Full-Time Mom Seeks Part-Time Job: Why is This So Hard?

17 Mar

I’m (newly) 31 years old and have held a job for the better part of the last 17 years. I’ve swept hair at a salon, cashiered at a grocery store, worked my way from an aide to a teacher to an assistant director at early childhood centers. I’ve been an administrative assistant, an office manager (this position alone actually has a thousand sub-headings), and a marketing assistant. I’ve done family photography for several years. I’ve written 3 books (and have even seen some time on best seller lists). I know Social Media, Outlook, Excel, Office, PowerPoint. I’d say this all counts for something.

So why is it so hard find a job that doesn’t involve me right back to where I started, ringing up groceries and asking a customer if they want paper or plastic? And am I running the risk of becoming this:


I left my full-time job after Ben was born. We didn’t have a choice, and I don’t regret doing everything we’ve done to keep our preemie healthy and safe. And with a lot of sweat, blood and tears (and the occasional migraine…okay, more than occasional) we’ve made it 15 months with me technically “unemployed”. But it can’t last forever, and my goal lately has been to try and find a job that isn’t just ringing up groceries. And let me be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a cashier. A job is job, and money is money, and food on the table is food on the table.

But after almost two decades of  work, do I really want to put such a “step down” on a resume? Isn’t it bad enough in this male driven work world that I left a job at all to “just be a mom”? What happens if I cashier, and then in a few years when Ben is older and I’m ready to work full-time again I have to explain why I went from a career to a cashier?

So I’ve been looking around, and it’s been stressful. And disappointing. I interviewed back in January for a company that got me so far along in the process that I did a job shadow and a background check…and then I never heard from them again. I interviewed last week for a design and communication position and while the job was perfect for me, they need the 20 hours to be filled in the morning and in the afternoon. I did some shakey math and even if we put Ben in daycare 15-20 hours/week, and juggled the heck out of Dustin work schedules, I would probably be making very little after the cost of putting Ben in daycare.

Isn’t it 2015, a world in which working remote has taken over the traditional expectations of being chained to a desk? How does one find the remote positions? Or at the very least, a job that uses my skills and dare I say a bit of my passions and interests that fills a need during the late afternoon and weekends? I’ll even give up my weekends and time with my family if it means we get to keep Ben at home.

So the search continues. I know that something will come up, I just wish it wasn’t hiding itself so well.

Why I STILL Need A Car Wash.

8 Mar

My Friday was so out-of-a-movie crazy that it simply has to become a blog post.

Ben was in a mood from the moment he woke up (6:08a.m. is way too early) and spent the morning throwing food from his tray and crying over every big and not-so-big thing. At one point he was crying because I had locked him out of the kitchen while I tried to clean up/eat my breakfast, but was consoled by trying to grab a chunk of Ace’s fur while she walked by. He started to giggle and leaned forward to head-butt her (she’s such a saint) when Ace turned around and stepped on his hand. Normally this would just make him giggle harder, but on Friday…oh, the humanity. The tears. The gut-wrenching sobs.

Who needs breakfast, eh?

We finally hit the road to meet up with Tia and her trio for a morning at the Maple Maze. This went well, and Ben enjoyed crawling around contemplating what life would be life if he were big enough and daring enough to crawl into the climbers or, dare I suggest it, walk. 

He fell asleep in the car, and not wanting to potentially wake him up I decided to get a car wash on my way home. The car was filthy and I was getting really tired of wearing salt and road dirt on my shirts, pants, diaper bag, hair, elbow, everything. The day was bright and sunny so it sort of surprised me when the first car wash I stopped at was closed. The second gas station I tried had a big “out of order” sign on the car wash entrance. But like Goldilocks, the third gas station was just right. I filled up the car at the pump (one of the most glorious inventions for parents everywhere) and waited patiently for my car wash code to be printed out on the receipt.

After a moment the pump BEEPED in my face and displayed a message. “Unable to print ticket. Please see cashier inside.”

This. Is. Why. I. Paid. At. The Pump.

I spent at least 5 minutes debating whether I should just chuck my $4.99 to the already rich oil companies or wake up Ben, carry him inside and get the receipt. I just can’t throw money away, so I unbuckled my snoozing baby and began the walk inside. Just before I got to the door I noticed a damp sensation creeping up my arm. I shifted his weight and the dampness hit my side. I flipped him over and his entire butt and half his pant leg are drenched. Apparently someone dreamed about having their hand in a warm bowl of water, because his diaper had literally burst.

So I stood in line behind a construction worker buying cigarettes and playing that little machine that tells you if your lottery tickets are any good until the cashier asked if she could help me. “Yes, I bought a car wash and it said to come in for the receipt. Guess I picked the broken pump, number 7.”

She stared me down. “Are you sure you bought a wash?”

Deep breath. “Yes. Otherwise I wouldn’t have woken up my sleeping kid to come in here for a receipt. That’s why I paid at the pump…but it’s broken.”

She stared at me like she was deciding whether or not to press the panic button, but finally gave me my code.

We walked back to the car and I got Ben buckled back up – who was really not loving sitting in his soaking wet clothes – and, seeing the mile long car wash line (by this point it was the lunch hour and every Minnesotan had the same brilliant idea as me) decided to skip it, drive the 5 minutes home and get my kid into some dry clothes.

But on the plus side…we went to play Bingo that night and Dustin won $50! So I guess it all evens out. Somehow.

7 Reasons Why Turning 31 Was Way Better than Turning 21

3 Mar

On Saturday I celebrated my 31st birthday. It was fantastic for a number of reasons, the biggest one being that Dustin and I were not sick with sleep deprivation and worry that at any moment Ben’s hernias could slip out-of-place and require emergency surgery. Man, last year kicked our asses!

Birthdays are often a time of reflection, and over the past week of mulling over life and the passing of time (you know, little stuff like that) I came to a conclusion: turning 31 beat turning 21 by a longshot.

Alcohol is an enhancement, not the focal point. Sure, I have fond memories of sitting around a living room drinking and doing a number of silly things (drunk Twister is still a favorite). But I’ve found that nowadays, if there is alcohol involved, it’s an enhancement to the already awesome time we’re having. There doesn’t need to be drinks flowing to have a good time. This is not to say that I boozed it up in my twenties – quite the contrary, I was pretty boring among typical standards. I’m just happy that now it’s “normal” to be boring.

But if you do drink, you know what you’re getting yourself into. Even if you were one of those kids who drank plenty before they were legal (I wasn’t…go ahead, nerd alert me) you had to act all shocked and surprised when you spend the next day with a hangover. And then you had to tell stories the following weekend about the hangover you had last weekend. At 31, Dustin and I knew what was going to happen to us after margaritas, cheap vodka, Captain Morgan and Long Islands.

4th of Jully 2008 055

Twin Cities Pride and see the Vodka Sno Cone van…because even people in their thirties will act like children a couple times a year!

Even if you don’t have it all figured out, you probably have the most important part figured out. And by that, I mean YOU. I’m guessing that by the time you’ve reached your thirties, you know at your core who you are. People change all their lives, but I believe that our core components are hard to shake by this stage in the game. Being in your twenties can be terrifying and can involve trying on many different personas, which is, of course, all part of the process of learning the type of person you want to grow up to become.

You’ve already had some big wins and some epic fails, and you have enough distance to realize that it will all even out. Between the ages of 16-26 I lost a dad, an uncle, worked long hours at jobs that treated me like crap and paid even worse, and married and divorced an abusive monster of a guy. Those were the fails. The wins? I put myself through night school for my B.A., walked out of said job to search for better skies, landed a job that turned into a career, had the nerve to divorce said monster, traveled the globe…see how the “win” list is much larger? Age really does put perspective on things. If you do your part and meet the world/God/universe half-way, the scale will balance out…eventually. Promise.

Love doesn’t suck. And if it does suck, you know better than to take it. People – in particular women – in their younger years are a bit more likely to hang on to a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. Or they hang on because they aren’t concerned with how much time is being wasted with someone who can’t or won’t give you what you want. You get older and you stop sacrificing your happiness for someone else’s agenda. If you’re married in your thirties odds are you’ve learned by now what you will and won’t tolerate, and if you’re not, you know what you’re looking for and you’re too smart to settle for anything less.

You have really valuable friendships and you know quality over quantity is what counts. This may be the biggest one for me, because after the heartbreak that was my high school (death of a parent in the middle of your high school career does not make relationships easy) I was really sensitive about being in my twenties and not having a friend to my name for longer than a year or more. And now? I couldn’t care less. The friends I made in my twenties are, for the most part, still here in my thirties. At least the ones that are worth keeping are here – the rest? I don’t lose sleep over them, let me assure you. I’ve also learned to identify quality people from the ones who are all flash but wouldn’t show up for you at 2am when the hard stuff strikes.

From Computer 815

My mom and her best friend of…25ish years, taken in 2006. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one or two friends like this in your lifetime. Hold on to these people. They are priceless. 

And last, but certainly not least: growing older is a privilege, not a right. Scroll through your FB feed, watch the news, look up the right key words on Pinterest and you will find a plethora of people mourning friends, family and (yikes) children taken from this world way too soon. At 21, most of us still have a bit of that “invincibility” complex left over from our teen years. By 31? We know better. I feel lucky to be this age, and I feel lucky for every day and year that comes after, because really, none of us knows when the clock stops.

Does aging bother you? Is there something you miss about your twenties now that you’re in your thirties? 

Pregnancy Isn’t a Blessing: 7 Things Not to Say to Your Friends Who Aren’t Pregnant Yet

24 Feb

The sensitivity that exists between those who are trying to conceive (TTC) and those who have already conceived and successfully given birth can be so high that even the strongest of relationships can crumble into a bitter, hurt mess.

The truth is that, although we spent much of our adolescence being told that pregnancy can happen anytime we so much look at a member of the opposite sex, getting pregnant does not come naturally for every couple.

This bears repeating: pregnancy does not come naturally, easily or cheap to many, many couples.


There is a reason why Facebook and other Social Media groups exist to support those who are struggling with infertility or struggles conceiving naturally. A common thread among these groups? The stupid things people say to the person who is having difficulty getting pregnant.

It may seem odd that I’m writing this post – after all, we conceived Ben naturally after 7 months of no planning, but not preventing. But since I have several family members and good friends who have struggled with various difficulties in the baby making department, please allow me to be a sort of liaison between the cluelessly knocked-up and the frustrated infertile.

So let’s say someone you’re close with – and want to keep in your life – tells you they’re trying to get pregnant but haven’t had any success. Acceptable responses include but are not limited to: I’m sorry to hear that; what can I do to help you right now; I’ll listen whenever you need me to; what flavor of ice cream should I pick up before we continue this conversation? Any variation of these will do just fine.

Responses that are never okay and will start the process of driving a wedge between you and this person you care about include:

Stop stressing about it, it will happen. Has being told to stop stressing over something ever made you stop stressing about it? Nope, didn’t think so.

But you’re too young to be dealing with this stuff! Because young people never have health issues.

You better hurry up and have kids, you’re not getting any younger. I promise, any woman who wants a baby is painfully aware of her age and her biological clock.

You guys should have kids, you’d be such good parents. I never, ever say this to couples. In fact, I try my best to avoid bringing up kids until the other party does. Why? Because they know they would be good parents. They really want the chance to be good parents. Choosing not to have kids because you want a kidless life is one of many reasons why people don’t get pregnant…and from my experience, it’s usually low on the list.

Have you thought about adoption? To a couple who still has their heart set on conception, saying this is like saying you think it’s time for them to give up. They’ll come to this decision on their own and in their own time. Adoption is an amazing gift for both baby and parents – but it isn’t the right choice for everyone, and it’s not your job to push.

I can’t believe I’m pregnant againI firmly believe that just because your friend is having trouble getting pregnant it doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to talk about your pregnancy. However, there is a difference in talking about the baby kicking and complaining that you didn’t even mean to get pregnant with your third baby. Save the “it was an accident” details for yourself, or share them with friends who already have a mini-van full of rugrats.

Maybe God is trying to tell you something. This is the second-worst offense in my opinion (and yes, I believe in God) because when did you get a direct line into God’s plans for your friend(s) who want desperately to have a child? I want to believe people have good intentions when they say this, but mostly this response will come off condescending, uncaring and just plain hurtful.

My pregnancy is such a blessing/I was blessed with this pregnancy. This takes the cake for the first worst offense. By saying that you are blessed because you’re pregnant you are implying that your friend is NOT blessed because she ISN’T pregnant. Ouch.

What’s the worst or best thing a friend or family member has said to you while you were trying to get pregnant? Please, educate us so we can all be the awesome friends we were before this whole TTC thing!

I’m Ignoring My Kid Right Now.

16 Feb

I put Ben down for a much needed nap around 10:00 a.m. He was sound asleep until about 10 minutes in when he had a huge coughing fit (he’s pretty much drowning on teething drool these days), started crying, and now for the last 45 minutes or so he’s been rocking out in his crib like it’s time to par-tay.

I’ve been sitting at my computer listening to him rock the crib casba and not doing a darn thing about it because a)he needs to sleep b) I have a gajillion things to do in the time when he is supposed to be sleeping and c) I was really looking forward to a shower without him standing in his gated off section of the bathroom chucking legos and plastic blocks at the shower curtain.

But now that I’ve paid a few bills, followed up on some work emails and written this lame post (but it’s still a post, right? right?) I guess I’ll go rescue him from the cruel and unusual punishment that is his crib, blankey and sound machine.

I’ll try for the “momma under fire” free shower tomorrow. Today I will wave the white towel of defeat and hope he doesn’t figure out how to climb over the gate and ambush me.

Happy Monday indeed!

Why I Left L.A. Fitness: Child Care, Enter at Your Own Risk

11 Feb

Dustin and I recently re-joined Lifetime Fitness and we simply love going there. Even Ben, who is in separation anxiety hell, loves going there once the horrible dropping off part is past. I decided to write this post because more than one staff member has commented on how atrocious the “child care” we described at L.A. Fitness seems to them. Bringing Ben to the L.A. Fitness daycare was a horrible experience and after a couple of college tries I stopped going altogether because I just couldn’t get comfortable with what I was seeing (or what was missing). I also know that I did hours of Googling for gym daycare reviews and figured one more added to the mix couldn’t hurt!

There was no rhyme or reason to who was working in the daycare. I would walk in with my infant son and sometimes there was a bored looking girl sitting on the computer, other times there was a personal trainer, sometimes there was a sales rep. Each time I would ask a different question, like “How long have you worked with kids?” (I haven’t, they just put me in here with they are short-staffed) or “Do you have infant/child CPR training?” (Nah, they don’t make us do that).

There was NO CHECK IN OR CHECK OUT procedure. When I would walk in with Ben I would hand him over to one lady and then pick him up an hour later with a different lady behind the desk. I would walk in, head to the infant side and pick up my son…but I could have picked up any baby, they wouldn’t have known! It was terrifying. There was no scanning in or out, no checking ID, nothing. And because they rotated staff so frequently I was often dropping off and picking up with a different employee, so they couldn’t even claim to “remember me”.

They would say the stupidest things. One time I handed Ben over and he started to whimper. “Oh man, he’s not gonna cry the whole time is he?” said the lady who looked like I was handing her a bag of dog poo and not a little baby. Another time I picked Ben up to find the daycare had been flooded with kids since I dropped him off. The lady working looked totally overwhelmed with several infants, toddlers, and big kids running around the place. I asked her how many kids she was allowed to watch on her own (p.s. the state regulation is 1:4 infants, 1:7 toddlers and 1:10 preschool) and she had NO IDEA. She was just standing in the corner alone, holding a screaming baby, looking like she wanted to cry herself.


You could leave your kid there as long as you wanted. One of the many, many things I love about Lifetime is that they have a limit on how long your kid can be in the child care. You get 2 hours a day, which is p-l-e-n-t-y, even if you are doing a 15 minute workout and enjoying the next hour and forty-five minutes soaking in the hot tub and taking your first kid-free shower in a month. (Yeah, I’ve done it, and it’s awesome). At L.A. Fitness I asked if there was a limit and was told that you could leave your kid in there as long as they were open. They were open 8-12 and 4-8…which means I could have left my infant in a room with multiple staff, no safety precautions, no feeding or diaper changes, for 8 hours a day! And without any check in or check out system, they had no way of knowing if I stayed on-site (which was company policy…but they admitted a lot of parents didn’t do this).

I dropped Ben off maybe 3 times to go to Zumba before I couldn’t handle it anymore. The next couple of times I went to workout I stayed on a treadmill where I could see into the daycare. And then I just quit altogether, because I didn’t go through hell and back just to have something idiotic happen to him at the worst on-site child care in the history of child care. Dustin and I agreed it was a glorified playpen and nothing more.

So there you have it. If you’re reading this because you’ve been looking for an awesome gym daycare check to see if there is a Lifetime Fitness in your area. They are constantly praised for their high standards and safety. And bonus – kids 3 and up get to go to a billion awesome classes like art, science, wall-climbing, karate and music while their parents work out. Don’t even bother with L.A. Fitness. Nothing, not even affordable Zumba, is worth risking your child’s safety.

Going, Going, Gone!

5 Feb

I still can’t believe that I’m someone who sells nail art. More importantly, I can’t believe I’ve started wearing nail art so often that when my nails are naked I feel like I forgot something important. And even more importantly I can’t believe that Jamberry gives me dirt cheap mani/pedis that actually last as long if not longer than they claim. I drank the kool-aid, made over $600 in 5 months with a little more than 0 effort and found something that makes me feel put together, even on the days when getting to take a shower is a challenge!

If you have no idea what Jamberry is, please visit my website to learn more. These wraps are made for those who like bling, solids, patterns, french tips – they even have a Juniors line. If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you know I’m a stickler for a product that works and is a good bargain. Jamberry is both of these things!

For those both in the know and newbies, Jamberry recently released their 100 retiring wraps. After February 28 some of my all-time favorites (Candy Corn, Pumpkin Spice, Newspaper) will be gone forever. The good news? The new catalogue comes out on March 1, and the previews have been pretty fantastic.

Check out the retiring wraps and get your orders in before the 28 (which also happens to be my 31 birthday, so if you order from me it’s sort of like buying me a birthday present…thanks, you’re too kind!). I will be sure to post when the spring/summer wraps become available. Ahhhh, spring and summer…doesn’t the very thought just make you smile?


Just a few of the wraps that are Going, Going, Gone!

Mom Reads: Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

4 Feb

Several years ago when I put my mind seriously to writing books, I read what is still one of my favorite craft books: Writing and Selling Your Memoir by Paula BalzerMy copy of this book is tattered and torn and full of notes; if you want to write memoir, or creative non-fiction, I highly suggest you pick up a copy!

Anywho, Balzer’s book suggested reading a stack of bestselling and obscure memoirs to get familiar with style, tone, pacing, structure, etc. I set off to Half Price books with her suggested reading list, and it was because of her recommendations I ended up reading The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. It’s a wonderful read about a mother who struggles to cope with adulthood and parenthood after a diagnosis of cancer. In the middle of her journey her father is diagnosed with cancer as well, and the book poses questions about stepping out of the “middle place” between being the parent and needing our own parents.

The book focuses in large part on her relationship with her father (the glitter). In Glitter and Glue, Kelly examines her relationship with her mother (the glue) against the backdrop of an unexpected nannying gig in Australia for a widower and his children who have recently lost their mother to cancer.

glitterandglueThe book begins with Kelly undergoing a hysterectomy and her mother tending to her post surgery. She worries that she will end up just like the deceased mother, Ellen Tanner, leaving behind her small children and her husband.

This book was quite powerful in that Corrigan knows how to deliver an emotional punch without leaving us unable to find our footing. She delivers the pain of missing a mother in subtle but strong ways; the way Martin, the youngest, asks her repeatedly about her own mother, or the way Milly has a breakdown when her father callously uses the word “diseased” to describe a rotten tree trunk.

While caring for this family, Kelly begins to consider all that her mother did for her in her own “glue” like way. She also begins to understand that our parents are people outside of their role as our parents. At one point, Kelly recalls visiting her mom at work. Her mom is the funny lady at the office, killing the crowd with a dirty joke. This stuns Kelly, who has only known her mother as a strict, Jesus loving Catholic mom.

“…All my life my mother was my mother, nothing more. Not Greenie’s saving grace, not the funny woman in the office. But now I see there’s no such thing as a womanone woman. There are dozens inside every one of them. I probably should’ve figured this out sooner, but what child can see the women inside her mom, what with all that Motherness blocking out everything else?”

I remember when, shortly after my dad’s death and therefore the worst possible time, I found an audio tape recording of my parents’ wedding ceremony, but my mom’s name was wrong. As it turned out, my mom had been married before my dad, and my dad had been married before my mom.

It had never occurred to me that they had been married before each other. When my mom gave me the sex talk she said dad was it for her – obviously a lie with good intentions, but still. My world had already crumbled and this news was just another blow to the broken foundation of my life.

But now, years later, a mother myself…I wonder which woman I will allow Ben to see. Or which version of this woman I will craft for him. The parent-child relationship is a complicated one indeed.

In The Middle Place,after the diagnosis, Kelly’s husband comments that no one but Kelly could love their kids like her, no one would deserve them like she does. I was thinking about this throughout all of Glitter and Glue, how my worst fear of having my own family would be to end up losing them. You can’t help but be scarred after what my family went through after my dad’s death. But I got married, and I had a kid, and now as a wife and mother some days I feel overwhelmed by all there is to lose. I don’t want anyone else to mother my son, and I really don’t think anyone else could lovingly tolerate Dustin’s tendencies to leave all the cupboard doors open the way I do.

This was a good read, sentimental without being sappy, and does a wonderful job of illustrating how grief can and does change the family dynamic.

Mom Reads: Baby Proof by Emily Giffin

28 Jan

Like so many, one of my 2015 goals is to read more. I am even contemplating a hiatus from pressuring myself to write books to make time to read more – sort of like I need to reconnect with my love of reading to remind myself why this relationship with writing books is worth fighting for.

So far? It’s working. The more I read, the more I’m reminded why I want to write.

I have many books on my shelf that I haven’t read yet, so to kick off 2015 I grabbed Emily Giffin’s Baby Proof. As someone who doesn’t usually choose “chick lit”, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Something Borrowed. And once again, Giffin didn’t disappoint. Her characters are multi-dimensional and real; these are women I feel like I know in real life. The guys, too. The man Claudia has an affair with was, in my mind, a composite of a couple of guys I worked with in a past life.

In a nutshell: Girl meets boy who shares her desire for a child free life. They’re happy and in love…until he changes his mind. Wanting a baby and not wanting a baby is a deal breaker, and relationship and personal crisis ensues. I won’t ruin the ending, but suffice to say, I was happy with it. Satisfied even.

What drew me to this book, aside from enjoying this author, was the idea of preventing a baby. I picked this book up about 5 days after intentionally missing my last Depo shot. We’ve been told that coming off of Depo can take 6-12 months before you have a regular cycle again. While I’m not sure I’m ready to be pregnant right now, I think we’re pretty sure we want another baby eventually. So assuming it takes a year for this to be able to happen, it made sense to stop getting the shot.

But being suddenly vulnerable to a pregnancy has made my mind reel in a thousand directions. Before I got pregnant with Ben I was terrified of a hundred things: would our lives change for the better, or would we regret growing our family at that time? Would I ever get my time back to write and enjoy things outside of being a mother? Now that I’ve had Ben, the idea of having another baby includes those fears, combined with fears of medical complications, another NICU stay, an even earlier delivery, and so on. With a swirling list of anxiety and nerves, Baby Proof seemed like a good choice.

For a moment while reading I was reminded why I protested kids for so long: “If the best part of kids early is getting it over with, and the best part about having kids late is putting off the drudgery, doesn’t it follow that not having kids at all is the best of both worlds?”. Yes! I agreed with that for many years, and maybe a little part of me still sees the logic behind it.

But then there’s this:

Fall 2014 1105

And, at least for us, that is worth all the sacrifice. I also subscribe to a parenting style where kids are an addition, and not a restriction to your life. It’s all about perspective and what works best for your family, which is something Claudia learns after a lot of soul-searching over her convictions and perceptions.

Negotiate Your Medical Debt – 3 Tips That Could Save You Big Bucks

21 Jan hospital money

If I weren’t writing this post in the quiet room of a library I would be screaming at the top of my lungs. 8 months after Ben’s Yard Sale, our Give Forward site, countless hours of taking on side and part-time work….Ben’s hospital bills are PAID IN FULL!

First off, let me once again thank everyone who donated, shopped our sale, said some prayers, spread the word – we are beyond grateful to belong to a community of people who will “do unto others” and who remember the truth that “there but by the grace of God go I”. No one plans on having a child who needs extra medical care; no one plans on having a preemie. It’s the stuff in life that you can’t plan for that can knock you on your ass, and without the support of family, friends and strangers we would not be out of hospital bill debt 8 months after the yard sale.

That being said, I want to stress that Dustin and I didn’t sit on our bums and let charity and hospital assistance get us here. I took a part-time job while Dustin has hunted out web and video work that has kept him up many a late night. It was his last freelance job that allowed us to pay off the last $1,800 in bills yesterday.

If you’re reading this post then I’m sure you too are staring down the gaping hole of medical bill hell. America sick care sucks, plain and simple. Even for those who carry insurance, medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy.

Before you make a single payment, here are 3 tips that I’ve learned over the last year that could save you some big bucks.

Apply for assistance. When you’re starting the process of dealing with hospitals, you need to keep in mind that more often than not they will settle your bill for less than is owed (more on that later). But before you can get there, you need to prove that you’ve done everything you can in your power to get the balance taken care of. Even if you think there is no way you could qualify for hospital or county assistance, apply anyway. You may find yourself surprised at what the hospitals – especially children’s hospitals – will offer you. Both of the children’s hospitals we worked with (and it took MONTHS to get an answer, but those were months that our accounts were on hold and no payment was needed) forgave 40-60% of our bill! Taking $1,800 off of a bill is huge, and if you don’t apply and put in the leg work you could miss out on substantial savings.

hospital money

Don’t be bullied. The collection folks at hospitals and clinics are just doing their job, but that job is to pressure you in to making a payment. For example, when you call to tell them you can’t afford to pay in full and need to set up a payment plan, don’t be surprised if they ask if you can put the balance on a credit card. Gee, let me rack up credit card debt with interest on a bill that is interest free…no way! Avoid charging medical debt to a credit card at all costs. For one of our bills I consistently sent them a payment (consistency is important) and ignored their angry letters until they said I had 10 days to respond before they would send the bill to collections. When I called them I was able to point out that I had always sent them something, which gave me more ground to work with when settling on a monthly payment agreement we could afford.

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.  At the time of this writing I suspect many readers are anticipating a tax refund. The good news is hospitals will often negotiate a lump sum payment for less than the balance. The bad news? You need that lump sum available before you can strike a deal. This could come from a fundraiser, tax return, a gift or loan from a family member – anything that isn’t a credit card that will rack up interest, use it. Call the hospital and let them know you have exhausted all your options (they will try to make suggestions, because they won’t believe you). You’ve done fundraisers, sold your belongings, been gifted money, and there just isn’t anything left but this last lump sum of $X. Ask them if they will settle the bill if you make a payment of $X today. If they hem and haw (this is a tactic to try to get more money) let them know you have a stack of hospital bills and if they don’t accept it you will move on to the next, and the next, until someone takes your offer. This is exactly what we did for one of our last bills, and we ended up settling on it for $700 (the total due was $1,000).

When it comes to tackling medical debt in America you have to remember that you are swimming upstream in the dirty current of a screwed up system. We were told by one assistance program that if we made $2,500 less per year or if we were expecting another baby, thereby increasing our household size, Ben’s bills would have been 100% covered by the state. Different hospitals will bill different amounts for different services. Insurance companies do not care about you and your well-being, they care about the money.

If you find yourself dealing with medical debt take a deep breath and ignore the urge to run away from the problem. If you play by their rules – applying for assistance for hours, weeks and months, offering up settlements, making small but consistent payments – you may come out winning the game.



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