Settling into the new normal

House listings are my porn. I have accounts on Trulia, Zillow, and RedFin, and visit HotPads from time to time. I have saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of listings. Any time I see a for-sale sign in a neighborhood I’m interested in, I grab my phone and search for the realtor listing. How many bedrooms? Is there a garage? Separate laundry room? What unfortunate color scheme would I have to paint over?

I’m not buying a house anytime soon. I’m too far in debt to even consider it. Nor are we moving away in the foreseeable future; my parents’ health is waning, and they are beginning to truly need our help. Even if that were not the case, my kids enjoy living close to them too much to leave right now.

No, my house shopping is just a dream. But it’s pretty much a harmless one, so I indulge myself.

The other day, I learned that I did get one of the jobs I’d applied for, a part-time contract gig. It’s flexible enough that I can do most of my work before the kids even wake up in the morning, and squeeze in my other freelancing while Kai naps and after R gets home from work. Which leaves me the rest of the day to take care of the kids and help my parents out.

This is not how I’d pictured my days. I was anticipating having to decide between a daycare and a babysitter — a decision I’ve fought since I became pregnant with Anya. Now I’m the daycare. It’s the goal I aspired to before I had kids. I didn’t expect it to feel this scary, though.

If I bust my hump and the work stays steady, with this new job I will be making close to what I made when I was laid off…but without benefits. If we manage to get married later this year, come tax time next year R’s tax return will offset my tax payment…but we may just barely break even. The security of the job I didn’t get was so great that I admit I’m having trouble seeing the bright spots in how things turned out.

But if I am to be honest about it, I think things turned out just as they needed to.

My mother, while not as bad off as we had feared this time last week, is very ill, and recovery is going to take at least a year. My father has health issues of his own that he’s been putting off treating until Mom gets well — and the time has come that he can no longer do that. They need me to help them out.

My kids need me, too. My daughter, while she thinks she is grown, is still little enough to want to spend time with me. And I’d be a fool to regret having the time with my son that I missed with her because I was working so much.

My debt is at times utterly overwhelming to me. Because we had to rely on credit during both of my maternity leaves, my current debt is roughly half my annual income. The first thing I’d intended to do once I started receiving a steady paycheck was to use my freelancing income (because of course I’d intended to continue freelancing, at least for a while) to start paying down my debt. So I could eventually pay back what I took from the kids’ savings accounts and our down payment savings account.

Now it’s going to be a while before all that happens. Years, perhaps. And unless I do return to work full time, the down payment account may never come back at all. My house hunting will remain a pretty dream.

But I’ll hang on to that dream just a little while longer.

 

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