Managing Debt & The Pressure Cooker of Christmas (without Superpowers)

DH = Dear Husband
DD3 = Dear Third Daughter

Concept of ideal woman – 1980  

        

I remember in my teens seeing a commercial that featured an emerging concept of the ideal woman. She was no longer the June Cleaver housewife of twenty years earlier. She was sexier, bolder. And not only could she manage her household; she worked a successful career and had plenty of energy to step out on the town with her man – looking like a million bucks – when the work day was done. This woman never stopped. She set a tough standard, and while my complete inability to live up to it has made me feel inadequate on occasion, I’ve long since given up on trying to follow in her footsteps. I’m no Superwoman.             

Small business & the Christmas rush

But with DH self-employed and in the midst of another Christmas rush, super powers would come in handy right about now. In January of 2013, I reflected upon the season we had just come through. “[T]his December brought us to the brink in terms of how busy things became.  It’s a home-based business, and throughout most of the month, DH only pulled himself away from his office to go to bed at about 2:00 am – sometimes later . . . This kind of work volume takes its toll . . . And while we couldn’t help but be encouraged by the boom, I believe DH was completely accurate when he said, ‘If I had to work like this over the long term, I wouldn’t live very long.’  It was unhealthy physically, relationally, and mentally.  And although at its peak it lasted for only a month, it’s not a month we want to repeat.”
We approached December this year with some dread of the nonstop lifestyle that has indeed happened again. But we went in with eyes wide-open and the attitude that we weren’t going to be super heroes. We would hunker down, shut out the rest of the world for a time, and be understanding of our own shortcomings. The house didn’t get cleaned for weeks. That was OK. I didn’t manage to bring Christmas cards and baking to work to share with my colleagues and students. That was OK. After a day of work, followed by Christmas shopping, followed by driving DD3 somewhere, followed by walking the dog, I was often too tired to cook a meal. That was OK. The $200 per month that we haven’t been spending on a house cleaning service since our journey out of debt began – money that we normally put aside for things like furniture or paint for the house – has been devoted this month to take-out meals. There have been plenty of them lately. And that’s OK.
            We’re sticking to our budget, but we’ve built some significant self-preservation into it. Would things be different right now if we weren’t on this journey out of debt? It’s hard to say. But I do know that the December before our debt-reduction efforts started – December of 2011 –  DH’s business was just as busy, and life was as out of balance as it is this time around. But the money evaporated.  I think that our response towards business-on-steroids was less about coping with it and more about getting some pay-back from it. There was spending to self-medicate rather than to manage. We certainly didn’t pay down the debt.
            We’re tired, but we’re almost there. That superwoman from the commercial of 1980 would no doubt be handling this month with more flourish than I have. She’d go out to more parties, and not only would she bring baking and cards to give to people at work – she’d bring gifts too. All the while she’d be dressed and coiffed stunningly. But her standard is not mine. Besides, I bet she’s in debt big time.
 

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