One-third-life crisis

What happens when you’re too young for a mid-life crisis but too old for a quarter-life crisis?

Though Wikipedia defines quarter-life crisis as a period “ranging from the late teens to the early thirties,” that seems a bit of a stretch.  Once you reach thirty, it would only really be a quarter-life crisis if you planned on living until 120.  I don’t.

Quarter-life crisis sounds like the just-graduated from college, can’t find a job, moving back in with the parents kind-of thing.  This is not that.

My mid-20s were actually okay, if rather by the book.  Graduated from college; went to grad school and added some letters after my name; was employed full-time; got married; had a baby.  Check, check, check.   I have a lot to be grateful for, and yet . . . .

I’m pretty sure I’m too young for a mid-life crisis (though my ailing body might disagree), but I’m definitely feeling some serious ennui.  “One-third-life crisis” lacks the ring of the other two terms, but it fits better than anything else I can think of.

Not sure I should even get started on this one.  Suffice it to say that what seemed like a fulfilling field with good job prospects back in 2004/05 is not so much.  Add having a spouse in the same field, and you’ve got double trouble.

That path to an M.D. that seemed so long and life-sucking in college?  Ha!  At this point in my life, if I’d gone with my original medical school plan, I would have finished med school, finished my residency, and been a full-fledged doctor.  Oh, hindsight!

We’re tossing around the idea of one of us going back to school for something with more job security (and higher compensation).  Two career contenders are physician assistant and optometrist.  Both would involve significant time and money for schooling, which is hard to consider at this stage of life, with a young child, other life interests and financial obligations, etc.

A less-drastic step that might lead to better job prospects in the public health field would be one of us going back for additional coursework in biostatistics.

However, none of that sounds as interesting (or as unrealistic) as my current [one-third-life crisis] goal . . . .

Being Pink (the singer, not the color)
Last week, I wasted a significant amount of time on my newfound obsession with Pink.  While I didn’t actually watch the Grammy Awards, I saw the video of her performance (which included aerial acrobatics and some very athletic dance moves).  This led me to seek out other videos, as well as general information about Pink and her career.  You know, typical internet stalker stuff.  My research led to two conclusions: 1)Pink is awesome, and 2) I want to be her.  No, really.

Pink is actually a few years older than me, so, theoretically, I have a bit of time to get my [nonexistent] singing / performance career to where hers is now, though it turns out her acrobatic dance moves didn’t come from nowhere; she was a pretty serious gymnast when she was a kid.  (I think I did gymnastics for about a year — does that count?)  On the other hand, she apparently trained for the aerial acrobatic portion of her 2010 tour in 6 weeks, with an additional 3 weeks of training for her 2013 tour.  If I had 9 weeks to do nothing but develop my skills with professional trainers, who knows?

But in reality . . .
. . . I’m probably just going to chop off a bunch of my hair and try to figure out whether or not I’m going to P-A school.  Oh, and maybe buy a house.


Anyone with me in this one-third-life crisis boat?  Or been there recently?  What are you struggling with and/or what changes do you want to make?

Life goes on

Does anyone else remember watching the TV show Life Goes On in the early ’90s?  I watched very little television growing up, but this was a weekly tradition for my family for a couple of years.  Not really related to this post, other than sharing a title, but I now have the theme song stuck in my head.  Anyhow.

The week before Thanksgiving, we learned that Matthew’s job would be cut to .75 FTE effective January 1, making us a household of two part-time wage earners (I currently average between 15 and 20 hours/week).

Matthew has also been carrying the health insurance for our family, and, while coverage is still available to part-time employees, our monthly premiums will double.  This increased cost of insurance means that, while his hours are only cut to 3/4 time, his take home income will effectively be cut in half — gulp!  (I’m looking into what we would pay for similar coverage in the health insurance marketplace.)  I know we’re not the only people in this boat, but it’s a little scary.

The news came just as we were getting to the break even point most months, and maybe starting to save a little bit some months.  In most respects, we’re pretty frugal, and we saved like crazy during the three or four years where we had two full-time incomes, so we’ll be okay for the short term.

Long term, we’re questioning the wisdom of both of us being in the same field (public health), one where jobs largely depend on grant funding (soft dollars), are often not particularly well-paid, and offer few guarantees position longevity.

The news also came just as we were going to go ahead and make a big purchase, a longtail cargo bike, having narrowed it down to either the Yuba Mundo or the Xtracycle Edgerunner.  While there’s some temptation to put that kind of large expenditure on hold, the fact is we have the money, this is something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time, and, if we’re going to continue making most trips with Gabriel by bike instead of by car, we want (if not quite need) something other than the trailer option.  For us, going ahead with the purchase makes more sense than not.

That said, we were leaning toward the Edgerunner, which will cost noticeably more than the Mundo, so we’re a bit back to the drawing board on that final decision, which makes the fact that we’re actually getting a longtail seem not quite real.

For the most part, we’re not panicking, though I agree with the sentiment of an unemployed friend who said that she’s okay most of the time, but every few weeks it all gets a little overwhelming.  For me, it hits home most when considering long term savings, like retirement and G’s college fund, as well as larger [potential] expenses: the bike, getting speech/language therapy for Gabriel, and airfare and lodging for the three of us for a West Coast wedding next summer.

These things are clearly all optional, driving home the point that, in the scheme of things, we are very fortunate.  We are not questioning  whether or not we’ll have food on the table or a safe, warm place to live.  We’re taking things as they come, while exploring short- and long-term career options (a bit more on that in a future post).

Though perhaps a bit different than before, life goes on.

Unemployment: One year and counting

A couple weeks ago, I hit the one-year mark of being unemployed.  Celebration was minimal nonexistent.

It’s been an interesting twelve months.  Last July, when my previous job ended, I was in the process of interviewing for two full-time positions, and I felt fairly confident that at least one of them would turn into a job offer.  Not so.

Once it became clear that no job offers were pending, I signed up for unemployment benefits.  Between the regular benefits and the federal extension, I received weekly unemployment payments for seven-and-a-half-months.  During that time, between my unemployment income and the fact that we were no longer paying for childcare, we were almost break-even, financially speaking.

While the days could drag on a bit, I was pleasantly surprised at my rather smooth transition to the [temporary (ha!)] stay-at-home-mom role.  Just past his first birthday, Gabriel learned to walk and started becoming more of a little person, more interactive and a bit less dependent.  We filled the autumn months with long, lazy walks with no destination and settled into a decent routine.

Then winter hit, and I lost my easy outdoor entertainment just as Sir entered a particularly clingy, fussy, challenging stage.  It was a pretty dark time for me.

This renewed my determination to find a job, or, at the very least, find some kind of part-time care for Gabriel to preserve my sanity.

Time crawled on with some leads, but no results, on either the childcare or the employment fronts.  I received my last unemployment payment, and the “out” column surpassed the “in” column on our bank statement.

Winter finally gave way to spring, and I started feeling a bit better, just in time for the in-home childcare provider down the street to say she was willing to take Gabriel part time.

Still liking the idea of a bit more time and space without a toddler, and ever optimistic that a job offer could be right around the corner, I started walking Sir down the street to Mrs. L’s twice a week.

That was almost two months ago now.  While I was rather unphased when the unemployment payments ended in March, the financial realities of being a one-income household are starting to sink in.

We’ve been okay (and will, theoretically, continue to be okay — for awhile, at least) due to the fact that we saved like crazy while we were both working, especially in the pre-baby years.

While we are not impoverished, the reality is that we are also not all that far (family of four vs. family of three, or a few thousand dollars less income a year) from qualifying for federal benefits like Food Stamps or the WIC program.

That, and it’s hard to see our savings being drained, especially when we hoped to have that money for a down payment on a house (you know, in about twenty million years when we finally find the needle in a haystack for which we search) and a start for Sir’s college fund, not to mention retirement.

The Flipside
I don’t really know how we managed when we were both working full time, caring for an infant/child, and making most of our food from scratch.  Somehow we slogged through that first year of Gabriel’s life, but ay yi yi!

As much as the financial security of two incomes was great, one person at home makes the simple, DIY lifestyle we prefer a lot easier, while still allowing time to relax and breathe a bit in the evenings.

The Future
I’m still looking and applying for jobs.  I do have a very part-time option that would at least pay for my daycare habit (hey, there could be worse habits, right?), though it won’t put us back in the “saving money” column.

We’re tentatively exploring some options, including one of us going back to school for a career field that would allow us to live comfortably on one income, though that may be more of a knee-jerk reaction than a wise choice at this point.

One day at a time, I guess.

Baby steps

A week ago today, Gabriel took his first wobbly step.  Since then, he’s continued to gain strength and confidence, working up to six steps at a time.

After more or less shelving the whole pottying thing for a few months there, I couldn’t help but give it another whirl when I realized I would be home with him all day, every day.  No more blaming daycare as the excuse for Elimination Communication (EC) not working, though I feared the time away from EC attempts might have ruined any potential progress we’d made early on.

At Matthew’s suggestion, I agreed to a small reward system for peeing in the potty.  I balked at the idea because it smacks of bribery and traditional potty training to me, and thus seems anti-EC, but sometimes you have to compromise.

Although some days are all puddles, Saturday was a three raisin day, which gives me hope.*  Ever the optimist, I guess, we biked to the store and bought some toddler underwear (after my attempt to contact a Craigslist seller with some gently used ones went nowhere).  If nothing else, he looks adorable in them.**

Gabriel isn’t the only one taking steps though.  I realized at some point last week that I’m getting into a rhythm with the SAHM thing — really enjoying my time with my little  Pookie (now also known as Snuggle Puppy) — and maybe I can do it after all.  At this point I’m still job hunting, but it may be with more mixed feelings than I would have expected if/when I get a job offer.

*We’re using raisins as the “reward.”  One raisin every time he pees in the potty.  I know, I know, using food as a reward is kind of a no-no, but at least it’s not M&M’s, right?

**In the interest of full disclosure, he made a huge puddle on the floor two minutes after I took the above photo.  Also, why must everything for boys have either motor vehicles or super heroes?  I was rather tempted to buy him some of the nice, flowery “girls” underwear.

Got a new job now in the unemployment line

So . . . here we are.  When I wrote this post a month ago, I thought there was a reasonably good chance that I would move from my current job (which ended due to budget cuts) directly into something new.

For awhile, my biggest worry was that I would have a new job but no childcare arrangements (for the past nine months, Gabriel was in a daycare center literally right across the street from my [old] office, which was a great arrangement, but whose location only made sense when I had to drive there for work anyway).

Turns out I was putting the cart before the horse, since I, in fact, do not have a new job lined up.  No job means no money to pay someone else to raise my child.

So today is the first day of being a [temporary, I hope, or at least I think that’s what I hope] SAHM.

Though it brought its own set of stresses and challenges, going back to work nine months ago was a very good thing for me.  While I still struggle with some low mood and anxiety, I credit my job with preventing me from spiraling further into postpartum depression.

Getting out of the house every day, having a break from the constant demands of a young infant, having some space to breath and eat a meal without worry of being interrupted by a needy cry — glorious.

So it’s with a bit of trepidation that I enter this unemployed phase.  I’m trying to have realistic (i.e., low) expectations for what I’ll be able to do while I’m home with him.  I hope to spend time in the kitchen, but having dinner on the table every night when Matthew gets home from work is probably not in the cards.

Today I would like to make and can salsa, but we’ll just see how things go.  One day at a time, right?