Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Rat Race

My thoughts for today are nothing new.  I am sure there are a million blog posts and books written, all saying the same thing.  That said, I still feel the need to put my own stamp on the subject. What am I referring to?  The Rat Race of course! 
  Currently while I am in California, I am nannying for two different families.  I can hardly complain about my job, as I get paid to be a stay at home mom to other people's children.  I am there when the kids wake up.  I feed them breakfast and get them ready for school.  I have meetings with the teachers.  I pick them up from school.  I take them to guitar/swim/play practice.  I even take them to the therapists office.  I help them with homework and school projects.  I make dinner.  I make cookies with them (practicing fractions while measuring).  I discipline them.  On some nights I even put them to bed.  While I love my families, kids and job, it does get me thinking.  Some days of the week, my kids can go the entire day without seeing their parents.  Instead they see me.  No matter how fun I try to make it, I am hardly a substitute for their mom. 
  I do not begrudge families where both parents need to work.  I admire those that will sacrifice their personal will for the sake of the family.  But sometimes I wonder if it is necessary.  Is a second income always better?  As much as I wish everyone had the means to stay home and do what they enjoy, I realize that is no where near possible.  I just think there needs to be a balance.  One spouse needs to work, unless you come from old money like those in Downton Abbey.  For the rest of us, we need to work.  I would rather sleep in and knit all day.  Instead I have to be at someone's house at 6 am to prepare school lunches.  In this economy, I am incredibly grateful to have found work that I enjoy, and that fits my lifestyle.  Watching these families function makes me reflect on my past, and look at my future. 
  While living in Maryland, both my husband and I worked.  While my husband (lets call him Sgt G) is an incredibly hard worker and works two jobs- I worked one at a bank.  I felt like I was stuck in the rat race to be sure.  I was on an exercise wheel going no where.  We thought we needed my income to get by, but I am not so sure it helped.  Working at a bank, I had to have a professional wardrobe.  (One thing I love about working with kids now is I can wear jeans and a t shirt).  I often worked 6 days a week (we were open on Saturdays).  With both Sgt G and myself working, the house was never clean.  Neither of us wanted to spend our precious time off doing house chores.  When I got home from work I would typically be wound up and irritable.  I would complain about how we never got a break.  Home from work, to make dinner, eat, watch tv and go to bed.  The only chores I loved were the farm chores.  Often I was too lazy after work to make dinner so we would meet in town and go out, or order pizza (if there was something good on tv).  We would spend even more money to compensate for being too tired.  We ate lunches out because no one had the energy to pack them before work (on top of doing farm chores super early).  To relieve stress I would stop by Starbucks or Panera and grab breakfast and a coffee drink.  No wonder I was packing on the pounds.  I would feel guilty and join the gym, shelling out even more money that we didnt have.  It was a vicious circle.  Work 40 hours a week to bring home an income.  Spend the income (plus some) on eating out, coffee, gym to work off food eaten out and coffee, shopping trips to the mall for a mood booster and recreational spending for the both of us.  Not a fun wheel to be stuck on!
  What if instead of working (since when we crunched the numbers, my income really wasn't being saved) I had stayed home.  Would I have been less stressed?  Definitely!  Would there have been home cooked meals and leftovers for Sgt G's lunches?  Probably.  Could I have taken advantage of the country roads, walked the dogs, and not had to pay for a gym?  Most likely.  Looking back, I could have clipped coupons, and learned to be more frugal and stay home. 
  Now I know this is not the case for everyone.  Some people really do need the two incomes to survive.  I am not telling anyone what they should or shouldn't do.  I simply want to share my two cents.  I would gladly go without many conveniences, without tv or eating out to be able to stay home.  I honestly believe that my relationship with Sgt G would have been completely different if I was not in the work force.  Maybe I would have seen clues sooner.  I would have been available during the day to go to counseling sessions, etc.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  I hope in the future I am able to re-evaluate things.  And I sincerely hope that someday as a parent I will do everything in my power to stay home with my kids.  Forget the expensive toys, kids just want to spend time with their parents- not their nannies.  Even without kids, i fell into the glamor of being able to buy "stuff".  In the end it did not make me happy.  In fact I believe it added to the stress. Going into 2013, I hope I am able to learn from my mistakes.  I hope I don't get sucked in to the exercise wheel and can't get off.  I hope I chose to take the dog on a walk outside in the great (and free!) sunshine.  I hope I choose people over work.  I would rather burn calories in the garden than the gym.  I hope I choose "me" over money.

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