Rage, rage against the end of unemployment

Tomorrow — finally, 3.5 months after being laid off, 1.5 months after getting offered this new job — The Man goes back to work. And the Boychick and I go back to hanging out alone together during the day. To say I am not looking forward to this would be both a misstatement and a massive understatement.

We got used to having the whole week together as a family, used to going shopping during weekdays, used to waking up with everyone still in bed, used to sharing and trading off parenting fluidly, effortlessly, and often. I got used to being able to sleep in (while The Man got up with the Boychick), blog and study during the day (while The Man distracted the Boychick), go out and run during the day (while The Man played with the Boychick — noticing a theme here?) — just generally have time to myself, knowing my child was in good hands (the best, really).

While I can’t say it was a utopia — especially the first half, when we were all adjusting, all dealing with the stress, not knowing when or whether The Man would get work again (and we would start getting money more than the pittance offered by unemployment insurance again) — in many ways it was ideal, and certainly closer than what we’d had before, and what we’re going back to. We were both engaged in (albeit unpaid) work that engaged our minds and our interests — both of us together and him alone on finding him a job, me on the blog and on school — both home (and out and about) with the Boychick, both parenting equally, both able to hand off primary responsibility when we needed a break, both able to step in when we could see the other flagging. And we got to play, all three of us, as a family, in ways that are in short supply when he’s working out of the house full time.

Perhaps more pertinently, The Man in many ways became primary parent, especially once his job was secured and it was a matter of meeting the dead-tree (aka paperwork) quota to get started, since he then went more out of his way to give me time to blog, to run, to do the things I won’t be able to as easily after he starts. The Boychick is going to be losing a primary parent 40-50 hours a week. He’ll cope, of course, and adapt, because children are amazingly resilient that way. But in my current melancholy, I cannot help focusing on what he’s losing — and what I’m losing.

This, of course, even more than the funk when he lost his job, is so much privileged whining. He has a job, when so many don’t (Oregon has the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the USA right now, and the highest homeless rate). And it’s even a better paying, higher status job. We weathered this unemployment without going hungry, losing our (rented) house, adding much to our debt, or letting go of our pets or our property. We are so very lucky, and I am so very grateful.

But I am, also, scared. I’m scared that the transition will be harder on the Boychick than I’m anticipating (as hard as I imagine in my nightmares). I’m scared that I won’t be able to deal with him, at 2.5, used to near-full-time parental attention, the way I could when he was just-two and used to 40 hours of benign neglect from me a week. And, mostly, I’m scared as I look back because I wasn’t handling it nearly as well as I thought back then; The Man coming home for lunches, sometimes far too long, was a necessity. His working to 5pm was rare; working past it almost unheard of. And yes, that possibly contributed to his lay off in May (though I will point out he survived the first two rounds of lay offs, never had problems with his performance reviews, and there were only 2 people left in his department after his departure). Between wanting to avoid that again, the desire to make a good impression at the new place, and more practically the transportation and parking situation from working downtown, it’s highly unlikely we’ll be able to take such liberties at this job.

My heart hurts just thinking about it.

I am, when it comes down to it, afraid of going insane again. I’m afraid of losing my emotional stability. I’m afraid that I’ll get sick (being bipolar is who I am, and I’d never wish it away; having active episodes of bipolar is an illness from hell, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone), that the new insurance won’t cover the things that will make me well, that all the “extra” money will go toward trying to survive the dark days with hot drinks and dinners out, rather than paying down debt. I’m afraid of slipping back in to a black pit I feel at times so far away from, and at times so frighteningly close to. I’m afraid I’ll spend all my time trying not to yell at, shove, be violent with my precious baby Boychick, and too much of the time failing.

Except for those rare few with specific aptitude for it, and the necessary support network surrounding them, solo stay-at-home parenting isn’t easy for anyone, in this misogynistic kyriarchal culture. But what I hear from my friends (not all of them, but too many) when I try to discuss my ambivalence, my fears, my dread even, is “Oh, you’ll do fine!” or “You’ll get back in your groove in no time,” or “I should be so lucky!” From women who stay at home full time with their children, there’s an attitude of “well what’s the problem? you had your playtime, now it’s back to work.” From the women who work out of home full time, there’s one of “sure that was nice, but you still have it so good,” often with a heaping side of “I wish I could be SAHMing, and you should enjoy it because I can’t.”

Which is a horrible exaggeration and mischaracterization, but I can’t help but hear that in so many of their pat, trying-to-be-nice answers. There there, dear, you’ll do fine, no cause for worry. Except there is. I hope — when optimistic I believe — that the risk for my insanity, my pathological, problematical instability is small, but it is, regardless, real. It cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand, it should not be disregarded as a triviality.

And further, even without my particular situation as a person with bipolar disorder, I have every right to grieve this loss. I am lucky, yes, compared to so many, but I am still a woman, a person, under kyriarchy, and so I am damaged, I am constrained. This is not the life I would choose if I had full free will, denied to me by the corporate capitalist kyriarchical society I live in. I should have close community, allomothers galore, my partner should have work that does not drag him away from me, from his family, his child, for a majority of his waking day — and so should I. We shouldn’t need to work so hard, earn so much, to pay off debt (at crippling interest) we acquired from illness and unemployment, from trying to stay sane in an insane society, from trying to get education enough to get money enough to get out from under the burden of debt.

This grief I’m feeling? This fear? This rage? Don’t tell me it’s nothing. Don’t tell me I’ll get over it, get used to it. Because you’re telling me to accept my oppression, accept the cage kyriarchy has placed me in.

I will, of course. I’ll go back to slogging through, dealing with daily mundanities, accepting the new normal. I will because I have to — have to divorce myself from my pain, tamp down my rage, bury my grief — in order to survive. We all do; we all have to swallow shit at times.

But now, in these last hours before the new reality sets in, don’t hasten to shush my scream of rage and fear and grief because it discomfits you to hear. It may seems such a small thing, such a good thing, to you, having my partner go back to work. And it is, as well. It is. As much as good can be had in kyriarchy, it is good. Forgive me, though, if I wish to yell about how fucking huge that caveat is, before I sleep, and wake to a half-empty bed and an empty house and a child demanding his father, and smile because I must, because screaming then will only make things worse. Let me scream and cry now, because tomorrow, life goes on.

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16 Responses to Rage, rage against the end of unemployment

  1. Scream away my friend, I certainly understand that urge. Then prepare for the worst and expect the best. Plan ahead, know yourself and the signs that things are going bad and then just breathe, get on with life and know that you are definately not alone in feeling this way.

    Good luck. And keep up the blog, you are both entertaining and very informative.

  2. I really like this post. I ended my maternity leave earlier than expected, and gave up plans to stay home with my kid for the first year, due to PPD. My PPD was brought on by a husband who worked and was out of the house often for 12 hours a day, including a 2 hour commute. Another significant factor was lack of family support – if my mom had been close I could have gotten some me time and been better able to deal with single parenting the rest of the time. These days when I have to spend even one day home with my son, who I do love very much, depending on how demanding he is, I feel bad again. It’s hard to say that, but it’s the truth. So I understand completely how you’re feeling about single parenting, even though I don’t know much about bi-polar.

    I wouldn’t say that you’ll be fine etc, but I would like to ask if it’s possible you could leave your son with a sitter (maybe even one to come to your house while you’re there), so that you could get some me time each week. Maybe 2 mornings a week? Your son might enjoy getting to know someone else, and you might really benefit from the time to get your shit done. Also, I have a second hand jogging stroller – it is fantastic, my son loves it, and I get my runs in. It can take up to 70 pounds of kid. So that might be another solution to help you get your own exercise goals met. I also do bodyweight exercises with my kid outside or inside – which is great. Until he sticks peanut butter in my hair while I’m doing pushups, but you know!

    I think there’s a lot of value to analysing our lives, and seeing where a little bit of money spent proactively might prevent having to spend lots later on therapy/doc visits etc.

    • We might look into a sitter or something, although my first choice is to try to build community, do trades with other families (you watch my kid while I run, I’ll watch yours while you sew, etc), things of that nature.

      We’ve never owned a stroller, and I’m not sure I want to start now — strollers are painful for me to push (something about having my arms in front, even at the “right” height), I like that he’s used to walking everywhere, and where I like to run is not stroller friendly (dirt paths, lots of tree roots). But if we can’t work anything else out, it might be worth a look.

      We have a bike trainer now, so I can cycle inside at least (with the plan to eventually get him a seat and go biking outside with him), and the Boychick seems to do fine with that. Now to find a bike seat that doesn’t hurt my coccyx or put my vulva to sleep!

      Thanks for the ideas and for sharing your experience.

  3. I feel for you! I HATE HATE HATE having to be constantly pulled in different directions. I work from home and so it sometimes means that my 16 month old misses out on time and attention, or that my work is a wee bit rushed. But at the same time I feel like I should be grateful that I am able to work at home because all things considered its a pretty good deal. It means that I (mostly) get to stay at home with her and that I have so far avoided putting her into daycare – both of which are very important to me. So it’s close to what I want but it is definitely a compromised version.

  4. I feel similarly to how you describe every Monday morning when dh goes back to work. After having 2 days of 2-parent parenting, conversing, activities, etc., it’s a huge withdrawal to wake up and be alone, especially when there’s little to no support around. Mondays always feel so isolating and long and impossible. And while it’s true the rest of the week isn’t so bad (less shock), it sucks that it has to be that way.

  5. Can I just say I FEEL YOU THERE SISTER!!!

    My husband and I were in the process of moving our family to another state when it got put on hold for 16 months due to him being placed on disability for his back. We waited and waited for him to get back to work. The longer he stayed home the more we both began to depend on his being available. Being that permanent parent! My very attached, “please don’t leave me mama”, daughter has made a complete 180 and is totally attached to daddy. Don’t get me wrong I love it, I love that father/daughter connected at the hip on occasion sight in my house it’s lovely.

    But omg, now I have to work grocery shopping into schooling (which, is also new!) and two kids who miss their daddy very much when he’s at work. With a very long day, he leaves at 9 am and doesn’t get home until 8 pm.

    It’s difficult. I’m glad I’ve got my meds here and a good p-doc a phone call away for when it gets too hard. I just hope I can recognize it in time! It has seemed to get a little better as we’ve re-worked our routine, but we still miss The Man <3.

    Call me if you need to talk, I can listen :)

    • I cannot even imagine going for 11 hours at a time. Ugh.

      Hope things keep improving for you. I know this was a big transition for y’all. I’m glad he’s doing enough better to be able to work (’cause, y’know, back injuries suck!), even if it comes with its (ginormous!) downsides too.

  6. Excellent post. It really goes to show how we invariably value some things while devaluing that which questions or destabilizes those values.

  7. I had a similar experience when my daughter was in the NICU. She was born only 6 weeks early and healthy, so a lot of people discounted the grief I experienced. After all, so many people have it much worse than I do.

    It’s true. Most people in the world do not enjoy my affluence. Many people have children born much earlier and facing much bigger challenges. But that doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to grieve. That you’re not allowed to grieve.

    My thoughts are with you that it all goes as smoothly as possible.

  8. Fredrik has lived here with me since November and has yet to find a job. He has an interview on Wednesday, and I have to admit that part of me is terrified of him getting the job because I’ve spent nine months being spoiled by his presence, his help looking after Orion and the house and, well, me. So I know how you’re feeling, and it’s not ‘nothing’ at all. *hug*

  9. Oh, honey. *hugs* My partner just went back to work today after having the last week off… And tomorrow, my mama friend moves away and I have no one but myself to rely on; I need to start all over.

    How I wish wish wish for independent wealth so that we could spend our precious time working on what truly matters to us, rather than working to pay the bills. *sigh*

    All I can say is bring on the Rescue Remedy, for when the going gets tough. It helps me parent how I want to instead of turning into my mother. ;P

    And poopooing your emotional stress in this scenario sounds rather similar to me to the utterly dismissive sentiment that follows postpartum trauma: “Well, dear, all that matters is that you and the baby are healthy.” *screams in frustration*

  10. I’m sorry to hear about all of that! I can’t imagine a situation in which a mother would “yell at, shove, be violent with” a young child so that must be very hard. Maybe you can hire a part-time nanny or mother’s helper to give you a hand? If there are many people out of work in your area, you might find someone nice who will work for $8/hour. I’m not a long-time reader of your blog but it seems like maybe a church would be “out”… churches do offer supprot groups where older Moms with kids in school help out the Moms with younger kids. There are also many discounted pre-school or mother’s day out programs where you can drop off your child and then have some time to yourself now and then! Good luck to you! I hope your husband’s new job goes very well!

  11. Okay I just read the part where you describe yourself as “Wiccan-minded” I know Wiccan is a religion so maybe you can find some support there? I know that I have found that “allmother” support that you write about via our church, our neighborhood and a book club I am a member of. We don’t have any family in the area. Additionally, at my job, there is a “working mothers” support group which has always been a nice place to meet other Moms and give each other tips on how to balance it all.

  12. I haven’t read here in awhile so I didn’t see this post until now. I know I am guilty of saying some of these things in my attempts to support you. For that I am sorry; know that it was all meant in loving support (although obviously not what you needed to hear). <3

    • I know it was, and I loved you for the intent behind them. I just also needed to get this out. Thanks for reading and still sticking around. *hugs*

  13. Eloquently and compellingly written. I feel that you speak for so many of us – for me, ppd survival, husband working full time plus support shifts. it’s overwhelming and so much harder to do alone. I recently had hernia surgery and couldn’t lift my 17 month son. we had a nanny with us whenever my husband couldn’t be. it was strange, but so nice to have another human being around – how I wish we could have that community without paying the premium – aunts, cousins, sisters, mothers nearby who would keep us sane and love our kids as we do. anyway, thanks for sharing. I know we do many things differently, but it seems we feel many things the same. :) ps – N& T send you hugs and kisses

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