Thursday, October 29, 2015

Autumnal transition

Well, here we are again, falling into another roller coaster. I thought with all the machinations of August, change wouldn't be coming soon for our little family. But this time the transition and scary ride was mine. And I'm still not sure when, or how I'm going to get off.

I'm now a homebody, a full-time wife and mother for the first time since the day I gave birth and the six months of maternity leave that followed. I have joined the ranks of the gainfully unemployed. And for someone who has only been unemployed four months of her entire adulthood since graduating college, I'm still not sure how to feel. I'm being congratulated, but I don't call what my new status is retirement.

Of course there's a story behind all of this.

Our company has been undergoing quite a painful transition over the last few years; new ownership, new rules, and of course cost-cutting, which means buyouts, layoffs and other losses of jobs. We knew there were going to be lots of emotions here at home following the layoff and then lay-back-on of my husband. But even as his job stabilized, more cuts were coming and tough decisions were being made all around.

My job changed, and not for the better. As I learned new duties, I realized I was being trained so someone else could be let go. The person who was to be fired had a different job classification, but if others could do his job, there would be no need for him. That caused me some anxiety, for several reasons, but the kicker came when I was informed my days off would change from Sundays and Mondays off to Mondays and Tuesdays off. That translated to no more days with the three of us able to spend time as a family. Since Earbaby dances both Monday and Tuesday nights, we would all become a blur of work, school, dance, eat, sleep, do it all again. As it was, I would drop EB off on Tuesday afternoon and not see her again until Saturday morning! Not having at least a Sunday evening to catch a movie with my husband proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back.

But it wasn't the only thing. Even as we talked about this new, worse change in our lives, a friend who is 10 years younger with a wife and four children died of a sudden heart attack. It was one of most devastating things I'd ever heard, and a wake-up call. So after his funeral, we all talked.

My husband wanted me to reconsider taking a buyout, something which truly wasn't on my radar. You're supposed to work until your kid is out of college and you can safely and sanely take retirement, right? You suffer through the years of getting only three or four hours sleep, sacrificing your health, because you have a family to raise and college tuition to pay. You and your husband are ships that pass in the night during those child-rearing years so that your child always has a primary care-giver at home.

And then, your hours change for the even worse. Your health suffers more and you realize that being tired all the time is not the way it's supposed to be. Your beloved spouse tells you he misses you and would like to spend some time with you. Your daughter (!) wants to spend time with you and enjoy home-cooked dinners instead of quick sandwiches and takeout. And one of the nicest people you'll ever know didn't live to see his children grow up.

So after working nights, weekends and holidays for 38 years, I decided to temporarily join the land of the unemployed. EB was the deciding factor. She will only be with us two more years and then will be off to college and a life that only peripherally includes us. I want to be there to cheer her on at the football games, be able to spontaneously go out on a date with my husband, cook a dinner, sleep eight hours in one stretch, have lunch or dinner plans like normal people.

I plan on working again. Maybe I'll go for something I can do from home, or work out of an office a few days (!) a week. I'm still feeling a little untethered. I'm used to rushing around trying to get everything done before 5 p.m., so I can start my second shift that ended at 1:30 a.m. Suddenly, I can breathe, start dinner, watch a little television, read a book. And sleep when the rest of the world sleeps. It will still be awhile before my body realizes I don't have to keep vampire hours any more, but I'm ready for that challenge too.

I have to acknowledge the fear of never working again, and the fear of getting another job before I've had a chance to enjoy some of the things I've missed through the years. I'm not sure where this new path will take me. But I have a couple of great people around who want to be with me as I find my way.

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