Anyone that reads this will know that it's been less than 2 years since my husband graduated from UQ with an M.Arch in Architecture. It was a long, hard slog that's been rewarded with some great opportunities and a year ago, the relief of a steady job, but one (like most graduate positions) that doesn't pay particularly well. It will be a while before Will truly sees the financial benefit of the fruits of his labour and so it's a lucky situation that we have my modest income to rely on in the mean time.
Before we met, I always had this naive notion that I would end up with someone that would enable me to make a choice between career and family, and I never thought it would be anything but a choice. You amble along as young students and then graduates, you don't think about mortgages, health insurance, the cost of childcare and education, or where you will be in 10, 15, 20 years' time and God knows I never, ever thought about saving for retirement. Now that we have children though, things change, your priorities change, suddenly it seems a lot more important to have savings, to have a financial plan, to have security and health insurance. To be debt free.
I suppose I didn't think much about it but I did think that my own career and financial contribution would just be the icing on the cake to my significant other's income - I never once thought I would have to work so that we could pay our mortgage and I never thought I would be the one supporting my partner through university and his early career. But just because I never thought it would be that way, doesn't mean I mind it (and I can categorically state that his emotional support of our family far outweighs any dollars I contribute). I actually feel proud that together with some financial support from Will's mother, we've been able to get to where we are. It's hard, and there are days when I feel so overwhelmed by the responsibility, moreso recently, when I've been talking about changing direction, something that will come with a huge decrease in family income and a massive change in lifestyle for us - and will be a huge blow to our plan to be debt free within the next ten years.
I concede that we have chosen our lifestyle and this home that we live in. We knew it would be years before Will would be able to work. We made the choice to live this way, which is by no means exuberant and our home is modest but it's a lovely little place, especially now, with two extra little people running around in it. We could have bought a house out in the sticks, somewhere with no green space, character or proximity to the many things we've come to love about living here, we could have chosen to continue renting, taking the risk and financial commitment out of the equation, but we didn't. We chose, before we started our family, to be here, to extend ourselves as much as we felt was sensible (and maybe a bit more), and take that first, scary step to owning our own home. And then on top of that comes the bills, the groceries, the insurances... stuff that doesn't go away and gets scarily dearer as time goes by.
But I suppose this is as hard as it should get. Unless some tragedy befalls one or both of us and I do decide to jack in my career (which seems highly unlikely in the short term) and God willing we have long, happy lives ahead of us, from here on it's onwards and upwards. We've recently reinvigorated our plan to churn every spare cent into our mortgage, to enable us to then save for the children's education, for our retirement and for all the travelling we want to do. Every extra dollar we earn is an extra dollar paid off the mortgage. When it's as big as ours that feels like a very steep uphill battle, but so does everything when there are children involved. Suddenly every decision is so much more important and so much... heavier. So yeah, raising kids. That's the hard stuff. Paying off the mortgage. Pfft. Easy.