A Paradigm Shift – TGIF; Re-looking at the World Through the Eyes of a Worker

It’s a bit of a transition, going back to work (even part time)! I work mornings most days, so I am back to being a slave to the alarm. I get up early while the kids enjoy the summertime tradition of sleeping in, dress decently (luckily the office is casual dress – even jeans, but I try and dress ‘up’ a bit and put on make-up too), and join workday commuters on the road. Most days I feel good about this: purposeful, appreciated, even needed. My office is nice, albeit a bit Spartan, with a corner desk, a big empty bookcase and file cabinets waiting to be filled with project folders. It’s actually much nicer than my last office which was a small corner carved out of the room with the copier and reams of paper! It is on the 2nd floor and the window overlooks a man-made babbling brook. It even has a corner fireplace which makes it feel like it ought to be the office of a therapist or lawyer, not an environmental project manager. It is a nice office, but it doesn’t really feel like ‘my’ office. It feels…temporary.  You might think this is due to the lack of personal items or decor – I haven’t brought in family photographs or decorated at all – but really it’s because I know my position is precarious.  Sure, once you lose a job, you can’t help but
realize just how insecure all jobs really are, but it’s more than that.  I need to bring in new work, projects that directly support my salary, if I am to keep this job.  I have 90 days to do that.

So that adds some tension to each work day.  I hear the tick-tock of the 90 day clock as I try and condense a full day’s work into the 3 to 4 hours I spend in the office.  Unlike selling a product like soap or encyclopedias, where each sales call has the potential of closing a deal and bringing in profit, finding new work for an environmental firm takes time.  While selling your product (your skills and experience) is essential the demand is intermittent and predicated on projects begun by another industry – construction.  When a company wants to construct something – a golf course, shopping mall, cell tower site, etc., they are required to obtain permits, or enter into a permitting process that includes an environmental review.  That’s what we do.  And if no one wants, or can afford to begin a new construction project, we aren’t needed.  Our firm is diversified, and in addition to environmental review, provides construction monitoring, habitat restoration and removal of invasive plants.  This latter ability keeps the company afloat during slow construction times as municipalities and counties continue to need weed removal.  But that’s not my specialty and not why I was hired.   I need the construction projects to resume!  So I network with past colleagues and companies, search for and review requests for proposals, fill out statements of qualifications to get on ‘pre-qualified  consultants’ lists and hope that some of these efforts will come to fruition – soon.

On the home front, having a working mom has created complications and tensions.  For nearly two years we have lived in a very small space – so small that having ‘help’ in the kitchen has been impossible and cleaning has mainly been a one person chore.  I get a tad irritable when my personal space is invaded so I pretty much asked the kids to stay out of my way when I was trying to prepare meals.  And of course I was always home to do the cooking and cleaning.  Now several things have changed and our habits lag behind.  For instance we now have a kitchen that is much better situated for home cooking and my middle daughter is very interested in learning to cook.  She wanted to attend a cooking camp this summer but we couldn’t afford it and so I
told her we could cook together in our new kitchen.  Wonderful, right?  Yes, but I’m having trouble sharing the chef role!  It’s silly and I realize it so I’m
working to invite participation in kid friendly cooking projects.  On the other hand I’m eager to share the chores that I now have less time to do but the kids are loath to lose the habit of letting mom do everything.  I’m gone most mornings and the kids sleep in and then, typical of kids on summer vacation,
help themselves to food, and lounge around watching TV, reading or playing on the computer.  I come home from a somewhat stressful work ‘day’ and find the peanut butter open on the counter, toys strewn across the floor,  the dogs anxious for the walk they should have had hours ago, and the kids still in
PJs!  I’ve taken to leaving chore lists on the refrigerator which has helped somewhat but I still feel aggravated most days upon arriving home!

The other source of tension is money.  For a long time now we’ve talked about the things we would do ‘once mom gets a job’ as a way of acknowledging the wants and desires that couldn’t be fulfilled at the time.  I could reassure the kids that I understood that they wanted to go to the water park ($21 a visit for the entire family) or see a movie, that their desires weren’t unreasonable and that I would want to fulfill them if we had money.  Well, now I have a job and it’s hard for the younger kids to understand that we actually have less money (and more expenses) and have to be even more frugal!  I’ll admit it’s psychologically more difficult for me to be frugal at this point, with a new house to fix and furnish, and new wardrobe needs as well.  I do it but it’s just mentally harder! When I wasn’t working I had a good solid reason to be parsimonious and maintain an eagle eye on our budget.  I was looking forward to some relief of that constant tension once I rejoined the employed.  But I always assumed I’d find a fulltime job.  That anxiously awaited first paycheck has disappeared into rent, storage unit and phone payments.  I’m relieved to have bills paid and have a new understanding of what the working poor feel as their hard earned paycheck evaporates before their eyes!  The next paycheck is ear-marked for car insurance, food, gas, and if we have enough left, school supplies!  Yes, school starts in about 3 weeks and then the entire household will be ‘working’!

PS.  Did I mention that the weekends just FLY by?  Am I reluctant to roll out of bed early on Monday?  Well, frequently yes but that’s just because I’m up too late (along with the kids) on Sunday night.  I’m very happy to be employeed and I hope that I can make a success of this job so that in October I can increase my hours to 30 a week (when my employer will pay for my health benefits – the kids will cost me an extra $450 a month).  I like working in a small firm for a change instead of just being a number among many in a ‘global’ firm!

This entry was posted in frugal living, Job, money, single parent, summer. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to A Paradigm Shift – TGIF; Re-looking at the World Through the Eyes of a Worker

  1. Darlene says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now, maybe more. I’m impressed by your survival skills! But now maybe you can let go a little of the “fight or flight” mode you’ve had to maintain – and letting your kids assume normal responibilities might be on that list. Of course they don’t want to! But they’ll get the hang of doing, and you’ll get the hang of letting go.

    Darlene

    PS (I don’t expect you to publish the PS but I don’t mind if you do) Our lives here have become extremely chaotic. If you want another blog to read check out: http://www.KidNeedsAKidney.blogspot.com

  2. Nancy says:

    It does seem like when you get a new job you should get some ‘rewards’ but the reality is that working costs money too, and those first few months are harder on the wallet. Last year I got a job and moved, and I really wanted to fix up our new home, buy book shelves, new bedding, and the million other things we’d been doing without. But life is not fair and we needed shoes and school supplies and tires for the car and other unfun stuff first. My kids were great all during the lean times, and I really wanted to give them everything but couldn’t. Even now, a year later, I’m still paying off debt and treats are planned and much smaller than I wish they could be. And sadly, my job is already ending so we still can’t go all out and have everything we want because the lean times may be coming again!

    Just keep plugging along, clipping coupons, picking up pennies on the sidewalk and before you know it you’ll have enough for something special.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Nancy – I’m sorry your job has only lasted a year – that’s part of my fear/frugality too – that the job just won’t last. I think there are a lot of people who no longer feel secure in their employment. This month will be harder than the next – I have car insurance and registration due, school supplies to buy, and it’s fair month here! My oldest daughters have entered artwork so we really want to go to the fair and plan to attend on Friday when youth under 12 are free. I’ll have to sit everyone down and explain we will JUST be seeing exhibits, not going on rides or getting food.

  3. Pam McCormick says:

    Wow this was never an issue at my house! ALL members of the “team” aka family need to pitch in and participate.Cold day in hell my kids would be home in bed,playing games, on computer and I would be working.If old enough to stay home alone then old enough to do SOMEthing…tailored to age appropriate responsibilities like assist a Mom with small kids for a few cents,clean something for a neighbor for pennies,walk a dog,clean a pool you get my drift.This notion of waiting for the Big paying job for any of us is unrealistic for most of us and what does it teach? We all need to do anything to bring in even pennies since the alternative is sitting unpaid.Time is money.I myself have 2 jobs and have had 3.Creativity and just plain hardwork could lead to the future.How about things like volunteer work? kids can help at a church summer day care or camp? kids old enough maybe could volunteer with Habit for Humanity,volunteer at a food bank-church-summer school-day care, offer at a business to organize trash and or seperate recycleables,volunteer at a grocery store or at a farm,how about a hospital or nursing home?I used post a notes with 3 jobs for each day.Example: 1) fold dryer load 2) dice carrots till we have 1 cup 3)iron 6 pillow cases …get creative and alot will get done.Hand out assignments you all are in it together.Best of luck

  4. Jeannette says:

    When you figure out how to get the children to help around the house let me know perhaps I can use the same tactics on the husband mine if very good about dissappearing on weekends and shows up only when all is done…

    There is no simple solution for being a single mom, working and chores, what works for some, doesn’t work for others, some days what worked won’t work again, I use to cook three meals on Sundays, so that on Mon and Tues, meals were ready and of course cooking for the rest of week if needed on Tuesday or whatever day is off from work

    Perhaps each child has a meal night, getting to pick out whatever is healthy and easy, even peanut butter sandwiches and fruit is healthy and easy to prepare, Whomever has cooking detail doesn’t have clean up.
    Again what works will work and what doesn’t well thats where as moms we have to be creative

  5. Catherine N. says:

    A suggestion in terms of construction finding… call realtors, and leave your name with them.

  6. Maria says:

    Every working mom (with or without s spouse/partner) has to figure out how to get chores done and the house maintained while she is away at work. I think Practical Parsimony’s idea of making each child responsible for an area to keep tidy is a good one. On Saturday mornings my kids do not go any where until their bedroom is tidy (bed made, clothes picked up etc.) and their chores are done. Knowing they have to clean something on Saturday makes them much more careful during the week. As for the cooking, it is great that your daughter wants to learn–I’d encourage her and then make sure her siblings take turns doing the dishes after she has prepared the meal–kids really cannot have too many practical skills and you can teach her everything she needs to know. A cooking class is not necessary! On the job front, I wish you and the small firm lots of luck. This is a hard economic environment for big and small companies, and I hope you are able to bring in the business you need. If this works out and your hours go up you will not always be part of the working poor–hang in there! You’ve already done a tremendous job and all your readers have their fingers crossed for you!

  7. Rita says:

    The way we handled many of the chores was to do them on Saturday morning. All together we worked until all dishes were done, clothing was washed, floors swept and on and on. It was a job and many times went into Saturday afternoon. But having me there was the only way to really accomplish.

    I’m frustrated for you. You are doing your best. Working, and yet you could be at home receiving a check from the government to live. I just find this working poor thing unjust and unfair. I’d have a real hard time keeping up with it all especially when I didn’t feel good. I’m proud of you and look forward to watching things improve for you.

  8. What a dilemma! Okay, I gave mine chores when I worked after my divorce. That did not work for me. No one ever claimed the towel that was on the floor, much less the one in the den. No one would ever have claimed that open pb jar. What did work was making one responsible for kitchen and the other the bathroom. The little one was responsible for picking up the den and putting things away. Never mind the bedrooms! The kitchen person did not have to wash dishes or put them away. I just wanted the table clean, the floor free of shoes and books, the counters wiped, food where it went, and dishes in the sink. The bathroom person had to wipe water from the floor, put towels and clothes in proper hampers without trailing items from the hampers. The soap could not be melting in the tub. Each of the three had a box in the den where things lived until taken to their rooms. That way, I could walk in to a less stressful home. I could go in knowing I did not have an hour to shovel it out before I could start dinner or take a bath. And, I had a 4000 sq ft home. They could throw it all in another room, even if they did not put it away. That was not the idea, but I could deal later.

    Maybe you could explain about meaning a full time job, not the part time job and somehow give them one good day at the water park.

    My daughter told her 16 yr old that if he did not get out of bed and do his chores before she got home at 5 pm, she would wake him at 6 am and make him work for the hour before she left for work. That cured him. No, not ideal with four!

    Put your pictures in the office. Fill the shelves so it looks like you know you are staying, that you are not just camping out, waiting for the next boxcar out of town. Belong!

    Is there any way to relieve yourself of the financial burden of the storage unit? If you are storing anything like furniture, you could rebuy it with what you are spending. Can you downsize the size of the unit? Can friends handle a few Rubbermaid boxes in their garages?

    It seems that being dependent on construction in this environment (recession) is as bad as a farmer being dependent on the weather. But, you have bought yourself three months.

  9. Lise says:

    Oof, that does sound frustrating– it’s a step up but it feels so much like a step back. I hope some business comes in soon!

    (Friends of mine have had success with http://www.chorewars.com/ — maybe worth a look?)

    • boxcarkids says:

      I checked that out and signed us up. It’s too competitive for my youngest daughter – she’d rather quit a game if she thinks she won’t win, but my son is totally into it. I’m going to set it up with some real life prizes for the 2 top winners each week and use chocolate coins in place of the game’s gold coins so the other two get some positive feedback. Not sure how long it will last but perhaps it will get them into the habit of helping again.

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