I’ve been working like an addict since January 1, lining up freelance jobs in neat parallel rows on the table before me, and then snorting them until my brain goes numb. It wasn’t that I wanted to give up the rest of my life for two months–family, friends, sleep–but that I couldn’t say no. Extra work = extra money, and extra money = less worry. The trade-off, however (and there’s always a trade-off), has been feeling disconnected, like an outsider in my own home, in my own family. I’ve watched from afar while everyone else went to Superbowl parties and the aquarium, while Daddy read bedtime stories alone (well, with the baby), and then ate dinner and watched the Olympics without me. Other families have it far worse and for far longer, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard.
And then the bomb dropped.
The company my spouse contracts with–the only company he contracts with–decided, amidst a weak (albeit recovering) economy and a spate of bad luck, to go out of business. Just like that, we became a one-income family, and a part-time income at that. All the extra freelance money I’d earmarked for this or that minor splurge? Yanked out of the vacation fund, the sushi fund, the pants-that-fit fund, and dragged kicking and screaming into the mortgage fund, the property tax fund, the gas/electricity/phone fund, the ramen fund.
I’m trying not to panic, at least not right away. We have a little savings, we have saleable assets (I paid off my car just two weeks ago!), and we have the kinds of education and job experience that lead to opportunity. We have options. There is more than one way we can make this work. And yet…MAN. It sucks.
One of the options–a last-resort option, in my opinion–is for me to look for full-time work at a company who can pay more and offer better benefits than the indie nonprofit I’ve been employed at for going on nine years–the company that allows me complete schedule flexibility, the company that allows me to work from home when I need/want to, the company that I LOVE. Like I said, this is the last option I want to explore, but already I’ve pulled out the pro/con list and started weighing a full-time salary against things like spending less time with my son, and sending him to daycare for the first time in his life. I always knew having a baby would permanently tip the scale of my loyalties to favor family over career, but I didn’t count on that shift being so…incomplete and tenuous. I thought the issue would be simple, obvious, black and white, not this grayscale gradient of indecision. What am I willing to give up, and for what gains? Is there a price at which I can be bought away from my family, in order to support my family?
It’s nothing we haven’t heard before: It’s merely that old struggle of a mom trying to preserve who she is as a person outside of being a parent and partner, but it means something different to me now that I might soon become one of those women who really doesn’t have a choice. They say you can’t put a price on family, on togetherness, on being there as your children grow up, but you know what? Sometimes you have to.