Today I had a breakdown. I have been working out of town, getting a new project off the ground. I was in the middle of a stressful budget planning meeting when I got a call from Vicki.
“Our gas just got turned off!” she said.
“What do you mean it just got shut off?” I replied angrily. “I didn’t know that was overdue!”
“Neither did I!” she shot back, “I never received a notice in the mail.”
” We have no hot water for showers or dishes, no way to dry the laundry and we can’t use the stove. What should we do now?” she asked. “They won’t talk to me because my name isn’t on the account. They want you to call them.” she added.
“I’ll get back to you after my meeting.” I snapped.
Vicki takes on the huge task of making sure the family bills are paid on time. I lashed out and blamed her for not telling me sooner. I caught myself before I went too far, but I know I hurt her feelings and had to ask her forgiveness. All that was left to do was look in the mirror.
There are times when shouldering the responsibility of financially providing for this family feels effortless, like it is part of what I was meant to do. I gladly sacrifice my all for it. Then there are times like today, when I wonder how I am ever going to manage. Things have been very tight. Since I became self-employed and am now in the process of starting a new business, my wives and I have been carefully budgeting and shifting to make sure everything gets covered at the right time. It’s a balancing act. Any extra cash has been funneled into the new venture. On one hand I have had more time to spend with my family, more freedom to set my own hours and determine my own pay; on the other hand there has been a loss of financial security. I don’t have a set paycheck every two weeks.
My income arrives in batches. When I am between jobs, if a customer owes me and fails to pay or my expenses out pace my income, it is easy to get overwhelmed. I hate that my wives have to work at all. Every time I see something not managed well in the home I blame it on my lack of ability to provide adequately.
I’ve noticed how when women socialize with one another they tend to ask about each other’s children or their emotional well-being. When my guy friends and I get together we ask each other about what we are doing for work or how the career is going. It seems a man’s identity, at least in my culture is tied up in his work. If you are not providing, you are not much of a man.
I guess that is why I felt like such a failure today when I heard the gas payment was not made. Growing up there was a time when my family had a rough stretch financially. As a teenager our heat got turned off, as did our phone and a few other non-essentials that were sacrificed. I remember being humiliated to tell my friends why they couldn’t call me, and I judged my Dad for it. I vowed I would never be in that circumstance when I had a family.
So here I am in a financial crunch, with my gas turned off for the first time in my adult life. I wanted to be angry at someone and feel sorry for myself. I wanted to make it mean I have somehow failed. But in the end, all it means is that my gas got turned off today.
Tomorrow I will call the gas company and get it straightened out. After all the blaming and beating myself up, I am humbled. Today I learned there is no humility in humiliation. Sometimes the best laid plans just don’t work out. I know I have three amazing women who support me, and kids that love me no matter how much I make. They are my inspiration! I have always said that failures are only mistakes we don’t learn by. Now it is time to truly apply that motto as I begin my new business.