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He may not want you to know this but Skint Dad, who I call Ricky, is not the easiest person to live with.
I’m not just talking about the random dirty socks I find occasionally in the bedroom, or the wet towel he leaves over the bannister after a shower, or the fact that he never, ever, replaces the toilet roll on the holder.
Ricky doesn’t stop. He goes to bed late. Gets up at a time I never knew existed. Has ideas, ideas, ideas and talks about them all, at the same time, consistently.
I am slightly more conservative. I like things done in a neat (although I’m not that tidy…), and consistent way. I like things to be in a certain order and planned. I like lists and routines.
When we try to have (what I think is a sensible discussion) it quickly turns off-topic and we end up talking about a million other things. Ricky has his way to get what he wants. I know how he does it. I can stop him and get what I want but, in the moment, it’s hard to realise that he’s done it again.
Ricky is the ying to my yang!
He has always been committed to working hard and supporting the family in the best way possible. After looking at our finances 6 months or so back, paying for childcare on our salaries was leaving us in the red. The journey to London took ages, we weren’t having much of a family life so I suggested to Ricky that he becomes a stay at home dad for a few years.
We talked about it on and off for a few weeks. He made his mind up that he would do it but it took another 2 weeks before he actually handed in his notice. I can’t imagine the things running through his head during these weeks. As a very proud man, I could see him thinking he failed. Thinking that he wasn’t able to support his family financially. Thinking that he was going to only have contact with kids. No more sneaky pub lunches. Having to cook every night. Having to clean.
I loved the idea deep down. I could finally get the chance to work late. Develop my career more. Go to the pub after work on a Friday – however, not everything works out in practice.
Having a mum at home, or both parents working, is not necessarily what a modern family is. And to survive, we needed to break free of this stereotype.
Ricky did well as a stay at home dad. The children loved it. Having time. Having quality time with their dad. Being silly. Being stupid.
Every night I would come home to another story about what Dad did that was amazing and it stunned me how well he was getting on. I admit the food he cooked wasn’t great (at first) but the more he took the role under his belt, the better he got. As with everything he does, he was succeeding.
However, after a few months, I could tell that something was missing.
A slight shine that he had was disappearing. He didn’t have anywhere to put his creativity. I’m not saying that he wasn’t creative with the children but he needed more.
I suggested to him that he finds a project that he can do from home while looking after the children and I saw the spark come back almost immediately.
Then the mayhem started again.
I would come home from work and as soon as I was in the door he would start talking. A thousand things at the same time. Most of them I didn’t hear. We would sit down for dinner and he was still talking. I wish I recorded some of what he said, or even tried to write it down. I don’t know if he remembers his ideas, or if he remembers what he says, but I’m sure some of them should be picked up and taken forward. Maybe one day they will.
During one of these dinners my ears started to fall asleep (sorry Ricky but you do get a bit over excited and go on, plus I did have a long day at work) he mentioned the idea of starting a blog.
He already had the idea of the name, what he wanted to talk about and what he was going to do.
That night he bought the domain. That night it started.
Ricky enjoyed writing and meeting interesting and helpful people through social media. He got excited again. He was back.
We were living the “normal” life again but when we stopped one day and looked at ourselves, things weren’t so good on the inside.
On the outside, we gave the impression of a well rounded, happy family who were getting by comfortably. On the inside, we had cracked. Struggling with money, struggling to make ends meet. We had snapped. Well and truly broken.
Bad decision after bad decision. Bad luck after bad luck. No real financial education and both of us living on our own from a young age with no real understanding of the world. We learnt ourselves but did it the wrong way around. After more than 10 years of living in our own homes, we finally realised how you are meant to manage money and we had not been doing it right.
How stupid could two adults be? How stupid could I be? I just didn’t get it till now. What was wrong with me? Blinded by “it’ll be all right”, “we’ll be ok next month”, “something will come up”. But it didn’t. Nothing came. Nothing changed.
We hit the bottom. With nothing. Everyone thought we were ok but we were far from ok.
Those days were some of the longest of my life. I went to work every day as if there was nothing wrong. Every day all I could think about were my family at home.
We had cut back on everything immediately. No heating. Unnecessary plugs off. I’m not sure how much of a difference this would have made to our immediate costs but we were starting to think of the long game.
What could we do to lower our costs? What could we do to make our money stretch as far as possible?
One evening, Ricky started to write a new post. I didn’t like the idea behind it. We argued. It was a stupid argument. Nothing bitter was brought up. Nothing nasty was thrown in. It was just a silly squabble that went too far.
We went to bed.
Ricky woke before me, again, and started to write. He watched the sun come up and I lay there sleeping.
Without running it past me, he told the world our problems. Told our family, friends and strangers what we were going through. How we coped. How we didn’t cope.
You could say I was annoyed. You could say I was unhappy. You could say I was furious.
I am also a proud person and I did not want my dirty laundry out in the open for all to see.
However, after reading it, and reading it again, thinking about how I felt during that week, reading the comments on the blog and the emails he received it all spurred me on. It brought me and Ricky closer together. If we could get through that we could get through anything. We were a force to be reckoned with.
Everything changed. Rather than getting by, we started to live. Live for the first time.
Rather than skimping on absolutely everything, we started to be inventive. What could we do with as little as possible? How we could live our lives with little or no money but still have fun? Still allow the children to have fun. Ricky had the fire back in his belly. His enthusiasm is infectious. He is positive and this makes me positive, and the children positive. He makes me believe.
Life is fun.
Thank you, Ricky. Although you are a bit of a pain, I love you. I love that you have pushed this and made us change our lives for the better. I love that you are fighting for a better future for us. As a team I feel going forward we can achieve great things for ourselves and our family – in your words Ricky, an abundant life with no worries.
Love you always