Monday, September 10, 2007

What Will the Next Five Years Bring for our Family?

I am a long-range planner. Every since middle school - at least - I've had a four to five year plan. What do I need to do to graduate high school. What do I need to do to graduate college in four years. Where will my husband and I be when he finishes the Navy in four years. Let's have a house and child within five years.

What can I say? Hubby and I are both strategic thinkers. Plus, we knew what we valued.

Until now.

The truth is, I had a five year plan. I planned to have another child and continue freelancing and working from home until said child turned five, by which time, I planned to have another plan.

But the thing is, you can't plan everything in life. And last year, my five year plan fell apart after a miscarriage. The second child didn't come. And now, we aren't sure it ever will.

And so, for the past year, we've been floating through life, status quo, with no real objectives. We've spent more money than we should on I don't even know what. I've started a job again, but I've no idea if I want to continue to freelance when my Little Bit goes to school full time next year. We have no savings goals, no long-term plans and even our values are confused.

  • Do we want to raise our daughter in the country - where I was raised - or city - where we live now?
  • Do we want to be nearer my parents?
  • Do we want a bigger house in a different location? Or should we stay here and invest more in this house?
  • Does my husband want to pursue a new career path or stay put?
  • Do I want to homeschool? Should we put Little Bit in private school? Would that be worth the financial sacrifices - and the long-range impact on our savings?
  • Do we want or need to relocate to another state? Country?
  • Do we want to live frugally and save? Or do we want to not worry about it and just enjoy life with our little one, even if it means adding a bit of debt for a camper and truck?
  • Do I want to be a teacher so I can have summers off with my child and a retirement plan? Do I want to go to work full time? Do I want to continue writing? Study law? Get a master's degree? Start a family business?

I just have tons of questions, and no answers right now.

I keep trying to accept that this is a time for reflection and chaos. A time to wait. But that's darn hard, especially when you consider how short five years is. I mean, within five years, we'll have a budding pre-teen on our hands who may not want to go camping with us. We'll be getting too close to my husband's retirement to consider a change. We'll be five years older, and if we're not careful and clear-headed, no farther along financially or professionally than we are now.

How do you solve this kind of dilemma? How do you pull yourself together and find a new direction when all your plans changed suddenly, and without your permission? Especially when life keeps throwing your family curve balls.

In the old days, hubby and I would sit down and hold a series of meetings. We'd used Deming's TQM method to identify our long-term goals. We'd take a few nights and hash out our feelings, thoughts and values. I kid you not. It sounds crazy, but it worked for us, because then we had a long-term plan to guide our decisions.

True, at the beginning of this year I did outline resolutions for this year: Build Family Identity, Show the Love, Become a Healthy Family, Widen Our Family Circle, Be Financially Responsible, Create a Family-Friendly Home. But, those resolutions didn't have specifics. And, they still leave a lot of unanswered questions, such as: How do we want to widen our family circle? How do we build family identity? And what does financially responsible mean beyond no debt?

Right now, my family is so caught up in day-to-day survival (eat, clean, run errands, work, sleep), when we do sit down - we have no idea where to start. All my husband can contribute is, "I'm tired," because he is and he's busy at work and home, and neither of us have time to even think about what we want, much less think about where our family is headed.

And if we do get started, we're quickly interrupted. And repeatedly.

The truth is, there's never a good time for long-range planning - which is why you have to schedule it. When our family didn't include a child, this was much easier than it is now.

I'm thinking we might need to take a weekend and go away to do some long-term soul searching and planning.

I'm going to search for some help on long-range planning for families. I'll report back on my findings.

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