Now that we are a graduate family, you would think that life is perfect for us, right? Well - that is not exactly how things played out. In the excitement of meeting my goals and graduating from this program, somehow I got this idea in my head that once we graduated life would be perfect with no more problems or worries. I guess I forgot that life is still life with all its ups and downs.
This is the last part of our story I am going to share. I hope other families will read this so they can have an idea of what to expect.
The best way I can describe graduating from the program is like what I imagine jumping out of an airplane feels like. You have worked for it, prepared for it, and you want to do it. You have your parachute all ready to go and then - you jump. It is thrilling, exciting, and totally scary!
The weeks after moving into our own place were like we had “jumped” and were waiting for our parachute to open. It was exciting, for sure. And I was so proud. I could tell my kids were too. We loved our new place. It was all ours and we could afford it. But I don’t think any of us realized how accustomed to the safety and support of Family Promise we had become. Suddenly, we were alone and it felt like a free-fall. Like waiting for our parachute to open.
It was very overwhelming at first. I didn’t expect that. Suddenly, I was by myself and had to manage a car and a house and bills and getting the kids to school and preparing all the meals and my own job and, and -- whew. It was a lot to take on all at one time. Oscar was definitely stressed and acting out. Sophia (even though she loved her new bed) slept in my bed for the first few weeks. It was a bumpier transition than I was expecting.
Slowly but surely, the parachute did open. We all started to calm down and feel safe again. I was so glad I had my weekly meetings with the caseworker from Family Promise. She encouraged me so much in those first months. She helped me keep going even though I didn’t have it all together. She reminded me of my plan, my budget, and helped me put systems in place. It was reassuring to have someone help me plan the details of my life. I’d never had that before!
One of the hardest things for me is that I was depending on food from the Food Bank as part of my plan. But with school and work, it was really hard for me to actually get there and get what we needed. I ended up going over budget on food a few times. I felt so bad! I didn’t want to tell my caseworker that I had made a mistake. Even that ended up being a learning experience for me. Obviously I was going to make mistakes. The difference is now I had the support and I had the plans in place to get back on track.
Eventually, the kids settled into their new school. Our apartment started to feel like home. We made friends with some of our neighbors which was such a huge comfort. I was doing really well at my new job. I even got promoted! Here is what I didn’t expect. The promotion came with a bigger paycheck. A bigger paycheck meant that we qualified for fewer benefits. You would think that it would just work out - that the extra money would cover the loss of the benefits. That isn’t how it was, though. So my budget changed. I dipped into my savings each week to cover it.
Then, my car broke down. I did have enough left in savings to cover the repairs, but I had to use it all.
I’m not telling you all of this so that you pity me. I just want other families to know that graduating from the program doesn’t mean all your problems go away. Expenses still come up. I had to work through some of my embarrassment and shame about basically spending the last dollar that I had worked so hard to save. My caseworker reminded me that for the first time in my life, I had a plan. I actually did have the money to cover it. I would just have to work again to build my savings back up. I did it once and I could do it again. Even though I wasn’t expecting to spend it all, that is what it was there for.
We have been on our own now for almost a year. We’ve had our ups and downs. But we made it. I am so proud of myself and my family. I am forever grateful to Family Promise. They scooped us up when we were down and supported us to get back on our feet. I learned things that no one had ever taught me before. For the first time in my whole life, the future doesn’t seem so scary because I know I have the tools to make it. Even more important - I have the tools to teach my kids how to make it. Thank God for Family Promise.