a job, an income, and an emotional rollercoaster

Happy: Eric has received–and accepted–an official offer of employment. We will soon have an income and a dramatic drop in our background economic insecurity. Yay!!!

Scary: Stress & ambivalence! This takes different shapes for Eric and for me; I’ll leave his stuff private and just dish on mine. My internal monologue runs along these lines:

I am apparently (and involuntarily) going to become the isolated stay-at-home wife of somebody with a 40- to 50-hour-a-week job: not what we were picturing! How will I get time to write and otherwise do my own work? Can that still be the same kind of important? How can we suddenly be together that little? Oh look, there’s our equally shared parenting flying out the window: bye bye! We must move ASAP so 9+ hours a day at work doesn’t translate into 11+ hours a day away from home! Noah is going to freak the fuck out, because Eric has been his primary parent and has never worked more than part-time in Noah’s entire life, and I’m going to be the person dealing with the weirdness all day long. I am not going to get any sleep ever again, and I basically stop functioning physically, mentally, and emotionally when I’m chronically sleep deprived. It will be fun to solo parent an exuberantly risk-taking toddler and a freaked-out six-year-old in that state! Oh crap, we need to baby-proof at least one room now. Like, NOW!

Happy: Eric can stop looking for work, after many months of plugging away at that dispiriting project. Once the dust settles, I should be able to take a step back and think bigger-picture about my own career, instead of desperately applying for stuff that might keep us afloat. For the first time in our nearly 11 years together, we’ll have an income source and weekly schedule that’s not programmed to disappear or change dramatically at the end of a few months. We can think about the future in new ways.

Scary: We’re having a lot of trouble finding an apartment that’s appropriate for our needs and that we can afford. We keep going around in circles about when we should move, where we should move, how we should move, what we can afford, and what the lesser of various evils might be. Meanwhile, getting a job is expensive! Student loan payments suddenly have to be made, some kind of childcare arrangements need to exist if I plan to write at all, clothes must be purchased, health insurance costs rear their ugly head. Plus, it bites to encounter this ugly truth: anywhere within an easy commute of this particular workplace is going to be worryingly expensive.

Exhausting: Have I mentioned that Simon is teething and has started waking up for the day an hour or two earlier than he had been doing? So we’re muddling through all this in a state of blurry, hazy, low-tolerance-for-complex-thinking exhaustion. A few mornings ago I told Eric I needed to go brush my teeth; once I got to the bathroom, I realized that my mouth tasted like toothpaste, which is to say: I was so tired I had no memory of the tooth-brushing that had already occurred. Not the best state for handling big changes and jumping into problem-solving mode.

But clearing up a little: I’m starting to understand some of the big-picture issues, I think. Basically, our whole situation has flipped. For a over a year, we’ve had tons of time together but serious money constraints, so all our problem-solving efforts have been aimed at the various problems financial insecurity can cause. Now we’ll have some money but far less time and flexibility, and we need to shift to new strategies. The emotional stuff is feeling less unnerving as we accept that this is really real and get our heads around it. But that doesn’t help us find a new home, get into it, or magically shrink the commute, alas!

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3 Comments

  1. Posted 10 May 2013 at 8:22 PM | Permalink

    I hear you on the rent vs. commute equation! Hanna and I do it every time the lease comes up for renewal. But I think for quality of life reasons, living as close as possible to your workplace is really a good way to reduce stress. Maybe Eric could even come home for lunch some days?

  2. A'Llyn
    Posted 10 May 2013 at 9:15 PM | Permalink

    Yay and oh no! But more yay! Income is good. Sorting out the (very real!) issues that come with a job is probably better than sorting out the issues that come with not being able to afford a place to live. Stuff will come together.

    Good luck with everything, especially moving. Moving sucks. But, again, it’s a suck that you deal with and it gets better and it’s better than the alternative.

  3. Lara
    Posted 11 May 2013 at 8:43 AM | Permalink

    We’ve done that transition, more than once, actually. I remember how I dreaded being lonely and far too responsible for the household. I found that I adjusted, and the kids actually adjusted quicker than I did. The first time, my husband went from being grad student to employed at a law firm (good money, but 60+ hours a week). Our first child was 18 months old. For weeks, he would ask “where Daddy?” So we started playing, “Where’s Daddy?” I would point to a tree, and say, “is Daddy in the tree?” “No!” And then, “Is daddy on the bench?” “No!” “Is daddy at home?” “No!” Then, “Where’s Daddy? Daddy’s at work!” Pretty quickly, he could say it with me. It helped more than you might think. I think I found it poignant more than he found it stressful.

    Then my husband was the primary parent for a year when the kids were 3 and newborn. And then one more year of law firm, to get the loans we took for me to do my postdoc paid. So I had 2 years of wonderful intellectual community at my postdoc, and then suddenly full-time parent with no daily connection to the folks I knew from the postdoc. Now he’s in an academic job, which can be great, but in New York, so the commute is an hour+ each way. After 4 years, he has a little more control over his schedule, but on the other hand, he travels a lot for work. For each new pattern, the kids and I had to figure out a new rhythm for ourselves. The kids had been impressively resilient, compared to what I expected. And as they get older, they get more flexible. When my husband is overseas for a week, we still have to talk about it every night, and I pull out the globe so we can see where he is, but they don’t need the same parent to do every bedtime, or every bath, or every morning routine.

    Each time we transitioned, and moved, I lost most of a year’s work time. I couldn’t line up preschools at the last minute, I didn’t know any sitters, we paid a lot to move, etc. But I got back on track again once we got settled. For me, the key was seeking out community. I headed for communal spaces (playgrounds, mostly) at every opportunity, and struck up conversations. Once we had a preschool, I hung out at pickup and made friends. I looked for connections my kids made with other kids, and invited kid and parent over for a playdate. That part hasn’t been totally straightforward — I’ve realized that making friends through my kids is complicated, because kids are fickle and sometimes mean to each other — but even though my new friendships have not been entirely stable, they really supported my sanity. And I have realized that even casual friendships are really important to my well-being. Kind of like how my grandfather fought off depression by getting out for a walk every day, buying his lottery ticket and chatting with the clerk at the convenience store. The clerk wasn’t his best friend, but the human interaction is still tremendously healing and supportive.

    Good luck with all of it. You’ll get there, and you will be writing again, after the transition, even if it takes longer than you’d prefer. You are so good at making things work, you will find the wherewithall to make this work too.

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