I was laid off in 2007, just like many others have experienced in this rough economy. It was announced a couple of months ahead of time that the center would be closing and almost everyone would be laid off. So, when they asked for volunteers to go first, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. In August, I received my official letter—I was unemployed.
Since I had a 4-month-old baby to care for, I decided to take the opportunity to concentrate on school and family. After 4 years of staying at home, another child, a college degree, volunteer work, sacrificing, budgeting, and struggling to survive on one income, I am finally back to work. I started working again last October.
In the beginning, my children did not like my absence from home. “Mommy, can you stay home with us?” my older one said each and every time I left to work. I thought that by volunteering each week for 2.5 years, they would be accustomed to me “working.” They are fine with me leaving every Friday to do volunteer work. They, however, did not like that Mommy was away from home more than before.
It took two months for my children to get used to the new changes. Childcare is expensive in California. Three to 400 dollars per week per child, sometimes they give discounts for siblings. So, Mermaid and I do tag-team parenting. Most of the time, his work schedule coincides well with mine; he’d be off on the days I am working, or he’d get home from work just 2 hours before I had to leave. And when it didn’t work out as planned (due to schedule changes or mandatory overtime), I would drop my children off at my mom’s on my way to work. Of course, being with their father without their mother was different. It gave them the opportunity to bond with him. And I like that.
Working again affected me, mentally, emotionally, and physically, as well. I had been with my children 24/7 for the past 4 years, and it was hard being gone 8 hours a day. I had separation anxiety the first couple of months, so I constantly called to check up on them. It was like I was a new parent again and I couldn’t leave my newborn to the care of others. I had to learn to let go (again) and trust others to watch my children.
My body also took some time to get used to a different routine. For years my daily routine had been wake up, kids, eat, kids, clean, kids, school, kids, errands, kids, and finally sleep. It was fine because I had 16 hours to take care of what needed to be done and still had enough time to sleep 8 hours a night. Now, my job takes up 8 hours a day so, I don’t have as much time as I would like to do what I need to do (Yes, you don’t stop being a parent just because you are working)! And it’s so hard when you come home from work and all you want to do is nothing. There is no motivation to cook, run errands, or even play with the children. I was dead tired the first two months of work.
I have made a lot of adjustments so that it won’t take too much out of me. Of course, the house is a mess most of the time and things usually don’t get done, but I can only do so much. Self-care, my new year’s resolution: I remind myself to do self-care each and every week, even if it’s just 30 minutes a day to sit in silence, read, write, or not pick up the mess in the kitchen. And I’m thankful to have a job that’s very understanding of self-care, reminds you all the time, and encourages you to look out for your overall health.
I’ve had measly jobs in the past just so I can have an income. It wasn’t fulfilling and sometimes I would hate going to work. I love my current job. It’s in a field I’ve always wanted to be: helping others and making a difference. I couldn’t wish to be in a more supportive work environment, as well as work with wonderful people who share the same beliefs as I do and also dedicate their time to work towards change .
I also have newly found appreciation to all those super-parents out there who are able to juggle their careers and busy family lives without pulling their hair out.