Sunday, February 10, 2008

Torn

The world as I know it is changing.

Up until tonight, I thought it was changing for the better. You see, I am a stay-at-home mom. Technically, I have a job, but it's part-time and at night/on weekends, so it doesn't really count. My job is to stay at home with my kids.

I've never felt I did this job well.

For any of you who read my previous blog (which has been deactivated; RIP ourgreatfamily.net), you know I've had issues with the SAHM thing from the get-go. I'm not going to rehash it all. Suffice to say, I have very little patience, a quick temper, and I'm not too interested in doing things my kids want to do. I don't want to make a mess with Play-Doh or paint, run around outside in the heat and humidity, or "find" them in the same place a million times. I don't want them to help me in the kitchen, because it takes longer and makes a bigger mess. I don't want them typing on my computer because, dammit, I'm trying to write a blog here. And yes, today is going to suck, because we didn't get up and at 'em early enough and now it's almost naptime and when you wake up we won't have enough time to do anything before I have to go to work, so no, we can't go anywhere fun.

I'm also not so hot on the housekeeping end of things. SAHMs are, for the most part, expected to take on the majority of the house chores. Makes sense, considering we are home all day while our hard-working husbands break their backs to bring home the bacon. Unfortunately for me (and my husband), a toddler and a preschooler were more job than I could handle - the housekeeping took a back burner to trying to keep up with them. I just never could quite grasp that golden schedule that seems instinctive for so many other moms. Maybe it had something to do with coming home from work at 10:00 pm and finally getting to eat dinner, then spending some time actually connecting with my husband - or vegging out on the couch if connecting was just too much work - taking a shower, and going to be at midnight (or more likely 1:00 am), just to get up when I hear JT calling for me at 7:30 the next morning. I was tired. So very tired, all the time. Most days, I was proud to get us all dressed and keep the TV time to a minimum. Housekeeping, well, not so much.

I have beat myself up one side and down the other over this for the last two years. I haven't really come to peace with it, but lately things have been getting better. The kids are older, they play together (not usually nicely, but still). They're less messy with projects, so we tackle a new one now and then. I'm getting used to being a zombie, so the lack of sleep is not as hard to deal with. Overall, I think we were on the way up.

However, we still have one major problem. We are broke. Flat broke. Not despairingly broke - we can still pay the mortgage, run the heater, and buy groceries - but definitely poor. Our heater isn't on much, our groceries tend toward Top Ramen, and we are on a budget that is tighter than a homophobe's asshole, but at least we are limping along. It's just hard to never get ahead. It's hard to not be able to afford gymnastics lessons for your little girl, or Mommy-and-Me music classes for your son. It's hard to not be able to have fun family outings, because they cost too much. It's hard to swallow your pride when your parents pay for the airfare so you can see your nieces be baptized.

Not as hard as living on the street. I know this, and I'm trying not to have a pity party here. But, it's hard.

So I've been looking for jobs. With two kids, a dog, and an SUV that gets 14 mpg, the expenses of me working all day are fairly high. I set my salary requirements to the top of the bar for someone in my field (administrative assistance) with my experience (years) and education (not much). I sent out resumes, lots of resumes. I interviewed, which in and of itself creates difficulties like paying a sitter and buying a new outfit. I watched people's faces try to hide the shock when they asked my salary requirements and I told them. I went home, pissed off that I had spent next week's grocery money for what was just a waste of time.

And then, lo and behold. My phone rang and I was offered a position. Ironically, I had already made up my mind about this particular job - the interviewer was a jackass who made me feel stupid and small. I didn't want his damn job, thankyouverymuch. Luckily, I had an out, a non-confrontational way of saying "stick this job where the sun don't shine" ... the salary was not high enough. I couldn't swing it; there simply was no way. I asked for the weekend to think about it, but I knew I was going to call back on Monday and turn it down.

For some reason, I did not do this. When I called on Monday, I asked if the salary could be raised. I wanted three thousand a year more. I felt audacious asking for this - surely they'd laugh at me. But who cared? I didn't want the job anyway. However, my request was seriously considered and I was told to call back that afternoon.

Shortly afterward, my husband called me with some very, very bad news. He was being sent home from work, pending an investigation of his actions. He told me that obviously, no matter what the offer was, I needed to take that job. We were both devastated. Was he fired? He didn't know. But if he was, well, God help us. I needed a job, and I needed one now.

So I accepted.

Luckily for me, they raised their offer by twenty five hundred. I was shocked, as I had fully expected to be told "too bad so sad" on raising the salary. It was a nice bonus, but all I could think was at least I had a job. If N was going to be fired, we might still be able to hang on by the skin of our teeth.

N, as it turns out, was not fired. His offending action was ridiculously innocuous, and for anyone else would have resulted in a slap on the wrist. Thanks to the very bad relationship he has with his supervisor, however, N was suspended for two days, then ended up with a formal write-up for his file.

But he still had a job, for which we were more than thankful.

In the chaos of this week, the stress and subsequent relief, the scramble to find a child care center, the plans, the budgeting, the everything, I haven't thought much about what it means for me to have a job.

I am thinking about it tonight.

For one, it means we will have a bit more money each month. Not much, but enough that we should eventually pull flush, and hopefully even get ahead. Maybe even one day having the luxury of family vacations, children in extra-curricular activities, and doing the much-needed up-grades to our home.

For another, it means we will have much better medical benefits. No more surprise bills for hundreds of dollars, because N's insurance doesn't cover this or that. No more deciding not to have our children get a non-required vaccination because we can't afford the percentage that would be our responsibility. No more hours on the phone, setting up payment plans with doctors' offices.

It will also mean that my kids are at a child care center all day long. 7:15 am to 5:15 pm. For 10 hours, they will be in the hands of teachers who are paid to help them make a mess with Play-Doh and paint, watch them while they run around outside and enjoy the playground, laugh with them when they play house in the pretend kitchen, show them how to type their name on a computer keyboard. Every day will be fun, filled with friends and projects and activities and games.

And I won't be there.

I'll never be able to say I was good at being home with them. I might have ... I believe we were on the way to getting there ... but we never quite nabbed that prize. Their time at 'school' will be so much better than their two years at home with me. And for them, I am glad that they will finally be getting the environment they deserve.

But for me, I'm sad.

I'm sad, and I don't want to let them go.

I'm sad, and I want to call my employer to tell him this was all a mistake. That really, I'm meant to be at home with my children, giving them the best life possible, so thank you but I don't need this other job.

I'm sad, even though in my heart of hearts, I know I'm doing the right thing. I need to work; we need the money. I picked a wonderful child care center, and they are going to be receiving all the attention and caring and simulation they need to thrive. They are going to love it, I know.

But I'm sad.

I have a lot of things to do tomorrow; household chores and whatnot. I have schedules to write down and details to be ironed out. I have meals to plan and preparations to be made.

But I want to shut it all out and just hug my children. To watch them play, to see the sunlight reflected in their beautiful eyes and feel my heart lift at their laughter. To be their mom, their one and only, their love; to make every moment count. I want to stop time ... but they can't wait to start school, to have such a new and wonderful adventure. They don't know that tomorrow is going to break my heart. They don't know that I want just a little more time to prove that I really can be a great mom. That it's in me to give them everything they need, that I'm capable of doing right by them. They don't know that I'm dying a bit inside to let them go.

I didn't even know. I didn't know this was all inside me, until it hit me that I have one more day before our little world changes. One short day.

I start work on Monday.

And God, I don't want to go.

1 comment:

Wednesday said...

SAD SAD indeed - I thought of you a lot and I am sure you can do it. I hope you know I am here for you! I will listen to all venting if you want me to call you on my free minutes on the weekends or I can also send you the "tips" of how to be a working mom without wearing a wig if you'd like....

Em