There were the sudden sleep withdrawals, the chest that was suddenly tasked with feeding a person, and the overall feeling of constant uncertainty hovering overhead. It was the basic slap-in-the-face stage every new parent goes through as they understand they know nothing and are meant to be responsible for everything. As millions of moms and dads navigated this road before us, we stocked up on nipple cream, learned to nap in three-minute increments while standing, and accepted that we were completely clueless all the time. True to the rules of evolution, the wandering Mom & Pop circus act adapted to new roles and sprouted legs where scaly tails once wagged.
In retrospect the easiest part of adjusting to parenthood was the parenting itself. Long after we mastered the four-finger Burp Pat and witnessed The Boy Wonder’s impressive range in urine-shooting, one elephant-sized obstacle stood in our way:
TWAS THAT MONEY, HONEY!
So concerned with perfecting infant First Aid and the intricate folds of a swaddling blanket, I failed to recognize the blows my lifestyle would be dealt outside the realm of baby. At 9 months pregnant, the thought of leaving behind my fast-paced job in leasing was a dream. No more pantyhose in the blistering summer heat! No more lectures on why shooting illegal fireworks off a mid-level patio is not okay! No more high-pitched sales voice because people know you don’t mean it when you always answer the phone with “It’s the best day ever at _______. Super sunshiny sun and happy faces! Press 1 for glitter! Two for unicorns! Yes, I love my job THIS much!”. Looking ahead to days without deadlines, bosses, and power suits filled my weary heart with hope. Hope and buoyancy, as I skipped from the office on my last day of work, snagging my Mondo Triple Huge pantyhose on any and every rough surface close by.
Within a few weeks of my new life as a stay-at-home mom, the sting of a life without sleep started to fade. The Mister returned home from work one evening beaming as he pulled handfuls of white envelopes from his bag. He explained a concept for budgeting he’d picked up from Nashville-based financial guru, Dave Ramsey. The Envelope System, he continued, was a method of saving by spending only cash allotted to specifically labeled envelopes. I stared at the tiny packets sprawled across the kitchen counter. They ranged from Home to Food to Baby, Air, and Freedom, each envelope holding a set amount of cash that would come to be known as The Allowance.
Despite my initial protests (Am I the lawn boy, now? Am I asking Daddy for an allowance because I made the bed?) I found I rather enjoyed the envelopes. I did, as Sir David Ramsey, Lord of Dollars & Sense promised, pay more attention to the money I spent on frivolous items. Forecasting what money was to be spent where was as easy as taking a gander in a freshly labeled envelope. Within a month, I’d become a Ramsey-fied prodigy of sorts, able to calculate our household expenses like a champ. Ah! But for the bump in the road to financial responsibility…
Problems first arose when The Mister discovered my Free Love approach to The Envelope System. I discovered very quickly that some weeks I didn’t need to spend money on diapers so much as I needed additional money to purchase groceries or cleaning products. Because I am American and believe in equality, I let the Baby Envelope co-mingle and share with the Home Envelope. Some weeks the Car Envelope gave a little somethin’ somethin’ to the Food Envelope, who in turn swapped coins with the Misc. Envelope. What I deemed innovative finance genius at it’s finest, my order-thriving partner saw as a horrific monetary orgy of epic proportions.
I was messing with the universe now. The skies might fall and our car might get repossessed and orphans in third-world countries would probably go without supper because I’d fetched a sinful buck from the wrong pouch. I’d changed that poor dollar’s fate, destined to sit in the cozy dark of a supermarket cash drawer and now forever demoted to the purgatory of a gas station register.
True to my belief that it didn’t matter where the money was spent so long as our envelopes successfully covered our expenses, I forged ahead with daily outings to stores and paid from for services and products with the exactly wrong envelopes. I was proving a point, dammit, and it almost felt really good.
As I was sticking it to The Man, I couldn’t fight the sense that I was failing money. I wasn’t envelope-ing like a winner as clear in my partner’s disapproval of my willy-nilly technique. I was proving a point and feeling just awful about it.
To lift my spirits I enjoyed a little alone time at a local nail salon. My gnarly, bottle scrubbing hands would get gussied up courtesy of The Wrong Envelopes. I was just thrilled enough with this little taste of rebellion that I hardly growled when the manicurist scolded me for biting my nails. My cuticle was also “nasty”, she informed me as I refused to stop smiling in her general direction. Now freshly polished and feeling victorious, I used a dry thumb and index finger to pluck the envelopes from my purse. A fellow patron of the salon asked if I used Ramsey’s Envelope System to which I answered “Yes! It’s wonderful!” and really meant “These envelopes are interrupting my freedom“. With the ladies now focusing on my envelopes, I realized the social suicide about to take place. I paid for my pretty nails with money labelled FOOD and BABY. There was no mistaking the disgusted glances burning holes in my person. The nail salon, the county, and the world would believe I sacrificed money for groceries and diapers to get my beauty on.
The drive home was a 10-minute trip through lands of guilt and shame. Perhaps my penny-pinching partner was right. I should have obeyed the Rules of Ramsey rather than confuse the natural ebb and flow of the fiscal universe.
Once home I sat at the kitchen table, defeated and ready to make a plea deal. The Mister and I discussed various ways to alter the budget so that I could live righteously with all my envelopes secure in their purpose. Several minutes passed and we came to the topic of the car. This was tricky, I explained to him, because I very seldom needed a lot of money for gas or maintenance but had grown accustomed to using leftover money from this envelope for other items like formula or wipes. Genuinely searching for a solution to this debacle, I asked him what he did with his envelopes in this type of situation. Prepare yourselves…
“Oh. I don’t use envelopes.”
Let me tell you that doves sang. Well, first they migrated to Tennessee, landed gracefully on my stoop, and then they sang like a choir of aviary angels. My nails glistened a little brighter, my envelopes shed the filth of their tainted reputation and shone a glorious, heavenly white. It seems that while I waged mental warfare on myself, battled between buying a soda with the Home Envelope or leaving that spare dollar in it’s rightful place, my bottom-line partner treated himself to lattes and extra clothes and lunch out on the rogue wallet’s dime. Part boss. Part renegade. Total hypocrite.
Today, we’ve leveled the playing field. Like taking turns to perform an infant Sleeper Hold in the wee hours of the morning, we share the load of a financial budget. I still let my wild envelopes roam on occasion, though not amidst the critical eyes of the nail salon. My lovely partner, seeing the injustice of it all, has adopted the envelope system for himself as well. It’s good to save. It’s better to watch a dude mentally distinguish which is more important: a latte or a pair of socks.