Monday, February 9, 2015

What Do I Do When They Leave Home?

Being a stay-at-home parent is like a roller coaster. And I hit the lowest point this weekend.

Like any career there have been moments when I felt on top of the game, operating at full capacity and performing at the highest level in my field.

There have been moments when I’ve been off my game, uninspired. Things don’t get done. I always reminded myself that the world wouldn’t end, which is how I learned to cope in the crazy universe of probation when caseloads ramped up and crisis ensued.

I could always pull into the previous career’s bag of tricks to help with the “new” , stay at home one. I’ve continued to utilize mentally and emotionally supporting tricks from that same bag over these past eight years.

Eight years.

It has been eight years since I quit working outside of the home.

I penned a blog about the emotional ups and downs of being a stay at home mom a few years ago and in it I acknowledged the enormous gift staying home has been along with an awareness of how valuable it has been.

There is one thing I can’t wrap my mind around though. I want to get past it but I’m really struggling. I’m feeling sorry for myself, which piles on humiliation and shame because I have no RIGHT to feel sorry for myself. I have a pit in the bottom of my stomach. I’m a little lost. And I’m deeply worried.

My engineer husband has been working on a “list” and checking off the items one by one. It is almost completed. It is THE list. Everything we need to head into retirement, take care of the kids if something were to happen to both of us, and the big financial plan for our future.

We cancelled my life insurance policy and increased his. Do you know why?

Because if I were to die they would be okay without me financially. I contribute nothing financially anymore. Nothing.

But if he were to die? We would be devastated without his life insurance.

This is why I’m at the bottom of the roller coaster. My kids can get love and guidance from many people. They have a community around them, extended family who love them. I’ve planted the seeds, done the hard work in cementing those core needs we read about. I read once that the first eight years are the ones that matter when it comes to childhood development.

But they cannot survive without food, a roof, clothes, or school.

And me? I could get a job most likely. I have a college degree and am personable, articulate and bright. I couldn’t, however, get a job that would pay what I made when I quit working. I would be looking at minimum wage which would change our lifestyle in a drastic way.

My old industry has changed. Best practices are different, technology is different, and most in the field don’t even know my name anymore.

Plus I’m on the downside of 50.

Oh, I’ve done some things. I’ve written for an online paper (for free), helped care for an aging grandparent (wouldn’t trade that time for anything), write this blog, ran for State Representative (no money in that; in fact, it cost my family money), & helped someone else run (more money).

I know, I know. I KNOW.

What I have done with the kids has no price. They are thriving…our home is stable…but there is a cost.

And today I feel like my value is the cost. Please don’t make me say that it’s worth it, because that is a huge, screaming given. Of COURSE the kids are worth it.

But I have to say it. Maybe because I need to know I’m not alone.

I finally think I understand that invisible weight I saw pressing down on my grandmother. She became less confident, less outspoken and more of an observer of what was going on around her. It is because she felt she had nothing to contribute to the conversation.

When I was in high school my grandfather was struggling to find a job. He had retired early but still needed an additional income; pushing the age of 60 was a problem.

In the interim, she went to work at the only place that would hire her – the housekeeping division at a local hospital. She hadn’t held a job since the 60’s; then it was part time at the local TG&Y.

She was 58 years old.

I remember, vaguely (I didn’t pay too much attention, worrying more about my next basketball game or date), how tired she seemed to be after cleaning floors on her hands and knees all day and then coming home to cook dinner and throw in some laundry.

And the pay? It wasn’t worth the toll the job took on her health. But I never worried about finances or where my next pair of shoes were going to come from. They made sure of that.

All of this has left me pondering my own situation, frustrated and urgent to find something, ANYTHING, to get me “back in the game”.

And I hate this feeling.

If I were you and you me I’d have all of the right words to say. I’d say what Brian said when he saw I was close to breaking as we discussed this; when he said “remember we cancelled your life insurance because, don’t take this wrong, but we’d be okay if something happened to you”.

I couldn’t hide it, was choking as I tried to leave the room.

He reminded me that the kids are straight A students, happy and adjusted, perfect in almost every way and he said the right words, said “it’s because of you.”

He said “we can’t put a value on what you’ve done by being home.”

He’s a good man. He said what I would say to me.

But I’m still at an impasse.

Which is why I’m writing this today. If you are a stay at home parent I want to warn you that this is also part of the deal.

Staying home, to use that oft-quoted word that makes me cringe sometimes, is a blessing. You won’t be as tired, as stressed. Which is an amazing gift, priceless for you and your family. I GET that. I’m not complaining, please understand that. I wouldn’t change staying home with them, not at all.

I’m just being real, sharing my own feelings right now, today.

When you stay home there could be a cost to you later. And when you are with your friends, who are advanced in their careers and bringing in money, receiving accolades, travelling, talking about industries of which you are clueless, increasing their retirement funds as salaries increase, you will smile and nod and admire.

And wonder what you are going to do in eight more years when your youngest finally leaves home and you are too old to start over.

I’m allowing myself to feel this for a few days. Frankly, I can’t stop it. Sometimes we have to let something that hits us on such a deep emotional level marinate a little. We have to let it wash over us, drown in it, before we finally come up for air with a renewed sense of purpose.

I have options, which is another (here it is again) blessing. Many women do not.

Which means I am obligated to take advantage of those options…and I will.

I’ll apply to graduate school in a month. If I’m not accepted, I’ll start looking for a part time job. Something, anything, that can get me back “out there”. Something that pays. Before I’m in a position to HAVE to work. Life doesn’t wait to see if you are ready for crisis or tragedy. It moves forward like a freight train, plowing through anything in its path that doesn’t move.

And I’ll keep writing and sharing stories because I can’t be the only one who feels this way, can I?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Six Simple New Rules for the Anti-Vaccine Crowd

I’m just going to cut to the chase. These are some fun proposed “New Rules” for the anti-vacciners.*

Rule 1: When you or your family member finds out you have cancer you cannot seek treatment. You understand oncology.

Rule 2: When your son breaks his arm playing football, you must set it yourself at home. You are completely familiar with orthopedics.

Rule 3: When your daughter falls and ends up with a gaping open wound on her face you have to stitch it up yourself at home. You are an arm chair plastic surgeon.

Rule 4: When a mysterious rash develops all over your husband’s torso, you must look online to diagnose the problem and handle it with home remedies. You once read an article on dermatology.

Rule 5: When your wife unexpectedly starts bleeding at 6 months gestation, under no circumstances are you allowed to take her to the obstetrician. You know more than a maternal-fetal medical specialist.

In fact, the new Golden Rule is this.

Rule 6: After you’ve ignored all of the research, doctors and specialists (absent a practical reason or something completely out of your control), and when your free will in the face of medical science and absolutely raging common sense results in the death of another human being? Or enables an outbreak or resurgence of deadly diseases that had finally, after years of research/hard work/diligence/exhaustive scientific study, been subdued?

And if you are an elected politician who votes “yes” on legislation that enables an outbreak or resurgence of deadly diseases that had finally, after years of research/hard work/diligence/exhaustive scientific study, been subdued?

Your ass goes to jail. **

*not to be confused with those who suffer from compromised immune systems who are unable to receive vaccines; you know, the ones who can die because of the anti-vacciners

** welcome to one of the few areas in my world that I view as black and white