For the first two years after this great recession hit, I often marveled at how well we were doing in spite of it. I knew there was a lot of suffering going on out there, but it was very abstract. I felt their pain, kinda, but I was glad not to be experiencing it. And I was very glad my children thought of it as an abstraction, too. Something other people were going through, but not us.
And then this year, my husband’s 22-year-old business started to sag, started to crumble. And we stopped getting our one and only paycheck. Suddenly, we were among the growing number of families walloped by the recession.
And talking around with other moms at school, I started to realize there were so many. It was the answer to why there were fewer parents volunteering at school. They had to work. And why the cultural committee I formed with another mom was losing membership. Wives who hadn’t worked since having kids were going back. No more time for the luxury of chatting with other moms over coffee in the morning. They had to start bringing home some bacon.
When I realized it was time for me to start looking for a job, I thought I was being heroic, but that there was little chance I’d actually get a nibble. As a freelancer with a lot of freedom, I hadn’t worked full-time in an office for more than a decade. Who would hire me?
I soon found out it was a competitive job market, too. I got nibbles, but then I got callbacks. Job interviews felt like auditions. For one job I went in twice. For another job I went three times. The idea of actually having a job was yet another abstraction. How could I start working full time in the middle of the summer? Where would the kids go? How would we get them there? What would we do? What about their swim and dance camps?
I became satisfied that if I didn’t get a job, it might be just as well. Let’s get these guys through the summer first. We can muddle through a little longer. Then I’ll start to work in the fall. I had a choice, after all.
But then an amazing happened. I was offered a job in the worst economy in 80 years. I had to take it. I wanted to take it. It’s a great job. No longer do I have to fantasize about working with adults and using my brain for more than deciding what’s for dinner. The day had arrived. I’m a working mom!
I know that might make working moms laugh. You’ve been doing it forever. It’s no big deal, right? (Or is it? Please tell me. Please help me out here!) I guess I just thought I would have a choice.
So in the coming months I’m going to learn what it means to put your kids in day care and how to come home from a full day at work, only to then feed the kids and get them ready for the next day at school, and how people muster all the energy to get so many things done in a day, a week, a month.
I’m a little afraid about losing my connection with my girls. Losing the luxury of being a mom who can walk them home from school every day. Losing the freedom take them anywhere we want to go in the long summer. Losing my own summer vacation and waving goodbye to them, in mid-August, when they go on our long-planned vacation with their dad and without me.
We’ll just have to see how it goes.