Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The B-word

That's it. I'm making it official.

Balance is hard as a parent. It doesn't matter if you stay at home, if you work 60 hours a week or anything in between. At the moment, I have 6 1/2 to 7 hours a day at home by myself. I can run errands as needed by myself, take care of chores, and most importantly, try to find a job.

At least in theory.

It seems like it should be ideal. And there are probably some days I could have managed a little more efficiently, but I seriously just can't seem to get a handle on it. Combine the incredible amount of time my resume and portfolio are taking (the downside of being a design professional), the difficulty lately of getting Todd down to sleep at bedtime and the multiple interruptions of the my sleep overnight...and ugh.

I'm not totally overwhelmed and I don't want to be a complainer. I am blessed in SO many ways and we're going to be fine. The uncertainty isn't fun, but somehow I'll find something. I guess I was just hoping by now that my job materials would be done and my job hunting time would be limited to reading job ads and networking. And I also hoped that by now we would have a cleaner house. ;-)

I guess this is also a confession. I know stay at home moms who have gone through similar sleep issues to what Todd is putting me through now. I always assumed that it would be easier to deal with if I stayed home rather than working full time. Sadly, it really isn't. Maybe a *tiny* bit easier - I admit I took a 3 hour nap today. But now I feel behind on everything else. And I was only able to take one because I was so incredibly exhausted that my brain couldn't do anything else. I've tried other times in the past couple of weeks, and I wasn't able to fall asleep because my brain was just so active, thinking of all of the things that needed to be done.

The other balance issue at the moment is that I feel like I shouldn't be doing chores while I'm with the kids, because they are still going to daycare. But, at the same time I need to be using the hours that they are gone to find a job. And, as I mentioned, I haven't been able to do as much after their bedtime since Todd isn't consistently going to bed on time. So it kind of stinks to be in the kitchen making dinner while R is in the backyard playing with them. But afternoon is my most productive time on the computer and I usually look up when it is time to leave to get them, and I haven't done any dinner prep yet.

In the grand scheme of things, this too shall pass. Todd's sleep is bound to improve (hopefully before it gets worse) and maybe with today's nap I'll have the energy to make the next couple of days super-productive.

Consider this a record of one of those difficult times, the appreciation of what I have and the realization that the grass isn't necessarily greener anywhere else.

Look at that. I've got 15 minutes to (try to) prep dinner before I have to leave to pick up the kids.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hershey Park - Vacation Day 3

There is too much that has happened this summer (and this year) to imagine that I'm going to go back and document it all. Especially since I am already bogged down by trying to document the last 11 years of my work life.

But as I think of things or as I find a few photos in the archive that I want to share, I plan to at least cover some of the things I've missed.

I mentioned that we went on vacation the week after my layoff. For a number of years my best friend and I had been chatting about a combined vacation. We needed somewhere sort of in between our homes, and since we didn't manage to do it 4 or 5 years ago, we needed someplace kid friendly! This year the planets finally aligned with all of our available vacations, and we set the Hershey area as our destination.

As it turns out, there is a LOT to do in the area. Really, I had no clue there was so much. And on top of that, we could have spent at least two days in the park itself. Since Todd was not totally himself (teeth + a little virus + no nap + lots of waiting in line = unhappy Todd), it is probably good that we hadn't planned two days in the park. But he did enjoy the time on the rides while they were moving, and some of the people-watching. The waiting in line he could have done without...

Heather seemed to have a great time. She rode a bunch of rides, and came off each one looking for the next. Had I known she was going to be so enthusiastic, I probably would have planned ahead a little and marked up a map with all of the rides she was big enough to ride. Next time for sure!

All in all, it was a very nice day. Especially once I got Todd to take a hour long nap in the carrier. My only annoyance with the park is that you can't bring in food. In hindsight, I wish I would have tried to sneak in just a few small snacks. There were a couple of times that a little dried fruit fortification would have improved the moods of the little people in our group, and there was never anything appropriate near us when we needed it.

We crammed chocolate world in at the end of the day. I was hoping for better dinner food than in the park (and there was), plus we did a little shopping, did the free "factory" tour, got our free piece of chocolate (that Heather had been talking about *all* day) and got back to the hotel about an hour after bedtime. A long and good day.

Just a couple of the rides Heather was on, plus my awkward camera phone picture of Todd after he finally fell asleep:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Upside Down

Four weeks ago my life changed unexpectedly.

Okay. True. I did know that things at my office weren't fabulous. The staff had been on 80% pay for over a year and the office wasn't super busy. But a few things seemed to have come along and there weren't any negative rumblings. It wasn't great, but it didn't seem too bad.

Apparently appearances can be deceiving. Six of us were laid off that day. I had about 30 seconds notice about what was about to happen since I was the second one to be called in and the first victim let me know what had happened to her.

And just like that, after 11 years, I was unemployed.

I spent the day cleaning up my desk and my computer. And hugging coworkers. And being stunned...and not really knowing what was next.

And I still don't.

Well, in my immediate future was vacation. We were just about to embark on an 11 day period when Heather would be home. We had some vacation plans and some staycation plans. So for a week and a half I had very little time to *do* anything about my situation. I started to make some lists, I claimed unemployment and I did some thinking. But there wasn't time for resumes or portfolios or actually trying to find a job.

I have to tell you about the thinking. It was honestly a little like being pregnant again. All of the 'what do I want to do' all over again. What I mean is that the situation forces you to think all over again about why you work, what you like to do, do you want to keep doing the same thing, etc, etc, etc.

Where I have ended up is that I really do want to work. I want to be involved in the design of buildings. There are a variety of avenues where I might try to find a new place to do that. I'm hoping to find a job that is a good fit without being too picky. And I'm open to 'allied' jobs - something where I could use my architectural knowledge and experience without necessarily being in an architecture firm.

But if I can't find a job in the alloted time, then I would rather become a SAH Mom than open my own architecture firm. Maybe I'll change my mind down the road, but at the moment, hanging out my shingle isn't appealing.

No one has directly said to me that I should take the opportunity to stay home. It has been loosely implied by a couple of people and a few people have commented about the opportunity to spend more time with the kids. The conundrum of course is daycare. We can't just pull the kids out while I'm unemployed. Both because I need the time to work on my resume & portfolio, and hopefully have interviews, and also because we wouldn't be able to get them back *in* to daycare when (optimistically) I find a job.

Once I have my resume and portfolio prepared, I do plan to keep the kids home a day or two a week for extra activities or just to spend time together. And we may even be able to drop them down to 3 days a week to save a little money without losing their spots...but that is still to be determined. And I am spending more time with them, since I'm now the one doing drop-off and pick-up each day. That part is a nice change, to get to know their teachers and classmates a little better for the first time in three years. :-)

But in the end, it is the kids that put a lot more pressure on me in this situation than there would be if we didn't have kids. The daycare issue makes my job hunt feel a lot more like a ticking time bomb. Writing my resume and portfolio, and doing my best to network and interview well are the only things in my control at the moment. Down the line I may be lucky enough to get to choose between jobs or make some decision about what I want to do. But it is also a bit unsettling to know that we might come to a point where the situation makes the decision for me.

At the moment, I'm not really ready to go there. I am plugging along at documenting the last eleven years of my career (which is a lot of work) and keeping my ears and eyes open for opportunities.