My Son Was Diagnosed with Autism – What’s Next?

My husband and I, both with our inability to make eye contact or socialize in a “normal” way, always thought that our children could be autistic. Our families may not be diagnosed (beyond my ADD), but between us and our parents it’s clear there’s something genetic going on in our family on both sides.

When my first son was born, he was always a bit different. I didn’t really know how different until I had my second son who at 10 months seems “neurotypical.” While it’s too early to tell with son 2, he does all the things naturally that they say a baby should do at certain ages, whereas I always had to look at my first son for a while and ask “does he do that?”

For example, my first kid was never interested in others in the room. He would always be a bit in his own world. If there was a loud noise he might turn to look in that direction for a moment, but usually he just kept staring at whatever he was staring at. He never gave much eye contact and certainly didn’t cry when his caregivers left the room. My youngest will turn to look you in the eye when you call his name and is always looking for mom. It’s just night and day between their behaviors.

Of course all kids are different so I didn’t think much of it. But between my oldest son’s heightened sensitivity to sound, his unique obsession with numbers and letters, his ridiculously good memory for a 3 year old (he has memorized all 50 capitals and is on to the country capitals, and is reading many words by sounding them out), his lack of eye contact, his outbursts, seemingly “behind” communication skills with pronoun reversal and other challenges to communicate, I thought it was worth asking my doctor if she thought we should get him screened for autism.

If COVID wasn’t a thing maybe this would have happened sooner, but his 2 year checkup was a quick in and out where the doctor didn’t really want to spend much time with any one patient. We got a new doctor and at the three year checkup she agreed he should be screened. She was kind enough to let us skip the form we were supposed to mail in and wait months to get a call to schedule the assessment and give us the immediate referral.

A month later we. had the assessment. It was all done remote but I think I trust it as the behavioral analyst who conducted the assessment (under a psychologist who joined for the observation part of the evaluation) seemed to know what she was talking about. She asked us a zillion questions and we answered them as honestly as possible. Then she observed my son play for 30 minutes by giving me instructions over headphones so he didn’t know he was being tested. She had me do things like call his name (to see if he looked at me when I did and made eye contact – he did not), point at things on the wall to see if he would turn to look at where I was pointing (he did not, he sometimes looked at my hand by never the direction I was pointing), and a bunch of other tasks like that to confirm that he was not doing the “normal” things a kid would do a this age.

After the observation, 40 minutes later, she got back on the call and told us that he has “Autism I.” There are now 3 levels of Autism and I is the most mild. Nonetheless, it opens up a world of special services and IEPs and decisions and more decisions on what to do to help him.

While I was clearly not surprised by the diagnosis, I do feel a bit overwhelmed by what’s next. I didn’t realize that autistic children can get 20+ hours a week of therapy in their homes! The type of therapy is called ABA and from what I’ve read about it, the therapy sounds pretty awful. A lot of autistic adults say it has traumatized them and I don’t think we want to pursue that route, especially given his case is mild, though I’m learning as much about it as to make the most informed decision. There is an option for 3 hours a week of parent-led ABA in home which would be done via telehealth so we’re considering that. But I think at the end of the day the question is do we think being autistic is something bad that needs to be changed or do we want to help him embrace this personality and not try to change him (but still give him support for specific areas where he can use therapy like speech and OT/PT.)

I’m leaning towards the later. Speech therapy and OT/PT could be helpful for him. I don’t know yet if I’ll be shamed by the doctor for not doing ABA or if they’re open to parent choice. The referral hasn’t even made it back to the doctor yet, so at this point we’re waiting. I’ve read too much in 48 hours online about what to do now, and it sounds like I should contact the school district for a separate evaluation to see if he qualifies for services in the district. He’s quite happy at his co-op, play-based preschool right now, so I really don’t want to to take him out of it.

Everyone says to me “oh but he’s so smart” and I have to remind them that there are a lot of kids who are smart but also have disabilities and without the right support those disabilities can prevent them from achieving what they’re capable of. At this point in my life I’m not even sure that matters so much as just making sure my son can live a happy life and support himself one day. I know what it’s like to struggle with being neurodiverse without the tools to properly handle this as an adult and it’s not fun. So I want to support him but also not make him feel like anything about him is wrong or broken or needs to be changed. I think it’s very important for him to learn and know he is fine the way he is. And everyone can work to improve themselves no matter how their mind works.

It all sounds good in theory, but how the hell do I I manage this working full time and also raising another kid? My mom was a stay at home mother and managed my sister’s challenging journey with the school system (eventually putting her in private school because in third grade she still couldn’t read) and she spent hours upon countless hours figuring out what to do, getting a lawyer to write letters to the school, doing all sorts of things that didn’t work all that well anyway. Who has time for that these days? My friend is currently navigating her school system with an advocate and she has a much more flexible job as a small business owner so she is able to invest time into that. I’m already overwhelmed thinking about how I will schedule and coordinate a small amount of therapy for my son even if we just do weekly speech and OT and PT — plus ensuring my father-in-law, his primary caregiver during the week, does all the things therapy tells us to do.

Can’t my husband do all that? Maybe. He seems somewhat onboard. He knows our son’s behavior is getting challenging. It was good for him to hear the diagnosis I think so we can be on the same page. We can work together to help him and agree that our ASD kid does have some challenges but we can get through them as we are now part of this massive community of parents with ASD kids.

I do wonder, like all parents wonder, if I did anything to cause this. They say kids born with fertility drugs are 2x more likely to have autism. No one knows why. Well, my first son was conceived with drugs to help me ovulate and my second son was conceived without any drugs. My first son also had a longer birth and had breathing issues at birth while my second son had minor breathing issues at birth but never had a lower oxygen level. Did any of these things cause my first born to have autism? How about the fact that I was so tired trying to keep my job and be pregnant that I had a bit too much Coke Zero during the pregnancy? Will they figure out that Coke Zero is causing autism? With my second son I stuck to iced tea. Did my behavior cause his autism?

And even if it did — I know so many successful and smart autistic people, I’m not sure if this is a “bad thing” at all. It just means he is different. And what child of mine would grow up not being different? Different is ok. Different is good. Being normal is boring.

But I do want him to be happy. I worry that he will be picked on in school. So far in pre-school the kids are nice (or just ignore him.) I know there are challenges ahead. Do I have the time to be the mom I want to be to support my children?

 

 

Two Roads To Nowhere and Everywhere: Stay at Home Mom vs Working Mom

I’m sure people reading my blog think I’m crazy with now over $2M in net worth not feeling comfortable leaving work for a while… a few months… a year or two… to spend with my young children. Maybe I am crazy. I’ll tell you what I feel. I feel no different than I did five years ago when my net worth was $500k or 10 years ago when it was $150k.

I am struggling with the concept of time and the time of time. 10 years passes in a blink and yet was it all that fast? I don’t know. 10 years ago with $150k net worth I was just starting my first job in this series of jobs after another series of jobs. I was making $100k. At the time that was such a huge salary I thought I would never earn more. Who would pay me more than $100k for anything?

10 years ago I was 27 going on 28. Approaching my 30s. A far different mindset than approaching one’s 40s. Pre children. Pre marriage. Living with roommates and dating my now husband and struggling with enough depression and self-hatred to push myself to keep going to prove that I could survive. Don’t believe me? It’s all here in this blog. All the years that have sprinted by. The failures. The successes. Three firings later. Day after day of waking up feeling not good enough. Not knowing what I’m doing. Trying to make it work. Trying to fit in. Having good moments. And many bad ones. Ten years later.

What will my life be 10 years from now? I’ll be 47 going on 48. What then? Will this decade feel over in a blink as well? How can I slow it down and make sure it lasts as long as possible – savor every second of it? I don’t know if one can at this age. Time just speeds up. And so there’s time and there’s money. It’s the race of both. You can spend less money. You can’t actually stop time. But to afford to leave the workforce you need a lot of money– and even then the system is rigged against you. That money in the stock market. Sure it will likely keep going up over time. That’s what they tell you. It has in the past. But the past is no indication of what will happen in the future. Though the only way to actually afford the future is to take what you’ve earned and bet on something that likely will go up but really who knows.

I’m too heavy in equities. Too heavy in individual stocks, although mostly in index funds. If the whole market crashes, how much does it matter? Does this mystical, mythical $2M disappear overnight? It doesn’t feel real if it’s not spent and if it’s spent then it isn’t real anymore at all. So it sits there, notated in an overly complex google spreadsheet that I look at each morning to see what it all looks like on that day. I open my computer and start trying to do work for my job that is fulfilling only in when I can help other people do their jobs that I’m uncertain if they find fulfilling or just acceptable in order to earn their own mystical, mythical money. I don’t know. I sit in meetings with senior executives who go off on some rant about something that at best doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the betterment of the world and at worst are stained with sociopathy and that sly smile in passive aggressive attack that only someone with way more money in the bank can slide across their face so damn effortlessly. Everyone is trying to prove to everyone else that they are needed for those ahead of them to win and so even with the best of intentions it becomes this sick game that I’m not cut out to play.

10 years. My father was still alive. Still diagnosed with cancer. Still dying. But alive. Still yelling at my mother. An artist of arrogance. We were all so much younger then. I try to tell myself. 10 years is a long time. 10 years from now my oldest will be 13. Thirteen. My youngest, either 11 or 9 depending if I have another. I’ll hopefully be alive, but 10 years is also a long time for one’s body to attack itself, for health to slowly… or rapidly fail. For my husband to be here or to be ill or not here at all. For my mother to make it to 78 or pass away in her 70s, at an age that no longer inspires those who hear of passing to gasp noting “she was so young” in their condolences. It seems at 70 or maybe 75 it becomes acceptable to die. In ones 80s no one would feel pity over an early death. And 90 is when one feels pity that the person is still living. How fast the years go. Especially if you don’t make the greatest effort to slow them down.

And how can you slow them down? How can I? Well, I feel like there is a choice here. A fork in the road. Like in Squid Game — everyone chooses to play, even after they see what is at stake. Here I am and I see ahead of me 10 years of my children aging from babies to teens and I wonder how much of those 10 years is worth trading for days of panic attacks and feeling horrible at my job and to tired to be much of a mother.

Quit now and move somewhere affordable seems both like an impossible movie plot and an actual life story that could be mine. If only I wanted it enough. And then my husband agreed to it as well. Which would be quite difficult, but if I really knew in my heart it was the right decision — I don’t know — maybe I could convince him we need to leave this place. In a year sell our house. Get away from the rat race. The rat jungle. The rat infestation and bro culture and imposter syndrome and open office spaces and egos and people do don’t have time to connect or build community or they want you to pay a lot to buy in to a community you’ll never be a part of anyway.

If I quit here and stayed here I’d surely eat into my savings quickly. I’d want to do things during the day and going for walks to local parks would get boring after a while, wouldn’t it? There is much to sign up for if you’re a stay at home mom but then you need the money to fund it. Writing is free, at least. But what about my kid’s activities? How do I make sure I have enough to support their lives? I feel that I owe them the upper middle class life I was raised into. I didn’t know how to provide that but somehow through luck and determination here I am. Upper middle class. I guess. It doesn’t feel it. Not like my parent’s generation. One working parent and a nice house with decently nice everything. I’m certainly well off now in most of the world. I certainly don’t feel it.

But I do feel I owe my kids a life at least as good as the one I had growing up. My sister, who makes $14 an hour, refuses to have children because she says she can’t afford them. Yet many people have kids with low incomes — it’s just we were raised into a certain style of childhood and life and we feel our kids deserve at least that. I don’t want my kids to be spoiled. I don’t think I was either. Not horribly so. A little. But not enough to sit on my ass and do nothing. My sister has an incredible work ethic but no belief in herself or her ability to do better. I have random spurts of energy and a character flaw that is my need above all else to prove that I can survive and fit in and thrive in a world that may not be worth surviving.

What if — one year from now — I’m sitting somewhere, some nondescript down maybe — watching waves of a lake-ocean-river-sea crash to shore. Maybe it’s thundering. Or drizzling. Or pouring.  And I’m soaked and running in puddles with my children who are still children. And they don’t remember mom everyday at her laptop working or avoiding working and looking at social media only to be working later when she shouldn’t be because she can’t focus or get anything done. They wouldn’t remember the mess of a house or limited meals but instead clean floors and nutritious fresh food. We’d go on playdates and maybe get to know some people. Really get to know them as friends and build a community, though that’s wishful thinking as being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t suddenly turn me into Miss Popular. But still. What kind of life would that be? One where I am watching my account balances shrink each month instead of grow. I’d be terrified.

That fear is what drives me. But I don’t want to get to 2031 and look back on the last 10 years and say I traded moments for money. I let myself fall into the trap of worrying every single fucking day and waking up each morning feeling sick to my stomach because I know I’ll never do a consistently good enough job at work. Because I’m always on the verge of losing my job and having to admit failure yet again. To pick myself up again. And spend months trying to prove myself. A few victories here and there but nothing enough to stick. And so on. 10 years of that. I don’t know if I can take 10 more years of that.

See, 10 years ago seems like a long time ago. But 4 years ago seems like practically no time at all. Sure, in that time I’ve had two kids and both have grown quite a bit, but that time is all a blur and it doesn’t feel like 4 years it feels like 3 months. Though there is so much of it that I don’t remember. That skips time. And I’m afraid the next 10 years will be that but even faster. So I desperately want to slow the time down. To be present with my family. To take time to be a mom, not a mom who is thinking about the 10 meetings she has the next week while assisting her sons onto an amusement park ride.

I should be grateful that I have the money I do have. It does provide some options. It’s enough to tease me with those options but not enough for the options to be all that real. It’s enough, earned fast enough, to throw in my face that if I leave the workforce I’m not only going to be digging into my savings, but I’m also giving up the opportunity to really get to a place of financial independence for a lifestyle I want to have for my family. Why not a few more months? A few more years? Why not just keep holding my breath until my bank account ticks up to the next hundred thousand? I’m thinking $2.5M before leaving this job, but why not stick around until $3? Why not find another job to take me to $4 or $5M? $5M is the ultimate goal, $200k a year of income from the growth. Maybe then. Maybe then I’ll feel like I can slow down. But when will then be? Will my mind be complete mush by then? It’s hard to say. I just know I’m tired. I’m so tired. I’m tired mentally and physically and I need to sleep. So I’ll sleep now and wonder more about how people make decisions and how I can make decisions and if I’m even allowed to since now I’m a mom and a breadwinner and a home owner and I don’t get to just pick up and change things if they get too hard. This is real adulting. And it better be because I’m fucking old now.

Finding Balance in an Off-Kilter World

Sell the house. Pack everything up. Take the $500k of home equity after realtor fees, consisting of $325k downpayment and $175k in gains, give or take, and move to most anywhere else in the country where one can buy a nice house for $500k or a few hundred k over that, get a part-time or otherwise flexible remote job w/ a tech company in my field, make less money but ultimately still refrain form dipping much into our $1.25M in taxable stocks and $750k in retirement savings. Spend a lot of time with family. Have a big private backyard with grass that is green because it actually rains. Maybe make some new friends. Spend the next 20 years of my life taking it easy, slow aging to 57. Not doing anything revolutionary at work, but it’s not like I’m revolutionizing anything now in my current field.

If I stay I can probably save a bit more. Maybe a lot more. But does that really matter?

It’s all a dream though because my husband will never leave. Despite refusing to earn more he won’t budge. Well, he’s offered moving to Seattle but $500k won’t get you much there either and I’ll fall into depression with the frequent grey skies. It’s a no-go for me.

But I definitely feel like I’m ready for a change. The things that matter to me today are different than they were years ago.

I still want another kid. That kid will likely require IVF. In my mind I’m committed to the Bay Area through that experience. I’ve written a bit about this before, but timeline wise… I start IVF when I’m 39. Hopefully get pregnant before I’m 40. Have the kid at 40. Hopefully have good maternity leave in whatever job I take next. And strong stock that gains (well, nice to have.) We stay in this home for at least 3 more years. Maybe it keeps going up in value. Maybe it comes down in value. It seems like Bay Area housing just goes up and up but it also still seems impossible for this place to be worth much more without work on it. I’m hesitant to put work into the house as I’d rather just leave. I hate having people work on the house when we live here. And each relatively minor project thus far has been a PITA.

I don’t know where we’d go. I don’t think my husband will leave. He won’t even move to Sacramento where we could spend less on housing because it’s too hot there. I have a very limited, very expensive radius where he would be open to moving. So I’m trapped.

I recently watched the series MAID on Netflix. It shared the story of a young single mom with nothing who was emotionally abused by her partner and who tried to start a life of her own but, without the help of others, couldn’t make it work with government support alone which had too much red tape. Anyway, it got me thinking a bit about abuse. Not that I’m being abused by my husband (or that I am any more than I emotionally abuse him) but it’s interesting to think of such dynamics in relationships…

I grew up in a domestic abuse situation. My father emotionally and physically abused my mother. He didn’t drink (thank god) but he constantly yelled and told my mother horrible things and gaslit her. I have a lot of trauma from this and so it’s hard for me to communicate properly in a relationship or be in a healthy relationship. Odds were for me to end up in an abusive relationship and I’m proud to report I’m not in one. Or am I?

Well. If I am I’m abusive too. My abuse is in deciding one thing then changing my mind. Because I feel incapable of making decisions and am used to having decisions made for me. I’ve told my husband that his father can live with us until his mother buys a house (which is dependent on her mother dying as she will then have no where to live as she lives in her house), and that he can work his part-time freelance job and stay home with the kids and I’ll keep working. Since I manage the household finances I know I need to provide for my family and make things work. The setup isn’t bad financially right now. His father pays $2k a month, which brings our $7k a month mortgage down to $5k. I figure that half of that is going to principal so in some sense we’re paying the same for the house as we were for a one bedroom rental. Maybe my math is off but it’s close. The real money suck is the cost of ownership and the lost gains on the downpayment that sat for a while, but that’s long gone. The house happened to appreciate a lot this year so maybe we’re close to break even.

My husband is pretty simple. He’s happy here. I mean he doesn’t love the area we moved to but he doesn’t hate it and he acknowledges with our financial situation we can’t afford to live in the are we both would prefer to live (never mind if he got a full time job we could.) He has a lot of anxiety (can’t say more or less than mine but different) and seems incapable of holding down a full time job. And we both agree that it’s better for him to be home with the kids vs send them to daycare.

I complain a lot. About stupid things. About not-so-stupid things. I look at our bank statements and think wow — I can’t say I deserve the $ I have now but our lives could be so much… better. I shouldn’t have to feel trapped in a job with leaders who are sociopathic and bosses who tell me I have a horrible personality for leadership. Perhaps I do but that’s besides the point. I’m tired. Exhausted. I’m trying my darnedest to just push through because the more I complain the less chance my husband will agree to the third kid. Which I know sounds manipulative on my end too. He wants to have a kid of the opposite sex as the two we have now, so he is agreeing to the plan for a third kid but I can tell he’s not sold.  That said he wasn’t sold on the second kid and he loves the kid more than anything. I think the one thing we’re really good at is being parents and loving our kids. I’m scared of a third but at this point my life is my kid’s life anyway what’s one more?

Where the abusive behavior comes in is in his inability to accept that I’m allowed to change my mind. Maybe I’m not. Maybe because I do it all the time about important things and drive him crazy I am at fault here. But some things you don’t know until you know. I thought I’d be fine working and seeing my kids only a few hours a day. I didn’t understand how tired I’d be. I didn’t realize how four years later I’d still feel the same way about my career and see it as a dead end of stress and exhaustion. I don’t know if it’s wrong to think that in a marriage one’s partner should care about them and they’re well being and lean into what would make them happy and/or helping them find it. I’m not the best at that either. But I bought this house because it (sort of ) worked for his father to live with us (and gave up the master bedroom suite for this to work) and I ordered him a fancy treadmill because he wanted to be able to work out at home since he can no longer go to the high school track at 2am now that we’ve moved away from the safer area (even though I always though that was a bad idea!)

It’s interesting too because I’m watching now my friends going through what is a variety of situations with their lives. Those who are still with their partners from their 20s and early 30s seem less than happy. Those who have started over seem to have shifted what they wanted in a partner and are happy now albeit also in interesting setups that are maybe not the best long term.

One friend, still married, has a hard-working husband who is never home. He owns his own business. She shares that he’s never around to spend time with the kids outside of holidays and other major events. She got her nice house and attractive husband but I think she’s quite lonely. She also doesn’t think he runs his business well to make the most income but last I’ve heard he doesn’t want her meddling in his professional life. She works in a low-paid job so is stuck. She seems happy with her kids and friends but I’m not sure life is what she wanted.

Another friend got married quickly to a man who didn’t seem like a fit in order to start her family. She had big dreams of becoming a SAHM and having a husband who earned enough for a nice house and to support her family. Well her husband was depressed for a number of reasons. She put up with him not asking for raises or seeking to get ahead for her family. But then she found out he was cheating on her. And he left her for the other woman. She actually met up with the husband of the other woman and fell in love with him and a short time later they got married and had another child! Now they live in a large house with five children and are trying for one more. Luckily the guy made good money so he could afford it even with the crazy alimony he pays to his ex wife. She was able to quit her low-paid job and become a full-time stay at home mom. She seems exhausted but also it’s the life she wants.

And yet another friend who ended up a single mom due to her boyfriend being batshit has been struggling to get by despite having a reasonably well-paid career. Lately her hours were cut and she didn’t know what to do. But a boyfriend from the past reappeared. He seems to be wealthy — owns his own business and maybe has millions of dollars. He’s throwing money at her to help her pay her bills. She feels bad about taking it but also needs the support to afford her mortgage and daycare. She seems to really like the guy, despite that he has an aversion to telling her that he loves her. She thinks they might get married and have more kids. I haven’t met the guy but she’s known him for years and I think in some way having an old bf come back into your life can be a good thing because you’re not blinded by the novelty of a relationship but really valuing the good parts of the relationship. So she seems like she might be on her way to a happy, stable life.

And another friend still with her (first) husband tells me that her husband says mean things to her and while she earns more he doesn’t do anything to help around the house. She’s at her wits end though they’re still together so maybe she’ll put up with it.

I mean, relationships are complicated. And being a woman is a strange thing in modern society. It’s still acceptable to quit your job and become a SAHM and have a husband who earns enough to pay for the entire family (though not always possible.) And it seems in most cases where I see friends being happy it’s this setup. Even my Bay Area friends have this setup. Some were the wife quit others were wife works a passion project but it definitely isn’t about earning income (and some years actually looses money.) I’m sure every couple has their ups and downs but this seems to work.

So I try to put myself in the mindset that I play that traditionally male role in the household. And if I do I really can’t complain about anything. My job is to pay for my family. Men usually don’t talk about how much they hate their jobs with their wives. They just deal with it or get another job. They don’t talk about moving because they try to make their wives happy. They feel like this is their responsibility. Maybe they like being in this role and having that responsibility. Maybe I like it a bit as well. It makes me feel like I have some value in this world.

I guess I still feel like I’m in a mildly abusive relationship. But maybe every relationship is mildly abusive. Because there’s a tension that comes from being stuck with someone who doesn’t share everything you want in life, feeling like you have to make them happy but also try to find your own happiness when the world tells you as a parent (esp as a mom) your happiness comes second or third. And maybe you don’t know what makes you happy anymore. Because before the world was your oyster. You had hopes and dreams. Everything was set up for you to be something and do something big. And now it’s clear that’s not what life is about. The time for when you could be something or do something is behind you, statistically speaking. So your life now is just about trying to stay healthy for as long as possible and teaching your children how to be good people and how to go after their hopes and dreams before it’s too late for them too.

If I had a clear picture of what I wanted that would help as well. It sure sounds like moving to a lower cost of living area would help the stress levels but a huge part of me doesn’t want to give up the opportunity that exists here. I don’t even know what kind of opportunity there is since I don’t want to pursue work at a startup or being VP even if recruiters are reaching out to me to interview for these roles. I would NEVER see my kids. I don’t want a job that requires a lot of (or any) travel. I’m torn between staying in my current role where I am miserable precisely because there is no opportunity for growth (or to earn more) and not wanting to grow and seeing other roles at the same level of work paid even lower without moving up. What makes me sad is the feeling of being trapped. I’m not actually trapped. But I can’t rationally change anything because things aren’t that bad right now. Even earning $250k next year after my stock drops off is pretty darn good. If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I would jump at a job making $250k I would, of course say yes!

I don’t really want to be a SAHM mom either. It’s Sunday morning and I’m hiding from my kids (who are with my husband and now with my FIL) writing a long blog post. I took them out all day yesterday for a hike and lunch and drive and I’m super exhausted now. I couldn’t do that every day of my life. Working is a lot easier!

But what I’d like is for my husband to not make me feel bad about the fact that all these things are grey. For him to support me in that I agreed to his father living with us before I experienced him being here. Before I experienced our bed in our family room with no privacy for a year. Before I found out that it wouldn’t work like it did when his father came over on the weekdays to help out but instead his father would come out of his in-law every morning even on the weekends when I just wanted to have my family in the house. How this lack of boundaries makes me incredibly anxious and how it is important to me that my husband watches the kids on Sunday mornings while I have some alone time in the office. That we need to treat our areas of the house as separate units. That even if he comes out for a short while it makes me feel uncomfortable in my own space. That I would never just go into his in law without knocking or assume that I can do that. I failed to understand how the boundaries would be set. And it all went to hell last year anyway when I had a newborn and I was grateful for the help. But now, I just want a bit more privacy. I want to be able to walk around my house in a robe and feel ok about it.

This all impacts my marriage a lot. I feel like my husband doesn’t actually care about me. He would likely say the same in reverse. So that’s not good. I am trying to get my things in the house cleaned because that’s a huge issue and I know I need to keep my stuff organized (with my ADHD it can get quite bad.) And it seems like he’s unwilling to care about me in the least until I can do that. I accept that as it has been an ongoing issue. Never mind that my income makes it possible for us to live here at all. Or that I’m still breastfeeding our youngest child and can’t be on my own for more than three hours at a time. But I agree my mess needs to be cleaned up. So I’ll do that. But I don’t get the sense that he’ll change at all for me. He doesn’t care to. Because he’s convinced he is always in the right. Maybe he is. He always makes me think because I came from such a messed up family that I don’t know how things should be. I question myself whether I do. And sometimes when I complain too much and it has been a particularly rough night he flips out and while he’d never harm me he starts hitting himself in the head and shaking in frustration and it’s really scary. I realize that I am harming him and I need to stop. I need to stop complaining. I need to stop telling him one thing and changing my mind.

Mostly he’s a mellow, calm guy. But when he’s tired and frustrated he can crack. It scares me. It has happened a few times. Once over a stupid thing where he was putting together a kitchen set for my son and put the wrong screws in and I asked him to fix it and he freaked out. I don’t remember what the last fight was about. I think because I ask him to do things and then he doesn’t do them well and then I make comments about that and he gets really mad. And always if I chew with my mouth slightly open he treats me like I’m a 2 year old. Should I chew with my mouth open? No. It’s a bad habit and it’s disgusting and I shouldn’t do it. But the way he treats me really upsets me. I mostly try to not eat around him. He just gives me this look and puts his fingers to his mouth and it makes me feel like I’m shoved into the ground, like I’m a little girl being scolded. You know, little me earning $250k+ a year and supporting the family. Being treated like shit because sometimes I chew and make noises with my mouth. Is that acceptable?  I don’t know. I guess I make him feel bad about a lot of things too. How does a relationship survive this kind of constant subtle cruelty to each other? Is any of it justified? If I make an effort to change, will he? He doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior. I think that’s the difference. I’m aware that I need to change. He’d doesn’t think he needs to at all.

I am just frustrated I can’t delegate things. Like getting the refrigerator ice machine fixed with the home warranty that was running out. Well the ice machine was fixed but the water has a leak coming out of it when you use it and I makes a mess on the floor. I want him to be able to think that he should check that the whole thing works properly when the guy is here so that way it can actually be fixed since we paid $75 for the warranty to send the repairman out and now we don’t have a warranty anymore. I want him to be able to think in a more detailed way but he doesn’t know how to do this. So I know I should just not delegate these tasks. Or I should stop caring about the flood of water on my kitchen floor every time I get water from the fridge.

When he gets into these moods they last a minute or so and it’s terrifying. I realize that he is not well mentally and he could seriously harm himself because of my nagging. So I shut up. And shut down. I know nagging is not the way to get what I want anyway. I can’t change him. And he can’t change me even though I’m trying to be better at being a housemate. I don’t know. I just feel sad and tired. And like no amount of money can fix me or my life.

When is There Time for Enjoying Life?

Another Saturday. Another October. Another fall. Wasn’t it just two years ago when I was going absolutely batshit in the middle of an undiagnosed mania, which was enjoyable only during a week in London when I wandered around and manically documented fall leaves against cobblestone on Insta? And mostly un-enjoyable when I was thrust into this alter-ego self who isn’t particularly acceptable by any standards of normal socialization. And now, back into fall, two years later, a world later, a pandemic still pandemic-ing later, an infant to toddler to pre-k’er and a new baby who is about to be a toddler later, $1.5M in net worth later, a house purchase and a health scare and a clean MRI later, here I am,  new place, same place, trying to be grateful for everything because I know nothing lasts forever, and failing miserably at embracing gratitude over guilt and grievances. So, same old, or same new.

Fall is a monster of melancholy. Autumn air exhausts exhaustion. I could easily lie in my bed for the following months and not notice how long I’ve been in hibernation despite how mild west coast’s seasonal changes are.

The truth is I’m incredibly overwhelmed, behind, and unable to figure out how to get any of my Iife in order. Having ADHD with a heaping of perfectionism makes it extra hard. My house is chaos. I’m trying, despite not sleeping much last night, to muster up the energy to clean it. Organize it. Ok, so it won’t be a home as in a home that I want to live in, without a private bedroom and instead a living situation I should have never agreed to but let my frugal house-hacking hat take charge in a decision I can’t go back on. It’s not the worst case. It’s a house. We own it. I don’t like being a home owner. I knew I’d be bad at it given I wasn’t the best at maintaining a one bedroom apartment. But there’s still something good about owning. Not financially good. It just feels like a real accomplishment. I haven’t had any accomplishments. None that felt worthy of being called an accomplishment, anyway. I guess graduating college is an accomplishment. Getting a job is an accomplishment. But they never really felt like much of anything to be proud of. Everything was barely completed. A failure in the making. Maybe home ownership is too. But I feel really good about buying a home for my kid’s to live in. I don’t think it makes any sense but it feels good to own a house. I know plenty of parents don’t own and it’s fine to raise kids in apartments but for me that would be rough to accept. I blame growing up with a mother who frequently mentioned the kids in “the apartments” as being poor and thus bad somehow. Not that I believe that now. But still part of me felt like buying a house made it ok for me to have kids. Saving enough to afford them, whatever that means.

But now I have a house. And savings. Nonetheless, I feel incredibly behind. And every moment I feel like I might be getting ahead life plays a joke on me. Like just now. I put my wash up and was just admiring how nice my laundry room floor looks like without the huge pile of clothes on it. And then a big “bang” shakes the ground and my eyes question what they just saw as a giant container of Woolite my husband placed on top of the washer apparently leapt to its death, with the lid flailing off of it and spilling soap all over the remaining pile of clothes and the chord to the Swiffer. Nothing unmanageable as one thing, but life feels like a big pile up of a cluster where you take 2 steps ahead and 3 steps back.

I wanted to be a full time mom on the weekends, with the in-laws NOT taking care of my children, and yet here I am again, 11am, in-laws watching the kids as I attempt to clean up. I’m always cleaning up but never getting anything clean. I also am so tired. I stayed up late catching up on work because the only time I can focus on work is when my son is asleep on me from 9-1am. Which is when I should also be sleeping. I’m still far behind on work. Luckily my actual work requires about 20 hours a week to manage at this point, it’s just the issue of finding uninterrupted time.  I’d give anything for 6 hours straight with no distractions. But that’s impossible since I either have to feed my son or pump. And yes, I can stop breastfeeding at any time but I’m not willing to sacrifice that for work. There are some things I won’t sacrifice and that’s one of them.

(loud thud on cue. Another bottle leaps from the top of my washing machine. This one seems to at least have its cover on tight and no spillage is observed.)

I keep thinking if only I can just get my life together. Just get my house in order. Get caught up at work. Make lists of everything I have to do. Go through the list. At some point. At some point I’ll be able to breathe this breath of fresh air and spend time with my kids in a way that feels relaxing. I will be able to make the case that my in-laws (especially my FIL who lives with us) should stay in his apartment/room on the weekends so I can be a g-d darn mom. That doesn’t mean spending every second with my kids, they should have some boring down time too. I had plenty of that as a kid. I really don’t like that grandpa is with my son from 9-4:30 straight every day.. I’m glad my son started preschool but that’s only 2.5 hours 2 days a week. And I feel like a failure not being a mom right now. Yes I’m writing this blog post. As a break from cleaning. And now a break from cleaning up the spill of soap on the laundry room floor. Before I need to feed my baby around noon, probably, then breastfeed at 1 and put him down for his nap (he’ll only sleep on me or dad and dad is working today so that means I’m stuck in bed from 1-3 or grandma takes him and he doesn’t sleep.)

There is this overwhelming feeling/acceptance at this point that I’ll never actually be able to live the life I want so why the fuck try anymore. That is what led to this idea to quit work in August. I know I’d be ok for a few months without an income but I’m really scared I won’t be able to find something else or if I do that the job will require even more work and less time with my kids. For all the things I don’t like about my current job it really is super flexible while I can work from home (not sure when I have to go back but eventually) and I shouldn’t given this up, even if my income goes down year after year because I’ve been demoted without a pay decrease but I won’t actually get any stock refreshes so there is no way my income will keep up unless I go to a new company. I don’t have the energy to go to a new company. I can barely keep my eyes open.

I wonder if there’s a way to get my life anywhere near where I want it to be. I ponder hiring a cleaning service for the house, then find out cleaning services will cost $350 to come for a one time cleaning and $200+ a month and it seems like I should just learn how to clean my home.

(Another bottle flails off the top of the washer with a loud clunk. Not joking.)

I just want a kitchen table. A non plastic-folding kitchen table. A bedroom with a door. Grout in the kitchen that isn’t brown when it’s supposed to be beige. A refrigerator that holds more food. Sheets that aren’t navy with an olive green comforter my husband bought years ago for camping. A backyard that doesn’t have an accidental tree growing against the wall of my home and breaking the foundation. And trees that aren’t in various stages of dying that need to get looked at for another few thousand dollars.

It’s funny because the more money I have the more I get anxious about it. In investments it doesn’t feel real. But I just know that I need it there as a safety net. I mean, if I were to have $10M I could never work again because it’s impossible for me to spend more than $400k per year if I knew that was something I’d have forever. Not that I need $10M before FIRE, but just saying where I’m at now is not FIRE for me.

A friend I met on a social site for moms in the technology world told me she got hired at a company and will be making 500k a year, and her husband is promoted to a job making 400k a year. They will be making 900k+ a year for the rest of their careers and probably much more as they continue to get promoted. How do I compete with that? I don’t have to compete with THAT but that’s what people are earning here in the Bay Area. Or one-worker families with engineers making like $600k or more. In my current company had I not fucked up I could have been on the high-earner trajectory. I even magically experienced it for a few years (I’ll be making about $600k this year with my stock earnings.) But that’s not forever. That’s not even next year. So just quitting doesn’t seem to be the right answer either. Do I try to convince a FAANG to hire me (they won’t) or do I go back to school or do I give up and convince my husband to move to anywhere else we can buy a house and not have a mortgage so high and where I can actually be awake to see my children on occasion. I don’t know.

I feel really sad is all I know. I should keep cleaning and I probably will. I need to get that soap off the floor. My husband is busy with a project he took on to earn $5k extra a year. That’s good for him. I always complain that he doesn’t take on any extra clients so I should be incredibly supportive. But then I wonder in the extra $5k worth it… $2.5k after tax. For all the work he puts into this project. Especially three days when he needs to be available full time and works into the night. I don’t know. Money is so weird. I know we have more than most people in the country but I’m in this weird bubble of Silicon Valley where money doesn’t make sense.

And I’m just. So. Tired.

 

Some Kind of Life Plan

Welp, here it is…

I think this is fairly conservative plan if I’m going to leave work in August and then seek to pick up a small amount of freelance work in January either building to a full time freelance business or going back to work full time when I start IVF to make sure I have good health insurance when having a baby (probably that.)

This model assumes my investments grow at 3% annually, that the only net new contributions are expected RSU/ESPP vesting and retirement maxing for both myself and my husband, and our monthly expense are $13k plus amount to max retirement.

Who knows what the stock market will do or my stocks that need to be better diversified will do but this seems like a somewhat realistic plan from now until Jan 2024 without work. I can certainly focus on cutting expenses but even of the $100k “lost” during this time in the model below, that’s all going to retirement savings so it’s not really lost at all.

This model seems realistic, right? As long as I can make it until July. Maybe I stay until September and do an extended vacation in August… I get some more stock and such in September so could be worth it. Depends what type of projects I’m working on. It’s generally best to leave in July I think. So that’s what I might do. Scared but excited!

Month NW RETIRE STOCK 529 H.E. AGE INCOME (HIM) INCOME (HER) TOTAL INCOME AFT TAX AFT EXPENSE
Oct 2021 $2,334 $752 $986 $284 $312 $8,333 $12,376 $20,709 $12,426 -$7,574
Nov 2021 $2,379 $754 $988 $285 $315 38 $8,333 $12,376 $20,709 $12,426 -$7,574
Dec 2021 $2,369 $775 $991 $285 $317 $8,333 $141,256 $149,589 $89,754 $69,754
Jan 2022 $2,376 $777 $993 $286 $320 $8,333 $54,136 $62,469 $37,482 $17,482
Feb 2022 $2,384 $779 $996 $287 $322 $8,333 $16,376 $24,709 $14,826 -$5,174
Mar 2022 $2,445 $800 $1,033 $288 $325 $8,333 $45,876 $54,209 $32,526 $12,526
Apr 2022 $2,453 $802 $1,036 $288 $327 $8,333 $12,376 $20,709 $12,426 -$7,574
May 2022 $2,461 $804 $1,038 $289 $330 $8,333 $12,376 $20,709 $12,426 -$7,574
Jun 2022 $2,473 $810 $1,041 $290 $332 $8,333 $31,876 $40,209 $24,126 $4,126
Jul 2022 $2,481 $812 $1,044 $290 $335 $8,333 $12,376 $20,709 $12,426 -$7,574
Aug 2022 $2,489 $814 $1,046 $291 $337 $8,333 $0 $8,333 $5,000 -$15,000
Sep 2022 $2,497 $817 $1,049 $292 $340 $8,333 $0 $8,333 $5,000 -$15,000
Oct 2022 $2,505 $819 $1,052 $293 $342 $8,333 $0 $8,333 $5,000 -$15,000
Nov 2022 $2,552 $821 $1,054 $293 $345 39 $8,333 $0 $8,333 $5,000 -$15,000
Dec 2022 $2,521 $823 $1,057 $294 $347 $8,333 $0 $8,333 $5,000 -$15,000
Jan 2023 $2,478 $825 $1,009 $295 $350 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Feb 2023 $2,486 $827 $1,012 $296 $352 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Mar 2023 $2,494 $829 $1,014 $296 $355 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Apr 2023 $2,502 $831 $1,017 $297 $357 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
May 2023 $2,510 $833 $1,020 $298 $360 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Jun 2023 $2,518 $835 $1,022 $299 $362 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Jul 2023 $2,526 $837 $1,025 $299 $365 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Aug 2023 $2,534 $839 $1,027 $300 $367 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Sep 2023 $2,541 $841 $1,030 $301 $370 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Oct 2023 $2,549 $843 $1,032 $302 $372 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Nov 2023 $2,597 $846 $1,035 $302 $375 40 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Dec 2023 $2,567 $849 $1,038 $303 $377 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
Jan 2024 $2,575 $851 $1,040 $304 $380 $8,333 $1,000 $9,333 $5,600 -$7,400
-$110,360

Can I Afford to Take a Year Off of Work? Should I?

I never thought I would want to be a stay-at-home-mom…. and I don’t really want to be a stay at home mom… but I do want flexibility to work on my own time and not feel guilty if I want to take a half day or day to drive my kids to the beach to just hang out… or to volunteer in my kid’s preschool… or take my sponge-brain 3 year old to a museum to learn something new.

While I loosely thought about taking some time off when my oldest son turns 4 year old… that time is fast approaching and I’ve made no such plans. It turns out 3 is actually a pretty important time to be there for him. There will be plenty of years when he is locked into a school schedule and we can’t do anything during the week anyway. It is hitting me hard how the next year-and-a-half is the last year I can spend quality weekday time with my son.

I’ve also had a bit of a wake up call about how life short is with all of my health issues this year.  It doesn’t matter if they were benign — I felt horrible for a good chunk of the past 12 months. While I feel a bit better these days, I realize that my health is at best stable but fleeting. And while if I quit my job I won’t exactly be able to travel the country without worrying about money, I can maybe spend a bit more time with my extended family for a short while, or even just with my close family… just cleaning up the house and cooking healthy food and going out for walks with the moms that go for hikes with their kids during the day.

I couldn’t do that forever. I’d be bored out of my mind. But… 6-12 months seems like a good amount of time to detach from work and really be present with my kids who are growing crazy fast.

Is this sabbatical dream realistic? Is it FIRE/career sabotage? Am I out of my mudderfudden mind?

Maybe?

I’ve saved a lot of money during the last four years at this job. It’s pretty crazy how much I’ve been able to save. It might not be as much as some of my colleagues who have stock thrown at them each year in lavish refreshes but my initial grant was solid and here I am four years later, two kids later, and a good chunk of family net worth growth that was largely from RSU (and some from general stock market growth of investments.) From 600k or so to $2M, give or take. That’s huge. That’s… worth pausing and reflecting on what’s next at least, right?

Sure I still owe $1.2M on my mortgage and the house needs a lot of work. I still want to do IVF for my 3rd (and final) kid and that’s going to be $$$$. We can bring out expenses down a bit but if I’m not working I’ll want to spend money on things to do. I’m not sure how much I can get our expenses down realistically.

My thought, as of today, is that I work next year at my current company through the end of July then I quit… with nothing lined up. What everyone says not to do.

That’s 10 months from now. In those 10 months we can save an extra $114k or so after expenses. Most of that will go to retirement accounts. The rest can be saved for the remainder of the year and my time off. I can (and would) try to build a number of freelance projects at that time to ensure we don’t have to dip into our savings to cover the year beyond anything earned in the next 10 months.

If I do that then it looks like we can still close out 2022 with ~$2.6M in net worth, or something a lot less than that if the stock market crashes or more if it soars. In any case, the 6-12 months off don’t seem like they would totally destroy us financially, at least on their own. The issue is what happens when I need to return to the workforce to get a job. We cannot live on my husband’s income alone. If I can’t pick up freelance work then things could get ugly. I’m also used to being the primary earner. I like the freedom to never have my spending questioned (beyond when I buy things that clutter the house.)  It would definitely be a big change for me, but maybe not a bad one. Who knows, perhaps the freelancing route could prove lucrative enough if I focus on it.

I have a few key concerns in doing this:

  • Not being able to find a job when I need to go back to full time work. Serious concern.
  • Healthcare costs overall — how to afford healthcare without having it through work for my family — is COBRA an option? How much will that cost if we actually need to use it?
  • Giving up disability insurance through work — is that a really dumb idea?
  • What if my husband loses his job when I’m out of work? We’ll be ok for a while but it would be pretty crappy.
  • Will my husband go back on his openness to have a third child (via IVF) if I’m not working and making a substantial income? Should I just hold out until I have a third child (or don’t) before taking time off?
  • What if I’m not working but I’m still not capable of having the energy to be a good mom and instead just end up depressed and waste the time off?
  • What if I spend too much on things to do because I’m bored and end up cutting into savings more than I expect?
  • If I can continue to WFH and get my projects organized — my current job pays well and enables me to get a good paycheck and still be home with my kids (but not with the flexibility to do whatever I want when I want with them.)

And a few reasons why I think this makes sense…

  • My kids are only young once and this time is very important to me
  • I need to focus on my health and my kid’s health and I’d like to spend the time to cook healthy food, exercise, have friends, etc
  • I’m not in a good place at my job and I’m not sure what to do next, and this gives me an opportunity to step away from the workforce without jumping into something else to run from what I’m doing now.
  • This provides the opportunity for me to try to build a freelance career and see how that goes for a few months.
  • My husband makes $100k a year and I’ll make about $167k before I leave work the end of July, so I think it’s fair if I take the rest of the year off (TBD about the following year)
  • I’ve saved more than I ever thought I would by this point and I always said I want to take the year my son is 4 off. My youngest will be 1.5 which is a good time to spend with him as well.
  • I’m tired and mentally unwell. If I take a significant break I can probably go back into the workforce refreshed and better at my job.
  • If I can focus and use the time wisely I can take some online classes or read books to learn new skills so I can reenter the workforce in 2023.
  • I can use the opportunity of a lower-income year to sell some or all of my ESPP for low capital gains (since I have $350k in ESPP right now it would be good to start selling it off, and it’s best to do that in lower income years and I can use that to supplement my income.)
  • If I take 2024 off as well I can use that time to do some Roth rollovers before the government outlaws them esp if my income will be high again in the future (possible since I will remain in a HCOL area)

I haven’t run this by my husband yet. He’s currently stressed out about a work project he’s on this week and he said he doesn’t have time to hear about any of my plans. It certainly will be hard to convince him that I should be allowed to quit my job. I’m worried I will need to be perfect if I’m not working. I mean, right now I’m not exactly the best wife ever but I work hard and make good money and provide for the family so at the least I add value to our household. If I’m not working I need to step up a lot in other areas. I want to, but what if I can’t. It’s not like my mental health issues will disappear overnight. But maybe with the time I can catch up on sleep and try to be a better mom and partner. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve got 10 months in me at this job and I’m either jumping into a new company where I’ll feel like I need to stay at least 4 years (and my oldest son will be 8 and practically a preteen at the end of that!!!!!!!!!) OR I take the time now. And I figure it out as I go. I maybe will kill hopes of FIRE’ing but I don’t really want to retire early when my kids are headed off to college. That’s when I want to work because that’s when I’ll feel sad and lonely and want to distract myself. Now? I want the time to spend with my kids. I still want another kid. My husband may not support that if I stop working. But what I want him to understand is how I’ve saved up enough in 4 years that’s comparable to what many people can save in many years, in some cases their entire careers. I don’t think I deserve anything for this, but at the least it should allow consideration of this plan.

I’m still scared but this just feels right, at least right now.

I don’t have to make any decisions at the moment… can see how things play out the rest of this year and early next. Then I can make the call. If my husband agrees to this plan I can even look for where to cut spending more in the next 10 months. I know I can make this works. I just… am so scared. I don’t know how to stop pushing myself. But I need the break. To figure everything out. To be a mom. To heal my body and my mind. I want this. Not sure if that matters, but I know now it’s what I want.

From Now Till 40: Closing This Chapter of My Life and How

I haven’t written much about how much I want a third child or how in my heart I long for a baby girl more than anything in the world. I’m so grateful to have my two healthy and beautiful boys, and I know they can grow up to be girls as well, and a person born a girl can become a boy — but I still have this desire to have a girl that I can’t shake. I can’t shake it and I’m willing to use interventions to try to make it happen in the last years I might be fertile.

I’ve accepted it’s unlikely to work. That I’ll probably waste $50,000 on stabbing myself with various medications to make myself ovulate and then fertilize eggs that don’t make it to hatching, or those that do don’t actually stick and get me pregnant. It would be far easier to try again naturally at 38, when my second child is 18 months, as maybe I’ll get pregnant again without needing intervention and not have to wait so long (to do IVF I need to stop breastfeeding and I try to go 2 years before weaning.) My husband may also have some medical issues that may cause us to need IVF anyway this time around.

Girl or boy, there’s a place in my family for one more. I feel it in my bones. When I was younger, I always wanted three and couldn’t imagine myself a mother of any. Now that I’m a mom I want a relatively big family. Three seems like an acceptable amount of big. I know it will be hard — it’s already hard. I know it will be financially challenging. I know there are a thousand reasons not to try for a third kid. And yet, here I am, practically obsessed with the idea of it. Because life is short and I’m going to be 40 soon (!!!!!) and it’s (soon to be) now or never.

So I’ve made a calendar I hope to stick to. Who knows if I will. My second child somehow decided to stick to my calendar for him, so why not continue the streak of good luck? Baby one took a while and some medical intervention, but then this kid stuck on one of two tries within two days. Maybe I’m more fertile now than I was before. I’m trying to accept that I may be “done.” I’m terrified of being pregnant again. I’m equally terrified of what IVF drugs will do to my body given I’m so hyper sensitive to everything. What they’ll do to my already unstable mental health. Yea, it’s probably a  bad idea. But I’m full of bad ideas that turn out ok in the end. Usually. And when I get my mind stuck on something it’s hard to change it.

It seems to really make sense to leave this job in April. At that point my 12 month income will be about $275k, so if I can find a job that earns that much with a higher base I think I need to take it. I’m giving myself until Feb 2023 to find the right job. At that point my 12 month income will be $258k buy by Jul 2023 it drops to $238k. And all of these numbers are assuming full bonus payout which is unlikely. So April – Feb feels like appropriate timing.

I want to start IVF in or around June 2023. I would like to be pregnant (if I’m going to be pregnant) by Aug 2023 or as early as June 2023. This means I need to start new job 4 months before that. But I also want a job that pays for IVF if possible which means I need to start the new job ideally 3 months before starting IVF, which also aligns with the Feb 2023 “last call” timeline. I think giving myself April – February  to find a new job is a pretty good and realistic plan.

During this time I also need to loose 40lbs and hit $2.5M in net worth, which is the minimum net worth I committed to my husband so we can have a third child. Markets may crash but as of today we are at $2.2M and on track to clear $2.35M by April 2022. I was hoping we would be at $3M before IVF but I think we are close enough at this point. If I do have another kid I feel good about being able to afford them even if I go through a few bad years career wise.

Right now I’m trying to focus on getting the most (resume juice) out of my current job. I’ve got a lot of plans and am focused on having some solid quantifiable results from the projects I’m working on. I’m curious what my performance review and pay bump will look like this year. Part of me wants them to realize how valuable I am to the company and throw money at me but they won’t. I have no path to that. I’ll be lucky if I get a 3/5 and a COL raise. I accept nothing I do will be good enough. I accept the have staked the cards against me and want to nudge me out the door. I guess I’m ok with that as long as I can land somewhere better. That won’t be easy. I may be able to get a job at a small startup but if I want to go big company it will take a lot of work and luck.

I can’t believe it is almost Oct. I’m now really in my 6 month countdown to breaking free of the golden handcuffs. It seems achievable. My next job will be 38-41 or so, and I want it to see me through my third (and likely last) child, as well as get us over $3.5M by 41. Then my kids will be 7(!), 4 and 1. Maybe then I’ll do consulting and focus on some more freedom in my 40s. This next job really needs to count. I’m scared shitless but also ready to build the life I want, not the life that I’m handed.

How Long Can I (Should I) Keep This Job If They’ll Keep Me?

Four years ago, I joined a much smaller company in a role that didn’t have a job description. The total expected compensation was more than I had ever made and I threw myself head first into the excitement of the new opportunity. The energy at the company was great then. Some people were clearly not top performers, but everyone joked a lot together and got along. It wasn’t a well-oiled machine yet in my department, but it was getting there.

A few months later a number of those fun, joking people were shown the door and others who joked in the corporate-appropriate way were let in to take their seats. I managed to come in with the new wave, despite not fitting with the rest of the group, and I flailed through the following years putting out a few good projects and being pregnant, twice (my best projects of all), enabling me to somehow still be gainfully employed to this day, despite plenty of reasons for me not to be.

Covid turned everything upside down and I also owe my current employment to the pandemic. Being able to work remote, heads down, and hide my awkwardness much more efficiently helped a lot. So here I am. Just months away from achieving my initial goal of surviving through my first vesting cycle. It’s a huge win. My net worth growth in the past 4 years has been strong due both to my existing investments and my stock in this company that has proven itself a rocketship.

So now the question is — when do I leave? If I have that choice, anyway. My ego is tore up all sides of Sunday (is that a saying? If it’s not it should be) but maybe that’s fine. I’m not getting any raises or stock refreshes or promotions — EVER — at this company — but does that matter? So what if they’re showing me the door. I can say “see the door, not going to go through it yet, you’re going to have to shove me through it.” And maybe they won’t shove me. Maybe they don’t care enough to do so, especially if I’m getting my basic work done and not causing anyone harm.

Looking ahead to next year, assuming I manage to last at least through April 1, when I plan to likely be heading out that door… I can stick around another year and it would be pretty darn lucrative and probably a decent situation for me as long as I don’t have to go back to the office. Going back to the office is likely a requirement if I want to have any sort of career growth in this company but as I’ve already covered that’s not really possible anyway so the best I can do is focus on getting my projects done, communicating effectively, and hiding as much as possible.

What I don’t want to do is get fired. And it’s hard to not get fired when I’m this bitter. When I see where I thought I’d be and where I feel I have things to contribute being handed to my peer (who happens to be a friend now but still.) A peer who was supposed to report to me when I went out on maternity leave, who was hired to fill in for me when I was having a baby, then who went on to surpass me in so many ways. These things happen but it still hurts. It hurts that he is the go-to trusted ear for my former boss, who I respect a lot, and she prefers to have nothing to do with me these days. I get it, I understand it, but it sucks nonetheless.

My new-ish boss, well things are awkward with him. I’m sure they got more awkward the second he saw how much I’m making. It was weird going from peer to report knowing he likely was making – a lot – less and then having him see how much I was taking home just – well it didn’t really set up our new relationship for success. He hasn’t been an asshole about it but I’m sure he would fire me in heartbeat if I slip up. Luckily I have a few high visibility projects no one else wants that I’ve historically managed well so I keep doing that and maybe… I’m ok? As long as I want to be.

I’m committed to. seriously applying come February. If I can get a better job that pays >$250k with base >$200 I think I need to leave. But it’s all sorts of questionable if I can do that. I’ve had 5 quick rejections from roles I applied to last month, so it’s surely going to be an uphill battle to find anything that is a fit. I might be stuck anyway. So perhaps I ought to try to focus on liking this job and doing my best and all that.

I just wish this job had any legs. Where do I really go from here? Any comparable role requires technical skills I do not have, nor can I gain these technical skills without going back to school and spending a lot of time becoming an expert to be competitive at my level. I’ve been specifically kept out of the projects that actually make sense in the broader industry and am allowed to work on projects that are pretty company specific with no results other than surviving them. So it’s a challenge in building up a story for what’s next, without an opportunity to do anything worthwhile.

Maybe for even $260k that doesn’t matter. Or does it? I have no career. I have no future. All I have is the next two years. It’s not enough to retire on. I still need to figure out what’s next… and how I get there.

Here’s The Real Problem…

As I sit here at 4pm on post-Labor Day Tuesday trying  to get any work done while sitting in the office listening to my infant screaming down the hall while my 3 year old and grandpa are in the room next door loudly sounding out letters I feel defeated and then some. The house literally shakes with my son jumping up and down so even noise-cancelling headphones don’t block his enthusiasm for the alphabet song enough.

It’s clear I’m not good at the job I have, but it’s also clear that however not good I am at this job, I’m a thousand times more not good at it because I can’t think straight here. But can I think straight anywhere?

Am I just lazy? I don’t know. Something seems off with my mind. I can’t focus or do things consistently. Is it ADHD? Is it anxiety? Is it something else? I can’t calm my mind long enough to focus unless I have some big project due “tomorrow.”

The anxiety is at an all-time high. What was I thinking buying a house with a $7k a month mortgage? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Have grandpa live with us, I thought, and pay $2k so really we’re still spending about $3k on housing if you consider that we have $2k rent coming in and half of the mortgage goes to principal. It sounded good at the time.

Well, I hate living with grandpa. It could be a lot worse, and I’m so grateful/lucky/etc that grandpa watches my 3 year old all day while we work, but I can’t handle having him in my home always. Ok, so he goes to sleep at 4:30 each day. If I actually went to an office and came home at 6 it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I didn’t expect him to be so present on the weekends but I’m working to make the case that he stays in his apartment/room on the weekends so I can have a life with my family without my father in law. I haven’t successfully achieved that yet.

Meanwhile, grandpa is too present with my son. I want him to give my son some space but he’s constantly engaging with him. Even though I’ve asked him not to feed my son plain toast and instead to put something else on it like peanut butter he still is giving my son toast. My son is hard to feed so I understand but I feel like I’m failing my kids because they don’t have a qualified care person watching for them and I’m not doing enough to ensure they are being fed well or having time to explore on their own. I’m sure it’s not totally detrimental to his development (at least I’m buying whole wheat bread) but it’s still hard because as I sit trying to get my work done I feel like not only a failure of an employee but also a failure of a mother. And because I’m working from home I’m reminded of both every single second. I don’t get to be a mother – not the mother I want to be. I’m too busy trying to ensure I make enough to pay the mortgage for the next 29 years.

I don’t think I’d be happy if I stayed at home full time either. I don’t know what I want. But this is all not working and I feel like I’m going to explode. There’s no where to go for help either so I need to just accept it, hold my breath, and hope it all passes somehow. Like, hope 29 years passes and then I can be happy? That seems like a pretty shitty way to live life.

In the diagram of what’s “good” in one’s life, that circle one where you mark how solid your life is in different areas, from work to relationships to growth, I’m a about a 0 in all areas. Financially maybe a 1 or 2 of 5. The only really good thing in my life right now is my kids, as in, I love my kids, they’re great little crazy beings and it’s pretty dang cool that I made them and I love them so much I even want one more child. Because being a mom seems still like the right fit. Of all the titles I might call myself. However badly I feel I’m doing at it. I love being a mom.

But what else do I have? A marriage where my husband doesn’t even find me attractive anymore. A house that I can only afford if I manage to maintain employment in soul-sucking jobs for the remainder of my adult life? A body that feels like it’s falling apart, that I’m not spending enough/any time on nurturing outside of my semi-decent change in diet? A mind that is in pieces, that spends the day looking forward to 10pm when it can just turn off? Few friends and the friends I do have probably don’t like me very much for a variety of reasons. A bank account with some money in it but not enough to really have any sort of a stable life because living here is absolutely impossible? I mean, no wonder I’m a bit depressed, right?

I’d like to fix any of these areas but they all feel so overwhelming I don’t know where to start. It’s like — hey — maybe if I had a really solid marriage or if I had some great friendships or work was going well or I considered myself a good mom or I had religion (not that I want religion but still) or something — anything — in my life was going well I could point to that one thing and say ok, well, at least I have that thing going great. But what do I actually have? Is this the wrong question to be asking? Is the whole point of being an adult living for your kids, and no longer for yourself? I guess so?

I feel fucking lonely. And like there isn’t much to live for outside of being a mom, which is plenty enough, so I’m not going anywhere, but I’d like more than that. I’d like to feel passion for life again. It’s my own fault I’m stuck in this mess. Maybe if I just get the house in order and shut my mouth and wait for the good stuff to happen it will come. There’s too much that I’m buried under for anything good to happen. There’s only faking my way through and trying to survive another year until there are no more years left.

Trying to Find a New Life as the Fall Air Breaks Me Down

Fall. It’s the season I struggle most with. I seem to either slip into depression or mania around this time, depending on the year and life circumstance. There’s something about the air. It’s hollow and scratchy. Each breath in on inhale feels icy and empty and yet not filling enough so I open up my lungs to take more in, only to have it attack me subtly from the inside.

But this time, which definitely feels more like the end of one year and beginning of the next (Rosh Hashanah got it right) is one that brings about reflection. And in this self reflection I feel how another year has passed and part of me feels like I haven’t taken any steps closer to whatever satisfaction is and yet the reality is I’ve produced an entirely new person AND increased my net worth substantially since last September. So time feels short but it was certainly filled with a lot of existence and growth.

I want to get to this point financially where I can stop worrying about money so I can pursue something I would love to do. The trade off is always time, because I want time with my kids, and I’m afraid even if I had all the money in the world to go back to school and try something different. I certainly don’t trust my anxious ADHD mind to get through coursework in a way that would make the investment worthwhile. And yet – doing something I love where I have purpose is the feeling burning in my lungs today. It’s no longer a nice to have. It’s a must. Money also is, but what if — what if I could live a life where my income could pay the bills but where I no longer had to aggressively save? What if instead of spending money on things to make me happy I actually found what makes me happy is the work I do. Because Amazon Prime purchases, however much dopamine they fill me with when I punch open a new box that arrives in under 48 hours, are not really making me any happier than I was prior to purchasing them. They’re just adding to my misery, also known as the pile of toys and crap on my floor.

So.

I’m still not sure what the math is. But it seems at the end of this year it’s realistic for our net worth to be about $2M if calculated without 529 and home equity which I should probably start doing since that offers a realistic picture of how much income we can one day have when we start to spend it down.

Now, I may have to dip into this savings a bit to find my way in the right direction. School is not cheap. If that’s the route I need to go. But also I know myself and I’m not going to stop working for an extended period of time. I just want to be able do work that is fulfilling. And luckily the kind of work I want to do pays reasonably well enough that after a few years I could probably get back into earning enough to pay the bills. I’m not sure how much I’d have to cut into my savings, or if I could stomach that, but let’s say somehow I manage to not cut into it too much, or at all…

$2M in 30 years at 5% average gains is $8.4M. And while $8.4M in 30 years won’t equal what it equals today, it’s still a sizable amount for a retired couple of 67. With 3% inflation rate that money will equal about $3.4M in today’s dollars, still a sizable sum to retire with at 67. The NerdWallet inflation calculator says that it’s actually worth $4M today (guessing their inflation rate is a bit lower than 3%.) So, if we never invest another dime, we will have $3.4M-$4M if we retire at 67, as well as most of our children’s educations paid for (with $300k saved this year for 2 kids)

Yes, we still need to afford $10k-$14k a month in expenses for the next 30 years, which means earning at least $200k-$250k per year  (together) total to “Coast.” And we’ll probably still save a bit because once my kids graduate high school and go to college our expenses will drop within that 30 year period. If I change careers to something I love perhaps in those 30 years I can move up again and make decent money as well.

There are so many unknowns it’s hard to plan for the future or be willing to take any sort of risk, especially with how little I trust myself to follow through on things. But I also know I’m miserable now because I don’t feel a greater sense of purpose in life.

I’m also feeling a pull to freelance work and the flexibility it provides. I have no idea how to get enough (or any) freelance work to start with, but if I could actually pick up a handful of stable clients who pay me reasonably then – heck – I could go to school and maybe not lose too much money and pivot and figure out life.

So I’m trying really fucking hard to be optimistic. I’ve got to work on a few things, the work that has purpose, building a small network of friends because let’s be real this introvert is capable of socialization like once a month (and then realizes how much she likes it and is sad when it’s over), having more time to spend with my kids and be there for them as they grow up, maybe having one more kid (yea yea I’m crazy) and… I mean, I do, deep down, think things will all work out. Having the money there really helps with that inner sense of – you know what, thinks are actually going to be ok. And as much as this job grates at my weak ego, it has given me the greatest gift in life — the freedom to know things will probably be ok. Things will probably be more than ok. Even if my kids decide to join some crazy extracurricular that costs $10,000 a year. Or god forbid someone gets sick. Or my husband, who refused to get life insurance and now probably can’t get it, ends up god forbid dying before the mortgage is paid off and our kids are out of college. We have the cushion we need where as much as I worry, I don’t have to worry. Not about running out of money, anyway. I mean, I may have to sell the house and move to a LCOL area. But we would be fine.

I have to keep reminding myself that. And while it makes sense to hold on for the next few months in this job to ride out the year, hit $2M in non home equity/529 net worth, and start planning for what’s next, it isn’t worth staying in this job — or even this field — when I know I have so much more to offer. At the end of the day I know I feel good and proud when I’m part of creating something that adds value to other people’s lives. That can be pretty much anything — I’m not so particular. It has to be something new or improved that makes lives better. I want to build things. Fix things. And so, that’s where my heart is. Yea, I’m a mom. But I want to work too. I just want to do something that isn’t so soul draining. Where we all kind of roll our eyes at our work because none of us really believe in it anymore, we just do it to make it to the next vest and the one after that. I’m tired of the golden handcuffs. And ready to call the shots in my life. I just need to find the courage. And the focus.

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