As I’ve mentioned before, I’m on reddit semi-frequently and I posted a comment today on a thread asking “Why are Redditors so poor”. The original poster commented that making money isn’t difficult, that he found something to do after his day job and was so successful in it that he decided to quit his job and focus on his ‘after work job’.
I wouldn’t say I’m ‘poor’, together, my wife and I afford a comfortable middle-class life–we’re 25. We just bought our first house in May, we have a 15 month-old son.
I work in the public sector, she works for a large national department store chain.
To be honest, the reason I’m not rolling in the cash is for a number of reasons.
1) I work in the public sector, as I mentioned. Not often going to find high salaries for people working in the public field in their mid 20s.
2) I have a family I have to support. My job has great benefits (esp. health benefits), flexible hours, steady wage increases, fairly decent job security. I don’t really have much luxury with ‘risk’ when I have a family that has their own needs.
3) When I get home from work, I want to play with my son. He sits with a babysitter during the day, and when I get home, I see his eyes light up and he comes running up to me and hugs me. I want to spend my evenings building block towers, and reading books, and teaching him new things than picking up something I can ‘do from home’.
Afterwards, a fellow Redditor responded:
Back when I was 25 I decided it was time for me to “grow up” and start pursuing adult goals, specifically, marriage, children and owning a house. I’m 30 now, so it is really interesting for me to listen to your story, and consider how differently my path might have gone.
My parents divorced, and my dad was a workaholic, so from a very early age I realized I wanted to do things a different way. Specifically, I didn’t want to miss my children growing up due to work. At the same time, I wanted the typical middle class comforts such as two cars, air conditioning, etc. I realized I needed a certain amount of wealth, and I also realized that working 80 hours per week into my 60s was not for me. What to do?
About 5 years ago I sat down with the girl who is now my wife, and laid out a “5 year plan” detailing where I wanted to be at 30. Namely, I wanted what you have now- a regular 40-hour schedule, a young son, a house, and (the holy grail) a wife who could be a stay-at-home mom for awhile while the kids were very little.
For the past 5 years we agreed to both work for the future, both of us working full time, her working overtime on a regular basis, and me spending my time split between a full-time consulting gig and a start-up business that I was hoping would replace her salary and let her stay at home. Of course, this past 5 years also included the total collapse of the real estate market (right after we bought the house) followed by a stock market collapse (right after we started saving and investing). Fate kicked me square in the nuts, and I lost a few years just getting back on steady footing.
So looking forward, what will 35 look like? Well, it looks like 5 years from now most of our material goals will be met. My wife may need to keep working solely for the insurance benefits, but I expect her to drop back to a “part time” job at most, and be able to focus on the kids we hope to have. As for me, I have learned that I am just like my father, a hopeless workaholic who is now forced between two full-time jobs; I expect I will be a horrible father, but will provide my wife with the opportunity to exceed as a mother. In other words, yup, dad is an asshole, but mom will be able to stay at home and give you the attention I never will. Kind of sad when I type it out and read it.
Its like this- something happens when you hit the end of your 20s, and most of the thing you used to enjoy just kind of lose their appeal. Example: I love roller coasters, but I feel silly waiting in line without a son. I’m too old for that crap- and I’m sure people assume I’m a pedo bear in disguise. So you decide: “I’ll have kids, so I can relive all the awesome stuff from childhood, and all the stuff I missed the first time around”. But, being crazy like me, you decide first you’ll pay your dues, so when you finally have kids, everything will be perfect, the sun will shine, and magical unicorns will fly you to Disney World for free.
So you spend a few years working, while the wife does the same. You don’t go out much, and try to be as frugal as possible. Friendships and family sort of fall away because you are so focused on the future goal. Grandma dies, and you tell yourself- “no time to grieve about lost opportunity- focus on the future…the future…THE FUTURE…
And then you look back at yourself on a quiet Friday afternoon, and it dawns on you just how insane your plan has been the entire time. I’m 30 now, my wife is 34, and the doctor has already explained to us that between waiting so long to have kids and preexisting medical issues on her side, adoption is now our best chance and healthy offspring. And since having kids “the normal” way is now out of the picture, why not pay off the house first? And once we’ve paid off the house, why not enjoy a few cruises for all our hard work before we settle down and adopt?
If you asked the 12 year old me what I wanted when I grew up, I would have told you a normal house by the beach with a few kids, enough money to feed them, and most important- the time to really dedicate myself to fatherhood.
The 30 year old me has the house by the beach (and the pile of associated bills and overdue repairs). I have enough money to feed plenty of kids, but I feed strangers’ kids via charity because I have no time for kids of my own. The wife and I both work so much that our social lives are pathetic, and we’re both so tired that a dinner followed by a movie at home and some sex is a thrilling evening for us both.
By the time you get to be my age, you will have a 6 year year old boy at the start of his school career. You’ll have a little clone of yourself to take trick or treating. I’ll tell you something- right now, I’d trade you every penny I have for that. Don’t be jealous of some numbers in a bank account; I’d trade them all to be playing baseball with a 6-year-old right now as opposed to finding the strength to do another 18-hour shift of work, watching as another weekend is traded away for some more money that I’m not even sure I want anymore.
However- in all fairness to myself- I hope the 40 year old me will look back at the 30 year old me and say: “suck it up, and hang in there”. Assuming we stay the course, assuming luck continues to go my way, I could be psudeo-retired by 40, adopt a litter of kids then, and spend the second half of my life dedicated to being the best father ever.
I’m just afraid that by the time I get there, I will be so jaded and tired from the work I’ll decide to get another dog and a Porsche instead. And this much my dad taught me well- it ain’t worth shit. My dad and I are friends now, but neither of us has time for the other. By the time I’m 40 he’ll likely be dead. Its strange too, because we both know it. Even when we get a few moments to joke around, there is this looming sadness always. The ghost of what might have been.
tldr; when you get home tonight, lay on your back on the floor, and use your foot to make him “fly” above you. Tickle him until he turns red. Blow on that little belly until you are both nauseous from giggling. No matter what happens 5 years from now, you’ll both be glad you did.
And you better believe I’m going to do just that. And that’s why I’m a dad.