Friday, August 26, 2011

Forks In the Road

Life goes along, you know?

Day by day, things go by, little by little. Most of life is really quite unplanned once we make the Big Decisions.

Then, every once in awhile, the Big Decisions come along. I have never really been good at the Big Decisions, mostly becauseI am not one of those people who just "live in the moment". I am a planner, always have been, and whenever I make a Big Decision, I see the long term effects of it and have to weigh everything carefully. Once I make the Big Decision, I am actually pretty good about living with it, but the making. . . oh, the making.

Walk with me.

The past three months, we have taken some big hits financially. You might remember, I got laid off from my part time job, which didn't make a lot, but was a bit extra each month. Hit #1.

Hit #2 was a string of health needs. Emma was in the doctor five times in one week. Long story. I also have been having more and more trouble with my neck. I cannot function when it goes out and my physical therapy is not covered until we hit our $2000 deductible and then it is covered at 60/40. I tried so hard not to get therapy the first two times it went out, but the cost was that I think I hurt myself more and have cost us more money in the long run.

The most crucial hit, however, was Hit #3, a change in health care plan at M's work, where the amount we had to pay went up - an increase was over $340 per month. Unfortunately, our insurance didn't get any better. We still have huge deductibles and then co-insurance and my PT is still not covered. I know this is hardly a unique situation. I don't really know anyone that has "good" insurance. But we had about two week's notice before the switch and increase went into effect and that's kind of a big amount to suddenly come up with each month out of a budget that was already tight. Before the increase, we had enough to meet our monthly obligations and a very tiny bit extra for fun spending, and that was about it. We are fortunate that we have a decent amount in savings, and so when something like the car needing new brakes comes up (as it did last month - July was a rough month), we have to take that money from savings. Which wasn't a big deal when it happened occasionally, but it seems to be happening more and more often. Yes, I know that is what savings is for, but as that amount dwindles, so does our comfort level. We went through our budget last month and got rid of anything remotely "fun", downgrading cell phone plans, cable t.v., etc., and the numbers are still falling a bit short.

Enter the Big Decision (which I haven't done a good job of suspense-building - I am sure you see this one coming).

I have a former boss who I worked for at J&J. Let's call him. . . Da Man. Well, Da Man has contacted me me about once a year with a diferent job opportunity since I had Will. He works for a different company now, but it is the same industry. Each year, I have been tempted to take the job offer, and each year, I have decided it wasn't time.

This past Monday, Da Man called. He has an opportunity for me that most people would kill for. Believe me, in this economy, Iknow, I am a LUCKY woman.

Here are the upsides (of which, there are many): I will actually make slightly more than I did when I walked away from my career three years ago, which. . . well, it's more than a good salary, with great benefits. The territory is small (relatively speaking - no overnight travel) and familiar to me (I worked it before). I will work from home (though not at home, I will need to be away for the majority of the day) and have some flexibility in planning my schedule. After I am established with the company (let's say six months to a year), getting time off for sick kiddos, doctor's appointments, special events, etc., is a non-issue. I have worked for Da Man before. He worked me like a dog, but he also thinks a lot of me, respects what I do, and is a family man himself so understands that they will still come first. To me, one of the hardest aspects of a new job is learning a new manager and how they "tick". I've got Da Man kind of figured out. I know how to keep him happy and what is important to him.

Here are the downsides: The training is in New Jersey. For three weeks. Unfortunately, I cannot come home on weekends and the kids and M cannot visit. For someone who has been with her kiddos 24/7 since they were born, this is hard for me to get over (yes, I know it is temporary, it still is something that is hard to deal with). There are national and regional sales meetings about once a quarter to bi-quarterly. Those are usually less than five days long, but it will still be hard. I hated them even before I had kids and only had to leave the furbabies and M. There are days when my schedule will be insane. Sales is sales. You go where the money is, when the money is. There were nights when I wasn't home until midnight and then would turn around and leave the next morning before the sun was up. Obviously, I have some control over this, but there will be times when I do not. There are field rides which are awful in length and intensity, and Da Man loved working with me. He worked with me a LOT (once a month or more). My world kind of stopped before when I had to ride with my manager. That is going to be hard with kids. I know I will reach a new balance and figure it out. It's just intimidating.

And, the ultimate downside. . . I will no longer be with my kids everyday. I know many of you, my dear readers, are working outside the home parents. I respect that with every fiber of my being. This choice is a highly personal one that has to work for each family and no one can make for anyone else. However, I think we make these choices and then live with them based on a tape we play in our head. So, let's say you work. Your tape would support that choice. Let's say you don't work. Your tape supports that. Not to say that either tape is wrong or right, but it's what keeps you going, what helps you feel comfortable with the decision you've made. And while I have heard some moms say that being at home wouldn't be for them, I really have enjoyed being at home (though I do spend a lot of time worrying about what the future holds) and spending my day with these two amazing little people.

We looked at several daycare facilities today. One was an absolute NO GO. I mean, I wouldn't leave my furbaby there. One was decent. One was your cadillac, top-of-the-line facility where our children will be taught Spanish, Manners, and Reflective Dance (I am not kidding). All of them made me cry. It's not that there was really anything wrong (with the last two anyway). It's just that they aren't. . . ME.

A good friend has offered to watch them, but my hesitation is that I haven't heard a lot of successful stories of mixing friendship and childcare. She also wants a "trial" basis and I don't know what we'll do if it turns out to be too much for her and then I've aready taken the job. I also think she wants a more casual arrangement, and I need someone who will be there when I need them to be (within reason).

M refuses to look off of Craigslist or do a state-licensed home daycare (for security reasons) and nanny services are so expensive that it would really negate the financial benefits of me returning to work. So. . . it's pretty much either finding a nanny through word of mouth or using a daycare center. But, I think we can find something. I just have to stop playing the tape.

So, my tape has been playing for a long time. It's hard to unwind that tape and start playing a new one. I realize I am fortunate to even have a decision to make.

I mean, we could keep hobbling along, barely making ends meet. This causes a lot of stress for both of us. Or. . . we could choose a different path where we won't have to hobble along.

So. . . I don't even know what I am looking for here. This is decision that we have to make together. I guess I just needed to put all of this down. And if I am quiet for awhile, you will know why.


Anonymous said...

That's a tough decision. One that my husband and I just recently made. Most people think we're nuts, but we decided to just take the financial hit. Like you, we have quite a bit of savings, and can financially pull off our lifestyle indefinitely, barring any major emergencies (which no one can really plan for). My kids are five and three, and I decided to start really looking when my youngest is in kindergarten. For me, the money is not worth the worrying about who is taking care of my kids. Good luck!

HereWeGoAJen said...

That is a big decision to have to make. I know you will figure out what works for your family.

Nicky said...

Oy, you have my sympathies with this decision. I never aspired to stay home with my kids, and I'm interviewing for jobs right now, but I'm trying to decide if full-time is the right choice for me. I also draw a hard line at anything requiring too much travel -- I am super comfortable with our daytime child care, but feel awful any time I miss bedtime. And the only time I have EVER been away from LL when he woke up in the morning was when I was in the hospital with Kermit. That's the limit I set for myself.

My two pieces of advice, if you want them. First, the only people I know who are unhappy with their working arrangements, whether they stay home or work out of the house, are the people who feel that they were FORCED into that decision, usually for financial reasons. So while finances are a definite factor for you, be sure that you also really want the job for your own enjoyment as well.

Second, it's hard when you are feeling financially insecure and you have a job offer to get perspective on the fact that this is NOT the only job out there. You've had several offers come to you over the years. If you're uncomfortable with the travel requirements of this job, you can always start actively looking for one that is a better fit for you and your family. Even if you decide that you SHOULD go back to work, it doesn't mean that you need to take THIS job just because it's available to you right now.

Good luck with your decision!

A New Beginning said...

Good luck to you in your decisions. Just remember it is your and your family's alone. Try not to worry about what other people think (easier said than done).

You all will do what is right for your family.

Good luck and congrats on which ever path you choose.

Searching said...

Ugh, such a lot of stress in the past few months for your family!! WIll be praying for your peace with this decision!

erin said...

try looking for someone on SitterCity..... theyre a great point of contact and have references and Ive been lucky there as have some other mommy bloggers and friends I know.... Good luck. I know it is a tough choice, and one that I never had to make as I had to work, but you'll do the right thing for you, your family, and the kids will thrive with interaction from other people and more situations. Whatever you decide- it'll be the right choice.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely a hard decision but one I have no doubt you will be able to make and live with. Thinking of you and wishing you the best with whatever you decide. ((hugs))

Beth said...

Big hugs to you Katie. You'll certainly do what's right for you and your family. Praying that you find peace in what you choose.

Pamala said...

The in home daycare I take my youngest to has cameras I can watch all day long. In every room. Perhaps you can find a place like that?

Anonymous said...

I second what Nicky said. This isn't your only opportunity.

You already have proof that your working part-time was enough income for your family to keep from dipping into savings on a regular basis. And you know that it's very important to you to be there for Will and Emma on a more regular basis than what this opportunity seems to be able to provide.

So here's a thought: Maybe you don't need a job that has great pay or even benefits. Maybe you could "settle" for now and do some dead-end work until the kids are older and you feel more comfortable with being away from them for longer.

If you want to think about maybe doing this, I suggest looking at local hotels. I have to work to make ends meet at all, so I work at a hotel three nights a week from 11 pm to 7 or 8 am, just staffing the desk and balancing the day's transactions. It's easy work (I actually have about 3 hours of actual work in an 8 hour shift and spend the rest of the time on my laptop!), and with a background in sales you might enjoy it. Granted there are no benefits here, but honestly the pay isn't too bad. I make more than most unskilled workers do. Most importantly though, Tatoe is asleep before I leave and still asleep when I return. All he knows is that sometimes Daddy takes the night time feedings. Those days with him after I've been up all night at work are kind of rough, but it's worth it to me to be able to be home with him.

Rebecca said...

Those are some tough decisions. Yes, the opportunity sounds great, but that training?? YIKES! You'd think in today's society of telecommuting, you'd at least be able to get away with part of it being done from home.

What about an au pair? Many of my friends have one and apparently, it can be cheaper than day care.

I hope you feel comfortable in your damn hard.