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 I 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.