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May 26, 2009

The Recession Was NOT in the Plan

Recession My beautiful baby daughter will be 9 months old this week.

A year ago, I imagined my peaceful and fully funded maternity leave, which was supposed to run from early September through Thanksgiving. I imagined her joining her big brother at the wonderful NAEYC accredited day care program at our church. I imagined replacing my old lemon of a car with my first totally new car, paid for with an anticipated January 2009 bonus.

Six weeks later, the bottom fell out. When I was 7.5 months pregnant, my workplace told me that I was going to be let go just after she was born. Needless to say, all those fantasies flew out the window.

When I recovered from the initial rush of frustration, fear, and anger, I started imagining new futures. I imagined selling our house in Atlanta and moving closer to family in Wisconsin. I imagined finding a new job that I liked even more than the one where I'd been laid off.

Specifically, I imagined job hunting in December and January, and starting a new job in February, or at the latest, March. I imagined buying a new house, to go with the new job, in April or May. I imagined it as the house where we would live for the next 20 or 30 years. I imagined finding a new day care that would miraculously provide the trifecta of good, cheap, and convenient for both kids.

It didn't exactly work out that way either.

So far, I've gotten exactly 2 interviews. The first was for a job with a 90 mile commute, each direction. I was semi-relieved not to get it -- what a hellacious commute that would have been. 

The second interview was for a job that most people in my career have while still in school. I learned about it because one of my bosses is also the mother of one of my very closest friends. She was worried about asking if I might be interested, because she thought I might be insulted. I've been out of law school for 12 years. But she also knew that I had been in Milwaukee and unemployed for almost 6 months.

It isn't a career-sustaining job, but it's a helluva lot better for me than any job involving the question, "Would you like fries with that?" Luckily, they offered it to me, and you can bet I took it. I'm looking at it as a combination of a good learning opportunity -- the firm practices in areas of the law that I've never studied, and the attorneys all have excellent reputations -- and as an income stream while I either find a "regular job" or steel myself to launch a solo effort. (I have some terror of entrepreneurship.)

And how has the recession affected the children? Isn't that what this post is supposed to address?

Directly, only somewhat.

That is, if you don't count moving them out of their home into a rental unit, pulling Noah from a fantastic preschool that he loved, and moving across the country.

But Noah's day to day life still involves 5 day/week preschool -- a Montessori school that I attended as a preschool child (Which, thankfully, becomes half paid for by state 3-K funding starting in the fall.) He is well fed, well dressed, and has plenty of toys and books.  He still lives with his parents and his baby sister. Jill and the kids still have health insurance through her job.

Jill's job has been the source of much of our recession-conscious tension. First, there's the fact that she stayed in Atlanta for 10 weeks after the kids and I moved, before her job could transfer. Then there's the fact that in the new location, team members do at least one "detail" -- or month working in some other location -- per year. So 3 months after she got here, Jill had to go work in Texas for a month.

Noah has spent a lot of the last 6 months acting out. Part of it is probably just "threeevil" but I feel sure that all the change and the intermittent presence of both of his parents has made it a lot worse.

For his sake, I think the stability in school and the fact that we just renewed our lease for another year help to mitigate the impact of the recession. But things like that lease drive home the fact that I'm not in the place in adulthood where I expected to be during the year I turn 40. I don't LIKE renting, and as nice as the couple upstairs are, I'm a little resentful of the fact that I'm not in a single family house.

I also know that he's a smart, sensitive kid. The stress and tension we have about watching our savings shrink away can't be invisible or fully blocked out by our efforts towards normalcy.

I do think there's less of a clear impact on Josie. She's never known anything else, and it seems to me that if breastfeeding has a protective impact on infants whose mothers have post-partum depression, it should have a similar protective impact if the mothers have increased anxiety.

The only obvious loss to her, compared to when her brother was 9 months old, is that we don't make impulse purchases of cute baby toys, gadgets, or irresistible baby clothes. She has a lot more hand me downs and baby recycled gear than he did, and what that doesn't provide is on a much tighter budget.  

I do think that both kids know they are loved dearly, and are part of a family that will do whatever it takes to keep them healthy and safe. And while there is so much more we want to give them, and the end of the day, that's what they need.

The rest turns out to be icing, whatever I might have imagined a year ago.

This is an original Deep South Moms blog post. Liza can regularly be found blogging about her family, life, and opinions at LizaWasHere.

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