From 45 to 33

(That’s a vinyl reference, kids.)

I have been a SAHM this week. R is out of town, and the kids are sick. So I have begged off of all but the most minor of freelancing assignments, paused my job hunt, and have just mommed all week. My days have been about wiping noses and snuggling babies, not editing scientific articles. We read books, sang songs, watched TV while curled up in a big pile in the recliner. I baked oatmeal cookies. For once, the laundry is clean and put away, the trash cans are empty, the house clean (just don’t look in Anya’s room or the office). This week, my job has been taking care of my family and my home.

It’s been…nice.

I used to think that I would go crazy as a SAHM. That I would get bored. Now I see that I could do it; when I got bored, I could work in a project, or go for a walk, or bake something. I would make an awesome SAHM.

Sadly, we can’t afford for me to be one. Such is life.

But maybe I should push harder to make full-time freelancing work. If I could set my schedule and hours, I could be more of a hands-on mom. I think I would be happier that way. I know my kids would be.

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The Kid Crud persists

No deep, introspective post today. I am still in the throes of…whatever this is. My sinuses are full of lava, my throat is raw, I have a variety of gastrointestinal complaints, and now I apparently have conjunctivitis in my left eye. I am also winding up my first period in 2 years. It has been…intense. If overnights are supposed to last 8 hours, the weekend was at least a week long. I am now down 8 lbs (not that I am complaining about that part). So this week has taken its toll.

Plus Kai is sick; he is finally recovering from his diarrhea, but he is stuffy and feels bad. Last night he was awake from 2 to 5. Suffice to say I was worthless today.

I may not post much the rest of this week; I have two big freelancing projects due Monday. But I will hopefully be back up and running next week.

Not just a job

The other day, I came this close to signing up for a subscription-only freelancing site. The gig had the potential to turn into a regular part-time thing, and it was right up my alley – working as a personal editor for a professor in my field. (Not science! Yay!) Sure, the ad sounded a bit…controlling. And the work terms (the poster insisted that all work be done simultaneously via Skype) raised my hackles. But I was still going to apply. I was going to charge a real wage, not the kind of wage these gigs usually pay. For the inconvenience, mostly. (Editing is not a group activity. It’s why I chose this field.) But I was going to suck it up and apply despite my misgivings.

However, the required “subscription” just to apply stopped me cold. The cheapest plan is $45, for an entire year. No mention of being allowed to cancel it; if you don’t find a job in 12 months, they’ll give you 6 additional months free. Whoopdeedoo. I have a family to feed. I cannot afford to gamble $45 a month.

Later on, I read this article about bad jobs. I’ve had bad jobs. I’ve had jobs at which I ate Tylenol like candy. Chewed them so they’d work faster. I’ve had jobs so frustrating that I cried all the way to work and all the way home. I can vouch for the fact that working a bad job is worse on your mental health than being unemployed. (Though to be fair, unemployment comes with its own special stressors. Neither is a good situation to be in, mkay?)

The article got me to thinking, though. I realized I was allowing my fear to cloud my judgment. Yes, I was qualified for the job. I am qualified for lots of jobs. Doesn’t mean I want to do them. And being chained to a desk – to a webcam! – for 4 hours a day by some control-freak academic is my personal idea of hell. I am so happy I didn’t apply for that ish. There will be another job. And if there isn’t, I’ll just go into a different field.

 

 

The wisdom of children

The other night, Anya and I were snuggled up together in bed, watching Good Eats with the lights off. Kai was asleep between us, and she was nearly asleep herself. I was holding her hand, gently shushing everything she said because I knew the minute she stopped talking she’d go to sleep.

Then she came at me out of left field.

Anya, stroking my hand: Why you cry the other day?

Me: Because I’m scared.

Anya: Because you don’t have a job?

Me: Yeah. I am worried that I won’t be able to take care of you and Kai.

Anya: But Mommy, you be okay. You just think about that good job you want, and you will get it. It be okay. You see.

I smiled at her. She stopped stroking my hand and squeezed it.

Anya: So you no more cry no more! You cry, make me cry. I no want to cry. So be happy!

This last bit was an order. I’ve been doing my best to comply with it.

Loving:

Short work days. It’s nice to not have to shove all my personal tasks to the weekends.

Reading:

I finished Ove! Granted, it’s because Kai had a couple of sleepless nights and then I was sick in bed for days, but still…I am reading again! Now I am back on In the Shadow of Blackbirds, which I started over a year ago.

Watching:

Limitless. I got caught up on Wayward Pines. Not sure I am sticking with it; it’s not as good this season.

Listening to:

Nothing new last week. Must fix that.

Working on:

The house. Slowly but surely, I am cleaning this heap. (Though I am taking a break until my sinus infection abates.)

Anticipating:

Anya’s first day of school. Though I would be lying if I said there isn’t also a fair amount of dread involved.

Making me happy:

My snuggly, cuddly, wise little woman-child.

Being okay when everything is not okay

I have been fighting my true nature these past few weeks, and over the weekend my bravado blew up in my face. Somewhere between fighting with the confusingly written, yet immensely condescending, unemployment site (hey, guys, you could really use my help – that thing’s a mess) and realizing that I either have to tank my credit score or become homeless and turning off autopay on all of my credit accounts, I just crumbled.

I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to protect myself from exactly this situation. And you can’t do it! There’s no home safe enough, there’s no country nice enough, there’s no relationship secure enough. You’re just setting yourself up for an even bigger fall, and having an incredibly boring time in the process.

-Kate, French Kiss

Welcome to my life. Boring. Messy. Now featuring a huge dollop of fear on top.

So I went down the rabbit hole. I won’t be able to find another job, I thought. I will destroy my credit, which has survived divorce, two 3-month maternity leaves, moving, and being the breadwinner of a family while working one part-time job plus freelancing. Without good credit, I will live the rest of my life in crappy rental homes, driving beat-up used cars, and wearing ratty clothes. (But we have food, thanks to my FIL’s recent apocalypse kick. There’s that.)

I am tired. So freaking tired. I have been scraping by for over a decade now, and just when I was getting back on my feet, the rug was yanked out from under me. I can’t even see the damned rug now.

Cue meltdown. Crying, and cleaning (it’s a coping mechanism of mine), and not eating. My daughter was sad, and scared; I am not normally an emotional person, and she doesn’t know what to do with me when I cry. My son obviously could not articulate his feelings, but he’s been unsettled as well: restless and cranky and acting out.

Even once I managed to stop crying, my stomach churned, my muscles knotted. I could not rest. I could not eat. All of the things that usually provide me escape – planning our wedding, window-shopping for houses, looking at social media, reading blog articles on parenthood and productivity – seemed frivolous at best, and some even depressed me further. (Why look at wedding dresses when we can’t afford a wedding? And forget buying a house. I will never buy a house.)

It’s been a few days; the storm has passed. But I still don’t feel any better about anything. I am, it would appear, powerless in the face of my unemployment. I just happened to pick a field in which there are few opportunities where I live, and little remote work. (Why? I can edit just as well from my house as I can from your cubicle.)

The other morning, I turned off my 6:30 alarm and snoozed a bit more. Kai’s been teething, and I have been quite sleep deprived as a result. So I was in bed when my daughter awoke at 7:30. She snuggled close to me, and cradled her brother between us. R cuddled up close, as well. One big fam sammy. And I felt…safe. I felt loved. All the more so because I’d been feeling the exact opposite for days.

I remembered my vow to fight off the precise train of thought I have been suffocating beneath. I realized that just recognizing it isn’t enough; I need to figure out how to head it off at the pass.

Going for a walk normally helps. But that morning I had an editing test, so I didn’t have time. I need to make time. I need a schedule. A wake-up time. Scheduled time for work. Scheduled time for play. Time for exercise, meditation, self-care. If I don’t have enough work to fill the allotted time, I can do something fun in that window. If I have more, I will need to juggle my other scheduled tasks accordingly. But self-care and play time are not negotiable. I need those each and every day.

And snuggle time. That’s the most important to-do of all.

 

Life doesn’t stop for unemployment

Unemployment, here I come. Though hopefully not for long; I’ve applied to dozens of jobs already. While I admit to no small amount of panic about this new phase in my life, I’m trying to be smart about it. Life doesn’t stop for unemployment.

In the past, I have frozen in the face of adversity. Not eaten. Not slept. Ruminated and stressed and Chicken Littled myself into an anxious ball of energy. I powered my way through obstacles by sheer force of will, fueled by caffeine, nicotine, and stomach acid.

Not this time.

There is still beauty in the world. Just because I don’t have a full-time job doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy that beauty. So I will eat. Good food. Rest. Exercise. Take care of my children, my partner, myself.

I wanted more time. Now I have it. I will do all those things I’ve been putting off – the cleaning, the projects, the self-care.

I will take advantage of this time with my family. It will go too quickly. As all time does. And I’ll be overworked again soon enough.

Loving:

Anya is being super supportive of me during this time. Of course, if she had her way, I wouldn’t go back to work at all. She’s even offered up the contents of her piggy bank to offset expenses.

Reading:

My to-read stack keeps growing. But I am still plugging away at Ove. I didn’t get a chance to read last week, but this week I’m going to shoot for 4 chapters. In fact, that’s one of my main goals for July: Read 4 chapters a week.

Watching:

I stumbled across Wayward Pines, and now am hooked.

Listening to:

This week’s earworm: “For a Dying Man” by Finnegan Bell. I’m also exploring 80s/90s covers. Last week, I heard a cool cover of…something. I was going to look it up, to see who sang it. But we were getting froyo, and my children were being children, and by the time I remembered I was going to look the song up, I’d forgotten which song. So I’m currently going down the rabbit hole of cover songs on Spotify, hoping something sparks my memory. No luck so far, but I have discovered some cool covers, like “Time After Time” by Quietdrive.

Working on:

Aside from the manic employment search, you mean? On deck this week is some mad cleaning. Anya’s room has a musty odor despite the biweekly cleaning service. I’ve done a moldy sippy cup sweep. We had maintenance put mold treatment on the windowsill. And our constant use of the dehumidifier seems to be working in the other rooms, but not hers. Time to pull everything out, wash textiles, wipe surfaces, and scout for mildew. Yay?

Anticipating:

The fireworks tonight. Kai was just a baby last year; I can’t wait to see what he makes of them this year.

Making me happy:

Meditation is really helping me power through the rough moments. I am so very glad for the Calm app.

Money enough, and time

Recently I read a really good article on what wellness can and cannot do when you’re overworked. Oh, do I get it. One of the bigger balancing acts I perform in my day-to-day life is that of time and money. And it seems like I always fail, but at least I’m doing better than I was.

Years ago, I had slightly more prestigious job. I was very good at that job. I got stuff done. Really, just mind-boggling amounts of stuff. My shoulders tended to hang out in the vicinity of my earlobes, though, and I was exhausted much of the time. I worked, came home and worked out to try to burn off my stress, then Netflixed myself into oblivion. On the weekends, I ate and drank and shopped to excess. Because I’d earned it, right? I deserved to blow off steam.

Then I had a baby, and that crap wasn’t going to fly anymore. For starters, I had moved an hour away. And I had a baby who thought 5:30 am was sleeping in, even when she’d awakened every 2 hours for the previous 6. So I stopped working late. But I was still busting my hump all day long, and had nothing left over by the time I got home. My house was a wreck. I went 3 weeks without doing laundry. I was snapping at my partner. At my parents. At my baby. Something had to give.

I took another job within the company. One that paid more, for less work. (I know, right?) But it was still an hour away. And my baby wasn’t sleeping any better. So I made what seemed like a crazy decision in the moment: I quit that job for a part-time job, cutting my salary by more than half, because the new company would allow me to work from home.

But it really was a smart decision. My new job came with a manageable workload. A caring company. And an office 5 steps from my bedroom. After a year, I went full-time. Raises caught me up to what I’d been making, then took me past my previous salary. (Not much, but every little bit helps.) But I didn’t know that would happen. I was really making a leap of faith, leaving my old job.

It’s not been an easy road. Moving, and taking 3 months of maternity leave – twice – really put a dent in our financial picture. I’ve had to freelance long hours to make up the difference in my salary these past few years. My children cry when I go into my office now. But I have been able to provide for my family outside of the cubicle. And I’ve learned what a true work-life balance is.

And that’s important, because I just got laid off.

It was nothing personal. Not performance related. Just budget cuts. My entire department was laid off. That takes the sting out of it, sure, but it doesn’t feed my family.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. I am a little worried. But I am also…hopeful. I’ve been wanting a change for a while now; I was just waiting for a more opportune time to make it.

No time like the present, I guess.

I have no intention of returning to the office. Working from home gives me time. Time to play with my kids. Time to pursue interests. I’m not exhausted at the end of the work day. I have the mental and physical energy left over to be present with my family. That’s what they really care about. Not how nice our house is, or how much stuff is in it. They want me, healthy and happy and engaging with them.

How you spend your time is just as important as how you spend your money. With any luck, I’ll find a new job (or jobs!) that gives me adequate amounts of both.