I have been working with a group of other artists to run a boudoir gallery. At one of the gallery openings, I made conversation with one of our members, the only one who has had children, though she is an empty nester. She mentioned how now that her children are raised and gone she has freedom to return to making art. I said, yeah kids get in the way of making art, that’s why I am not having any. She made one of those remarks, like, well you never know what might change, etc… And I said, no, I am not having kids, and I pointed to another female artist, the same age as the empty nester but childfree. I said, I want to be just like her when I grow up, a fabulous artist without any kids. It was amazing and shut up the empty nester on that topic, I hope for good.
For the first 6 years of my adult life (21 forward), I lived with roommates in apartments and rental houses paying 300-400 a month for my share in housing. Then at some point, I decided I needed to own a home and my housing expenses doubled. My husband and I bought one, we were both making good money at our jobs and I figured we could afford the place if one of us lost our jobs. Both of us lost our jobs.
I could go through all the things we did to try and save our house, we had two roommates, cut every imaginable expense. But when it came right down to it, we bought in good times expecting them to continue and for us to both continue working, the good times ended, we are in a great recession. And like many American’s today, we can’t keep our house.
When I was laid off again from the job that would have allowed us to modify our mortgage. I cried for a day. Then I let go of the house in my mind. A huge load was off. I stopped crying. I am sure it helps that so many others are doing it, that I know first hand others are doing it because I work in bankruptcy law, and that I know how because I work in that field. There are multiple options for letting go of an underwater house. I think the simplest in our area, is just giving the house back to the mortgage company.
I think my personal downsizing story is kinda sad, but I am writing about it to give people hope. One of our roommates was too broke to continue living with us and moved in with his girlfriend because both their hours were cut at work. However, our other roommate wanted to move with us. We found a cute rental duplex that was a bunch cheaper and still has plenty of room. Its closer to public transportation, the little downtown art community, and the library. I am returning to my pre-mortgage life of about $300-400 of housing expenses per person, and it is freeing my life up so much.
And good news folks, my boss that had to recently lay me off, found me a new job! I interviewed for it and a I start in January. It wouldn’t have been enough or in time to save my mortgage, but it will mean I can comfortably begin to regrow our emergency fund, and actually start saving for retirement.
Sometimes endings signal new beginnings. And this is definitely one of those times.
I was enjoying a post by Brit Girl about how childfree people spend their time. A year ago, I was very very busy. I was in school part time, worked full time, participated in religious activities, and played weekly theater games. Contrasted to now, I am unemployed, quit the theater games, and I finished school? I seem to have a lot of free time, and yet I feel no compulsion to have children to fill it.
I have been painting pictures and selling them with my free time. I have been going to cultural events, I have been taking temporary contract jobs in the legal field, and I have been looking for work. I think it is true that looking for work is a full time job in itself. I have interviews, I write cover letters and customize my resume, and I contract painting sales. In addition, I continue to be involved in religious activities, I volunteer my time mentoring a child, and am a good friend.
Child free people are unlikely to wale away the hours doing nothing. Most child free people I know do keep very busy. Some of my favorite artists never had children: Georgia O’Keefe and Mary Cassett for example.
If you are a child free person who doesn’t have a lot to do: consider the following:
Volunteer your time. Do you have a skill that you could share with a non-profit agency? I am a good listener and I am good with teenagers. It was a perfect fit for me to mentor a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Some of my friends in the legal profession have gotten very involved in Pro Bono/Free legal service clinics. Giving back is a great way to spend your time.
However, when childed people ask me what I do with my free time, sometimes I think of free time as only time that is not committed to something in particular. I sometimes struggle to answer, because I barely think of myself as having free time, I have many full slots in my schedule. But I realize when I think about it, what free time might mean to a childed person is: time without children. I have lots of that time–most of the time, unless I am hanging out with someone elses kid(s).
Perhaps I am off base here, but thinking back, every-time a parent has asked me about my free time, to them free time was time with a babysitter or daycare. And that time is rarely free, it is often bought and paid for. This isn’t always true. I do know some parents who spend free time with their children. Free time to some parents is time playing in the back yard, watching cartoons, and cuddling or napping. But those types of parents aren’t usually the ones that grill me about my free time.
This was a rather rambly post, but I realized I hadn’t stopped in here for awhile and I wanted to write something.
Many childfree people have cited environmentalism as one of their reasons for not having children. An Oregon study confirms this reasoning. A choice like not having children has 40 times the positive impact on the environment as actions like recycling.
My family tries to recycle, drive fairly gas efficient older cars, and reduce our emissions in other ways, but we often forget or aren’t perfect. I am glad that my choice to be childfree is also in line with my values, including environmentalism.
A lot of discussion about universal healthcare pros and cons are going on right now. And I wanted to point out, that in many ways the US already has a plan for paying for healthcare: bankruptcy. Its a sneaky little tax that filters through several levels until it gets back to tax payers. 62% of bankruptcies filed are predominately medical debt. I worked in the bankruptcy field and I looked at a lot of bankruptcies–I have heard the arguments that folks are bankrupt because of wastefulness, credit cards, luxuries, nice shoes, nice cars, what have you. It frankly is not true most of the time. People go bankrupt because of staggering medical bills, in the tens to hundreds of thousands. Private insurance companies want you to believe they are the better option, but 73% of those who went bankrupt because of medical bills, had medical insurance.
What happens when someones debts are discharged under a bankruptcy? The creditors absorb the costs. Thats right, they just don’t get paid, or they get paid a small amount from the debtor’s assets. What is the hospital, doctor, or other healthcare provider going to do then? Raise costs for everyone else who can pay and raise costs for the insurance companies. Then the insurance companies raise costs for customers and employers who provide it to their employees.
Imagine a USA where the burden for paying for healthcare was spread out among tax payers in some clever way devised by congress. Very possibly, there would be less people in crippling debt, 62% less people going bankrupt–73% of which were paying for part of their services already through insurance.
You would think that the majority of bankruptcies are families with children, but as a bankruptcy legal assistant, I saw near as many that were singles and childless/childfree couples. This is an issue that affects us too. This may seem overly politcal for this blog, but I found it unfortunate that most people don’t know the reality of the system, we are already paying for universal healthcare, its just in a roundabout way that creates more and more situations where more people go bankrupt. The cycle keeps getting worse, as costs go up more bankruptcies, then there are more costs, in 1981 only 8% of bankruptcies were medical debt driven. Lets figure out some way to stop the cycle. I think it is wrong that our universal healthcare method (bankruptcy) is such a dire choice.
So I have to provide company names and addresses for at least three job contacts (not temp agencies) per week to comply with unemployment. This has been incredibly difficult for me. It shouldn’t be so hard, my neighbor who is unemployed doesn’t have as much time to look as I do, he has to watch his six kids. No job, no daycare. I have quickly filled up my free time with volunteer work and internships as well as painting commissions to make a little cash. I thought that I had mad internet skills for job finding. Like many of my generation Craigslist is the go-to for job advertisements, and most are anonymous. I was checking the newspaper, monster, and craigslist, as well as my local unemployment listings and a local job website. I apply to a lot of anonymous listings, but they don’t count for Unemployment Audits. I usually find my three, but it was a struggle leading to sometimes applying to bad fits and getting reprimanded by the hiring attorney for wasting their time, “you don’t know Spanish, why did you waste my time”. I have my little tricks for finding contact info among the plethora of anonymous job advertisements:
* If there is an email address in the advertisement it is often something like firstname.lastname@example.org. If I try typing blahwebaddress.com into my browser, sometimes I end up with a company webpage, with tada company name and address! One job contact out of three!
* Sometimes there is a PO Box or Fax number. I try going to google and putting the exact fax number in the search field. Sometimes it turns up a listing for a company and address. Bingo! Two contacts out of three.
* This third contact has been the bane of my existence, I usually find two in my field with addresses a week, and by Friday and Saturday I am scrambling. Well today I met with an Employment Specialist at our local Employment department, and she gave me some awesome tips! These two website are meta search engines: indeed and simplyhired. These little sites do all the hard work for you. They go to yahoo hot jobs and monster and career builder and big fortune 500 company career web pages and find you a gaggle of job opportunities. I found three more openings at some big insurance companies. Wow I am way over my minimum three a week.
Its hard for me to always bring my topics home to childfree lifestyle. But I get some of the most hits on my blog because of my Resume article, and so I thought I would add some more wisdom as I get it.
Well, this is a common theme for me these days, and the main reason I don’t post very often. I am still unemployed. You would think since I have more time home I would post more often, but actually I don’t have as many topic ideas as when I am surrounded at work by other childfree and childed professionals.
However, I did realize, that while I am unemployed, and while my childed neighbor is unemployed, we are spending our time rather differently. He had to take his kids out of daycare. He still spends time doing things he likes: repairing computers, cooking healthy dinners, chatting with the neighbors. I hope he gets the best out of this time home with his kids.
Meantime, I am spending a lot of time reading, gardening, hiking, trying to make myself clean, writing poetry, and going back to school. I also spend time working out our food budget and collecting charity food baskets. I am really looking forward to the fresh produce from my garden that will supplement the cans and dry foods diet we are on right now. Of course, I spend time looking for jobs. I can sure tell you that when the job advertisement pages are as short as they are right now, it doesn’t take very much of my time.
My new adventure is to volunteer for non-profits in my field. I work in the legal field, and I am going to do an internship at a courthouse and volunteer for a environmental non-profit agency fighting to protect wild areas in my region. This will help keep my resume fresh and me busy and feeling good about myself.
I have had considerable luck entering blog contests. Usually a blogger has something they can give away, a book, a computer program, or some article of clothing. The product given is dependent on the type of website. Blogs usually have small readerships, and usually the blogger chooses the winner either based on the quality of the comment entry, or randomly out of a hat. Either way, if you are competing against less than a hundred folks, your chances of winning are pretty high.
Recently I won free tax software from poorer than you And I wanted to send out a big shout out of thanks! This will help put more money in my pocket faster, as well as into the pockets of my two roommates. Cheers, let the money flow in.
I think one of my roommates had planned on going to a tax preparer to have his simple federal taxes done. He is single, with no mortgage or medical bills, and he only had one job per year. These tax preparation places charge upwards of a hundred dollars to prepare taxes. Now of course if you feel over your head and have lots of special deductions, than I understand using a service. Great thing is, this free tax software seems to be the same software some of the tax preparers use. Double win!
Childfree folks have some disadvantages doing taxes, less deductions because no dependents or children. However, don’t short yourself, a lot of the tax breaks that seem like they are for kids only apply to adults too. Do you care for an elderly relative by providing for the majority of their expenses? Are you going to college and paying for it yourself? In both cases, you should investigate possible credits and deductions that might apply to childfree families. Folks making less than 15K a year also might be eligible for earn income credits–although its a benefit usually reserved for childed families, you might be eligible, its worth looking into.
One of my friends survival mamaoften wins these sorts of contests and receives craft products.
I suggest only entering contests for things you really want, for example, often I see contests for finance books, but I only enter the contest if I actually want the book. What is the point of winning something I can’t use? I would rather stay out of it and increase the chances for someone else.
I am currently looking into having one of these sorts of contests myself, I will let you know when I find something appropriate to give away.
The feeling of value I internalized from working and earning money slowly deteriorated after several months of unemployment. True, I was working in a hostile environment in the first place, so my self-worth was suffering from the constant abuse from my boss. (I mentioned her earlier, the one that felt volunteering to help a troubled child was immature in comparison to her being a mother…) However, I am dealing with bad feelings after losing my job.
But what is a person to do when the unemployment could loom on for months? In the recession around 2003, my mother and my aunt were unemployed for a year. A friend, I respect, one of the most innovative and hardest workers I know, Taylor Elwood has been out of work for 5 months. I really can’t expect to pop into work any day now. And I have to stave off the feelings of worthlessness if I am to keep positive. Here are some things I am doing to cheer myself up and stay confident:
*Talk to friends. Talking to other people you respect and getting their feedback about their own periods of unemployment can really help me feel like I am not alone. If my mom, my aunt, and my friends have all gone through it–all of which are awesome workers–how can I blame myself for this period without work?
*Do something fun. Sure money is short, but when will I have so much time again? Gas prices are way down, I feel like I have teleported eight years into the past–so driving to the beach doesn’t feel like an expensive luxury anymore. I still plan to conserve and save money, but a nice local road trip can really change my point of view. My brother and I went to a really awesome beach to take in the sites on Friday. No one was on the beach and we also got to check out a covered bridge. Also I saved a stranded cat. It cheered me up immensely.
*Volunteer your time. If you keep busy volunteering in something related to your career you can keep that on your resume as a current position as you continue to look for work. Gaps in work history can be frustrating to explain in an interview and can break my mojo–I would prefer to talk about my awesome volunteer work rather than how I ended my last position.
*Consider taking a job that isn’t perfect but will keep you fresh and teach you new skills. My brother can help find me a job doing some legal work, but it is not in a law firm, nor in any of my favorite areas of law. However, I really enjoy my brother and he loves his coworkers and boss. Working somewhere encouraging could really boost my confidence and give me a great reference to put on my resume as I keep looking for work. Who knows, I might end up loving this are of law!
*Start a money saving or money making hobby. I am planning a little victory garden to help feed my family and to keep me busy. The whole endeavor will only cost about 50 bucks to get started. But making things grow is really spiritually enriching and the added bonus will be super yummy things to eat in a few months. I am also focusing on painting pictures for my friends. A friend commissions the sort of painting he or she wants, and I create it custom just for him or her–and I make a little cash.
I am cheering up after a period of feeling down and out after losing my job. What do you ladies and gentlemen do to keep positive when out of work?
Lets face it, most recipes yield more than one or two servings. A childfree folk or partnership is likely to end up with extras. You can halve all your recipes, you can only buy cookbooks designed for singles or couples, you can always eat out. But if you don’t do one of those things, you are going to have leftovers!
Mostly make things that can make new meals with the leftovers. Today I am enjoying a delicious meatloaf sandwich. Last night of course, I ate the meatloaf. Honestly, I think the sandwich is better! If you eat spinach salads, cook main meat dishes, and keep your sauces separate from your noodles, you can make the salad into cooked spinach, the main meat dishes into sandwiches, soups and casseroles, and the sauces can go onto a completely different type of meal the next day.
Freeze leftovers. As soon as you are finished making the dinner, estimate how much you are going to eat, and take the rest and begin cooling it and package it to go into the freezer. I recommend doing this before you eat dinner, because you are less tired at that point and less likely to forget.
Eat them for lunch the next day. Similarly to the freezing method, before you sit down to eat your dinner, package some of it up as a lunch. If it was burritos, make a few extra burritos and put them into a sandwich bag in the fridge. If do this while everything is still out and while you are preparing your dinner, it will be a lot more likely to have all the ingredients in it (before you run out of salsa and olives).
Get roommates. Having a roommate or two will ease the cost of your rent, and you can share your meals with them. You won’t have as many leftovers and you can take turns cooking.
Organize a left overs club at work. If most of the folks at work cook dinner at home too, you can trade left over lunches, that way you aren’t eating the same thing two days in a row, but your food gets appreciated. (I realize this is really unlikely to occur, but hey, brainstorming!)
Kids in China will cry, but you can just throw your left overs out. This is especially good if you hate eating left overs. And none of the other ideas work. Should you really feel guilty for throwing food out? My argument is “no.” If you had bought smaller quantities of food like a smaller brick of cheese, meat in individual containers, the smaller sour cream and milks, you end up spending near as much as the larger ones. Also, for the most part, food is cheap. You’ve already made the food and either you are going to eat it and waste it into the toilet, or you are going to throw it out. I think being healthy and happy is a better deal than saving a few cents on left over foods. Furthermore, making food at home will still be cheaper than eating out and way healthier, so if throwing out your left overs keeps you cooking at home, than I am all for it.