Thursday, March 14, 2013

Back at it, again

I've forgotten how cathartic writing can be. I do have a degree in English, after all, so you'd think that's something I would remember. Silly me. Nothing stays for long in my colander of a brain these days.

It's been just about 18 months since I wrote a post, even longer than that since I've practiced regular upkeep. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things, again, because it's helpful to me, and I feel like I have a lot to share.

How to sum up 18 months, though, in one post? And really, two full years, since that last post was really just an internal cry for help and a little shy on details? Here goes nothing:

In 2011, I gave birth to my little girl in a glorious HBAC. I have the birth story posted elsewhere, so eventually I'll transfer it over here. It was a really difficult year in a lot of ways. Going from working FT with one child, to working as a freelancer with two kids and no childcare was a disaster in many ways. I went through multiple schemes with swapping, babysitters, and nannies, until I finally broke down and re-hired my old sitter to come once a week.

In 2012, I decided to get back in shape, in part thanks to the support of the ladies in my May 2011 DDC from Diaperswappers. I joined the local masters swim team in February of 2012 and proceeded to lose close to 40lbs last year. By Christmas, I was smaller than I'd been since freshman year of college. I had to buy all new clothes, and rediscover a few old ones. Still working on the pants situation, though. Those are expensive and I'm cheap.

Also last year, I worked through some serious relationship issues. Despite a fairly reasonable income goal roughly half my former take-home pay, I earned barely half that and only averaged about 20 hours/month of working, less than an hour a day. That is absolutely dismal. In no small part, it's because I was still trying to get work done during the day. I didn't want to annoy my husband by frantically shoving the kids at him every night the minute he walked in the door, so I didn't. The reality is, my life (and most parents' out there) is like a 4-way teeter-totter. Each day I have to juggle taking care of and spending quality time with my kids, keeping up the house, working, and taking care of myself. Something always loses - last year it was work. I ended 2012 healthy with a relatively clean and organized house (though my bedroom is a dump-room disaster), and feeling as though I hadn't squandered my time with my kids. Unfortunately, I also ended 2012 very broke and incredibly anxious about my family's finances.

So this year, I've shifted my weight on the teeter-totter in a different direction. I've barely worked out at all since the New Year, and have put on about 10lbs. I don't cook dinner every night now, and I've added quick and easy (but not exactly healthy) meals like pasta and pizza back to the menu. Adrian started preschool in November, so two mornings a week I plop Carmen in front of Sesame Street and get busy with my long work to-do list. I work most nights, including weekend nights, often until 2 or 3 am.

The result is that in January I made more than in any single month last year, exceeding my income goal though not my hourly goal, and while February was a bit down, it was 100% higher than 2012 because I didn't even bill anyone last February. I sat down at the beginning of the year and figured out my average hourly rate from last year, then figured out how many hours I would need to work each day and each week to meet my goal. It's only a measly 15 hours/week, a little more than 2 hours/day. So far, 11 weeks into the year, I've only met or exceeded 15 hours three times, all in the last three consecutive weeks.

That all comes at a price. I find that my self-control around junk food has essentially evaporated. Apparently people who sleep less eat more. I can definitely attest to that. I'm also incredibly concerned about the amount of TV my kids are consuming. I was always adamantly opposed to the "TV babysitter." Now I'm not sure how to get anything done without it. As my kids get older, I find they are better at entertaining themselves, but that's not why I left the workforce. I'm starting to make a concerted effort to limit their screen time, which at the moment I'm finding difficult as they are both addicted to Cinderella and the iPad. The coming warm weather will mean more outdoor time and less screen time, unfortunately it will also mean less work time - both for money and around the house.

I'm not sure what the remainder of the year will bring. I'm going to do my best every day to find that elusive balance, the balance that I feel like I've been chasing my entire life. Maybe someday, I'll make it work.


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