That which conspires against us

First of all I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post. Your sympathies and support mean more for me than I can ever express. I promise that I will do everything I can to get the help I need to get through this. Unfortunately our limited financial resources make increased therapy and medication difficult but I will research it and make the best choices for myself and my family.

A couple people have asked if the issues Mi.Vida and I are having are actually about parenting or if they are preexisting conditions that have been aggravated by parenting. I’m sure it’s some of both, but really I think having a child, and all that goes with that, is creating the majority of our difficulties.

I want to make clear that Mi.Vida and I aren’t fighting. In fact, I’d almost feel better if we were fighting, because that would be a sign that we felt there was some hope of changing things. Instead we’re just going about our days in a kind of fog, unable, or unwilling, to make connections with each other.

It seems we have a few things that are really conspiring against us right now. In no particular order, the things we struggle most with are time/logistics, money, energy (or lack there of), isolation and personal fulfillment.

Time is an obvious one and I’m sure most people struggle with this, parents or not. I know I’ve never felt I have enough time. Still, since being a parent the time issue has become critically important.

Actually it’s not so much an absence of time that is plaguing us but an overwhelming amount of things that have to be done in the limited amount of time that we have. By the end of the day there is nothing left for us, personally or as a couple.

Not only are our schedules making us haggard*, they are also keeping us from doing the few things that bring us personal fulfillment. Mi.Vida is finding it almost impossible to write content for his music site, which involves six regular staff and puts on all kinds of events. Basically he can’t just blow off his commitments there, even if he wanted to, which he doesn’t because it is very important to him personally and creatively. I also struggle to find time to write or go to yoga, let alone attempt create and/or nurture relationships whether in real life or across the Internets.

Isolation is a really big issue for me right now. I’m realizing, through some work I’m doing in a new book, that fostering meaningful connections with people is one of the most important things to me. I am most happy and fulfilled when I am participating in a reciprocal relationship. My new part time work schedule, which is wonderful in a lot of ways, is very isolating. The lack of prep time at work means I don’t see anyone in the morning before classes start. I leave during lunch so I don’t see anyone during that time either. I can’t go to TGIFs on Friday because I’m already back in the city and I don’t have childcare even if people happen to meet in the city (which happens infrequently). At the same time, I’m not home enough to create relationships with SAHMs, as the morning seems to be the time they most often meet (toddlers generally take a long nap in the afternoons). So basically I’m not seeing any other adults at work or at home. And sadly, my relationship with Mi.Vida is so strained that I don’t even have an outlet there. I’m also finding it difficult to meet with people on the weekends, as I don’t have the money to participate in the outings or dinners out that friends plan. Even the gas to visit friends is really hard to afford right now.

Money (or a lack thereof) is basically compounding all of our issues right now. Currently our discretionary spending is basically none. We’re spending everything we make just to pay our bills. I’m trying hard to cut down how much we spend on food, as that seems to be a significant hole in our budget, but there isn’t room to move in other areas of our budget.** So when we’re feeling really stressed out or tired, we can’t fall back on take out to save cooking time, a house cleaner to get the apartment in order or a movie to burn off steam. I’m already saving money for when my yoga membership runs out because I could never afford the regular monthly fee (I got a six month membership on sale). We also feel we could benefit from couples therapy but I can’t fathom how we’d afford that. I see a therapist on a sliding scale and right now I’m getting a very good deal to see her once a month. Maybe she can recommend someone who also has a sliding scale and can see us. Even then, it will be really difficult for us to afford.

This life, it’s not what I thought it would be. It’s intense and grueling and the wonderful moments are overwhelmed by the challenges. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I didn’t think we’d have to scrimp and save so much just to get by. It’s not like one of us lost our job or endured a drastic pay cut; making as much as we planned, but everything else cost more than we assumed it would. It’s not like we struggling with a mortgage or one of us is in school. How can both of us, working decent jobs, not make enough?

And there is so much more to do that we expected. So many more chores, so many more errands. It’s never ending. There is no time to just be, not by myself, not with my daughter, not with my partner. Every minute has to be spent productively, otherwise we fall behind. We must constantly tread water or we will sink like a stone, lost forever in the murky depths of our daily life.

I know we are hitting a rough patch right now. I know things will get better, or at least I have faith that they will. And already, since writing my last post I feel more hope than I have. Over the weekend I will post more on the good in our lives, because there is a lot of good. Sometimes it helps to purge the negative before embracing the positive. Maybe that’s what I’m doing here. Maybe I just needed to see it in black and white, so it wasn’t so overwhelming. The next step will be to embrace the positives, lest they be completely overshadowed by the struggles.

* My day looks something like this: I get up at 6am to be out the door at 6:30 or 6:45. I spend the 45 or so minutes before classes start making copies and getting my room ready. I have four different classes to be prepared for, each with a different lesson plan and requiring different handouts, directions, supplies, everything. I have 7 minutes after my last class ends to clean my room up for the teacher and class that use it after I leave and then I’m in the car commuting back to pick up my daughter. (I spent 60 to 75 minutes in the car every day.) After I pick Isa up and rush her back home to get her in bed before she passes out in my arms I have about two hours to prepare and eat lunch, do chores around the house and grade papers and plan for school. Isa wakes up around 3:30pm and we run errands, play around the house or go to the park. Sometimes we do all three! I make and feed her dinner by 6pm (dinner is a constant battle of wills, as is bedtime, as is diaper changing, as is pretty much everything). She’s in the bath by 6:30pm and is asleep (generally) by 7pm. That gives me 3 hours to myself, except there are still a ton of chores to do and if I go to yoga, almost all of that time is gone. I’m trying to get in bed by 10pm or 10:30 every night.

Tuesdays are an especially bad day for me. On Tuesdays I have to rush to get Isa out the door, rush to drive to my friend’s house, rush back to school before the traffic gets bad, rush to prepare for my classes in less than 15 minutes, rush through each class, constantly thinking if I’m ready for the next class, rush back to get her after work and rush her to my parents house for a nap. By 1pm I’ve literally been in a hurry for SIX HOURS. It’s exhausting. Luckily I get a good 1.5 hours of rest at my folks house (when I’m eating and grading papers) before IĀ  rush back to school to tutor or attend a staff meeting, rush back to my parents to pick her up and rush home before the traffic gets horrendous. The whole day is a constant blur of rush, rush, rush and I spend almost 3 hours in the car. It’s insane.

Mi.Vida doesn’t have it much better. On the days he brings her to his parents he has to get her ready (which she is making more and more difficult these days) and on a train to their house, drop her off, and then get back to work by 9am. With the inconsistency of the train schedule some mornings run smoothly, others not so much. When he gets back from work he has to help with Isa, then help clean up and then start making dinner. When we finally sit down to eat we have about 1.5 hours before bed time.

**Our rent is the cheapest we could get (our apartment is rent controlled so a similar sized apartment, even in a less desirable location would cost $1000-$1500 more a month). We can’t get health insurance for less than we currently pay. We’re paying the minimum on our student loans (which is still close to $800 a month!) and anything extra goes to towards paying mine off. We don’t don’t eat out (and we get take out maybe once a week, which feeds us for two meals), get coffee, see movies, go to bars, and we won’t be traveling for the rest of the school year either, not even road trips. I’m not buying anything new for a year so there are no toys, clothes, shoes or anything else costing money.

12 responses

  1. I’m so sorry you’re having such a rough time of it lately. It sounds as though you guys are really trying to make every effort to save where you are able at this time. I wish I had more to offer in terms of advice. Sending thoughts, love and hope that things will improve for you both ((hugs))

  2. All that rushing is making me dizzy! I don’t know what to say. It sounds like you live in a very expensive city, but clearly a move would be more stress! I also know unfortunately teachers in the USA are highly underpaid šŸ˜¦
    You are working your ass off for your family and it just doesn’t seem fair that you can’t sit back and bask in the the beauty of your family due to financial and time constraints. I’m thinking of you guys at this tough time. It will get better.

    • I think that is part of my frustration. I worked so hard to get here just to keep working so hard to keep our heads above water? Then again, I didn’t have to save a ton for IVF – I’m sure people who pay for that out of pocket have very similar (or probably worse) experiences. When it comes down to it, life just isn’t fair.

  3. I’m really sorry to read that you are having such a hard time coping right now. Since I started reading you, I’ve felt many of the same things you have in my own marriage. The stress, the struggle, the exhaustion of trying to find our way back into a healthy rythym. Before our son was born, we were so strong, so in tune. Now, we’re two people who kind of just put up with each other to get through the day.

    But we both feel that’s a temporary thing and that eventually we’ll figure out how to get past it. We don’t have the additional struggles that you have with your partner. I can’t imagine how hard it must all be. And I have little to offer you in terms of fixing it.

    I can tell you talking to each other is key. Make sure you’re at least acknowledging out loud that things are not how either of you want them. Make sure that at least you both have a deisre to fix them, even if you have no idea how right now. Make sure you’re on the same team, even if you don’t know how to play the game.

    I can also tell you that my son is just a couple weeks younger than Isa and he is not very into dinner either. I’ve decided that it isn’t a fight worth having. He wants watermelon or canteloupe with CHeerios or buttered toast and that’s almost it every night for dinner and half of it ends up on the floor for the dog and I just accept that’s how it’s going to be. If he were really hungry, he’d eat more before giving it away or he’d ask for something else (in his point-and-shriek way).

    We did fix one huge problem for us. The two hours from when my husband would come home from work to when Nate would go to bed were awful, stressful, snarky, irritated times for all of us. After fighting about it one night because I couldn’t handle it anymore, my husband realized that much of the problem was stemming from him not accepting the way things were now. He was fighting it all because he wanted it to be like it was. But it’s not and that’s a permanent condition. He gets that now and is a much better teammate on weeknights.

    My point is about acceptance, not about husbands being selfish slackers. Sometimes we find it hard to deal with whatever is facing us because we’re too busy fighting it or trying to change it. But if we accept the things we cannot change (I kind of can’t believe I just said that line), we figure out how to live with them in a way that can still make us happy, how to prioritize what we can change to make it all work together.

    • Liana, thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate it. I wonder if my partner is having a similar issue, if he is so tired and in such a foul mood when he gets home because he just doesn’t want to admit that this is our life now. It does feel a little like that is the case. I’m not sure how I’m going to bring that up with him but I do intend to. I bet that has something to do with our issues.

      Acceptance is something we both need right now. I know I need to accept our current situation instead of riling against it. Being upset by the reality of things doesn’t help anyone, in fact it only makes it worse. I wrote on my other blog that I think I’m getting better about that. I think this has been a really difficult transition but I think I’m starting to come out on the other side where everything won’t be so much of a struggle. At least I hope that is the case.

      Thanks again for commenting. I really appreciate it.

  4. Darcy read your post yesterday. He is very unemotional in general, but he was really sad about your struggles. He said that the financial situation you guys are dealing with would be difficult for anyone, let alone a couple raising a child. I had no idea your student loans were so much šŸ˜¦

    Shit. What I really wish is that I had a million dollars to give you.

    • I also wish you had a million dollars to give me! Have you looked under your bed recently? Maybe there is a mil lying around down there. šŸ˜‰

      Thanks for sharing Darcy’s thoughts with me. Sometimes just having someone validate our struggles makes it better. Just to have some recognize that it’s hard, and I’m not just making it up in my head – I appreciate that very much.

      I hope you’re feeling better! ā¤

  5. I can see why things are so stressful. Just in case, is there any way that you guys could swallow a little pride and hit up either (or both) set of grandparents for a little assistance. If you could just lighten your load a little bit.

    • Oh we’ve swallowed our pride and then some. We fall back on our parents ALL THE TIME. I mean, my FIL is providing us with free childcare all day and we still call them on the weekends and ask for breaks. I take Isa to my parents’ house all the time. I do laundry there at least once a week. Believe me, our parents are being taken advantage of constantly. We literally could not depend on them more.

  6. I don’t know if this would be an option for you, but when my husband and I were looking for counseling we learned that a lot of churches have free or low cost programs, or even just a church official willing to meet with couples to work on things. We didn’t find anyone we both liked, but it’s a thought. It’s hard when you have to run a tight ship because of time or financial constraints. I’m completely amazed by your rush rush Tuesdays. I would never be able to handle something like that every single week.

  7. So sorry that you have hit a rough patch, I have been thinking about your post and what to say all day, since I read you often, but have not commented, I wanted to add something of value. :o) Raising small children is VERY hard and all consuming since they need us 24 hours a day. There have been times that my husband and I have been ships passing, a glance up when he arrives home and weak smile, and back to dinner prep, or we feel like roomates instead of a married couple. When it has gotten bad and I realize we need to do something, we turn to “The Five Love Languages”, discuss what each of us needs to feel appreciated and loved (mine have changed since having kids) and then we vow to apply them to daily life. We have done this exercise at least three times in the last three years, so please know that you are not alone in your relationship and feeling disconnected.

    I hope this weekend brings you some together time and peace. And this rough patch soon passes.

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