Sweet Girl’s Mom: It’s only a little rain. Everything will get better.
I was putting one step in front of the other in a light rain, carrying Tornado A through the school parking lot, paying attention to the cars with my mind elsewhere. Budgeting. If I spread Christmas presents over the next few months, it wouldn’t be too bad of a hit. And then I wanted to buy Docs this year. I promised myself. And then there are the plane tickets. I think I can balance it all. But then there’s the-
That’s when Sweet Girl’s Mom interrupted me, going the other direction with umbrella and her daughter and an extra kid in tow with their own umbrellas.
Me: No. It’s fine. It’s just rain. What?
Sweet Girl’s Mom: You looked so serious.
Me: Oh. I was just thinking. It’s a great day! I love the rain! See you tomorrow!
Sweet Girl’s Mom: Ok! It’ll be fine! See you tomorrow!
We started off on our opposite directions. Oh wait. I turned.
Me: Sweet Girl! I love your umbrella!
Sweet Girl: Thank you, Mrs. —-!
I turned back and sighed as I started walking again. I happened to be walking next to a dad with a huge umbrella.
The dad: Would you like to share?
Me: No, I’m fine. I like the rain.
My thoughts drifted elsewhere.
The ex: I don’t see how it’s so hard to get all of you together.
I sighed. That sigh you make when you’re about to calmly explain something to your child for the millionth time.
Me: Most of my friends are stay-at-home moms. We look at money differently. We don’t make it, so it’s not ours. It’s the family’s money. We have to justify in our heads every cent we spend. And God forbid we have to buy something for ourselves. We have a hard enough time justifying new clothes or shoes, much less taking that money to do something fun, like go out with friends. It’s especially hard on the moms who gave up their careers to raise families. They had real money before they got married. They had real money before they had kids. Now it’s all in the same pot. It’s so very hard to use that money on us. It’s so very hard to ask permission to use it.
All those memories of explaining it, of presenting solutions, of trying to extricate this demon from my brain. The ex never got it. Scratch that. He kinda got it. Every gift giving holiday always included loaded gift cards to clothing stores. While that helped, it also reinforced in my head that the only time I should spend money on myself was when it was a holiday.
The ex: (pause) So take the gift card. That should elevate some of that guilt. I dare you to spend it all.
Sometimes he can be a good guy.
My Mom: You should pad the numbers.
My Sister-in-law nodded in agreement.
I sighed. This is why I f-ing hate talking about the upcoming divorce. Honestly. I don’t want to plan and dissect. I’ve done that until I’m sick to death about it. And I know I’m only just beginning. Kill me now. Can’t I just jump to the end and walk away with the compromises already done and feel partially disgruntled and partially happy?
Me: The lawyer told me not to. He told me to stay honest. That I can negotiate how he pays. Maybe he gives me X in cash and pays a few bills or gives me some money on a gas card.
My Mom and My SIL exchanged a look. Are you kidding me? They’re exchanging looks! Now! Over me! WTF?!
My SIL: You have to take into account the Fae effect.
I gave a are-you-f-ing-kidding-me look.
My Mom: You’re going to undercut yourself.
My SIL: You’re too nice. You’ll give in too much because you’ll believe he needs the money, and we all know he doesn’t. At least not as much as you.-
My Mom: You’re raising three growing boys. They will get more expensive. Inflation will happen. You have to negotiate for that.
My SIL: Just add on 5% on top of what you think you’ll need. That should cover it.
Where they actually working together against me? This is the last time I go out with them for lunch. Jesus, I’m America bringing Israel and Palestine to the table. Ok, it’s not that bad, but they wouldn’t be here without me. I looked over at my brother, who had stopped in to say hi. The plea for help was written on my face.
The Face: You already know what I think.
Yes. I do. And you are no help at all.
Me: Guys. I’ve got this. I know my budget. I know how much I need. I need to get X every month to make the ends meet with a little extra in case of emergencies. And, yes, I will take into account everyone’s strategies and ideas.
I looked each one in the eye in turn.
Me: Fine. I should just write all this down. That’s what I’ve been trying to do lately. Get it all on paper, so that I can think.
Tornado A just looked at me. It was nice to talk to myself and not have to worry how crazy I looked.
Me: It’ll all come together. If I have to, I’ll ask your dad to pay the counseling. It is for your brothers after all.
I’ve never had to land on my feet before. I’ve never got a windfall right when I needed it. Instead I worked hard and scrimped and scrapped to make it. I knew where this path would lead me when I made my decision. I’ll take the hits when they come and swim when the water is over my head.
Tornado A: Mommy! Rain!
I smiled back.
I’m worrying about step 5 again before I take step 1. And who knows? Maybe I won’t have to do step 5.
Me: Yes, Tornado A. Rain! Doesn’t it feel good?