Friday, May 30, 2008

Decision or Retreat?

I haven't posted nearly as much this year as I did last, and the main reason for that is illness. Most families I know complain this has been an especially harsh cold/flu season. Even so, we've been harder hit than most in 2008. I rang in the New Year sitting next to Little A's hospital bed and that's been the theme of life ever since. January had two hospitalizations for Little A, and since then things have been less life threatening, yet serious enough to interrupt daily life. Pneumonia, the common cold, lingering fevers, conjuntivitis, earaches, asthma, etc. have kept us visiting the pediatrician's office well over a dozen times in five months. Both kids were Xrayed to assess pneumonias, both have needed antibiotics. Additionally, Little A has semi-regular pulminologist appointments and has been on at least seven different respiratory treatments as we search for the right drug combination to keep her asthma at bay.

There has been another casualty to all this illness: my job. I was working part time after my maternity leave ended when Little A was six months old. As a freelance editor, I'm pretty flexible with the schedule. I felt like I'd finally hit the right work/life balance after struggling with it for years in those first few months after I returned to work last year. But then we became the House of Plague.

At first the problem was mostly financial: daycare is expensive, and I pay for unscheduled absences due to sickness even when I am not billing anyone due to caring for sick kids. And while the occasional fever or case of pink eye isn't serious, it does keep the kids out of daycare or school for a day. With the run of luck we've had, those days rapidly added up. For many months, I was actually running in the red, financially speaking.

But I was still keeping up with the actual work load and enjoyed it, so I wanted to soldier on and get past what I kept thinking of as a bad patch. It would go back to normal soon, I kept telling myself. But one messed-up month turned into two, then three and four, five and six, etc. Here we are at the end of May and the kids are both home sick with chest colds and fevers for the umpteenth time. And I have to conclude that this -- being home sick with the girls, juggling doctor appointments and weighing treatment options -- this has truly become more of a job than my regular job is. Long ago I slipped into constant catch-up mode with work. It is no longer very enjoyable, because I just feel so frantic and under the gun all the time. And feeling that way only makes concentrating during those rare days where I actually get a full work day in all the more difficult.

So of course I've been mulling over quitting my job. But it seemed impossible at first. We needed my salary to pay for Big A's kindergarten tuition starting in September. DH's work was looking like it might dry up in the next few months, too. How would we get by?

But a long-term freelance project I've had is concluding, and I suddenly found myself with the prospect of having no work at all this summer. This is the first time I've been completely unemployed in years. Even when I was on maternity leave, I had work lined up for afterwards. I don't know if the folks I usually work with are just at a point in their projects where they aren't hiring for new jobs, or if people have decided they don't like my chaotic schedule due to the sick children. (Maybe a little bit of both?)

At any rate, I was half-heartedly updating my resume and trying to scrounge up job leads for the summer when DH suddenly got a raise that would (if I cut our household budget carefully) pay for that pesky kindergarten tuition I was worried about. So, that's it. I can wrap up current projects and just ... stop. Quit.

Part of me is incredibly relieved that by sometime in July, I'll be out of work. I'm burned out from the struggle to keep up. I'm also more out of shape physically than I've been in years, and looking about five years older than I did five months ago. I need to take better care of myself, and suspect that until things stabilize more on the health front with Little A, my job, which sucks up most time not spent with the kids, makes that impossible. We are lucky to be able to eke it out for awhile without my salary, and so I should probably take advantage of that.

And yet another part of me is scared shitless to give up work, even if only for six months or a year. I'm afraid my life is retracting and that I won't be able to easily get back into the swing of balancing a career and family again later on. I feel like I've failed in numerous, hazy ways. I also don't know if staying home with the kids full time will drive me stark raving mad, either. What if I'm not wired to be a SAHM? Will I feel stifled or isolated?

I'm veering off the road I know and plowing into uncharted territories. Here's hoping it all works out.


Ann said...

Perhaps it's best to try the SAHM thing for a few months, and if it drives you crazy, then try to drum up a little work, if not work that will keep you busy full time.

I'm wondering how that work-life balance is going to work for me in about 7 months. It's a delicate thing...

Marie-Baguette said...

you can try it out and see how it works. I was scared I was not made to be a stay-at-home-mum but I just miss my kid too much when I am at work. Plus there are lots of other mums in my neighborhood. Summer is the best time for you to have a break: everyone is outside so you will meet lots of other families and have plenty of friends by winter!

Antigone said...

You can always go back if it isn't a good fit for you. How wonderful though, that you'll have this time with your children. I toy with the idea of taking off a year or two if I ever have a child.

Julia said...

Last year I was coming up on the end of my contract in July, and I realized that I had to not look for another job or I would explode. My current job came along a few months later, but I really think it was too soon.
Taking the time seems like a good idea. Good mental health hygiene and all. And I hope the girls get better soon.