My kids aren't the only problem

I find myself losing friends because I am tired of explaining things, or sick of hearing complaints. Years ago, I read an essay by Anne Lamott in which she described breaking up with a friend because she couldn't bear hearing the friend boast about her (well-deserved, but annoying) good fortune. I didn't get it.

Now that I've heard my friends whine about having to spend money on, say, a large dental co-pay (when they have! dental! insurance!) or claiming they're so broke right before getting on a plane to fly back east for the holidays (and then to Hawaii), I get that sometimes you just can't hang around certain people until you feel a little less angry at your own circumstances. It's not kind, it's not rational and it's not fair, but that's the sitch, and I honor it so I don't start kicking out people's tail lights.

I also find myself grateful for the friends who know how bad it is and just help, by having us over to their much-larger homes, by letting us contribute in the ways that we can, by knowing where we are and just being quietly supportive.

For everyone out there like me …

My friend Heather of Terrible Mother wrote a heartbreaking piece for Salon about the time she took her kids to a soup kitchen. People read essays like that (and like this one) and say, "Why did you have kids if you were only going to fall on hard times?" (Oh, comment section of the internet, you are truly the weirdest place on earth.) I read it and am grateful I'm not the only struggling mom trying to balance my checkbook on a razor's edge.

I continue to do the best I can for my kids. For now, that means finding less expensive classes through parks and rec, and feeling extremely grateful I live in San Francisco, which provides so many low-cost options for us. It means taking advantage of the library, free days at the museum and negotiating the public school system, which is not nearly as painful as I had been led to believe.

It means sharing my struggle with other parents and hearing, through word-of-mouth, about other ways to get by. It means trading childcare when my husband and I both need to work. It means studying Johnny Funcheap as if it were the Talmud. It means learning to love camping. (That last one is a challenge.)

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Then there's the real worry that I am not saving for college, because everything goes into our day-to-day existence. Whenever I tear myself away from the intoxicating scent of my 2-year-old's hair, I tell myself she needs more than my hugs. (Note: There's no danger of my not hugging her an insane amount. Just a little bit less, while I go to school.)

In the end, our kinda-crazy, hand-to-mouth existence will, I hope, make for great stories and a resilient spirit. And that's an inheritance in itself.

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