Saturday, December 4, 2010

Week One - Returning To Working Life

Well, we all survived my first week in my new life as a working mom. Ok, more or less survived maybe is a better way of putting it. It has been a week of adjusting in a big way for all of us.

I have gone from getting up at around 6:30-7ish to 5:30 and am unbelievably and completely exhausted with my body balking at the rudeness of getting up that early. And I think I need to change that to 5am. By the time I’m driving home at the end of the work day all I want to do is crawl into bed and go to sleep. Hopefully my internal clock will have adjusted by the time this term job is over and I can sleep in until 6:30 or so again. Of course, then I’ll be waking up at five out of habit and cursing myself because I can finally sleep later again – at least for a few months or so until we (fingers crossed, and toes tied, wiggle your nose and hope hope hope) get the kids into permanent daycare and I find a permanent job.

So far it’s taking me an hour and a half each way to get to work and back home – that’s three whole hours I could have spent writing! But that’s what comes from working in the middle of a city. At the start of the day, half the city grudgingly makes their way to the heart of the city all at the same time, which of course inevitably causes traffic chaos. When the day is done and all the little ants are desperate to escape the crushing overpopulation of downtown on a work day, there is no escape. I think the city planners planned it that way, a way of trying to centralize the population and try to make everyone live and work in their little downtown cubicles.

The kids are getting up earlier, have no time to play, and are being rushed out the door an hour earlier than they’re used to. Then it’s to the babysitter where they have an hour to play before the school bus and a couple hours again after school. Of course, with mom rushing off in the morning and not coming home until supper, they don’t have that morning and afternoon mom time any more. The girls are definitely feeling that loss.

And for this first week of working, my husband has been the wife. Yep, that’s right; it has been a complete role reversal for this first week.

This week, he has had to get the kids fed, dressed, and brushed. He has had to get all their stuff together, which is typically all over the house despite your best efforts to keep it in their backpacks, and off to the babysitter. And then he’s rushing home after work to pick up the kids.

Say, did I mention that he even starts work a half hour before me and finishes a half hour later? But he doesn’t work downtown, so he doesn’t have that extra hour travelling time needed each way to ease excruciatingly slowly through the slow crawl dance of the rush hour traffic that is trying to get in and out of downtown.

Then, he has been making supper while supervising the kids activities and breaking up their fights, trying to get them into the bath on bath days, washing the dishes, and doing their reading (while I’m sitting with the engine idling and hoping to creep up another car length before the light turns red yet again).

And then I’m the one who finally straggles into the house tired and grumpy to kids who are eagerly waiting and a husband-wife who is frazzled.

And, as my day finishes off, it’s supper, kids ready for bed, and then I have time to do household chores until bed. Of course, I should also be getting all my stuff together for the morning – my housecoat ready for the shower, clothes pulled out and put where I can find them in the dark, lunch made, and shoes and whatnots packed and ready to go. Yeah, but that’s planning ahead.

And now for the part that everyone likes – the highlights!

The highlights of my first work week:

Day 1 – Let it Snow

Snow came late this year, but when it did it came with a whollop. By Thursday before the start of the new job 42.6 CM of snow had been dumped on the area (37 CM between Nov ember 18th’s first snowfall of the year and November 26th, and the rest after that). That sure beat the November average of 21 centimeters for the whole month. By my first day of work, the city crews were still cleaning up the mess.

For my first day of work it snowed again, and with the snow came very slippery roads, treacherous highways, and impassible glops of snow marking the edges of lanes that made lane changing difficult or sometimes impossible, and even slower than normal traffic and an extraordinary amount of traffic congestion.

After almost seven years as an unemployed bum (a.k.a. stay-at-home mother) I felt like I was fresh out of high school and taking my first job ever. In other words, I felt like a bumbling idiot and was sure everyone else was thinking the same thing. On the plus side, I’m neither fresh out of high school nor completely inexperienced. I had all those years of work experience, although it really doesn’t do much for you when you are learning new software and procedures because every workplace has a different way of doing things. And, with all those years of life experience behind me I was not the shy and downright terrified nineteen year old that started that very first job.

The parking I managed to find is a bit of a trek from work, and I had the fortune of passing through impassible sidewalks. I got to the end of one sidewalk to discover that I was trapped with not enough time to make the journey all the way back to the start to cross somewhere else. With a low wall on one side topped by high banks of snow, a filthy guard rail and heavy traffic on the other, and the end blocked by a dirty snow Mount Everest dumped there by the snow plows. There was nothing to be done but to hike up my skirts, hope I don’t get too dirty, and make the climb.

By the time I got to work I was tired and my legs were sore.

I left my lunch at home, sitting (I believe) conveniently beside the coffee machine and had the added pleasure of having to wear broken eyeglasses. Naturally, my glasses broke and I hadn’t gotten them replaced yet before starting a new job.

By the end of that first day I was exhausted and not looking forward to the hike over impassible and slippery sidewalks back to my car.

I had also forgotten some of the unwritten rules about getting around downtown. Specifically about which corners pedestrians do not cross in certain directions regardless of what signs the city has put up. Perhaps some city planner was snickering when they planned out the downtown intersections. Or maybe it is a means towards population control.

Regardless, without thinking I waited for the light to change and that walk sign to show it is safe to cross, waited for the cars packing the intersection to clear it on their red light, shoulder checked for turning cars, and proceeded to swiftly cross the road oblivious to the unwritten rule against crossing in this direction on this side of this particular intersection.

One woman motorist, who was turning, was kind enough to remind me of my error by trying to run me over with her car. I’m convinced it was on purpose. Either that or I grabbed the wrong coat and was wearing my cloak of invisibility. There was no possible way the woman did not at some point notice the large bulk of a heavily coated person directly in front of her car, unless of course I was invisible.

It was dark when I left home and dusk had well descended when I was heading home. I can get glimpses of daylight through the window, which looks onto another window that gives a dirty glimpse of outside. Total sunlight experienced – zero.

Day 2 – Let it Snow Some More

Despite promises of clear skies, it snowed again (or maybe it never stopped) and once again the roads were slippery and virtually un-passable in some places. The highways were icy and the winds and blowing snow left visibility even worse than the first day. It was a long slow ride both ways.

I took a different sidewalk route on my hike between work and parking, but with the drifting snow it meant plowing my way through deep snow down the entire long length of one stretch of sidewalk.

By the time I got home my legs were painful even to touch them. Man, am I out of shape!

I had learned from the blinding migraine I got home with on the first day, and had ibuprofen with me, which I popped before I started the drive home, having once again left work with a headache already building.

I managed to write about a hundred and some words on my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel for the last day of NaNo month.

Day 3 – Now That’s a Bad Santa Suit

The day started just like day 2, I got up and showered, and cursed myself for forgetting to put out clothes the night before. I’m not good at stumbling around in the dark looking for clothes, so I had to wait for the hubby to get up before I could get dressed again.

The roads were still slippery but not as bad and traffic moved a little better. My legs cried and threatened to run away from home when I told them they had to make the hike between parking and work again. They hurt, but I convinced them to make the walk anyway.

I felt a little less useless at work and got through the day.

I was surprised it took until day 3 to see my first panhandler. I don’t know how I missed him, but I didn’t see him until it was too late.

I crossed the street only feet away, hoping to not be seen. Luckily he was focused on the cars and left me alone. I had spent my sidewalk toll money on lunch that first day and wasn’t about to hand over twenties out of the grocery money I had on me.

The man wore a rather bad version of a Santa suit, minus the beard. He had a sad little half tree strapped to his back as part of the costume, its ornaments waving cheerily as he moved. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the other half. Did he buy it that way? Or was another bad Santa suit guy harassing motorists somewhere else and wearing it as part of his costume too? I didn’t catch what words were crudely drawn in dark marker on the cardboard sign he waved around. Bad Santa suit guy was going from car to car, gesturing and waving his sign, and going right up to the drivers windows in an aggressive in-your-face attitude.

Those ones are the worst, the aggressive in-your-face ones. Those are the ones that seem to think you owe it to give them your money simply by right of who they are. Those are the bullies. They are the ones you see robbing people of their bus fare or lunch money, or even of their lunch. These are the ones that you see threatening or assault people with no provocation, if you aren`t the victim yourself. Not all of them do of course, but it’s almost always one of these ones.

We needed groceries in a bad way, so I made the first of three stops for groceries – getting everything I can at the cheapest place to get it. I got home in time to tuck the kids into bed and eat a late supper alone.

The laundry and house cleaning is piling up.

Day 4 – Happy Birthday to Me!

Yeah, it’s my birthday.

My body is in revolt and refusing to get used to the new routine of getting up at 5:30. I am more exhausted than I have ever been in my whole life.

Things were improving but at the same time it would be a day of big guilt.

The pain in the legs is lessening, and I now feel like any other schmuck starting a new job and learning the ropes, rules, new computer program, and procedures of the new place. It’s not feeling so much like I’ve been out of work for almost seven long years.

I spent the day feeling guilty because the kids were trying so hard to get attention from me in the morning. It’s clear they’re badly missing their mom time, but there just isn’t any time in the mornings.

On the slow drive home it occurred to me just how much my body is rebelling at the stress of that first week back to work after so long. It seems to have shut down certain bodily functions. I haven’t even felt the need to have a bowel movement since before I started the new job.

I came home to the seven year old crying in her bedroom and refusing to come out. Apparently she was practicing a special birthday dance as a special surprise for me and it was ruined by daddy and her sister. Daddy could only take so much of her angrily whining “Robyn, stop it” at her sister, and only so much of the younger one trying to torment her sister and put them for a time out. Daddy put them both for a time out after about a dozen warnings and she couldn’t finish practicing. And about three minutes later I came staggering through the door wanting nothing but to put on my pajamas and go to bed.

My husband was scrambling to make a special dinner for me. The kids had set the table with a birthday balloon in a vase, candles, and the going-on six year olds special folded napkins.

The seven year old finally came out of her room after refusing to come out for supper and cried through dinner, too upset to calm down. My husband ate hurriedly, produced a small and wonderfully delicious chocolate caramel cake, a quick rendition of happy birthday by him and the girls, and he was rushing off out the door to play hockey. I managed to get the kids to eat a reasonable amount of supper while they kept begging off dinner to eat cake and finally gave up on trying to eat my own. They both loved the cake, even though it was more of an adult type of cake. The seven year old even had a piece of leftover birthday cake from her sister’s birthday too.

And then the crying started. My younger daughter came to me, crying her heart out, for a cuddle. She tearfully begged and begged me to quit my job and stay at home to be with them. She told me how she misses her mom time and even forgot what the cat looks like. Almost in tears, the seven year old came and said the same thing while I was consoling her sister. I felt like crying myself seeing how upset they were.

I finally got the kids to bed and the phone started ringing. I missed most of my Thursday night writers chat and got absolutely no household chores done. I was still getting off the phone when my husband returned from hockey at 11:30.

The chores are going to need an intervention soon.

Day 5 – Friday! At Last!

Driving has gotten better. I’m getting used to it again after years of only having to drive a few times a month, in daylight, no rush hour traffic, and having the option to stay home if the roads are bad. Everyone else seems to be starting to get used to snow driving too.

The pain in the legs is still improving.

I barely feel like I was out of work at all and am getting my work confidence back.

But the body will find new ways to revolt to change. Beginning at about 3:00am and roughly every fifteen to thirty minutes after that, my body woke me up to tell me the alarm was about to go off. I’d look at the clock and swear. Then it was trying to get back to sleep only to repeat it all over again.

Now I really was more exhausted than I have ever been in my life, even when I was up feeding babies every four hours twenty-four hours a day. I was burned out before noon.

Leaving work, there was Trapping People Trying To Cross The Street guy, and of course he was of the in-your-face aggressively panhandling group. I managed to avoid Bad Santa Suit guy. I had the rest of the grocery money on me and managed to avoid having to give away any of the bills on the way to my car.

I made the slow drive home, making three of four needed stops for gas, groceries, and stuff, getting home in time for the kids to put on their pajamas and get ready for bed.

I hauled in loads of groceries to the seven year old bragging about her sister being bad and a stressed out husband telling her to mind her own business.

Uh oh.

Long talk with the almost-six year old about what bad thing she did at the babysitter’s house, kids finally pj-ed and off to bed (late), and a phone call to the babysitter later and it was too late to bother with supper. But that’s all right, I wasn’t hungry anyway.

But hey, it’s payday! I came in halfway through the pay period and got paid for my first week. After filling the tank with gas, paying the pre-paid parking for the month, the babysitter for the week, and putting aside gas money for next Friday, I’m left with roughly a hundred dollars to put in the joint account for household expenses. Yep, all this and I earned roughly a hundred dollars for that first week. This is why we all love working so much.

At last, my first week is done. I’m exhausted and the house needs disaster relief with the laundry and chores piling up. The kids are moody with adjusting to the new routine and losing those hours of time normally spent with me. I want nothing more than to spend the weekend relaxing and recuperating, but need to play catch-up on all the household chores. And the kids need their mom time too.

I have to try to find time to start decorating and buying present for Christmas. I have doubts that I’ll manage any Christmas baking this year.

I have had zero sunlight exposure this week, sucked enough gas fumes in traffic to kill a roost of chickens, and lost fifteen hours to commuting – ten of those just because traffic doesn’t move at rush hour.

My kids miss me, my cat misses me, and my husband seems like he might not survive another day rushing the kids, dinner, and dishes.

We have a Saturday night Christmas party for my husband’s work to go to that I feel too tired to go to, and really should stay home to get that laundry and those chores done.

I have managed to write a measly hundred and a bit words one the one evening I managed a small bit of time, but was too tired for writing.

I also lost about five pounds after five days of no time for breakfast, hiking impassible sidewalks, and little interest in supper.

Monday is a new week, and I expect nothing but improvement while we get into the groove of the routine of our new lives.