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!