By March 2013, 11 years into our relationship, my husband and I had racked up $23,000 in credit card debt, $36,000 in student loans and during our worst arguments, had uttered the "D" word (dreaded divorce) to each other as a solution to never seeming to have enough. Enough money, enough time for each other or our children, and enough energy to work toward our personal health and wellness goals. It was toxic. There was resentment in the form of days-long passive aggressive freeze-outs of one another. There was desperation. I put our house up for sale to try to quickly dig out of the debt hole as a way to make up for past money mistakes.
I felt hot anger in my stomach all too often, when sniping at my children with an all too short fuse, when at work in a job I knew I'd outgrown, and when trying to relate to my husband. The tipping point was reached, the last straw was about to be placed on the camel's back, and the towel in my hand was about to be thrown in.
I remember the hurt in the eyes of my children when mommy just wanted to be left alone instead of playing with them after work, the knowing looks from coworkers that knew my heart wasn't in the game, and a husband ready to defend himself from my despair. I covered my tracks relatively well when it came to outward appearances and not all of the times were bad. It's just that the life I was leading wasn't entirely genuine and that was felt at my core. There was an undercurrent of stress that pervaded all things.
And then one day, about a week before Easter, in anticipation of a stressful family holiday, I searched the web looking for tips to at least parent better if I couldn't control the other areas of my life. And I stumbled upon The Orange Rhino No Yelling Challenge. The mom blogger chose to challenge herself to 365 days of no yelling at her kids. That same day (March 29, 2013) I took the challenge to not yell.
That decision to stop yelling seemed to give me the clarity needed to get other important areas of my life straight. Here's what happened next.
Our Debt Situation:
My husband and I made a pact to follow the Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball plan which I write about here. Sometimes we paid $250 extra a month to credit cards and sometimes as much as $1,000 if we had it. And guess what? We didn't die. Much the opposite. We actually didn't feel like we'd changed a whole lot other than being a little more mindful of making that extra payment, not taking as many out of town weekend trips (gas and out to eat kills our budget quickly). And it has shown. We made a huge dent in our debt this year and feel freer by the month. It has been so gratifying to crawl out of debt and live a content, lower middle class lifestyle without the help of a debt repayment program or huge dings to our credit for behaving badly with our money.
On a date riding bike in the woods, talking goals by the river. Healing.
Not Yelling at My Kids:
If I die tomorrow, not yelling at my kids this last year has been perhaps the biggest accomplishment of my life. I've had a few firm voice moments with them, as well as yelling out of pain, and in an emergency situation, and I think one true slip-up in the last month of the challenge BUT for all intents and purposes, I have completely changed the way in which I interact with my children. Whenever there was yelling prior to the challenge, it usually came from my own shortcomings as a parent or inability to find a parenting tool in time and defaulting to a yell to discipline. I wrote an article about my experience for the Village Family Magazine and as a result was asked to go on North Dakota Today, a local television program in Fargo, to talk about the no yelling challenge. It really took root with my community and that positive feedback fueled my fire.
There isn't a reason good enough to yell at the two most beautiful people my husband and I created together.
Intact! I'm proud to report that after 12 years together, my husband and I still have it going on. We even weathered a huge life transition in December 2013 in which I left my job after 5.5 years to realize my dream of becoming a stay-at-home mom, birth worker and freelance writer. I make him breakfast, lunch and coffee most mornings before he heads out the door, make sure he feels loved and respected (we falter from time to time... we ARE human... but that makes making up way more fun), and he supports me right on back. I'm still hooked.
My favorite picture from when we first got together in 2002. Our faces say it all. Love and optimism will never let these two down.
Year in Review:
1) $15,000 less in debt
2) No yelling at my kids
3) Marriage intact
This isn't a fairytale about how everything is perfect. It isn't and I would be skeptical if it seemed to be. There is still work to be done. I'm not at my ideal body weight, I still have hormonal acne, and I have my down days, but damn it this year was one for the record books!
If you see me, high-five me. I'm a Millennial. We thrive on copious amounts of kudos.
This post originally appeared at janellebrandon.com.