When people say ’emergency planning’ we all tend to think about natural disasters and catastrophes but there are more emergencies in life than those. Not to downplay the effects of an earthquake, flood or tsunami, which affect the lives of the many, but sometimes emergencies are small, affecting only a few, but those are no less debilitating or stressful to the few. In fact, in a huge tragedy, there’s often more help available in terms of disaster relief, because there’s more attention drawn to it, but in a small tragedy, people are often alone, frightened and helpless.
What are these ‘small’ tragedies?
How about the sudden and unexpected death of a spouse? The main breadwinner? A loved one? Or an accident leaving you or a member of your family needing urgent care? Or the unexpected loss of a job? Or a house fire? Or a malicious burglary? (i.e. where they don’t just take the TV and computer, but destroy all important documents and so on?) These are smaller scale emergencies, but huge to the affected none the less.
My mother was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness – as it happens she’s defied all medicine and doctors are confounded as to why she’s still alive, but at the time of diagnosis when they gave her four weeks to four months, we didn’t know that was going to happen.
I’ve learned a fair bit from this experience.
For one thing, my mother was the higher wage earner at the time she was diagnosed. She suddenly had to stop working, and if her life insurance hadn’t covered the cost of their house, they would have stood a very good chance of losing it to medical bills. Having the correct insurance in place saved huge amounts of stress, and potential financial ruin. She’s not rich for having her life insurance paid out, but it’s given them private treatment options which is probably why she’s still alive.
Having a savings account with a few months worth of salary in it is essential. Don’t get excited though – I have a few month’s salary worth of debt, rather than savings, but I’m working on it. I went to Australia to be with my mother for six months, and wasn’t allowed to work. Savings would have helped us all out. Dave Ramsey recommends starting with a three-month buffer, and working towards six months.
Have backups of important documents. Seriously. We have traveled a lot and one of the best tips I ever received was to scan and email all your important documents to yourself – at an easy to retrieve address, like Gmail. It’s no good if you can only access it from the home computer that was just stolen! Scan your passports, visas, bank card numbers (but don’t put passwords and pin codes with it!), insurance information, birth certificate and all that information and email it to yourself. Our children’s godparents have copies of their passports, birth certificates and ours in case they ever need it for information pertaining to legal guardianship.
One of the hardest topics of conversation in mothers groups comes from the question: where do your children go if something happens to you. I’ve rarely met a parent who emphatically knows without doubt or concern who their children will go to if they died. It’s a horrible conversation. It’s also a really important one and a will is necessary to make sure that your wishes have a voice. I’ve had to think long and hard on this, and for me the decision is partially to do with which country I’d prefer my children raised in, since our family is split over three continents.
Also, in cases where one person is the primary financial manager for the family, it’s valuable to have an ‘in case of… ‘ file or folder somewhere – again, not locked behind a passworded computer! – that a spouse/partner can find important information, like life insurance policies, medical aid information and other important information at the drop of a hat. As I say that, I realise that I don’t even know some of the companies my self-employed husband works for. He is also password king, so I’d never crack his codes, and he would literally just drop off the grid! (Which in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter, but it’s still polite to let people know the work they’re expecting isn’t coming!)
And finally, and I feel so strongly about this one, is contracts and agreements. No one gets married to get divorced, in case it also happens to you, I found an amazing divorce lawyer thanks to the Webrageous Google Ads for attorneys. No one falls in love to simmer in hate, no one falls pregnant to be bound by a lousy partner. No one goes into a relationship, baring your vulnerabilities, weaknesses and heart to another person, expecting them to use those very things against you.
Unfortunately, just in this year, I have seen three cases where this has happened and one parent has used choices made with regards to child raising against the other person in custody cases. Especially in the case of mothers, but not exclusively, I might add, we tend to make most of the day to day choices for our children. Of course we take our partners’ views into consideration, but often it is the mother that drives how things happen. I have seen court cases and custody battles involve breastfeeding, or a couple’s decision not to vaccinate being used against the mother, or a desire to homeschool manipulated by lawyers into something it was never meant to be.
My husband and I have agreed, in writing with help from our Melbourne family lawyers, the decisions that we have made with regard to our children. We don’t plan to divorce, but should that ever happen, neither of us will be in a position to use our choices now against each other, even if we wanted to, because we’ve agreed it. If you need child support and family law services, you may consider consulting with a child custody attorney or a family law attorney for legal assistance.
(It goes something like ‘I… and I… have jointly agreed to babywear, co-sleep, practice baby-led weaning, etc etc [all stipulated] and jointly commit to raising our children present and future this way based on our individual and joint research into the varying styles and options available to us. We both feel that these choices meet the needs of all members of our family, as pertains to parenting and child-rearing.)
We hope to never need to use this document, but I certainly never want to be fighting for custody of my children because of something we agreed on together – like co-sleeping. And sadly, as deeply as we love, so deeply we can hate, and the future is unknown. If divorce is the only best option, I know that the first thing to do is look for experienced divorce lawyers.
So, despite this grim and downer post, remember that every moment is precious, and that life is in fact, very, very short.