The day my in-laws spoke up.
Well after a ton of Facebook messages I think it is probably time to tell the part of my story that involves being confronted by my wife's parents. To John and Mona who are undoubtedly going to read this, I love you, and respect you. Your bravery to confront Katie and I 2 years ago is something few parents and in-laws have the guts to do. I hope that some day I can be as brave with my children. Despite how I felt in the moment I walked away knowing that you loved us enough that you didn't care whether or not I liked you that day. Thank you.
I don't remember the exact day. I do however remember many of the other details. Of course, because emotions were high, some of what I am about to type is MY recollection of the events.
Katie and I had just moved to South Dakota from Lawrence, KS. We moved at the beginning of June 2009. July 1 my the business that my brother and I owned was fatally wounded.
At that time our 3 biggest contracts, which accounted for 72% of our gross revenue, were for providing SEO services to some big outfits. That day I got a call from all 3 that they wanted out of their contract early, that day actually, because the economy was forcing them to lay people off and they couldn't justify giving us money for their website and at the same time send people who had worked their for years packing.
Who was I to disagree? You know, contracts are only as good as your financial ability to go to court to defend them. I think if you could get someone on video stating that they were going to commit to the agreement and then you posted that socially, the ramifications of bailing on the contract would be more valuable than a signature and legalese. Sorry for the side note.
So starting in July Katie and I began loosing roughly $5k a month. Money was now only flowing out. We had our own personal bills to pay and now those of the business.
By December of that year I had convinced my brother that we take the business out back and shoot it. We did. And our Christmas present to each other for 2009 was the now $34k of business debt split 50/50.
Some time that summer or early fall Katie and I had an emotional discussion about our crappy financial situation. And when I say emotional discussion I mean Katie was crying and I was saying, "I am trying my hardest."
I am fortunate that while I may not be good at much, I think my wife and I have some of the best marital communication EVER. More on that later.
Katie was helping her parents from time to time do paperwork in the evening at her mom's office so later that day she was with her mom. Her mom's "spidey sense" was in full working order and she questioned Katie on her obviously less than happy demeanor. Katie shared with her mom the stress she was under. Her mom is a world-class marriage and family therapist so she has a trained ear on top of mom spidey sense.
When Katie returned home she told me that she had spoken with her mom and that her parents wanted to come over that evening after the kids were asleep to talk about things.
I have shared this story with a few close friends before and at this point they usually "bow up" and say something like, "Gaaawwd am I glad my in-laws mind their own business." Well I am glad mine don't.
There are 2 things you need to know.
1. I told Katie's parents when we moved to town that since we all lived in such close proximity that I was extending my "card's face up" policy to them and that if they noticed something that caused them concern they should voice it.
(sometime ask me about my "card's face up" policy as that is the secret to my awesome communication with my wife)
2. Katie's parents had given us money on multiple occasions investing in my ideas.
So after we got the kids down they came over to the house.
I sat on the couch with Katie to my left at arm's reach. Her dad pulled up a chair and her mom sat on the floor, both facing us. (See what I mean about her mom being smart, siting at or below eye-level so as not to be confrontational.)
I honestly don't remember the first part of the discussion. It was obvious from the outset that it was going to go downhill. I am ok with that. Sometimes the easiest way to clean your garage is to take everything out first and then put stuff back in order.
At some point I said, "Look, I am not motivated by money, I'm just not!"
The look I remember on their face was as though I had said, "I just don't believe in gravity. I just don't"
It was obvious that world view of mine was of no value in the conversation.
Shortly after that Katie's mom piped up and said, "You just have to get a job Clint. You are a really smart guy with good ideas and someone out there will pay you for those ideas."
What I heard emotionally was, "Who has 2 kids and no job? Seriously kid. You married our daughter and now you need to step up to the plate and provide. We thought she married "A MAN." Quit chasing your silly projects and submit to the system."
THAT IS NOT WHAT THEY SAID. But how I felt emotionally it might as well have been.
What happened next changed my marriage.
I looked at Katie and she was crying and nodding in agreement.
For the first time ever Katie and I were put in a situation where she had to pick sides and she chose theirs.
I was crushed. I started bawling profusely. I tucked my knees to my forehead and sobbed.
Katie wasn't being malicious. She hadn't abandoned me. She was just tired of the situation and her parents had spoken a true concern.
We all cried. A lot.
I explained, in between wiping snot around, that nothing meant more than my wife and kids and that I was doing what I felt I was created to do.
I explained to them that my dad was not around as a kid. (Dad, if you are reading this, I love you too. You are a kick ass dad now. Growing up you were mom's oldest child.) My dad worked for the government. He traveled a lot. His job was not only top secret most of the time but high stress. (Some time I will attempt to explain my dad's work history.) So when he was home he watched TV. He did not help discipline us kids. My grandpa was an arguer, yeller, and lecturer. My dad erred on the side of silence with us.
I saw the burden that my mom bore playing both roles most days and I think that sucked.
So I proceeded to tell my in-laws that if we have to be poor but I am the best damn dad in the world and best damn husband then so be it. I may not be motivated by money, but I am motivated by being a husband and father.
I am sure they saw the part of the successful father and husband role as one that goes out and does what it takes to financially provide for his family. I do not. I still don't to this day. Do I make money? You bet. Does it define me or give me satisfaction when I got to bed? Nope.
After many tears and some hugs they went home and I don't really remember if Katie and I talked.
I hate crying. I remember one time Katie saying, "Don't you feel better after a good cry?" Uh…no. I would rather vomit out my nose than cry. I feel worse. Way worse. Crying isn't therapeutic for me, it is torture.
I never did go find a job.
Katie's parents did end up buying us Dave Ramsey's money course. That dramatically helped our finances. More on that some other time too.
It took me nearly 18 months to clarify in my mind and then explain to Katie that she can't ever choose sides again. She can disagree with me but we HAVE to be on the same side. She agreed and is still my strongest advocate.
To John and Mona, if you are still reading, I believe firmly that you believe firmly that the path you took is a good and safe path. I have never taken the good and safe path. I am in a generation where the path our parents took doesn't exist. Most of my peers are overly educated, under paid and disgruntled. They don't know why they have a Master's degree in whatever and a job they hate. They did want their parents thought was right and they aren't happy. They followed the yellow brick road only to get to field of poppy's and get bored.
I would rather spend my time scouting land to build my own Oz.