Sunday, January 25, 2009

I am a SHAM...uh, SAHM.

Boy, I just clicked on my Blogger Login Icon and it felt strange. Not strange-peculiar, but strange-unusual. It's been too long. The trouble is not that I've been at a loss for words. The trouble is that I've had a surplus of them. Whenever that happens, they tend to come out all a-jumble. Read on if you dare...

Early in December (the 3rd? who knows), I got a call at work from C, the woman who was watching Little G. He's fine, she said, don't worry. It's just that I've had a sort of family emergency and I need you to come pick up Little G asap. I did. Turns out that her dad went into the hospital with what he thought was bronchitis, but upon further investigation, he had terminal lung cancer. C called us later that night and told us that with caring for her father and watching her own two children, she didn't think that she could give Little G the care he needed and she was giving us her notice. She would watch him until our agreed upon break at Christmas, and that was it. I completely understood.

So we set about looking for a new care situation for Little G. I called daycares. I phoned home care agencies. No one had spots for infants. I trawled Craigslist, Kijiji, Daycare Bear and Go Daycare and followed up on any leads I could find. You read about those results if you read my recent post "The Daycare Game". I looked on notice boards in local stores, libraries and drop-in centres. I tried everything I could think of, and no dice. I even interviewed a potential nanny, eventhough financially that's not the best option for us, and eventhough I have been less than impressed with the Nanny Mafia that I have seen carousing our neighbourhood.

Just before Christmas, I went to my boss and told him what had happened. I asked him to consider a leave of absence - unpaid - because we could get Little G into Big C's daycare in March. It wasn't an absolute guarantee, but we are on the priority list since Big C has been there forever, they love him and they knew that we were desperate. My boss checked with Human Resources, and they said NO. However, my boss said I could take some vacation time in January to see if we would have any luck finding someone. It was difficult getting in contact with people over the holidays.

I took a week's vacation - found one nice home care lady who said that she didn't have room, but she could watch Little G for a month till we found something more permanent. That wouldn't get us till March, though.

Then we interviewed a fabulous, wonderful, amazing nanny. A nanny who changed my mind about what nannies could be like. One that was worth taking every penny of my salary to employ. We extended her an offer. I sent my boss an email saying that we had found a possible solution, and that I would be back at work on Monday. Monday morning, she sent us an email saying NO. She couldn't commit the time right now.

So, instead of going back to work victorious, I had to go in and tell my boss that we thought we had a nanny, but we didn't and would he reconsider a leave of absence? At this point, the leave would be about a month and a half, with luck. More, without. He came back from HR with an unequivocal NO. A Leave of Absence was simply not on the table, he said. So I resigned from my job.

Although it may seem like a precipitous decision, it was not. Mr Earth would support any decision I made - to stay home or to keep working. We had come to the conclusion that even if we found another home care situation, it wouldn't work. A nanny was the only realistic solution, and this was the only nanny I had found that met my expectations. I could, of course, find another with time, I am sure, but time is not something I had left.

You see, the double drop-off, and double pick up - two different daycares, two different children and only one me, was making me sick. Literally sick. I would leave work early every day (when I really shouldn't) and take off at a run for the subway. I ran from the subway, and got Big C dressed and shoved him in the stroller. I ran with the stroller to Little G's daycare. Got Big C out and up the stairs, got Little G dressed and both of them down in the stroller to walk home.

Mr Earth, in the meantime, left for work in the wee hours and had to leave work early (when he really couldn't) and go home to make sure that dinner was ready so that the natives wouldn't scream because they hadn't been fed soon enough and they were too tired to wait. We put them to bed, got everything ready for the next day, and it started all over again.

I was sick. I was nauseous all day long, for weeks on end. It got so bad, that I took a pregnancy test. A week after I had my period. And I hadn't had sex since. Does that make sense to you? It didn't to me either. But what else would explain it? It may have been the flu. But would it last so long? Would it magically disappear at Christmas break? And would it magically reappear just after New Year's, when I was supposed to be back at work? I thought I was made of sterner stuff. I thought I could handle this without making up imaginary illnesses. But I guess I couldn't, and there comes a point where you reassess and say - is this really worth it???

Many people have said that I should have fought for my job. Maybe. I was union. I am not a litigious person. I have also never loved my job. It was easy. It allowed me to do theatre in my spare time. When I became a parent, it allowed me to work, but not have that work spill over into my family time. But I have never loved it. I've never really even liked it. Why should I fight for a job that I don't love, in a company that very obviously does not love me?? Cause if they really valued the SEVEN YEARS that I had been a loyal - and exemplary (if I do say so myself) - employee, then they could find a way to make a leave of absence work.

Oh, yes, I am not litigious, but I am angry. I don't think I was treated well. I think that they could have shown more lenience to a working parent who was in a difficult situation. After all, it's not like I was asking for time off because I missed being with my kids (which of course I did, what working parent doesn't?). I asked for it because I saw no other workable solution. I wasn't going to leave my kid with someone I don't like. Not for any job. How could I work?

The last day of my job, I worked until the very end, waiting for something to happen. A chance to say my piece. An exit interview, or something. I finally asked my boss if there was something I was supposed to do. He said he had forwarded the necessary info to HR and asked them if there was something I was supposed to do, and they hadn't gotten back to him. I still don't know if they have. I don't yet have a record of employment or any sort of closure. Thanks for ...nothing.

I am hurt, and angry, and kind of embarrassed. I'm also kind of relieved. And I haven't been nauseous since I left.

I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that I don't have a job anymore. It kind of seems like I'm on mat leave, and that's kind of fun. That will surely change once the money runs out. Now that I don't have to look for care anymore, I can focus my attention on all the things I can do now that I'm at home. All the things I won't miss because I was at work. The future is blasted wide open, and it's kind of... exciting. And very, very scary. I am a person who thrives on structure. I'm not sure just what to do with all this freedom. I need to make some decisions. I need to come up with a plan.

This may be the best thing that could ever have happened to me. Or, it may be just something that happened to me. I won't know for sure until I start moving in a forward direction. One thing is for sure, I won't regret having more time to spend with the boys.

They may regret having more time to spend with me.

We shall see, shan't we?

28 comments:

Mad said...

I've been angry about this for weeks and I didn't even realize that you only needed a leave of absence until April. Now I am FURIOUS. How can women ever expect equality when mothers are shat upon like this?

Your boys, though? They will love this and you will never ever regret the time that you'll get to have with them.

Mary G said...

Isn't that the living end! You are surely impaled on one of the horns of the classic high achieving mama dilemma. Like Mad, I think you will enjoy your time with the boys and a saner life. I also think that this is a perfect example of the Cause. And you should put it out there, in the lucid prose of which you are a master. Until the workplace recognises that parenting is one of the most important things in life, you mothers of younglings are not going to get a fair deal.
When I got pregnant, I was expected to quit my job; we have come a long way since then, but not nearly far enough.
Give some thought to how a dialogue might be structured around this in very public forums and if I can help, I would be delighted.
And in the meantime, enjoy your days.

alejna said...

Hi,

I just stopped by, lured over by your clever post title, which showed in Mary G.'s sidebar.

And now I'm mad, too. (On your behalf. Not mad at you.) It makes me so angry, the many ways that women get screwed over in the workplace. You certainly deserved better treatment after 7 years.

But at least it sounds like your new position will be better for your health and sanity. That schedule you described sounds brutal.

kittenpie said...

I can't believe that it was impossible for them to work out a leave for you. Workplaces do without people all the time - hell, it's a policy for cost-savings at the library! (no, not joking.)

But still, that schedule sucked, and I've had those times of literally being sick every Sudnay night myself, and it really makes you reassess.

Perhaps you will find some other balance of things - part-time care and part-time work, good full-time both, or a need for neither. Whatever works.

But meanwhile, can I say - if you are still off when snow is lesser and the Bun can ride in the small stroller, I am SO hopping on a subway over there to visit with you and your boys! So - coffee in March, then?

The Coffee Lady said...

"This may be the best thing that could ever have happened to me."

It could well be, or it could be good for a while. Enjoy it while you can - I've only ever had small blasts of it.

Bea said...

I've often wondered how it even works that most day-cares won't take babies until 15 or 18 months, when maternity leave is 12. What do people do? Just the other day I talked to a woman who took 3 months of unpaid leave to fill the gap until the local day-care could take her twin sons - but even that option isn't available to most people, as your story proves. I don't regret using home-care because I think it offers some solid advantages, but I don't think that should be the ONLY option available. What is really needed here is a public day-care program that begins at 12 months. It sounds like this SAHM season will be a really good thing for your family - but it would have been nice to choose it without having that choice forced upon you.

kgirl said...

I have been stressed out for you since you (we) went back to work. The running back and forth... I wasn't sure how you could do it, and I didn't realize the full extent of the toll it was taking on you.

Your workplace sucks. Big time. If there's a union rep you can write to, you should.

But in the meantime, enjoy being at home. Are you going to still try to get little guy into C's daycare, and then look for something else? Or are you SAHM for the long haul?

Either way, enjoy it, and remember that, in the end, things really do have a way of working out for the best.

p.s. will play hooky one day soon for a playdate!

Mamalooper said...

The running around is a great part of why I ended up deciding to be at home. That and the fact that the nature of my work means that I would be primarily away late afternoons/early evenings (you counsel people when they are available).

It's hard to find that balance without running yourself ragged. Am around if you want to grab a coffee/playdate/whatever.

Ali said...

this post hits home for me. so much. too much. though our situations are a little different, i struggle with the feeling sick to my stomach from the juggling...the kids, the carpools, the homework, plus my job(s)...some days i feel like quitting. some days i feel like blasting my future wide open too.

Beck said...

If you want some book recomendations, I have some good ones about dealing with a sudden switch to one income and how to live QUITE cheaply. In the meantime, your boys are at a nice age to have you home more with them - but geez, your situation just SUCKS. I am so sorry.

Don Mills Diva said...

Wow - as someone who works in labour I'm stunned that you were treated that way.

I would be raising hell with my union - the way you were treated is inexcusable.

ewe are here said...

Wow. Governments claim they want mothers to be able to work, but they don't mean it. If they did, they wouldn't make it so impossible.

Good, quality day care shouldn't be that hard to find. Wait lists shouldn't be years long. And a little flexibility until children hit school age isn't an unreasonable request.

Perhaps if more men were put into the position of work or take care of kids, not both, things would change.

Mac and Cheese said...

I feel and understand your anger, but at the same time, I'm really happy for you. My old workplace was a lot more understanding than yours, but it didn't change the fact that I didn't like it at all. My worst day at home is always better than any day back in the cubicle. You are so lucky to be able to spend this time with the boys as many don't have the option. Structure is overrated.

No Mother Earth said...

Kittenpie - Absolutely. We're on. Sooner, if we can.

Bea - Exactly. I dislike feeling forced to do anything. Even if it is something I want.

Kgirl - We've had to let Big C's fulltime spot go because of money, but he will still go a couple mornings a week. (Play hooky soon please!)

Mamalooper - I'd love a playdate WITH coffee!

Beck - Email me.

DMD - I have a question for you. Will email.

DaniGirl said...

Oh my goodness... it's been ages since I managed to drop by for a visit, and I'm just gobsmacked to see all this. How awful for you! What the hell decade is this, anyway, and whatever happened to work/life balance?

I hope this turns into an opportunity instead of a disaster for you, and am wishing you a giant reduction in stress and anxiety. No advice, but huge sympathy!

Kyla said...

Scary and totally sucky, but I like that you can see the possibility in it, that something good might still be in store.

cinnamon gurl said...

Wow, that's just awful how your employer treated you. I just can't imagine how an employer could not accommodate a leave of absence - especially one so short. If you were ill, they'd just have to.

But good for you for standing firm, and like you say, you'll never regret more time with the boys.

wheelsonthebus said...

really? they really just couldn't find some way to make it work? jerks.

crazymumma said...

I guess that means I will come to your place for tea one morning and play with your boys.

hmmmm?

or perhaps come the spring they may enjoy a walk around doggie hill with me and Knight....

bren j. said...

It's amazing how stress can almost creep up on us and make us so physically sick. I'm glad you're feeling better physically and I hope you can get some closure with the job soon.
That said, I hope you'll love being a SAHM. I have to say, the LG is teething (again!) and this last week I have spent wishing I was the one with the full-time job but this is where I am, not every mom who wants to stay home is able to, and I should just learn to be content with it....and the fact that if I want to, I can spend half my day in sweats (or maybe even pajamas). :)

And of course, now you'll have more time for blogging! Yay!

b*babbler said...

I am so angry for you, and having been in uncomfortable work situations, I completely feel for you.

That said, I think that sometimes these things happen for a reason. SAHM is hard, and learning to define yourself in the absence of an outside job can be difficult, but ultimately there is a lot that is rewarding about staying at home. (Especially after you learn to live beyond the schedule :)

Honestly, the running to and from daycare and the cramming in of schedules was scaring me to death and making me sick when we were making the decision about whether or not I would stay home. Standing here now, 18 months after making the decision, it truly was the best decision.

Play date soon? I can drive down!

Katie Valentine said...

So let me get this right. You went in and said, lookit. I've got no care, so either I have to bring the wee one, or I'm going to need a few weeks - with no pay, of course - and they said no??

So what was your choice? Were you able to speak with HR?? Because I would definitely, definitely speak to the union. That's why you pay the damn dues. Let them do their work!!

I'm pretty sure there's some sort of human rights issue there. If union doesn't help, and you feel like you at least deserve a leave package (which is what I would consider pursuing if I were you) I might actually speak to a lawyer.

Because there should have been flexibility.

But on the other hand - yay, you!!

Well done. I know there were no choices, but I also recognize (and long for) the feeling of freedom that certainly must come with this.... (Just think of me, doing the drop of and fighting the no-trasit traffic here in the capital)

MaryP said...

Ooo, exciting!

The stuff with the work? That stinks. You deserved better, and, very obviously, they DON'T deserve you. And now they don't have you. Nyah.

Meantime... oh, the possibilities. Time with your boys, time for yourself, and when/if money becomes an issue, time to re-invent your earning sources: self-employment? consulting? teaching?

Haley-O said...

I'm sorry you were treated like that. And I hope, and trust, you'll find you're new life so much more rewarding!

Mimi said...

i am agog. absolutely agog. what the hell is wrong with this world that you can't find decent, affordable, safe care -- that's reliable, too? where you can't take a leave from a long-term job to care for your kids? it's insane. i'm too mad to talk.

i hope you will be happy to be home--your situation sounds like it was pretty grim, and it may indeed work out well for you.

but it wasn't your choice, and i am, as a result, enraged.

Woman in a Window said...

OMG. You should have come to my place and alerted me! I didn't hear the sirens. My god, where have I been?

ok, calmer. I'm proud of you. Right there. I'm proud of you. Not because you're home. Not because you fought or didn't fight, but because you made the best choice in a very difficult decision. GOOD ON YOU! Now, where did those graham crackers get to?

painted maypole said...

i hope that this all turns out to be a wonderful blessing, whether you end up staying home full time or finding another job that works better with the schedules or some other possibility

Jaina said...

Congratulations! I hope you enjoy being a SAHM. :) I'm sure everything will work out for you and your family. How lucky your little ones are that you were able to make that decision.