I had shared a personal essay a few months back on my husband’s layoff, exploring my emotions and the meaning I was making of that season in our lives. That season is behind us. For now. Until another storm arrives (because such is life), I wanted to create an artifact of how that season unfurled and some unexpected gifts that came our way. I’d even say that navigating most big & small storms is often (not always!) what gives our lives meaning, insight and a sense of groundedness that a storm free life doesn’t enable. And also, a reminder that a storm free life also doesn’t exist.
To rewind a bit, we were a two tech income household not too long ago before I was laid off and decided it was time to give birth to my small business that was a long time calling in my heart. So we invited some uncertainty and instability into our worlds with that decision. And then of course, Sumit was laid off. Our reality of navigating financial uncertainty was amplified. Now, I want to acknowledge that uncertainty for us didn’t mean anxiety on paying our mortgage or buying groceries and there is a lot of unearned privilege in being able to say that but I don’t think I had ever been more sensitive to the rising price of groceries (among many other realities) before this season.
But we weathered the storm, not knowing what’s ahead but reminding ourselves that we’ll find a way and we sure did. Being on the other side, here’s what’s interesting – our family’s collective muscle to deal with uncertainty, of not knowing when another ball may drop, has strengthened and there was no way I could have just learnt this without having gone through a similar experience. We’ve learnt to trust ourselves and each other that we will figure things out. While some doors may close, others may open and light will find its way. I’ve learnt to dance between taking action and surrendering a bit more gracefully.
While I was unsure of how this will impact our kids, it sure was a net positive on many fronts. One of the most interesting shifts was around the conversations about money, its value and importance and making good choices around it. On the other extreme, it also demonstrated to them how much in life was still accessible even with a reduced household income and how our day to day family life was minimally impacted even with such a big change. I was once registering for a 5K, an annual race that I do with the kids and they both paused at the checkout screen when they saw the price and one of them mentioned – “Mumma should we spend this much to just walk around our downtown or spend our money elsewhere?” I hope this is a lesson they take with them on being financially discerning, humble and grateful no matter where their financial future lies.
For me personally, this shift was a forcing function to streamline certain decisions in my business & focus with greater clarity. One of my biggest emotions after Sumit’s layoff was shame for not having a W2 myself – to be the stable income provider with health insurance for the family. This was also often my biggest fear in starting my business, knowing that in the early years until my income gets more stable we were taking this risk. And having not just gone through the rough patch but also many moments of unlearning, relearning and healing, that fear no longer holds the same grip on me as it did before. I have a much different relationship with money having gone through this season (and this topic likely deserves its own essay!).
And finally, I find myself a little less attached and a little more present to my life today. I am acutely aware of how precious the abundance of this season is and I mean it in the broadest sense possible – good health, little children living with us, work we both like and are able to do, a marriage that fulfills us and more. I appreciate even more how fragile all of this is. I find myself learning to care and love a bit more fully and then to untangle from the outcomes or the sense of worthiness that comes from all of our achievements, the labels we are conditioned to have and our never ending wants.
While I don’t wish we are a no W2 family in the future, there is a good chance we will be either literally or metaphorically. I know there will be tears, grief and fear in those seasons. I also know that there will also be joy, hope and love. And I know this dance is what makes for a good life. I hope I can remind myself of this as well.