Mother of twins, Sarah Huston, reflects on the next marriage vow: for richer or poorer.
We headed off down the road that hot July afternoon, fresh from our wedding; excited to be going on our first trip together. Even as we drove, we knew we didn’t have it all figured out, but we thought we’d be the first ones to do it right. We were going to agree on everything, disagree gracefully if we didn’t, keep our apartment clean, manage our money – you get the idea. As I look back on that day six years later, I cringe when I think about how naive we were, particularly about money.
Neither one of us grew up with a lot of money, so we figured that would help us in our marriage. All the experts said that you’d only have problems if you came from different backgrounds. Initially, we didn’t have a lot of money either, but we had plenty to meet our newlywed needs. We’d married young, just a couple of weeks out of college, so our student habits carried over into married life. It always seemed to be much easier to grab coffee on the way to work and dinner on the way home. As ambitious young workers, we racked up a fair amount of overtime, so these expenses never really sunk us. I shudder when I think of how much of my money Starbucks collected over the first part of my twenties. But it was a habit, so I kept it up.
After six months of marriage, our student loans kicked in, and we suddenly felt a bit of a pinch. Then my husband got a promotion, and the pinch was relieved. We could pay all our bills and didn’t have to sit down and budget. Crisis averted. I don’t know why we thought a budget was so scary, but it must have seemed like something terrible. We talked vaguely of saving for a house and to buy another car, but we never actually did anything about it. I don’t know that we were ever rich, but we didn’t have to think about how our money was spent for the most part.
Things went on like that for another couple of years. We made monthly payments on our little Corolla, bought used from a mechanic near our college campus, and payments to the orthodontist for my braces. We never did a lot of planning for our savings, so it seemed like they always stayed right about the same. We always needed extra money for something. Intuitively, we knew we needed to save more, but it just didn’t happen. When we needed extra money, I worked more overtime.
Then, shortly after our third anniversary, we found out I was pregnant. A few weeks later, we found out we were expecting twins! Almost immediately, some of our financial security began to dissolve, as my doctor restricted the number of hours I could work standing on my feet and we needed to find a larger place to live.
In hindsight, having to cut back my hours during the earlier part of pregnancy was a blessing in disguise. It got us used to planning our spending and trying to save as much as we could. I was able to spend more time at home, and for the first time in our married life, I felt myself drawn to making our apartment the center of our life. When I had to go on bed rest at 29 weeks, I didn’t feel as trapped staying home all day as I expected. I didn’t miss going out to eat or going to get a coffee in the morning. I didn’t feel the need to spend money to make things complete.
As they often do, our expenses increased once our girls were born. For the first time in our married life, we were very conscious of where every dollar was going. As I write that, I feel a burning sense of shame and guilt – why didn’t we try harder to save and plan? How could we have squandered God’s blessings like that? I returned to work part-time after nearly six months off, which alleviated some of the financial stress, but hospital bills and boxes of diapers were still stretching our once-limber budget more than ever before.
While I can’t shake that guilt even as our girls approach their second birthday, I do believe that God was trying hard to teach us a lesson about His blessings and His plan for us. Shortly after our fifth anniversary, my husband found out that his job was being eliminated. We were devastated; from both the financial perspective and otherwise, he had a very good job. His schedule was predictable, he worked from home, and he had a very understanding boss. He’d been with the company since a few days after graduation, which made it much harder for him to think about doing something else.
The company wanted to keep him on in a different capacity, but he had to compete with others for the new job. While he got the position, we couldn’t keep the house quiet enough for him to work the new schedule. Even a mattress over our door couldn’t block the everyday noise of two toddlers. When he was offered a job working out of the house, he took it, even though it meant a significant pay cut. We’d prayed hard about the situation and decided that while we were much poorer financially than we’d been our whole married life, we were far richer in what mattered. It seemed as though we were being called to make this change – so we did.
Our faith and trust in His plan was tested still further a few weeks later, when I found out my hours at work were being drastically reduced. I scrambled to cover any and all shifts I could and prayed like crazy that things would work out each week. For the most part, they did, and after a few months a position opened up that meshed perfectly with my husband’s evening shifts. While things had seemed very bleak, God had come through. He had provided for us and for our family.
Then it hit me – when hadn’t He provided for us? When had we lacked? While we’d failed to be grateful at times, we’d never lacked for food or shelter. It was almost as though God had removed the extra so we would know for certain that He was the source of all things. Money was tight, but we had enough. For richer or poorer, while we’d stuck by each other, He had been with us.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
Sarah has been married to her high school sweetheart, Dan, for six years this summer. Mama to toddler twin girls Emily and Erin, she blogs at …and twins make four! about life as a young Catholic family of four.