my X is a deadbeat, so what? He's not worth my anger or tears, either.
When Riley needs something, she's not worried that I'm going to freak out and I am in fact, happy to oblige...because I can!
It doesn't happen overnight, of course. But it does take that moment of deciding that you are up for this challenge. Taking responsibility means that no one else can have it. You get to control your financial destiny. How cool is that?