A Balancing Act

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So after the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the past few years.  It’s been a pretty hectic ride, went from miserable wife, to single mom, to single mom working multiple jobs to a long-term relationship working one full time job.  The one thing I have to admit is that I’m horrible at finding that balance between mom, girlfriend and employee.

I’ve always had a hard time trying to spread myself out equally among each aspect of my life.  Honestly though, now that I found an industry I’d like to build a career in, I’m having the most difficult time yet.  When I was freshly-divorced, I was working 2 and sometimes 3 jobs with an odd (and often revolving) mixture of full-time and part-time.  I had to learn how to go from a Stay at Home Mom to a single mom busting ass with no child support.  For some odd reason, I didn’t have a problem at all back then.  It might have been because those jobs were all quick blow through jobs.  You know, shitty jobs that I didn’t care about.  That I didn’t dwell on once I left after my shift.  I could go and drop my kiddo off at childcare, go to job A, finish and go to job B and finish my shift.  Then Work-Me was switched off, and I was back to Mom-Me.  I didn’t let work related stress react with the way I was parenting (I tried my best with financial stress, but sometimes that leaked through. Now that I’m older and have “mom friends” I realize that this is normal).

Now, I’m having a hard time balancing.  I can’t seem to lock out the stress from the office from my home-life.  I can’t seem to balance all the different aspects of me.  Work-me stays stressed out far past when I should be in Mom-me-mode.  And girlfriend me?  Well… girlfriend me shows up eventually. Girlfriend-me comes in last here, with working full-time, I try and overcompensate and smoosh as many activities into the time I do have with my daughter to make up for the time I miss with her at work.  It seems like I can’t win sometimes. 

Thankfully, my boyfriend knows what has been bugging me at the office and he also knows how much it bothers me that I’m not able to be at home with my daughter.  He’s heard my rampages regarding how I wanted my family to work and how I feel like shit that I have to work.  (And yes, even when I’m pissed like this… the divorce was totally worth it!!)  So he understands, most definitely, and knows I’m making an attempt to spend time with him too.

I’m getting better at it though.  The stress from work is still following me home, but it’s quickly chased away with iced coffee (or wine) out on the back deck while my kid plays.  Ry and I have taken to spending half an hour together after work and before dinner to just vent about our days or talk in general.  It’s like taking half an hour to shake off the stress.  Usually during this time, the kid is either playing outside or working on her homework (since when do 1st graders have homework 4 out of 5 nights?!) so she gets her stuff done.

I’ve learned no work talk during the weekends.  None.  Absolutely none.  Not even during our morning coffee.  It creates a mini-vacation.  We’ve also been making it a point to go somewhere each weekend, even if it’s just to the forest preserve or to wander around some downtown area each weekend.  If I’m busy, Work-Me takes a hike and I can focus on my family, instead of the 20 voicemails I’ll be walking into on Monday.  These new rules for the weekend are one of the many reasons I try to not work Saturdays.  I’m away from my house on average 50 hours a week.  It doesn’t sound like much to most people, but to a former Stay at Home Mom, that’s a lot.  My weekends are mine.

I honestly think the biggest improvement I’ve made?  I sit down and help my daughter with her homework or read a book (I have a big time reader thank god!) every night.  I put the chores off and sit down and do it.  Working with her, reading her stories, or even going outside to play puts the work-stress right out of my head.  (And I most definitely would put off folding laundry to read a Dr. Seuss book any day of the week!)

I’m not perfect, and I’m most definitely still learning the art of balancing.  I do have to say though… being a stay at home mom was hard.  It was HARD, I know a lot of people don’t think it is.  I know with staying at home I felt like I lost my identity and almost lost myself.  Being a Stay at Home Mom is most definitely a trying and a full time 24/7 job.  However, being a working mother?  It’s a whole different set of hard.  I don’t think it’s more difficult than staying at home, but I do think that it’s a whole different kind of difficult.  Even after, what, almost 4 years or so?  I still don’t have the hang of it.  That’s okay though, I’ll figure it out one day… until then, wish me luck!

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Another Cup of Coffee

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It’s Saturday morning.  I’ve dragged my laptop outside onto the deck to do some writing.  As for months, I still can’t conquer my writers block in my private writings.  Oh well, nothing new there I guess.  It’s a beautiful morning though, supposed to be pretty hot outside today so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.  Please pour me another cup of coffee.

I had a bad day yesterday, it was filled with stress and frustration at work.  It took me getting angry enough that I didn’t even want to have another cigarette to re-evaluate my thought process.  That itch I was speaking of in my last entry, I figured it out.  I was taking things way too seriously and letting that “over-care” flow out of my workday and out of the rest of my life.  As a friend pointed out yesterday, I’ve never been one to do things half-assed.  When I take on a job/project/interest, I put 100% into it.  It’s both a positive and a negative, the negative being is that I will spread myself too thin.

So, at work, I love my job, I care about it immensely.  When things go well there, I was able to give it my all for my 8-5 shift and leave the rest at the door.  When things get wonky there, and someone isn’t carrying their own weight or making too many mistakes that it overflows onto my position, I still attempt to give it my all and fix everything.  The problem with that, is that I am not enough to cover both myself and someone else, so all of my energy and emotion is going towards that 8-5 and it zaps what I have left for the rest of my life.  The stress from going so hard at work and caring so much seeps into the rest and it diminishes other parts of my day that I find joy in.

I do love my literal job, and as a former single mom (former because I do live with my boyfriend), I also clung to my paychecks.  During my fit of anger, I realized all of what I wrote above, the cons of what my job and my “it’s go time” attributes have done to the rest of my life.  Which caused me to divorce myself from the moment and actually think.

What are the positives?  Well of course, I love my physical job, I do.  However, with the current situation at work, it’s not nearly as enjoyable as it should be.  I love problem solving and learning new ways to fix things, but when there are so many things to fix, it’s not fun anymore.  So loving my job doesn’t count for as much as it used to.

Positives included a paycheck.  By discussing with a third party and sitting down with a pen and paper, I figured out what it costs for me to go to work and after said costs, what my profit is.  I figured out the profits to a T and wrote down what I use those profits for.  Once it was on paper in front of me, I realized that it costs half of my income just in transportation and before/after school care.  The profits are still enough to make me want to go to work, but only if the conditions are correct.  ie: Not what they are now.

So with what I SPEND to go to work is half of my income, and if what I earn as profit goes to non-essential things… is the job worth it?  With the current stress, no.  Without the current stress, yes.  To put things into further perspective, the profits I make after cost, could be made working for minimum wage, part time, during school hours and locally.  During school hours and locally REMOVE the cost to go to work.  So logically, since my income after cost goes to non-essential items/bills, My finances would stay the same if I worked a local job part time during school hours.

All of that jumble summed up? I don’t want to lose my paycheck, but when it comes down to it, it is not 100% needed.  My paycheck could be easily made up by switching jobs to something minimum wage that will increase the time I spend within my home and with my family. More importantly, my paycheck *is* inessential and staying at home is a reasonable option.  SO… my current job truly depends on how much I enjoy it, and how much I am willing to take.

Once I realized that, once I *saw* it on paper, it really shocked things back into reality.  All of this stress at work, putting my ENTIRE self into improving everything… isn’t what I thought it was.  The reality of the situation is, is that if I get mad enough to *want* to walk off, never to come back, I *CAN* do it.  I do NOT have to take all of the shit going on right now, I can walk away with the only negative effect being, that I lose spending money for the month.  The reality of the situation is… is that I don’t have to deal with it, if I don’t want to.

Now that’s not saying that the next issue that arises at work will make me pack up my office and take a hike.  That’s not in my nature to abandon something that I once enjoyed doing.  It’s not in my nature to walk away if there is a problem.  However, having all of that put into perspective, it’s freeing.  I can go in, and realize that it’s not permanent.  I don’t have to deal with it, I have the freedom to walk away if I want to.  Out of character as it might be, I can go in, and do just *my* job, I don’t *HAVE* to worry about the mistakes others make, nor do I have to fix them.  I just have to do what is in my job description.  I have to do my job, not save someone elses.  If my customers are happy because of my actions… great.  If the installers are happy because of my actions great.  I can excell to the best of my ability at my job and that’s all I need to do.  If someone else makes mistakes which then hampers my job, which it does in about 50% of the time, I can demand they be fixed so I can correctly accomplish my duties,  Realizing that my job isn’t particularly needed, just wanted, made me realize I am NOT on a manager’s salary.  I do not need to be doing a manager’s job.  I don’t have to put my all on the table if it is not recognized, and it most certainly is not.  I don’t have to put my all on the table if I’m not paid for it, and if the person who is, does not.

All of this just made me realize.  I have a job.  I have a job I used to absolutely adore, I have job that gives us spending money.  I’m lucky to have a job, but I don’t have to care as much as I do.  I’m not there to save the shop, I’m not there to save every customer.  I’m not there to go above and beyond what position entails, especially when someone else is getting paid for it.  I have a job that shouldn’t impact my family and the rest of my life.  The best part of all of this?  I have freedom, I can walk away, I am there because I *want* to be there.  It puts everything else into perspective.

I am actually looking forward to work on Monday.  It’s a brand new way of looking at it, and I now realize that I don’t have to let my job rule my life, that I don’t have to let it stress me out.  It’s not my responsibility to make someone else do their job, it’s just my responsibility to do mine.  I care immensely about my shop, but it’s not my job to fix it.

Choices

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Everyone is always so surprised at what is inside my head.  Not necessarily my thought process or the majority of opinions, a good chunk of my coworkers and friends have gotten used to my outbursts and off the wall comments.  I guess for a stereotype, liberal, single mother of one, once divorced and with a Chronic Illness, I’m dead on.  Yet one thought, one opinion or rather personal choice (or in this case, want) always throws the ideas that people base me off of right out the fucking window.

You tell me what you see?  I’m 26 years old with a 5 year old.  I’ve already been divorced, and literally the only thing that keeps me out of work besides the kiddo being sick is a straight up hospitalization.  I’ve worked for every scrap I have and bought my own house by the time I was 23 and have done my best to earn enough money to give my child a nice life.  I love work and strive for more mental stimulation.  I started college just because my brain felt… dumb.  I’ve worked in almost every field and eventually I’d like to open my own business or get a higher up management position…..

[Now here’s what throws people off, this has gotten me raised eyebrows since my daughter was born, and was reiterated when I was talking with my co-worker last month.]

… if I have to continue working.

When I was pregnant with Noodle, I sat down with my ex-husband over dinner one night.  He wasn’t paying attention so I threw a packet of crackers at him.

“A mother is supposed to be at home for her children.  I want to stay at home with her.”

Much to my surprise he was more than okay with that.  So I was a Stay at Home Mom until I bought my house and got a job (my marriage was deteriorating and the end was ever so apparently near).  While my brain was dying (hence, starting college), I enjoyed staying at home, teaching my daughter and taking care of my (then) apartment.  I liked having dinner ready for my husband when he got home and having family dinners together avoiding the globs of pureed peas my daughter loved to fling.

It was the way it was supposed to be.

When I started working again, at first it wasn’t too bad.  Noodle spent time at three different friend’s houses, all three of which I trust with my own life.  They all were more like extended family, so it didn’t bother me much, beyond my selfish reasoning.  It hurt to hear about what she had learned to do each day, it bothered me that I wasn’t the one taking her to the park or to a birthday party.  Granted my friends were wonderful enough to take photos so I could still see her antics, but it bothered me.

Then.  Then, I got a full time job during normal hours (I always worked 2nd/3rd shift).  Then I got a second job (the spring before last).  So I entered Noodle in daycare.  This daycare is the same one she’s at now, she went to preschool there and now Kindergarten.  She’s thriving and each day it’s more apparent that I have a very intelligent, vibrant little girl.  However, now that I’m back to working full time during the day, I don’t get to spend that much time with her.  A mere 45 minutes in the morning, and 2.5 hours at night (I’m a strict bedtime mom, we get up too early to do otherwise).  Monday through Friday.  I spend more time with my co-workers than my kiddo, and she spends more time with her teachers (whom I love) than me.  Such is the life of a working mother.

Do I believe that working mothers are horrible?  Oh far from it, especially single mothers.  It takes a strong woman to be able to balance work and home life and survive both equally.  I don’t look down on career women or moms that choose to work for whatever reason.  My point is, I just wish I didn’t have too.

I was raised with a stay at home mom, when we became school age, she got a job during the time we were at school. (OH MY GOD, my mother worked AT MY SCHOOL.  Talk about getting double the punishment, her desk was right outside the principals office… had to walk right past her if I got in trouble.) Then she’d come home afterwards and spend time with us.  So naturally that’s what I grew up basing life on.  So when I started my own family, that’s how I wanted to run my family.  Things just didn’t work out that way.

Ryan and I have talked about it, especially after he saw the “change” in me when I took the 5 day vacation and stayed at home.  If I had my way, I’d stay at home and work part time (because frankly, my brain is not wired to stay at home permanently).  I’d work my old hours and be home when my kid was, so not only could I take care of her but so I could take care of my house and cook (better).  That’s what I enjoy doing, frankly I could give a crap less about a career that I’ll spend time at for the rest of my life.  We’ve decided if Ryan can get a job making a substantial amount more than me, and we are sure that it’s secure that I would drop down to part time, or find a part time job. (The chances of that happening in THIS economy is slim to none, so I’m doing what I do best and trying to excel and hopefully someday move up in my current job.)

That’s what throws people off.  Especially people that don’t know that I was already “At Home”.  I think my whole “stance on feminist ideals” doesn’t help either.  What people fail to realize though, feminism isn’t about forcing women into a career or whatever.  It’s about giving women a CHOICE.  A choice to stay at home, a choice to have a career (and be paid fair for her work).  My choice (or want, like I stated earlier) is to stay at home and take care of my house and family.  That’s what’s right for my family, and if I can, I will.  (But again, Economy, so hello career haha).  I guess I’ll just deal with the raised eyebrows, I like catching people off guard anyway.  It makes life that much more fun.