Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Financial mistakes and family planning

Last week I had a perfect storm of financial idiocy. First, a toddler of the store's acquaintance (not Z.) broke the fax machine. It was a lesson in why you should go ahead and correct a child, even if its mother is there, if your property is at risk. The mother very reasonably replaced the fax machine, but the new one didn't arrive until Friday, when I was already rushing off to points north. Why is the fax machine important to this story? Well, because I can't authorize a wire transfer without faxing my signature. Why couldn't I go to the co-op on the corner and use theirs for 50 cents a page like I used to when I had no fax? Uhhhh .... mmmm .... no reason. It just didn't occur to me.

Second, I lost the deposit. It was on the dining room table on Wednesday when I cleared it for dinner. It was not in evidence anywhere I looked on Thursday or Friday, before we left. The deposit represents only a fraction of the store's sales (most sales are by credit card and go directly into the store's account after mastercard plays the float for a day) but by the time I'm ready to go to the bank the cash and checks have added up enough to cover a few of my smaller vendors. I don't know what's wrong with my brain that I can't remember where I put this little, valuable stack of paper.

Third, I went ahead and mailed off a pile of checks anyway on Friday morning. In my defense, I knew that the fax machine was on its way, my manager had my signed authorization to fax off as soon as the new machine was set up, and the kind of transfer I've been doing recently is next day at the latest. It was still really, really dumb.

As I was driving across the Walt Whitman bridge on our way to the NJ turnpike, A. was fielding calls from my manager and my financial advisor. Finally it was clear the fax had gone through, but when I heard A. saying "Not til Thursday?" I knew I was in trouble. The local vendor checks were going to start hitting the account on Tuesday. The largest two, to Behemoth Media Empire and Slick National Book Distributor, would probably take a week or more, but there was no guarantee of that. And given what the next four days looked like there was not one thing I could do until after second seder.

The happy ending is that we were able to do a credit card cash advance today before any checks bounced, and tomorrow we'll have the money to pay back the credit card, but I hate these kinds of financial acrobatics. I still can't find the deposit and on top of needing the money to be somewhere I can use it, I can't stop berating myself for this memory gap. Is it mom brain? Is it hypothyroidism (I had blood drawn to check for this on Friday)? Is it sleep deprivation? Is it my usual absent-mindedness about keys and glasses and wallets, now extending itself to actual cash, which it never has before? Is it my deep feelings of entrepreneurial inadequacy expressing themselves through self-sabotage? And I don't even need to ask if it's my slovenly housekeeping. Duh.

Owning a business is like being out on a limb that constantly snaps and creaks underneath you.

It was in this emotional context that I spent much of this weekend at my in-laws, largely cocooning myself with novels and knitting. Also they have a full-length mirror, something our house lacks. Between the cocoon and the reflection, I came to a place of clarity:

I can't try to get pregnant again until I am at or below my pre-pregnancy weight. This was something I achieved 10 days after giving birth, but not in a happy way since those of you following this story know that Z. was hospitalized for 7 of those 10 days--now I'm back to about 10 pounds over pre-pregnancy and a full 60 pounds over anything like my ideal weight. Add 25-30 pounds of pregnancy on top of that? No.

And I can't try to get pregnant again until I'm confident it won't bankrupt us and destroy the store.

We've been talking about inseminating again this summer. The plan was to try again after Z. turned 2, and here she is, 2. Our donor was game when we brought it up last fall, but he teaches and wanted to wait for summer. The past few months I've been sorta charting, and starting to identify, though distantly, with moms pregnant with baby #2. But getting back on that 2 weeks on/2 weeks off merry-go-round felt like an ominous thing looming over me. Given the circumstances of Z.'s birth, beginning another pregnancy will require a leap of faith no matter when we start.

So I got it--now is not the time. 2007 is not the year. I have some worries about putting it off--36 is more fertile than 37, and somehow 3 seems a better age for a first sibling than 4--but those are sort of theoretical worries. Mostly I feel like I've given myself enough time to take care of myself, physically, and to have a holiday season that doesn't need to get plowed back into capital improvements.

I'm trying to take a lesson to heart about not making commitments before you have everything in hand you need to honor them.


Jody said...

I'm starting to think I need my thyroid tested, too, because I'm beyond hopeless mentally right now, too.

I hope the deposits show up. I admire your fortitude: running your own business takes nerves of steel.

Best wishes with the baby project. Honestly, between 3 and 4 for a sibling, I'd pick 4.

Hell, I would have picked any age after 18 months, if only it had been an option. But still: I think 4 will actually be easier in many ways. For what very little that's worth. (I do sympathize with the decision to delay.)

liz said...

Big hugs.

Co said...

Speaking only for myself, I can only handle one major life thing at a time. My head would explode if I tried to do 2 at once. First, it was buying our apartment. Then planning and paying for our wedding. Then I had to finish grad school courses. Then we started TTC. If there had been any overlap among those 4 things, I am convinced that my head would have exploded.

I can totally understand postponing TTC until you feel like you're on sounder ground--in terms of your business and in terms of your physical health. (I hope you're not hypothyroid, but if you are, I am too. It's a pretty big club.)

I am sorry that you've been making some financial mistakes. Doesn't it stink that hindsight is 20/20? Why does foresight need to be myopic? But I suspect that you might be harder on yourself than most about making mistakes because you expect so much of yourself. I could be wrong, but...I am like that anyway. As a perfectionist, I do not always respond well when life reminds me that I'm a fallible human after all. Stupid life.

Take care.

Take care. And give yourself credit for finding creative ways to keep checks from bouncing and such.

Magpie said...

I hope your deposit turns up - the saga reminded me of the scene in Moonstruck where Cher/Loretta loses the deposit. But it turns up!

And good luck with losing the weight so you can get pregnant again. When it happens, it'll be the right time.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I'm with Jody in suspecting that 4 is an easier time to add a sibling than 3 was.

I make those kind of financial mistakes too frequently, and always suspect self-sabotage. Sigh.

S. said...

Hmm, it looks like I'm getting some comment momentum going--it livens up the place, doesn't it?

I should clarify that really, really, I feel lighter and happier to have clarity on this. It doesn't even feel like a decision, more of a realization that something obvious was right in front of me.

Co and Magpie, welcome!

Jody and Phantom, thanks for the reassurance. I guess I'm thinking a 4 yr old Z. will remember pre-sibling life better than a 3 yr old Z., and thus have more reason to feel deprived, but 4 probably also has more flexibility. It's good to hear it from moms who have seen 4 up close. (And since my own first sib arrived at 20+ months, I ought to be happy about more spacing.)

Jody, I hear you about having a choice. A blessing of singleton birth that I tend to overlook.

Co, I'm actually hoping it is hypothyroidism, b/c that would explain so much and at least be treatable. And yes, I'm better at one major thing at a time, too--parenting has forced me to get a little better at respecting that limitation.

Liz, thanks. Hugs are always gratefully accepted.

Jenny Davidson said...

Yes, all sounds overwhelming & yet you're thinking it through very sensibly, very good! Why is this money stuff so hard to deal with?!? I am in complete denial about the need to do taxes, better sit down with before too much longer & face up...

Not sure about exact book expo dates, I'm away at a conference from May 1-6, but will hope to catch you at one or the other end, or else perhaps in Phila. not too long from now (June definitely if not May...)

S. said...

Jenny, sound like BookExpo might not work out--things start on Thursday he 31st, but I'll be in educational programs all that day.

My email is scallen3 at America Online, for logistics trading.

It was lovely to see your mother the other week!