Freefalling, part two
April 20, 2006
I've been unemployed once before. It was 2001 and I was working at a small software start-up in Virginia -- one of those tiny dot.com outfits that spent a lot of time and effort telling people that it wasn't a dot-com, it had a PRODUCT, and even though the PRODUCT would pretty much eat your computer alive from the inside out and no one had ever bought a single copy of the PRODUCT, we had loads of funding and free soda and snacks in the kitchen.
We'd had layoffs once before, and I survived miraculously by virtue of having the smallest salary in the company. I got bounced around as a technical writer, marketing manager, events coordinator, office-supply-closet stocker and office-coffee-pot scrubber. I also paid the company's bills, but the checks always bounced and I got very good at blaming our bank and promising to "look into things," which meant testily emailing various VPs about the need to STOP SPENDING SO MUCH DAMN MONEY ALREADY.
I stayed because I had no where else to go. One time I submitted a couple articles to magazines and got rejected and hid in the office bathroom to cry.
After 9/11, there were more layoffs. My friend ran a scan of the company email server and found a bunch of emails from the executives as they bargained and jockeyed for their team members and compiled the List of the Damned.
My friend was on the list; I wasn't. I took him out for lunch and we never went back -- we stayed at a bar instead doing shot after shot of straight vodka and waited for the terrorists to blow us all up.
Hours later I realized I'd left my coat at the office and stumbled back in sometime around 5:30 with a mouthful of Altoids and my high heels in my hand. The company president was waiting for me, and within 10 minutes I was packing up my desk and wondering if he knew that I was drunk off my ass.
My severance package was one month's worth of pay. I was out of work for three months. We'd bought our condo that summer -- with a mortgage that we figured we'd "grow into" with mad raises and stock options and I don't know, a magic money tree we'd grow in the window box. We'd spent all of our savings on the downpayment and refinishing the goddamn floors.
I sent out hundreds of resumes and stayed in bed all day and reused the coffee grounds. When I accidentally missed the dentist appointment I desperately needed before my health insurance ran out, they informed me I owed a $50 fee and I broke down in hysterical tears because I simply didn't have $50. I filed for unemployment and got called a white bitch by some random guy in the waiting area.
In complete panic, I took a hefty pay cut and accepted a marketing job with little government contractor. They never told me that I'd be working by myself in a little satellite office or that the "contracts" they listed on their client list were mostly from the 1980s or that my entire budget for brochures and events and advertising for the year was $9,000.
And so I spent a few horrible weeks printing out my boss's email and trying to explain to her that you don't "open" Windows, it's just WHAT YOUR COMPUTER RUNS ON DUMBASS, and being tasked with tracking what happened to this one restaurant that the company president ate at once, he forgets the name, but it was Thai food, or maybe Vietnamese, anyway, it's gone now but please find out when and why it closed and when I suggested that *just maybe* this wasn't the best use of my time I was reprimanded for "clinging to my title" and "not being a team player."
Then my former boss at a financial publishing company called -- the company I left a year before to go make my Internet stock option fortune -- and offered me a job. I packed up my desk that day and left a Post-It on my boss's computer monitor telling her that I would not be returning, thanks ever so fucking much.
I have been here ever since.
And now I am leaving.
And while Rockstar Mommy's Jerry-Maguire-like exit scenario (WHO'S COMING WITH ME? Y'ALL SUCK AND I AM TAKING THE FISH.) certainly sounds way awesome, quitting your job is rarely that dramatic. Or fun. It kind of sucks. And my office doesn't have any fish.
It was more like this: "Hello, I have bad news and would like to awkwardly hand you a resignation letter while making relationship-like platitudes of It's Not You, It's Me, We're Just Different People Now and I Don't Think We Mesh Very Well" and then I got all choked up because my boss -- my completely fantastic crate-racing jello-shooting boss -- said all he cared about was that I was happy.
And I am happy.
I can't tell you a lot of particulars about what I'll be doing -- yet -- but I will soon. I hope y'all will like it, and I hope you will read it. There will probably be some contracting for my current company along with some stuff that makes me tremble with excitement every time I think about it because I WILL BE A WRITER, A REAL-LIVE WRITER WHO GETS MONEY FOR WRITING THAT SHE WRITES HER DAMN SELF.
A lot of people think having a baby pretty much puts your life on hold. That babies and families are what keep women bashing against the glass ceiling. That your dreams take a backseat to your child's dreams.
I will tell you this: Bullshit.
The opportunities I've been given (nay, handed on a fucking silver platter with a pretty caligraphied notecard that says "For Amy") would never have come to be if not for Noah. I wouldn't have had the voice or the experience or the simple GUTS to go after them. Noah inspires me in so many ways -- to be a better writer, a better person and to do whatever it takes to give him the very best life possible.
Back when I was still on maternity leave, Jason and I agonized over our budget because MAN, did I love this motherhood business. MAN, did I want to stay home. We came up with a number. The amount of money beyond Jason's salary that we.just.plain.needed.every.month.not.negotiable.amen.
My experience back in 2001 taught us that living off our savings -- the savings we've meticulously built up over the years because NEVER FUCKING AGAIN will we live that close to the edge of the financial cliff -- was not something we were willing to do, even temporarily. And so we were left with this number. It alternatively seemed (to me) deliciously attainable and yet...totally impossible.
So I came back from maternity leave a different person, to a slightly different job than the one I'd left in September. I'm so glad I did. I owed it to myself to try. I owed it to Jason to not force him into a breadwinner role that he wasn't comfortable with. I owed it to Noah to make sure his parents weren't stressed out over money and his mother wasn't having anxiety attacks and reusing the coffee grounds again.
But oh my God, I hated it.
I will now and forever have the deepest admiration for mothers who work outside the home. I don't know how you do it. Because I sucked at it. I was always rushed and overloaded and running late and tired -- oh my God, so tired -- and if there was anything I hated more than the morning rush it was the drive home at night. I missed Noah so badly and he was RIGHT THERE in his infant carseat but I couldn't see him or play with him and traffic meant another 45 minutes of our time together was sucked away from us.
By Friday I was so tired and worn out that I seriously had no business getting behind the wheel with Noah in the car. So Fridays were the days that I missed my exit or locked my keys in the car or spilled coffee on myself or made a million other stupid mistakes. I was so tired of the colds and viruses and using my sick leave to care for Noah then dragging my diseased ass in because I just couldn't miss any more work.
I had to make a change. And I've made it and it's terrifying and exciting and I AM SO FUCKING GRATEFUL. Because I know. Just a couple months ago I stared at our budget for the millionth time, trying to scale back more and more and it just wasn't going to happen. I didn't have a choice. I think it's bullshit to kid ourselves that all women in this country really, truly have a choice.
Oh, but you choose to live in an area where real estate costs seventy million dollars a square foot. You choose to have two cars. You choose to have a date night with your husband. You choose these things because you are not a good parent.
Arrrrgh. The whole thing makes me want to poke pointy things in people's eyes.
Anyway. Stuff came together for me. Details coming soon. Maybe it was luck, fate, karma, God's chosen plan -- I have no idea. But honestly? It worked out because of you guys. Because you come here and read and comment and frantically refresh and give a rat's ass about my family and what I have to say. Or maybe you just want baby pictures. Or maybe you hate me and keep reading in hopes that I'll get hit by a truck. I don't know. But thanks for upping my stats anyway and helping me prove that there's an audience for run-on sentences about poop. And for giving me the confidence that hey, maybe I don't completely suck.
When I think about how you -- all of you -- have touched my life and changed it for the better; about where I would be without this blog, this outlet; and about how Noah and I have an army of friends and allies (I refuse to call any of you strangers) out there -- Jesus God, it renders me absolutely speechless.
(HA! Yet look at how I am still talking.)
So. I am serving out two more weeks. May 3rd is my last day. Then I get the nifty WAHM acronym and the chance to do everything I've ever wanted, plus the one thing I never realized would mean so much to me.
I couldn't have done it without you. Thank you.