When it rains it pours. It seems like every year around this time we end up with multiple unexpected expenses. One year it was the water heater, furnace, and roof. Another it was almost a thousand dollars in unexpected dental work. Whatever it is, it’s always something completely unexpected. It’s not like we have an old or just about to break down appliance that we’re hoping will make it to a better time, it’s always something new or unbroken that gets us.
And this year is turning out to be no different. First it was Brendan’s teeth extractions and his retainer. Then came the exterminator bill for our wasp infestation. Then came more medical bills in the form of Brendan’s finger X-rays and specialist. Things were quickly getting out of hand and it was becoming harder and harder to make ends meet.
Matt and I talked about our options. My being a stay at home mom was contingent on us being able to afford it. We discussed sending me back to work, but in truth the kids daycare (though less than it was when I left my job) would still cost more than I would probably earn. So full time employment was out. We next discussed a part time job on evenings and weekends. This seemed the perfect solution to earn a little extra cash and still not have to put the kids into daycare.
I assumed it would be me taking the job. After all I don’t work outside of the home so it would make sense for me to bring in some of the income. However, Matt stepped in and said he didn’t want me to take a job. He wanted me here with the kids. I protested vigorously, but he was firm on the subject. As he put it, with me being the disciplinarian of the family he would be the parent the kids want at home, but I would be the parent that they need.
I’d like to stop here a minute and say how thankful I am to have a husband like Matt. No, not because he didn’t ask me to work, but because he does all that he can to take care of our family and do what’s best for all of us, even if that means he works an extra job. Right now he’s working 7 days a week and has very little time to sit down and unwind, but on those rare occasions that he does the first thing he does is spend a little time with each and every one of the kids. And not just sitting down and talking to them, but going to the basement and playing with them or arranging for a rousing game of hide and go seek. I couldn’t ask for a more devoted husband and father, and I am thankful for him every single day.
From my perspective I’ve gotten new insight into what it’s like to be a single parent, and my perspective is…it’s a difficult position to be in. Now, I’m not complaining about what I have to do. I’m sure there are a lot of people working just one full time job that would like to kick me right about now. But what I mean is that I’m working zero jobs outside the home, and having to do all that needs done for three kids by myself is exhausting. I can’t even imagine how single parents who are working one (and sometimes even more!) jobs manage to get it all done without collapsing.
Our basic day looks like this: Matt gets up and leaves for work around 6:45 in the morning. I generally wake the kids up just in time to give him hugs and kisses before he leaves. We then go through our normal school routine which includes showers, getting dressed, eating breakfast, packing bags and lunches (because Cameron almost never eats hot lunch), and getting out the door by 8:00. I then spend the day attempting to complete the things on my to do list that were supposed to be done yesterday while Kaylee goes around and creates new things for me to add to my to do list. At 3:30 we load into the car to pick up the boys with less things checked off my list than I would have liked. Dinner is served at promptly 5:00 so Matt has time to eat before he gets ready for work. At 5:30 he excuses himself from the table so he can change his clothes and get ready for his second job. By 5:45 he’s ready to go and with another round of hugs and kisses all around he’s off. 6:00 I start my nightly reading regiment with the boys (Brendan gets a chapter of Harry Potter and Cameron 20 minutes of various story books) That takes me until about 7:00 or so, then any homework they didn’t finish before daddy got home gets done while I get Kaylee into bed. Her bedtime routine takes me up to Cameron’s bedtime routine, which takes me up to Brendan’s. So I finally get done brushing teeth, finding pajamas, and getting kids tucked into bed around 8:30. Now is my opportunity to get a couple more things from my lengthy to do list done before Matt gets home at 10:15. We then spend the next 45 minutes catching up on the day and spending a little time together before collapsing into bed and starting the whole thing over again the next day.
That’s just a day where no extra curricular activities are added into the mix. We’ve had nights where it doesn’t go quite that smoothly, like the night that Cameron broke his glasses. That night I rushed home from school threw together some dinner for Matt before rushing back out the eyeglass store which was slated to close at 6. We got there at 5:55. On nights that I’ve got hockey tickets we don’t generally see Matt between jobs at all. (yes, I could give up the hockey tickets but as I’ve already paid for them it seems like a waste not to use them)
What’s kept us both going through this entire situation is that it’s temporary. We can afford all of our regular bills, and usually even the odd unexpected one. It was just the piling on of multiple bills that caused this and a couple months of hard work should see us through. The end was always within sight, and there was light at the end of our tunnel. Then the other shoe dropped, and that light was extinguished.
Matt’s company does their benefits in November every year, so over the past few weeks we’ve been receiving information about all of their different packages and the pros and cons of each. In past years we’ve been quite happy with our insurance coverage. Back when Brendan was born I paid almost nothing out of pocket for him. They also cover 50% of his orthodontics (which back when I had braces was almost unheard of from any company). This years coverage does not live up to that expectation.
This year we have a deductible we have to meet, and until that deductible is met nothing is covered by insurance. That is somewhat typical of insurance these days and while difficult not impossible to deal with. Most doctor’s offices will allow you to pay over a few months if necessary so we could probably have dealt with that. But the kicker for us and what’s making this seem impossible was the fine print beside that “nothing is covered.” When they say nothing, they actually mean nothing. Because that nothing includes all prescriptions.
Most of us have insurance, and get our prescription drugs at the reduced insurance rate. Our prescriptions have always run between $4-8, which is really nice. Have you ever priced those same prescriptions without insurance? Because the difference is staggering. Brendan is on a prescription because he lacks a hormone which tells his kidneys to go into night time mode. He gets 1-2 squirts of the medicine every night before bed. One bottle lasts us 3-4 weeks depending on how often he needs to have 2 squirts. After learning about the lack of prescription coverage we went to the pharmacy to get information on this prescription.
As it turns out each of those tiny little bottles will cost us $216. And that’s for the generic brand. The name brand one cost more than $350. The pharmacist said there was an alternative generic but when she looked that one up it turned out we were getting the cheaper one because it ran around $275. My heart sank, there’s no way we can afford to come up with an extra $200 every month. Seeing my frustration with the situation the pharmacist said that we can talk to our pediatrician about switching Brendan to a pill form of the medication which would decrease our cost to between $100-125 per month depending on the dosage he needs.
The individual cost reduction in the prescription would help, but honestly it’s just going to drag out our deductible longer and mean that we have to pay for his prescription for more months. And with prescriptions, unlike doctors offices, I have to come up with the full funds immediately. So now we are looking at plan B, and C, and D trying to figure out what our next steps are.