challenges / changes / cost of living / family / life / living wage / parenting

Keeping the lights on. (The price you pay for a “fair market value” community.)

Today was different than any other day. I walked out of the house after the kids had left for their extracurriculars and after-school jobs, and realized… the lights are on.

This is different from my usual scanning of the apartment, as I become overwhelmed by the utility bills sucking my paycheck dry. Normally, I would say, “All the lights are on… again!” (Insert eye roll.) But not today. Today is different.

Today, I realized I was winning.

My lights were still on and for a middle-class, teacher, single mum of three, constantly battling inflation, this is not always the easiest of tasks. I juggle expenses like a jester, as everyone laughs and anticipates a perilous finale.

Ok, not everyone is laughing (that’s a little dramatic) but I move through life, struggling at every corner, and I feel like a shadow, standing in the middle of a busy hallway, in my building, and no one sees me.

Photo by Mike Chai on

Honestly, I am almost too overwhelmed with despair to even play the blame game. But I try to make sense of my anxiety and stress. There is a price for everything. The price of independence. The price of making your kids a priority. I try to remain level-headed and lean heavily on the rising “fair market” prices for my financial burdens.

I get it.

Supply goes down at the supermarket, thus, driving prices to skyrocket, but what about the teacher shortage? What about the labor shortage in general? Where is the adjusted wage?

America has been adjusting to the dramatic change in the cost of living by budgeting and re-evaluating expenses but I am curious…

Who or what is assessing our value? Who is checking in to see if my fair wage is balancing the books?

The Economic Policy Institute has been tracking this for years and found, most recently in 2019, that public school teachers nationally make about 19 percent less than employees in commensurate professions, or about 81 cents on the dollar.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on

In reality, we should all be concerned about the living wage in America. We have lost sight of the meaning of flourishing vs merely existing in a society.

We must value the people over the structure. We can set up systems for cycles to simply run their course but what happens when the people give and give and they are constantly coming up short? What sense does it make that the minimum wage is lower than the living wage? (As it is here, in Arkansas.) How can we uphold systems that are set up to fail?

Most who know me, probably don’t know that at the beginning of the month my rent takes up 91% of my paycheck. (Yes, that is while paying the fair market price of where I work. My rent has increased twice since I signed my lease agreement in 2021.) And like most people living in America, I will power thru in survival mode for two weeks, get paid again, and rectify all the damage I endured while trying to make ends meet. And despite my successful career, I make too much money to receive child support… but I make too little to pay all my bills. We all know my situation is not unique and yet those who share the same experience are often too embarrassed to reveal the reality of their struggles.

When one is in survival mode, life simply passes you by. You count every day until payday, focusing on making it right for creditors rather than making it right for loved ones. So, we cut. And cut. And cut. But after a while, the cuts are not enough. I’m living in a rat race, running on a spinning wheel that is simply getting me nowhere.

Today there is yet another letter left at my apartment door explaining a “fair market value” rent increase.

Photo by Alex Green on

(Sigh.) I have 10 days to decide if I will renew my lease in order to adhere to the 60 days notice requirement. I had already decided that I could no longer live this way two weeks earlier. But I had been looking for a new place in the surrounding cities but without much luck.

Should I decide to stay after December and pay month to month, as I find a new place, they will slap me with a $200 monthly fee putting my rent above my paystub for that pay period.

Having two rent payments, in order to reserve a place when my lease is up, is not an option. I will have to patiently wait until November and sprint like a horse at the Kentucky Derby, fighting for the prize at the end of the race.

The uncertainty of where I will move my family on December 3rd is paralyzing. I know I must put on a brave face and take things one step at a time. But a person who is drowning panics. It starts with a struggle, they hold their breath trying to fix the situation, they eventually have to breathe and at that moment they take it all in, perishing in their environment.

Too much? Tell me about it. (As I deeply exhale.)

Tonight, my son is buying my dinner at the local ramen restaurant, while he packages to-go orders. “My treat,” he says. “Put it on my tab,” he says, as the waiter walks me to my table.

Sitting here I try to remain focused, I think of all the positive posts I’ve seen on Instagram, lately.

‘This too shall pass.’ ‘A bad day is only 24hrs.’

Hmmm… Only 6hrs to go.

Tonight, I will keep the lights on. I will breathe. But in that breath, I will not be consumed. I will examine my situation for what it is and appreciate the blessings that surround me. My value as a mother is not determined by a market of any sort.

I will not sit in the dark. I will flip the switch and give myself some grace. It will be my small reminder… that I am still making it.

As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.” Marianne Williamson


Take care of each other.


Annie 🙂


6 thoughts on “Keeping the lights on. (The price you pay for a “fair market value” community.)

  1. I could so identify with this post, Annie. Many of us are struggling with hard times right now. I know I am, as you and a couple of readers have said. I’m fortunate that I don’t have dependent children living with me anymore, but I struggle to make ends meet with the cost of everything skyrocketing. I sit in one room with one light and no heating on, even in the winter. It’s miserable, but I won’t let it beat me. It is wonderful; I agree, as you replied to Ana Daksina above, that we somehow find connections with like-minded or spirited people. That, in itself, is comforting, I find. I do hope that something very good comes your way before you have to move your family in December. I’d admire your strength – it can’t be easy. Take good care of yourself and your children, Annie. Xx 💖🌻💕


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