I didn’t know how poor we were.
I mean on the one hand, I knew we were living paycheck to paycheck for going on 5 yrs
I knew we have ongoing credit card debt
But our credit is ok
We eat healthy food
We are able to provide for our 3, yep that’s right 3 children
Although I would sometimes wonder (at least in my head) if there was a different decision we could have made
Like maybe saved a little bit of money during seminary? Maybe we shouldn’t have backpacked thru England on our honeymoon? Maybe we shouldn’t have had 3 children? (
But I don’t think I realized that we have literally been on the line for qualifying for food stamps for now close to five years…this is on top of our way too much in credit card debt, two car payments………and college loans which (thankfully) we don’t have to pay back yet.
We don’t own a house, we rent, and of course that price goes up every year.
I guess I’ve been raised middle class, my family are middle class, everyone is very white collar, and we have education. I have great education, I went to Seminary at Princeton, I undergraded at Oberlin. We know how to make smart decisions and we don’t have to worry about the power being shut off or not having enough gas to get somewhere (about 99% of the time at least). We make our decisions from a middle class, long-ranging, educated mind-set.
I work hard. My husband works hard.
I work full time. My husband works part time and has been trying to get full time forever working a little more every year (at one point working 3 jobs just to get 20hrs a week), oh and helps take care of our 3 children 2 of whom are still in preschool…esp. now that the kids are almost all in school, its going to be totally worth it…
But I’m tired. I’m tired of stressing about what money comes from what. I’m tired of just paying off one medical bill and getting another one in the mail having had no clue what it will cost and having no extras to budget towards it anyway.
I don’t know if we really will get food stamps, its close. Too close, probably we won’t get it (should I not have been negotiating for raises every year?)
People act like being poor is one big bad decision, or one big bad thing that happened.
I can’t find that thing, and I think because I couldn’t find the “wrong” thing we did, I couldn’t consider us poor. We went to school, we pay our bills, we work as much as possible, we trade, we economize, we don’t waste, we accept help from friends and family, we spend money on a few things to keep us “sane” but try to continually cut those costs.
So we are poor. This is why I get so angry about the “lazy Millennials” narrative. This is why I’m so vehement about offering vacation and sick to even our most part time workers on staff at the church (we can’t pay them lots but at least we can treat them like human beings). This is why I relate so well to those who facing socio-economic problems and come to the office. The number of times we have granted a congregant/community-member a short term loan when prob. I should be asking for one for my family…..
Its not like the church doesn’t pay me, they do. That’s another reason why I didn’t realize we were poor, because my church is struggling off of an endowment. And any pastor (esp. a female) who is working as a solo full time pastor is considered a good gig, plus I get paid above the minimums which makes the job seem downright cushy in these tough times.
I must say and clarify that I love my church and they pay me well (plus the professional/personal benefits are awesome). There are obviously other factors at work here.
When I consulted with a financial adviser last year the advice was basically, your making all the right decisions, you just need to be making more money.
Theologically, I believe in the abundance of God.
The other reason I had trouble believing I was poor, is because God has been abundant with me. I have friends, I have an amazing husband, I have three healthy children. My family and I get to talk regularly, as do my in-laws and I. I am working in a field I love, full-time. I am able to be me and connect to the community. We have love and laughter and libraries full of free books. I have a housing allowance and health insurance. I also don’t want to take for granted some of the hegemonic rights that we are privilege too including high education, white ethnicity and cis-hetereo-normative identifiers.
So…I don’t know what to do with all of this. It ends up being a laundry list of data, which tends to remind me that most people consider themselves to be middle class without having a clear idea of what that means, other than being part of the American Normative…
But of course, I’m not normal. I’m a fantasy – loving pastor who is open-minded but runs a traditional service, who desperately believes in queer rights but wants to walk with people wherever they are. I’m a millennial who got married and had children exceptionally young and yet am highly educated. I have lotsa children (statistically for my generation) and yet work full time. Plus, I’m a solo woman full time pastor who loves small church contexts. Oh, and I like to dress weird.
Plus, most Millennials I knew are struggling as much as I am, living with their parents for an extended period of time, always searching for more work, learning home-made crafts and arts as hobbies.
I’m not sure what all this means…but its def. a lot to think about….