Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Working 9-5...okay, 8-5

First, I want to thank everyone for their thoughts / prayers / good wishes for my mother. She had lymph node surgery last week, and the lymph nodes came back clear which is a really really good thing.

Second, I need to apologize for being such a bad blogger / commenter. Things have been a bit crazy at work. I used to be able to sneak some time at work to update my blog and comment on others, but not so much anymore. Just when I needed things to be slowing down here, my workload picked up. One of my co-workers got transferred to a new location, and I got stuck picking up a huge amount of the slack.

While they are all very nice human beings outside of the workplace, my co-workers are oblivious to how difficult things are becoming for me. I work in an academic library, which I am discovering is a much more physical job than I originally thought. There's a lot of standing up, bending to pull a 15 pound journal from the bottom shelf, pushing fully loaded carts, climbing onto a step stool and stretching to get a 15 pound journal from the top shelf, going up and down the stairs because the elevator is broken yet again. You get the picture. It's not the most physical job in the world, but everything is much harder with a belly in the way. I've made my boss aware (on multiple occasions) that I need help with the more physical aspects of the job, but nothing comes of it.

I am trying to balance being careful not to overexert myself with my need to save time for maternity leave. I will only be paid and receive insurance coverage while using my accumulated sick days. I have 65 days saved up, so that should get me close to 3 months off. Ideally, I'd like to take the bulk of that time off after the babies are born, and not before. Honestly, I still have absolutely no idea what will happen work-wise after the babies are born, and it's beginning to stress me out. Currently Elizabeth has a postdoctoral fellowship, which pays fairly well but does not offer health benefits. My job does not pay well, but it does allow me to cover Elizabeth on my insurance. Our original plan was that I would quit my job after the babies were born, because Elizabeth would surely have a job by then. Unfortunately, the academic job market is terrible. Last year was the worst year for job seekers in Elizabeth's field in decades- this year there are 25% fewer jobs than last year. It's a very difficult situation for someone trying to break into the academic job market.

Since we can't count on a job coming through for Elizabeth this year, our first plan was that I would go back to work after my leave is up since I have insurance. Elizabeth would quit her job and be a SAHM because her job does not offer insurance. It doesn't make sense for both of us to go back to work and put 2 infants in daycare. I am humiliated to admit this, because the rest of you seem so well off, with great jobs and homes that you own, but the cost of putting 2 infants in daycare would take up nearly every penny of my paycheck.* It just doesn't make sense to work so hard at a job I don't like, just so that someone else can raise my children. If I earned a bit more, it would be different because I would actually have some income left over that could be used for savings or household expenses. It just doesn't make sense to have someone else raising our kids if one of us could stay home and our financial bottom line would be the same.

Now, Elizabeth is considering staying on at her fellowship for another year because it actually brings in more money than my full time job. We would have to purchase insurance which would put us in a very tight financial situation, but we could manage. Either way, it's going to be a tough decision to make. I'm still hoping that a full time job with benefits comes through for her, because a larger salary + health insurance included would make our financial situation so much easier.

One of the things that's breaking my heart the most about our current financial situation is that with only one small income, we'll have to stay in our current one bedroom apartment. Like so many others, when I dreamed about babies in my future, I fantasized about decorating the perfect nursery. My mother-in-law threw us a baby shower last week, and we received some heart meltingly sweet home made gifts. I want a special place to put all of these lovely things. I want to give my babies a place of their own. In this regard, I feel like I have already failed them. Rather than giving them a little room just for them, we'll try to make the best of our terrible floor plan apartment and find a way to squeeze swings in between file cabinets, to fit an extra dresser and changing table in the bedroom without putting the bed and co-sleeper near the drafty window, etc. In the meantime, I'm trying to stay hopeful that something will come through at the last minute so I can give my babies everything they deserve.

And now to try and catch up on the rest of blogland!

*Elizabeth and I do combine our earnings for shared expenses. If we put our kids in daycare, it won't be coming out of my income alone. It just makes it easier to visualize the impact daycare would have on our finances by realizing that one income would essentially be gone.


A+K said...

Hi There!
K & I discuss your exact situation frequently. The "what if". It's not easy but I agree with you whole-heartedly that it's hard to justify working JUST to pay for daycare, especially in a job that you don't really love from the depths of your soul :)

Good luck in your decision, whatever it may be. Here's hoping Elizabeth finds a great job and that your cookie crumbles just the way you're hoping it will :) And remember, no matter what happens, you will have 2 beautiful babes to love on ;) Hang in there!

tbean said...

Don't feel badly or embarrassed. It was only 9 months ago that my wife and I started to make a decent income and that was after years and years of being poor grad students. Plus, it was only a fluke that we got a job in a housing market that made it even conceivable to buy a house. And even still, if we had twins on the way, daycare would wipe out one entire paycheck as well and I have no idea what we would do because there is no way we could live on just the remaining salary. These are hard, hard decisions. I don't know how twin families do it.

Pomegranate said...

I empathize very much with this. Tam and I own our place, but it is a one-bedroom condo. Tam is more-or-less unemployed (currently working as a census interviewer) and has been for quite a while now. On top of it all, there's the credit card debt and Tam's college loans. We have thought about postponing the baby until we are in a better financial place, but the biological clocks are also ticking. We have no idea what we'll do about the living space if/when we get pregnant. We're wishing-hoping-praying Tam has a real job by then, but if not she will be the SAHM.

I just wanted to post this because I feel the same way you do so much of the time. I always feel a little comforted to know others are struggling, too.

AdventuresInBabyMaking said...

Hey! Thanks for posting. I had been wondering about you guys, and
thinking of nagging you to update. Glad to hear the update on your mom, too. I had been wondering about her in the last few days, as well. Really glad to hear the good news!

Don't even be embarrassed about your financial situation. We were poor grad students, too, and even after I had a really hard time finding a job. My job - for all the responsibilities I have - pays pathetically low. I mean, most people would be very surprised, I think, to know what I earn. It's sad. Not to mention that V is in academia, too, and she could make (literally) double if she worked in industry.

Anyway, daycare for the two stinkers would take a ridiculously big chunk of my paycheck, too, sadly. With our mortgage, we can't afford to have so little of my check. So we are shooting for each one of us working from home one day per week, and pay for daycare three days. Things will still be tight, but do-able. Anyway, we're trying to go w/ an at-home daycare, which will be less expensive. Is that an option? Our friend is pregnant now, and she wants to stay home and take a kid or two in to earn extra income, so we hope that she'll be our person.

What about you working just a couple of days a week (maybe at your current job, maybe elsewhere)? I think that Starbucks also offers insurance for part-time workers. Not your dream job, I'm sure, but if you could work a couple of nights per week, maybe it would be worth it?

As far as your apartment, I'm sorry that it isn't what you're envisioning, but the good news is that the kiddos won't care!

Anonymous said...

C and I are in much the same situation. I make a decent living as a teacher, she makes very little as a special ed aide. Day care would cost her whole salary if we were to have twins, so I hear you. We're pretty torn because we don't want a daycare to raise our (eventual, possible...) children. BUT, it's mine dream to stay home, not C's at all, but she doesn't make enough to support us. It's a bum deal. We do own our home but it's a small condo. Life is hard, hon. You have 3 months saved up! That's pretty great.

Sorry things are so hard. :(

Two Moms, Two Monkeys said...

So happy to hear your mom is doing well...that is awesome news!

As for being embarassed, DON'T be! I envy you for even having the opportunity to stay home with your babies, and yes I'd give it all up and live in a smaller house/apt. if it meant I could stay home with our boys. Its amazing how your priorities change when you have kids. There is nothing harder then leaving them everyday.

Child care is so expensive especially for two! We are lucky that we have my mom to watch our boys, which makes it easier, but we still pay her roughly what it would cost if they were at a daycare center. It isn't cheap! I know we still get a deal considering, she is my mom so there is nobody I'd trust more than her, she comes to us, and she does extras like laundry and dinner! If you lived closer I'd totally offer her up! ;)

As for having a nursery...I totally understand your wanting to make it a wonderful special place, but don't lose any sleep over it. We put so much work into the boys room and for the first 6 months all the necessities ended up in our room (including the babies) and the nursery was used by NOBODY!
If I knew then what I know now, I'd have saved a whole lot of money and time. Next baby, doesn't even get a crib until we know he/she will actually sleep in it!

Ruby at Breathedragon said...

I think we all have fantasies about making our homes absolutely perfect for our babies, and most of us fall short of our fantasies. But honestly, I think the babies will care waaay more about having a loving home with two devoted parents than they will about having the perfect room. I felt like I learned a lot from living abroad with families in Spain and Costa Rica in teeny, tiny, homes where you just have to figure out where to put everything and everyone, or by watching families of 5 riding on one moped in Vietnam. Americans in their huge, divided houses and big cars where siblings can't even touch each other seemed so...unfamilial after being around that. So I think there is something to be said for a little squish!

Anonymous said...

I just lost the last comment i typed >:/

What i want to say is, don't be embarassed or disappointed about where you are. It's only been within the past couple of years, since i got out of school, that we have gone from devistatingly poor to having two jobs with benefits. I only make half of what Cat does and if we had to put both the kids in daycare, it would take my entire income, unless we sent them somewhere undesirable and shady. The only way we can manage this is if I go back to work and the only way I can do that is because a friend is going to nanny for us. She is unemployed, has a 1 yr old and wants to stay home with her son. She is going to nanny for us basically, 2 for the price of 1 (or 1 1/1). If not for this arrangement, i have NO idea how we would do it. I hope she doesn't change her mind after a week with all three kids!

We don't own either. This city is so expensive and we could never afford a 3 bdr in our neighborhood on our income. The house is old and quirky (that's a nice way to say it) but it's the best we can do right now and it's good enough. Not my dream but we do the best we can.

Cat and I were talking about $$ the other day though and remembering much harder times in our lives and you know what? We were sooo broke (like get the phone shut off broke) but we were happy, really happy. We lead a charmed life, poor as it was, and I know you and E do too. You will look back on your apartment with such affection because that is the place you started your family. You will have happy healthy kids and everything you need there.

I hope E finds a great job, not just because it would be such a huge relief, but also as reward for her hard work. It'll happen... soon I hope.

As for you, try to take it easy. This is so much harder physically than I thought it would be. Bending, standing and walking are really difficult. If your boss won't take measures to accomodate you, ask your HR for help. I promise they do not want anything to happen to you or your babes, especially if they could have made a simple accommodation for you.

I'm so glad to hear better news about your mom.

Anonymous said...

throwing my towel into the *not well-off* ring! please don't feel too bad as while i'm sure we all want the best possible space for our babies, people have made it work, and even look pretty great in the process, raising kids in small apartments! i wish more people would blog this out because i was beginning to think we were the only ones doing whatever it takes to stay above water (we pay a nm mortgage, boston rent, and i'm still not having luck getting a job with a paycheck)! anyway, i've been singing this song from our tiny 450 sf apartment a lot lately and it always makes us feel better...check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjFaenf1T-Y
maybe it could be your baby anthem?

Anonymous said...

one more thing! check out this link: http://tinyurl.com/2wvucsy

P said...

Happy to hear the news about your mom. That's a really positive sign.
Don't be embaressed about your financial situation. Like everyone said we all have been there are currently going through the same situation. Times are really tough right now for lots of people. Hopefully the job market is going to be better soon.
You will soon have those two beautiful babies in your arms and as long as you guys are safe and happy thats what matters.
Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

I understand the 'what ifs' all too well. My stepmother has been providing me free day care part time, but now she lost her job and is looking for a full time one. So I am forced to start considering a full time day care in stead of the part time private sitter I've had for 2 years, which makes me so upset. Farty loves his sitter, and she's so good to him, but I can't afford her full time.

I hope something great turns up that will make these worries of yours disappear!

mama bea, bao in the oven said...

So glad to see a new post on your blog! Thanks for your e-mail, too.
I was SO glad to hear the positive news about your mom's successful surgery. That must take a huge load off your mind.
Speaking of loads off, I really wish your coworkers would step it up a notch and take some of the load off your plate! You're in a university setting, right? Is there an HR rep or someone over your boss's head who can step in, if you're still having to do so much physical labor? I would hate to think of you using up that AMAZINGLY HUGE chunk of sick time you've accumulated (kudos, btw) before the birth because your coworkers aren't doing as they should. That would be incredibly lame.
I hear you on the financial woes--as a low-level government employee married to a grad student, we are barely scraping by. I would love to create the perfect nursery too, but alas, we can't afford it. Luckily, our babies won't know the difference--they will be just as loved as those who sleep in fancy cribs.
Thinking of you. xoxo

lyn said...

I know I'm late to this, but I haven't checked on you guys in a while. I'll throw in one other idea, which is if it might be possible for you both to cut down slightly at work which can dramatically reduce daycare costs, but both keep your jobs.

I'm a postdoc now, and it's been fine for me to do some work at home days, combined with some long days at the lab. How practical that is depends on one's advisor and field, but it's worth exploring.

Could you possibly cut to an 80% schedule and keep your benefits? Staying home one day and cutting your daycare need by a full day but keep your benefits, maybe at a prorated level? Could you work four long days and still be 100%, but get that day home?

Mostly I'm saying, consider pushing your employers to at least consider some flexibility, in ways that might keep both of you working outside the home and cut down daycare needs. Believe it or not, that can actually be easier in academic settings than other places, though it can require bucking some serious social pressure.

We'll have two in daycare starting in Sept, and by each staying home one day, we only require a total of 6 days of care (3 X 2). We could not afford 5 days of care for two (it would more than erase one income), but 3 days of care keeps both of us working, and gets both of us time with our kids.

It is NOT easy to work this stuff out. I wish insurance didn't hamper things so much. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

We've got twin babies, we live in a tiny flat, we live on one income.

I've only got one hand free as holding a baby, but just wanted to say: It can be done!

I personally found things less scary and more manageable once my babies arrived. I hope the same is true for you.

Bt easy on the physical labour - can you get signed off work? I was told by all mu medical peeps - and via all research I read - that with twins I should stop working at 28 weeks. Just a thought...not meant to freak you out!