Archive for the ‘marriage’ category

Brain not stimulated in sweatpants

October 4, 2013

I am a master at sleeping through the night when not woken by one of my children, so it was a shock to be startled from dreams the other night. I felt around the covers the way I search for a pen on my desk, tapped my feet as I do while preparing lunches in the kitchen, and blinked, as at a computer screen in a windowless office during daylight. All of this because I wasn’t sure where I was.

I wouldn’t say it was a relief to be in bed, with hours of sleep time left before dawn. My newest routine involves being dressed and ready to leave for work as my children head to school every morning. I have a hard time calling it “work” when it doesn’t involve laundry, managing the bathroom, activity, playtime and eating schedules of three little humans. I quite enjoy this thing called work I do with other adults on weekdays. It’s a routine which will become dull with that inevitability of anything we repeat over and over, but for now, is completely refreshing.

And the world of adults is equally as entertaining as that of children. Add and subtract certain frustrations. Traffic for spilled milk. A slow-talking janitor for a whining two-year-old. The entry-level position (for which I am grateful, it’s a foot-in-the-door as I am told over and over) for bum-wiping.

Women are making all kinds of choices these days, but our one restriction will never completely disappear: that of the career-halting reality of having children. Of course, different women are managing this in various ways. For me, I have spent the last decade supporting my husband’s career and making babies. I am glad, thanks to the women a generation before me, I have the choice to access childcare, and look for a job. It’s been a year since I started to work on this plan, and it is finally a reality. I am eternally grateful I have three wonderful children to make a childcare plan for. The truth is, I have been out of the workforce for five years, and am starting from zero, once again. And yes, I want it all.

I’ll be blunt: I found being home with my children extremely isolating. I never enjoyed “playdates”. My style is more, kick the kids out the door so I could engage my brain in my writing. I have no regrets about having been home with them (and seeing all of my kids’ firsts is a gift I cherish), they are great kids, and we get compliments about them all the time, in particular, how polite they are. If me being home with our children had anything to do with their (so far) good natures, then it was worth it. But I have a brain, and it wasn’t stimulated in sweatpants.

One working mom I know once said, “Your children will be happy if you are happy.” I felt stuck at home. Now, I offer undivided attention to my children when we’re together, rather than trying to do two things at once. Of course there is still the laundry, my husband and I still have meal plans to make and barf to clean up from the kitchen floor, turns to take when someone is up in the night. And, I continue to pursue my fiction writing. But if I’ve learned anything over this last month of being back at work outside the home, it’s that we are all, barring any real health issues, capable of more. Not less. Everything and anything we do can become repetitive, and it’s the more that will break up those routines, keep us motivated, and show our children how to do so, also.

Practicalities

I spent too long fretting over how it was all going to happen, but in the end, me going back to work outside the home only made sense for us this year (even though I would have been glad to have done this a year ago), with two out of three kids in school full time. There’s enough juggling (sick days, appointments, activities to manage) without adding extra confusion to that nasty Kindergarten year, of 2.5 hrs. of school in the middle of the day. And financially, with two kids in full time daycare, one in after school, I would have been paying to work. Yuck. The balance is slightly tipped in the right direction with (only) one child in full time daycare, two in after school care.

First thing was to get our youngest into full time daycare. I decided on the one I wanted, ignored the people who said “you’ll never get in there, the wait list is years long” and called or emailed the director every day all summer until she offered me a spot.

It took another week to figure out after school care for our other two children, a couple of days of my husband picking them up early so I could get settled in my job (teamwork!). But same thing happened with that: once I decided on the program I wanted the kids in, I bugged and bugged until I got two spots.

The job? That part now seems easy compared with organizing three children. A few months ago I dug deep into my past, summoned one or two of the best references I hadn’t realized I had, and they really came through for me. I’d also been concerned about how my resume looks, seeing as I haven’t had many long-term positions. But none of that matters when you add up experience, a positive attitude, and determination to get out there.

Advertisements

Epic Journeys

April 23, 2012

I have a note above my writing desk at the moment that says: stories I grew up with were about love and survival, tragedy and death, and always, always REBIRTH. I put this note there, next to a few pictures of my kids, to remind me of something I’m working towards.

It may seem obvious, we’re all working towards goals, aren’t we? But we can loose our momentum, stumble along the way. We’re human, and stumbling is as much a part of our nature as dreaming. Hitting low points can make us tender, extra sensitive to the bruises we’ll encounter. But that only makes the highs all the more sweeter.

The weather here on the Rock is often a struggle to deal with, the damp that offers so few breaks from snow and fog (two and a half days in a row last week of sunshine that melted what we hope is the last of the snow, then an entire weekend of sun actually left me feeling a bit breathless, it’s so rare to see that much light here!). So we do the best we can. My husband and I joined the Family Y, and we’ve been using the heck out of it, mostly in the way it’s designed to be used: as a family. It’s great, we walk there a few evenings each week, put the kids in the “baby room” as our older two call it, then hubby and I can go work out together, which I don’t think we’ve ever done before in a gym. He found out the other night there was a kickboxing class about to begin, so we thought we’d check it out. By the end I was laughing deliriously, it was so challenging! And super fun.

We’ve also been out of town together a few times in the last couple months — Cuba, just he and I, which was, wow, so sweet. The kids did great with my parents for the week we were gone, and I found the right balance between missing them, and…..um, actually, I didn’t miss them, it was so great to get away for a week, but excruciatingly lovely to squeeze them again when we returned. Then, my hubby took one more entire week off (pure bliss to have him for a stay-cation!) and we went out of town for two nights, to Terra Nova Park. We stayed in a cabin, but did a soggy hike one day, half of which was in knee-deep snow. It felt great to get out there with the kids, to be somewhere alone, just us, in the trees, listening to the birds, and to see our 7 and 5-year-old live up to the challenge of having to walk in the couple kilometres on the road, since it was still closed for the season, then do the 3 km hike around the lake and all the way back up the road to the truck. We were super proud of them. It was like an initiation  that they all three passed (the baby was in the backpack for most of it, but we let him down to scuttle the last hundred metres or so in the pouring rain). That day was my birthday, and on the hike, our five-year-old lost his first tooth! The motivation to have his first visit from the tooth fairy probably helped his little legs to keep moving through all that heavy snow.

In keeping with some of the things I’ve promised myself (and my mother!) to do this year, I also applied for a job recently (which was already filled by the time I made my follow-up call, but still, it felt good to stretch those job-searching muscles again, to see on paper, ie, my resume, all the things I’m still proud of). I have, as I set out to do in my resolutions for 2012, been writing more, more and more, and reading as much as possible, too.

During my latest visit to the library, in search of a book to get lost in, I discovered something I didn’t think I was looking for at all. I’d thought about finding something in the fantasy genre, something otherwordly, completely fantastical and full of action. Instead, I was drawn to a non-fiction book I can hardly put down (The Golden Thread, a reader’s journey through the great books, by Bruce Meyer), one that has given me the boost I needed to get back to work on the novel I’m determined to have a complete first draft of by the end of this year (not so amazing, really, since I’ve had it in the works for more than a decade now, in one form or another). See, this book got me thinking about all the classic epic journeys that take place in all my favourite books, from childhood to now….and beyond.

Meyer has reminded me of what I enjoyed in Tolkein, Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis, Milton, Homer, and so many more writers. That the classics follow a standard set in the Bible, that ideas and words should reach into our imaginations and grasp hold of something vital in the human spirit. What I’m working towards is a story of hope, survival and rebirth. I don’t stop to think about whether or not my own epic journey will make it to publication. I do stop to relish the support and the enjoyment of creation along the way. My husband made my birthday cake into the shape of a book, with it’s title, and By Carrie, written on it. It was like a tangible endorsement for me to keep going, even when writing is nothing but a hobby for me at the moment, even when I sometimes find it hard to justify working at something that has no monetary value. But hey, I have to keep believing, it’s not about the destination. Life is in the journey.

Emergency Contact Numbers

February 28, 2012

I’ve made several attempts at writing this blog post over the last week and I’ve failed over and over again to finish it. It’s a really tough one for me because I’m not so much celebrating an anniversary, as holding my breath and waiting for it to pass.

We arrived in St. John’s a year ago. I hardly remember the lovely rental home we lived in for the first four and a half months. I realize now that there were things I could have done differently that might have made it seem like a less traumatic experience. I’m going to share some of these things here only in the hope that someone else going through a relocation might read about my experience, and learn something to make their own even a little bit easier. You see, this is the reason I started this blog in the first place. When we set out to move to Thompson, I found so little on the internet about relocation. Sure, there’s companies advertising how they can help make your move easier — Let us do your packing! Believe me, the packing is not the issue. The emotional baggage you’ll wear for the rest of your life is.

I got a cell phone when we moved rather than a land line, because I knew we’d be moving again once our house in Thompson sold, and I thought one phone with a number I wouldn’t have to change would make more sense. Besides, I wanted to be reachable should my daughter’s school ever need to get in contact with me. I am not a paranoid parent. But I remember feeling paranoid that my daughter wouldn’t be able to reach me in the event of an emergency.

I also remember crying every time I had to fill out a form — for the kids’ schools, or for the couple activities I signed them up for — where there’s a space to put an emergency contact number. I didn’t have an emergency contact. Well, I did, I was grateful I could put my husband’s boss’s wife as a contact. But that was like a surrogate. I didn’t have any personal contacts here. No family. No friends.

I let the cell phone be an excuse to not reach out to my own friends in other provinces. I should have been calling my girlfriends, I should have been expressing my loneliness, my joys and successes and adventures. Instead, I allowed myself to sink into a foreign kind of isolation. I shunned some of the mom’s groups I could have joined because I was tired, and wanted any extra energy I had leftover from caring for my children, for my writing.

I remember feeling like I had to be a hero, I had to be settled and fine with everything, able to handle all aspects of life for me and the kids, so that my husband could hit the ground running with his new job. I remember watching grandparents taking their children’s children to school, and wanting to ask them to adopt me and my kids. Please, take us in. Please, be our family. I need an extended family.

I have a family. My own parents have been so amazing, they came out to help me here several times. My in-laws were here to help us unpack at our new house in July. One of my best friends came out with her son to spend Thanksgiving with us, and I got to see two other friends who were in St. John’s in the fall. I remember thinking, during each visit, I should be so grateful for this. I remember how alone I felt whenever I said goodbye.

Goodbyes have been a theme for me lately, and I hate them. They get harder and harder all the time. I want to set fire to goodbyes. I want hellos that last and last.

I was talking to one of my husband’s colleagues recently who told me that, following a series of relocations for work, he once had to make the choice between his job and his marriage. He made the wise decision to give up his job, and keep his marriage. Finding another job was not difficult. Nothing is more important than family, he told me.

I’ve met several other women who have followed their husband’s careers, from places farther than other provinces in Canada — England, Korea, India. One told me recently that, although it’s hard to be away from home and extended family, and to have her husband travelling a lot for work, that at least there’s a culture of that here. Back in England where she was living, she said it was awkward for her kids whose friends’ fathers would pick them up from school, while their own dad was away. Here, the family blends in more, and they still make it work to live sometimes apart, and to just enjoy the time they have together. It’s not that simple, I’m sure, but those are the parameters you have to work with sometimes.

Most of this last year, for me, has been all about newness. Exciting as that is, I’ve craved normality, unsure of what that means, but at the same time, knowing I will find it, given time. Time I haven’t had, given two moves in one year, and three provinces in the last two years. My husband and I recently found a wedge between us that grew out of this relocation. We’re whittling it down. And I think one thing I’m learning about marriage — never before having faced anything that required real effort between us, but this last year, understandably, especially with a new baby who kept us up through the night those first several numbing months of this move — is that when you try to take anything just for yourself, that’s when you are hurtful. I disappeared into my writing, he into his job. We’ve both been able to focus on the kids, but not on each other.

I don’t have any sort of magic formula for relocation. And each move is different, just like each person, as I tell my kids all the time, each of us is unique, like snowflakes. Couples are all unique, too. But I do know that keeping your partner in focus has got to be one of the only ways to survive it all together. We’re taking a trip together, just the two of us, next month, and although I’m a bit nervous to leave the kids for a week (but again, extremely grateful my parents are going to be able to be here with them), I know this trip is like a key to our survival.

There are a couple other things we’re working on now, like finding childcare for the kids so I can look for a job. I’m also trying to get into a writing course at the university. We’re also making dinner dates with other families, and more plans for things to do together as a family, more hiking, short road trips, fun meals together. My husband has been turning off his phone, even for a few hours on the weekends. He’s discovered that when something is really truly important, a person will call. The constant emails are…..very difficult to manage. I respect so much the fact that he has realized that if he doesn’t manage them, they will manage not only him, but his family.

I have to take responsibility for my own happiness, and not wallow in loneliness. I have to reach out in my new community and grab hold of the things that will make life feel more like living, and less like something to just get through. As my one friend said to me recently, no one else is going to do that for me. It’s been a heartbreaking year. But there have been some wonderful things that have happened, too. And if it is all about focus, I will carry all the positivity and everything gained from this experience, into my future. I will hope that anything I’ve thought I’d lost along the way, can be retrieved, built on.

At this point, one year after arriving in St. John’s, I have several emergency contact numbers. And counting. Perhaps I do have something to celebrate, after all.