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Not Rich, but Also Not Alone

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The recession has taught me how to see my circumstances in a whole new light.

mom and son on couch

Dani Klein Modisett: As a relatively starving artist, I never thought the recession would change my life all that much. I graduated from college in 1984. (Yes, I am that old.) After college, I went to NYC to embark on an acting career. These were lean times: "A bagel, or a token?" I would debate with myself daily. Sometimes I'd book a commercial, and for a month or two I could indulge in both mass transit and food on the same day. I'd love to report that after 15 years of dedication and hard work, all that has changed. Yes, I've managed to balance my diet a little better and I no longer live in one room, but rich we're not. In fact, lately it feels more like my life has come full circle.

My husband works as an editor/director, and he has had some banner years. During that time, I had help with our two very small children, including a regular babysitter for "date night." I even shopped at Whole Foods once or twice. When the stock market tanked, I never envisioned that our simple-yet-comfortable lifestyle would be affected. It's not like we had invested with Madoff or had an obliterated stock portfolio. So I've been caught off-guard by all the recent stresses in our life as a family.

As a result of constricted advertising budgets, my husband's salary was cut by 25 percent. And my class that I have taught at UCLA for a decade was also cut this year. At the same time, we've been hit by a startling array of new charges -- the latest of which is a $250 a year "administrative fee" from our pediatrician.

Help with the kids was the first change in lifestyle. Food, entertainment, clothing and shoe purchases are no longer done on impulse. The question, "Do you really need that?" precedes not only minor acquisitions, but non-emergency dental and medical treatmentstoo. Sometimes this can put me in a funk. "How can I be back in this place where I have to watch everything so closely?" I'll think. This negative thinking can send me in a downward spiral for not having accomplished enough to protect myself (and now, even worse, my family) from financial stress. Surprisingly, it is precisely this thinking that often saves me. Because now I actually have a family to worry about, and although it brings with it a whole new level of stress, when I allow it to, laughing with my kids or pinching their chubby cheeks can also jettison me from despair.

I cannot deny that I no longer live alone in one room eating popcorn for meals, wondering how I am going to pay the rent. Yes, the kids want toys and trips they can't have right now, but they also help me clean the house, bake pretzels with me and snuggle up on the couch for the simple pleasures Nickelodeon provides. Not to mention, I have a husband who keeps fighting hard every day with me to keep the ship sailing. Sometimes he even lets me sleep in late.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Black Iris April 6, 2010, 2:25 PM

We’re in a recession. You don’t need to kick yourself when you’re down. A lot of people, even very well-off people, are hurting financially. You and your husband stayed together and didn’t end up in with huge debts or a house you can’t pay for. You are managing to get by when things are tough and that is an accomplishment right now.

tennmom April 6, 2010, 2:27 PM

Great post!
I remember getting angry as a kid when my Mom would respond to my “I want…” with a “It makes you strong to not get everything you want.”
What? Whine!!!! lol
Growing up, I had everything I needed and some things I wanted.
I’m glad the same goes for my children. Of course the want a pony. Of course they want to go to Disney World every year. Ha, who doesn’t want the same?
Along offering them things to do when they whine about being bored, waaa, there’s nothing to doooo, I tell them to check their rooms and their playroom to find things we can sell or donate. Perfect cure for boredom!

cna training April 19, 2010, 2:57 PM

Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

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