Category Archives: Adulting

It Would Be Nice

The squirrels are the only creatures who seem to love the palm tree in my front yard, for my husband, myself, and my neighbors certainly don’t. To hire someone to clean the palm tree costs about $2000 and to remove it the same, so we’ve been pondering removing it for a good year but can’t make up our minds. There isn’t much mind being made up in this house about much of anything. It’s a problem. My only mind making happens in periods of mania where rash decisions are anything but wise and seem made without any manner of forecasting the future discomfort they will inflict. Thus, decisions either get made and regretted, or not made at all. I’m still unclear which is worse.

But the palm tree needs to go. I think.

There are so many weddings this year. Well, two. My cousin’s which is just a short flight away but an expense of perhaps $3000 after taking grandma to watch the kids and booking a hotel room that can fit all of us, which isn’t easy to find. Waiting to book the hotel room means prices go up which means I spend even more. Then there’s my sister’s wedding, which she is rushing to get done this year supposedly, though no date has been set yet. Her and her finance are off on a whirlwind adventure of seeking out wedding venues just like my husband and I did six years ago.

Six years ago was an entirely different time. Almost so ancient it merits its own series like Bridgerton although that isn’t actually based in any real time so this particular comparison doesn’t work and yet it feels like it does — because was that life six years ago any more real than the world created by Julia Quinn — because what was life actually six years ago? Was it real?

My father still alive, a bit of denial through the entire family about the situation at hand and falling for his lies about the fiscal health of his and my mother’s bank account. Six years ago before two children who are very much humans now. Six years ago before the worst manic period of my life where thank god I managed to only let words not actions inflict the innocent, even though I ruined a few of the things in life that were actually good because that’s what I do apparently — self sabotage so the things and friendships that actually are wonderful are poisoned by this mental health catastrophe that goes into hibernation in my brain and comes out every once in a blue moon and turns me into this over confident person I most certainly am not. So there’s that. And I live in fear of that person coming back though I tell myself I’m older now and wiser and I can control that part of me if she surfaces again and I’m too tired now anyway to have that kind of energy where even if I thought I might be charismatic I’d surely prefer to dream the reaction to that charisma over act upon it. It’s interesting, though, how certain I am that I’m bipolar and yet not being able to convince any practitioner of this because I’m too ashamed to explain exactly who I’ve become in the past or maybe I try but no one believes me when I seem like just a depressed person trying to exaggerate the past. Or maybe I don’t even believe it because I force myself to forget out of sheer embarrasment and regret that spins like a spiked pit in my stomach whenever I’m jolted back to a time when I wasn’t really me albeit I was still me, I wasn’t like, schizophrenic, I was just — some other me who was sad to the point of wanting to crater in but that isn’t even it. Just craving some kind of connection, I guess, in this delusion that maybe such connection might exist somewhere, but then in falling back to earth realizing no no no in fact there’s nothing to connect to and you are best lost on an island and not having this notion that someone will one day find you there and rescue you from yourself. Because that doesn’t actually happen. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is when you start getting confused about what’s real or what isn’t. When your mind plays tricks on itself. It’s scary and upsetting. So you want to keep yourself stable now. It’s all that matters.

Six years later, you have a house, you have two kids, you have managed to hold down a job for four years and see your bank account grow with stock that you don’t deserve but you got nonetheless. And you’re six years older which shows in the few strands of grays in your hair and the paleness of your skin and the aches in your joints which you realize are just beginning. You’ve experienced the beginning of a global pandemic, like everyone else, and the era of covid, which may not go away anytime soon. You have PTSD from it like everyone else, but perhaps it saved you, locking you in your house and not letting you escape into the world with your impractical imagination.

But it would be nice. To just find peace with it all. This world. It isn’t much longer that I have to experience it. Who knows how long. I’d think 40 years of health if I’m lucky. Half way there. If it was climbing up a mountain I’d feel good about making it to this point but it’s not, it’s life, and there is nothing else once you get to the top. And so here I am, living a depressed but more or so practical life, and trying to decide which kitchen table to buy because I ought to make decisions faster than once every two years, so maybe I can do other things in life, other than searching Wayfair and watching the sun hoping it will go down quickly so I can just go back to sleep.

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.

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.

 

The Depth of this Sadness.

In all of the time and places of the world to live I’m certainly fortunate. I’m not a woman living in Afghanistan where my rights are suddenly taken away. I have freedom. I am grateful and guilty and all the things that come about living life as a modern white American woman.

Yet even with all of that good fortune, I’m still struggling. Life is passing by and I can’t keep up with it. I have two beautiful children. A house with a ridiculous mortgage. A husband who is, well, a great father and on occasion he laughs at my jokes. I have a job that pays well, even when my stock finishes vesting, I’m still likely to make at least $200k (*with bonus), which is a lot of money, even in a high cost of living area, as with my husband’s salary that gets us to $300k, which is very livable. About $12.5k a month after tax. Or $5.5k after mortgage. We won’t be living a luxury lifestyle on that but we’ll live just fine. If I keep this job. If I make $200k.

I’m tired. I feel disconnected from everything. My family is gathering on the east coast this weekend for a cousin’s wedding shower. I’m missing the wedding in two months as well. In life before kids and life before covid I would have been on a plane to anywhere to get me there somehow. I would never miss a family event like that. But times have changed. And I feel trapped. Like many other people. Yes we went on a road trip a few weeks ago and it seems we managed to not get covid so that was amazing (we went to Disneyland for a day!) But, I don’t know, this life doesn’t feel like my life anymore. And that’s ok, I guess, it’s my children’s life, which is acceptable, if I could give my children the life I want to give them, and the energy I want to give them, but I have no energy, I’m falling apart.

I dream of selling this house and moving to somewhere we can buy a house for $300k. I could pick up some remote consulting work and pay for healthcare and let my savings grow in investments over the years. I don’t know if I’d really be happy in that situation either…

I want to feel like I’m contributing to the world. Building something. Being useful. But I also don’t want to be so focused on my job that I’m not there for my family. And now because I don’t particularly care for my job I am ok trying to detach from it. But what if I loved my job? What if I wanted to give it all my energy? I have a hard time turning off. Being present. Existing in the now.

I remember my father working so hard his whole life. Was he happy? I don’t know. I can’t imagine so with how fat he was. But maybe he liked work, sometimes. He would fly to other business locations and pitch plans and I didn’t see him all that often during the week. My few memories of spending time with him are:

  • the time he tried to read me the first chapter of the first book of the Hardy Boys series, which wasn’t interesting to me at all besides my ADHD brain had no ability to focus on someone else reading me a story so he gave up
  • Playing War and Rummy with him, mostly War, when we did spend time together that was something we could do, when I was young
  • Building an erector set helicopter. I remember it hurt my fingers to build. It was cool when it was all hooked up and the propeller spun around
  • Occasional family picnics and family events. He’d talk to his family. Sometimes when I was very young he would be more active.
  • Long drives to holiday dinners. His fights with my mom in the front seat. Listening to his classical or 1950s music.
  • Him getting extremely angry at me when I couldn’t focus on math homework and understand the problems or what he taught me or remember any of it.
  • Him ripping his belt off and beating me because he’d come home and my mother would complain about how I didn’t pick up my room so then he would at some point call me into his bedroom and tell me to bend over the bed and he would hit me hard and I’d cry and refuse to apologize and then I’d go to my room and cry all night telling myself how horrible I am and how I don’t deserve to live and such.
  • He liked to grill, so sometimes he would do that, if family came over.

I don’t want to be my father. I’m clearly not my father. But who am I? I don’t know. I feel very much alone. More than ever. I don’t know what to do. My house is a disaster. I need to clean it. It always feels like 2 steps forward 3 steps behind. If only, if only, if only I could clean things up and get it all to a place where I can spend the little energy I have playing with my kids. But I want a new job. I want to leave this one. To what? I don’t know. What can I do? Even when I have energy I last 3-6 months and then fall apart. Now? I don’t know.

I want another child. Ok, ok, so after all that information it sounds like a horrible idea. But I’m trying to hold it together so my husband will let us try for another kid. He knows I don’t like my job and how depressed I am and he’s depressed too. I mean, he hasn’t changed jobs in over a decade and he still makes the same income with slight raises for his one freelance gig that he works part time. I wish he would see how miserable I am and at least work towards maybe earning a little more money so I could take a step back for a bit. I understand now why some women becomes stay at home mothers. I don’t know if I’d like that either. I like earning my own money. But I also… I feel like I’m saving for a time that is now and it’s too late and I just want the time right now.

I look up classes for my kids to do with them and most of the classes available for their age are during the week in the middle of the day when I have work. I signed up for a playgroup for my youngest son at 9:30 on Monday mornings because fuck it I’m working remote and I get my shit done and I’m just going to go. I need some social interaction with people outside my family. Not that I’ll make friends or anything but who knows. And my older son starts preschool next month and my husband is supposedly going to get involved with that since it’s a parent participation program and I don’t have any time to participate. Will see how that goes.

I know women who stay home often are sad about what their husbands expect from them as they’re expected to keep the house clean and take care of the kids and make amazing dinners and still be great in the bedroom and all but you know it’s even harder to be a breadwinning woman who doesn’t have a “wife” like that… it’s hard to be all these things and none of them all at the same time.

 

The Ups and Downs of Life En Route to 38.

It is strange living life with so much instability mentally.  When I was young I would tell myself that as misfit as I am, at least I knew I could be true to myself. That authenticity was so core to my identity that I never questioned if I was I was feeling or thinking was “real.” Or if it was something that would change over time. The very essence of who I am and what I care about, the impulses and objectives and all that… wasn’t that… who I am? 

Instead, over the years I’ve learned I’m a bit more complicated than that. I once cherished art and aesthetics. Now I think investment into such is meaningless, though appreciate any happiness or positive feeling that comes along with it. One example. But also my undiagnosed bipolar is not fun to accept. Not to embrace. But to rein in. To close out mistakes, despite that ink blotch dried into the fabric of life and not budging with any advanced cleaning technique. So there it is. But I don’t have to look at it. Though I do. To remember not to make any more stains. It’s important. Imperative, really.

Focusing on money is also tiring, but necessary. Eventually, I’ll be past that, I guess. When I have “enough.” Five million. So it seems. Then, I can move on from it. Have it, but not obsess over it. Though then I need a new obsession. Then my kids will be grown, probably. Unless I can get there before they hit puberty. That would be ideal. Taking my teenagers on world trips without worrying about my future. Knowing I can pay for my mother’s care in old age. All the things. I flew my sister out to visit because she doesn’t have any money and I like spending time with her (even though she constantly complains about it) and she’s the only family I have. Well, that’s $400 for a flight plus food while she’s here, and activities to keep her busy and not complaining that she would have rather used the days off to do something else. But she seemed happy to see her nephews.

Ink blotches messing with me though. So many I can ignore but had to go make a stain front and center. Why. Why let mania be so self destructive? All things considered, stain isn’t that bad, I guess. Just, embarrassing. So many other stains I just push aside. Never talk to people again, you know? A few words spilled make little difference if one can move on from the situation and try to learn from it. Except. Well, fuck. I was in such a bad place. Maybe it’s ok. I’m sick to my stomach and don’t remember the things I said. Just the gist of it. All the money in the world can’t fix that. Maybe it can fix me from any more stains in the future. Any more shouldn’t have said that or thought that. I’m sorry. Can I say that? Did I say that? Does it matter? Well. I am. And appreciative. For not saying any more. For words disappearing. For being so adult about everything. Damn mature. I’m learning. I’m old now. So I guess I need to learn. But it is chemical. I think. I don’t know.  I went crazy then. I held it together, mostly. It all could have been a lot worse. But still kicking myself. Feel like I ruined one of the best things I had. Even though I didn’t. Did I. Unclear. Just because of words. Words words words. So long ago now. What happens to time. Time happens to it.

There is an emptiness, though. Unrelatedly. It’s this hole etched in me. This longing for connection. In mania, it seems possibly to fill, like this electric current running through me. In depression, it’s just there, infinitely hollow. I just want someone to see me. That can’t be bought. I made a few people laugh this week so that felt good. My typical humor. Inappropriate. Unexpected. Sarcastic. I like that. For a moment there’s a connection. With anyone who gets it. I’d pay for a companion like that. That would be safe. Just pay someone to go to dinner or drinks or whatever and we would look into each other’s eyes and talk about things and there would be serious and not-so-serious moments and we would just be there, connecting. “We” isn’t actually any one person and it’s not a romantic thing it’s like friendship but up a notch I guess if that’s a thing, I don’t think it’s allowed to be a thing, but I’m hungry for that kind of connection, whatever it is, I don’t know what to call it. I feel lonely otherwise. Though that’s my own fault.

I’m not drinking much anymore anyway. The worst of me is drunk me. So I’ve stopped that. I drink, but slowly and deliberately and with awareness. A glass of wine or two. If I am feeling off mentally for the day I just won’t drink. Not one sip. It’s not worth it. I’m holding myself accountable for myself. I’m holding myself together. Barely. But if I can convince everyone else I’ve got it all superglued tight I guess that’s the best victory I can ask for.

Moving Week. So Long Apartment. Hello House of Holes. (This isn’t a post about porn.)

Sorry to disappoint, but House of Holes is not the title of the new porno I’m staring in–it’s what the house I’m moving into looks like at the moment.

Despite our hopes to have all construction work done before moving in and before having a baby, in actuality we’re moving into a house with a circuit busted, holes just about everywhere (my favorite is the giant dark gaping hole… into the crawl space of doom where the furnace used to be) and my electric panel to replace the one that apparently self combusts without notice is going to make it in sometime around the second week of January, despite contracting for it back in mid November. Oh, and my bathroom is, well, it looks like the early stages of a home remodeling show at the second. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t take 30 minutes to transform from drab to fab.

My biggest concern about all the work still needing to be done is not the holes or lack of lighting. It’s that now we have to live in a house with people coming in and out in the height of the pandemic. We are setting it up so our bed will be in the living room on one end of the house away from most of the construction and hoping between that and going out on the days people are doing work, we can avoid getting sick.

Speaking of getting sick, my husband’s grandmother, age 96, caught COVID at her nursing home this week. The window visit to see her yesterday was scary and surreal. So far she’s doing “ok” in the sense that she was moved to a larger nursing home and is sitting up and communicating, but she got a positive diagnosis just 4 days ago (her entire group home got sick – ugh!) so at this point, who knows. I thought the window visit would be regulated somehow… I mean, it was probably fine, but after nearly a year of being so careful to avoid humans who might have COVID, it felt strange to walk a path around the nursing home past windows (hopefully all closed) with my husband and son (wearing our masks of course) to a window in the back that they opened for the visit. She sat 6 feet away, supposedly. She seemed happy to see us and my son. We haven’t seen her in nearly a year. The group home where she was went into complete lock down in March, or so we were told. I can’t even imagine what the last months were like for her. We’re not close or anything (she doesn’t talk much and is quite introverted) but still… what a sad life–already a sad life being a widow in your 90s stuck in a small house waiting to die. And then corona comes along and you can’t even see your family. Horrible.

She is 96 which is pretty incredible and I’ve read people over 95 tend to actually fare better with COVID because they have really good genes, so we’re hopeful. We, of course, don’t want to lose great grandma, and certainly not to COVID, but on top of all this–when my husband’s grandmother does pass away, it will set off a domino effect of logistical nightmare for my husband and his mother, as his mother lives in her mother’s house which is filled with half a century or more of thrift store hoarder heaven. Undoubtedly the brother who is managing his mother’s care will be quick to want to sell the house, which means it will need to be emptied and we will need to find a place for my husband’s mother to live. That alone will be a huge stress and mess whenever it happens. If it happens to happen the week my second child is born (which would be perfectly on schedule for my curse, by the way–my grandma died 4 days after my wedding, dad died 7 days after my first son was. born) then, well, it’s going to be what it is but I know my husband, faced with the reality of this situation happening now is having a heart attack every few minutes at the moment, besides being devastated that his grandma caught COVID just weeks before a vaccine availability for people her age.

I was not feeling optimistic about her situation until seeing her yesterday, and now feel a bit more hopeful. We talked to a guy who works at the nursing home (he was wearing a mask and we were outside but he got close to us to take our temperature which I found kind of crazy as if WE had COVID we weren’t going to give it to anyone during a visit where we stood outside, and HE was clearly around COVID patients all day and got, you know, within 3 feet of us to take our forehead temps. I held my breath when he took it but of course my 2 year old son did not know how to do that (he was wearing a mask, but I’m not sure how effective masks are when you’re that close.) So I’m feeling more optimistic about my husband’s grandmother recovering from Coronavirus and less optimistic of me not having Coronavirus when I go into labor. Even if I didn’t go to visit her, my husband was going, and he wanted to take our son, and it was outside (and his grandmother was sitting inside 6 feet away and we were all wearing masks), but I just feel uneasy about that whole situation. California is going to shit when it comes to our Coronavirus numbers, but in this case we chose to go near a facility with known patients. In my 35th week of pregnancy. With a husband who has high blood pressure. And a 2 year old who would probably be fine if he caught Corona unless he had a horrible reaction to it, but who knows what it does to kids over the long term?

So that just adds another layer to everything right now, everything which has so many layers I’m just letting them build up at this point and not attempting to peal them. I can’t. It’s too much. Even my upcoming performance review (which was now moved to January since I’ve opted to work a bit longer after finding out how much money I’ll be losing if I take off the extra 2-3 weeks before my delivery date) is barely registering with me, despite the occasional mental loop about how my boss and my former boss with (possibly) cautiously tell me about my demotion and how I’ll never be a leader and carefully document all of my mistakes last year so they can throw me out as soon as I get back to work after maternity leave and pass whatever HR qualified period is required to not fire a woman who just had a baby. Of course, I’ll do what it takes to be GREAT for as long as I can when I get back (which is difficult when you just had a baby and do not sleep–my first PIP came a week after I got back from maternity leave and I was losing my mind, so who knows what will happen this time.) I don’t know. I have a lot of money on the line right now. And I feel like my new role is actually good for me in that I can get the work done to an acceptable level. Maybe that’s what my former boss is thinking too. She is actually a nice person and seems to like me enough and she knows how much $ I have on the line and if she wanted to she could have fired me last year (I gave her quite the runway between the PIP and announcing that I’m pregnant so she didn’t have to feel like she was stuck with me) and she decided to keep me, or decided to not make it a priority to get rid of me at the time. Because I did do some good work. She even said so. I was doing really well the first half of the year. Then I had 3 bad months. Then I was demoted and told I’ll never be a leader.

Anyway, maybe it’s true. Or maybe I’m just going through a lot in my personal life right now and it’s not the time to lead. I just wish I could have a job where I didn’t have to constantly worry about getting fired. Layoffs happen and can’t be avoided, but I don’t want my performance to ever be part of the equation. I look at my friend who is just so confident and always gets his work done, despite his work not being too complex yet, and how that led to his promotion into my former role. Now, said friend is seemingly really good at strategy for this specific position, and he deserves to move up in his career and have a shot at running the show. Still, I’m unclear how the work I’ve done (and what I’ve put out) is so horrible over what he might do. People just have a negative perception of me because I’m a bad project manager, but all of my contributions have been solid as far as I know. I just missed a few deadlines (which for the most part didn’t even push out project launches, just internal deadlines that were set too aggressively in the first place.)

Where I really failed was in not focusing on a strategy that tied to my boss’s plans close enough. But even that was pretty difficult to do as those plans changed and there was no strategic guidance. So I came up with a plan based on whatever it was I picked up on working remote from the various teams and people seemed happy with it at the time. I tried to execute on that plan and I did execute on it, but not in the way I should have. I should have made things simple, delegated work to lots of people, and lead in making other people do things so things got done and everyone was aligned and excited and motivated and everyone was like, damn gurrrrlll, you are the best leader ever. Instead I came up with a plan (collaboratively, mind you) and then tried to get the work done by reaching out to people across the organization vs mostly on my team. Stuff was pretty complicated and I wanted to make sure I put out things that were accurate so it took me too long. I set unrealistic deadlines, but for me deadlines are always unrealistic because I have a mental flaw where I can’t actually focus on work until the last minute, and then somehow the brain block opens and suddenly I am doing work that would take someone 2 weeks in one night. And no one knows the difference. Except when I’m so anxious about the situation that I can’t even get that one night. Or a bunch of people review the work and change their minds after they told me one thing, so I have to change it again. And I don’t know how to say “this is done” because I want to make everyone happy.

Anyway, wasn’t this a house about those dark holes in my house? The point was, I’m just not super focused on my job situation right now in that I have little time to dwell on it outside of hoping that whatever this review is, I’m given some sort of opportunity to take the rest of the next year to do my new job and am not given an actual demotion yet. Even if my title drops to the next tier, if I can keep the same pay and vesting schedule I would lose out only on a percentage of my bonus next year. Which would be sad but not the end of the world. I don’t know if they can take back any stock grants at this point, even with a demotion, so hopefully I can hold on to that.

Maybe after I’ve moved to my new house, set up an actual office (vs working for the past year FROM MY BED in my ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT) and have gotten past the first few sleepless months of having a baby, I can actually do a decent job. Decent meaning I unlock the mystery of making plans for a project that everyone is aligned with, from starting ideation to launch and beyond, and every single project I manage is so perfectly executed that no one can say a  negative word about me. There is absolutely nothing I can do to move up in this organization again, but that is not my goal. I have 15 months of survival, and then I can evaluate where I’m at. In 15 months, I hope to have this job, a healthy baby (in addition to my healthy toddler), a healthy husband, a vaccinated family, a house that hasn’t burnt down (and hopefully is free of holes outside of the purposeful ones in the plumbing and entryways), and then I can stop and figure out the rest of life. Do we stay a few more years? Do we move? Do I get a new job? Do I keep this one if I’m actually good at it (despite no room for advancement?) I can figure that all out then. Right now, this is a month-by-month, week-by-week, day-by-day survival game.

The current level involves figuring out how to hire a GOOD handyman to fill in the 3×3 hole into the vortex of doom in my closet (not to mention a matching portal into the attic), and how to fix the electric circuit that my bathroom remodelers say they didn’t break (they probably did but they claim the HVAC people did this, despite us knowing it was working the night of the HVAC work being complete), and all the other things that will undoubtedly go wrong once we move in. I’m trying to just embrace this all as the sitcom of my life, because when you just accept that you’re living in a comedy, even the most tragic can be spun up with hilarity to get you through it. I’ve found no amount of money can protect you from the chaos that is life. Or maybe, with some ridiculous amount you can cushion yourself from it a bit (at some point you can have an electrician living with you in your contractor’s quarters) but generally speaking, life is shit for everyone. It’s good it is, I guess. It’s more shit for some people but everyone suffers at some point, $100M in the bank or not. So I embrace my varying levels of suffering, from my first world problems of a hole-ly house to those that are a bit more substantially shitty, such as when my father died a week after my son was born in a rehab facility that I’m still convinced was negligent/not where he should have been in his condition.

Right now, I don’t know how many more bad things I can take. Birth is scary as fuck and so many things can go wrong. We don’t hear about them because we’re told as long as mom and baby are healthy/alive, then things went well. That’s not really true. Lots of things can go wrong and mom/baby survive. My first birth was not horrific compared to ones I’ve read about since having my son (you know, compared to woman who had emergency C sections where the numbing meds didn’t work AND THEY FELT EVERYTHING) or those who hemorrhaged and blacked out after giving birth and aren’t sure how they’re alive) so I’m a bit terrified of what could happen… but for the most part births are pretty standard and women have their babies come out one way or another and either way is fairly safe and babies don’t typically come out not breathing and have to go to the NICU like my son and even if they do they eventually adapt to the world and thrive like my son is doing now.

But it’s hard not to worry, especially 5 weeks (or much less) until I do this all over again. I’m both oddly looking forward to it (a redemption birth, a glorious smooth birth where baby comes out and is placed on my chest and crawls to my breast and latches with no problem and we just have that beautiful, peaceful moment I hear so much about) and terrified out of my mind about all the things that could go wrong. And then just thinking through the logistics of how to make sure my son is safe while we go to the hospital… we have somewhat of a plan but it isn’t perfect. If I’m induced, it would be a bit more controlled (pick up my MIL, bring her to our house, set her and my son up for a few days of safe living) but if I go into spontaneous labor (which is the hope) then it will look more like driving 30 minutes to the hospital while I’m screaming in pain, dropping me off, either picking her up after and driving her back to my house (another 45 minutes) then driving back to the hospital and parking (another 45 minutes) until my husband gets back to be with me (leaving me alone for a good 2 hours+ while in active labor) or he drops my son off at her house which is fine for a day but not safe for an overnight, which is going to happen if it seems like I’m about to pop (I think that’s more realistic… we book it up to her house, drop my son off and continue on to the hospital together. It would be about 45 minutes from home to the hospital at that point, with the stop.) Then once I’m in recovery and given the all clear, my husband can head out and drive my son and his mother to our house, and then at some point come back to be with me and baby at the hospital. Or if I’m doing exceptionally well he can stay home with my son and his mom and get some rest while I manage baby at the hospital overnight, and then get picked up to go home in a day or two and come home to a husband who isn’t out-of-his-mind exhausted (this may be the best scenario.)

I can’t believe it’s five weeks away (and there is a chance my doctor won’t let me go beyond 39 weeks which, good ol math tells us is FOUR weeks away.) FOUR WEEKS until I knock on wood have ANOTHER kid. Life is so strange. I have definitely adjusted to being mom to one. My son is awesome.  I don’t see him as a little kid. I mean, I do in that he’s just innocent and honest and has those moments of pure joy that only someone without a grasp on the hours of the world can have. But he’s also just this little person with his own ideas and opinions and needs. And I love him to pieces…

And I don’t know how I’m going to love another kid but I’m told you just do. I think I can. I’m crazy and want 3 kids. I feel like at the end of the day, what matters to me most is family. I grew up with such a big extended family and now it’s really just us. My husband has some cousins nearby with older kids, but we don’t see them often (even pre COVID.) I wish I could be more social with them but they’re just rather adult and normal and I don’t know how to connect with adult and normal people. I mean now we can talk about kids, which is something to talk about, but I just feel like a teenager around them and they’re all such grown ups. I may be 37 but I get along with people who are mentally 16, which is the problem. They are super nice, but if I went to dinner or drinks alone with them (esp the two women who are in their early 40s who are both super nice but just superrrr normal) it would just be awkward. Not that I really connect with my extended family, but they’re at least east coast types who have big personalities and I feel a bit more comfortable around them. Anyway, I want to build my own family. And I can… I have. And to me, 2 kids is great and 3 is even better. Sure, there’s no guarantee my future kids will not be little demons but… I don’t know… my heart wants a fairly big family. Not huge. But 3 seems like the right number. It always has to me. I’ll get through #2 and see if I still feel this way. I’ll be 38 before I can start trying for #3, and I’m throwing around the idea of doing IVF both to minimize risk of defects at that age and also sex selection. Which is horrible in my politically correct mind where one should not care about the sex of their children but then I also really want to have a girl and I think I’d be sad if I didn’t at least try to make that happen. IVF will be expensive, so I’m saving up for it, but at 38/39 even if I didn’t want to do it for sex selection I still might need it. So that’s possibly in my future. But for now, I want to have a healthy birth and a healthy baby and get to know my new kiddo.

My heart is so ready to see my son meet his sibling. He’s 2.5 years old and seems to sort of get that a baby is coming. He knows I’m growing a baby and we watch YouTube videos of funny babies so he understands what a baby is. I tell him baby is coming in January and he says “NO! FEBRUARY!” and he often points to my stomach and says “BABY!!” I hope he does well with all the change coming up… the move next week (we’ve been bringing him to the house often and he definitely is comfortable being there, but I don’t know how he’ll feel when we no longer can come back to the apartment) and then they’ll be a new kid living with us! But in February grandpa will be moving in and that will be great for him since grandpa is his best friend. Grandpa has a fall and hasn’t been to the doctor as he apparently didn’t enroll in Medicare Part B (eventually I’ll write another post re: my learnings of Medicare’s insanity) and he also wants to avoid doctor due to COVID concerns (which I understand) so grandpa who is living with us to help with our son when we have our new baby will be less able to help and also prevent us from hiring help until vaccines come out since we can’t risk exposing him to the virus, so there’s that. At least grandma loves to watch our son as well and she never uses her time off so she can spend some time with us and  our son too, even if she doesn’t live with us. It will all work somehow. I don’t know how people do this without any help. I just want us all to survive.

I’m so ready for 2021. And filling the holes in my house and those in my heart opened during my last birth. It’s been a rough 2.5 years. Through all of it, I’ve held down a job, increased by net worth substantially, and have set my family up for a clear path to $2.5M in net worth by the end of 2021 or early 2022. We should clear $2M in the next week, once the rest of my stock vests, even after all the taxes I owe for this year. I don’t know how that doesn’t feel like an accomplishment… not long ago I was looking at $1M like… that’s never going to happen, and here we are, $2M with 1.5 kids and a mortgage and so many crawl space and attic entrances!

Things are really good, despite being also not so good. I want to see my mom again soon (even though she’s a narcissist, I still miss her), and I want to see my sister and my extended family and I want life to go back to normal. I want my husband’s grandmother to kick COVID’s ass (this woman will live to 110) and I want to have one of those childbirths that starts with contractions at home and ends with a birth at the hospital where baby comes out screaming in a good way. I can’t plan for 5 years from now or 3 years from now at this point. It is now until April 1, 2022. That is all that matters. We get through this, I keep my job, we don’t get sick, we pay our mortgage on time, we fill those house holes (maybe with the play doh we’re giving our son for Christmas), and we learn how to be adults. Maybe we too can become normal adults and I can go to dinner with my husband’s cousins (or invite them over) and discuss such things as my son’s school and how to maintain a backyard and house hole filing. Or whatever normal adults talk about.

What’s clear is that this now is life and I’m going to live it the best I can. Accept the holes as part of what makes it interesting. And survive until April 1, 2022, with 15 months of potential life-changing net worth growth ahead, I’m in such a good place to set my family up for many years of relative stability (even if we stay in a HCOL area), and for once I feel really good about making it. Not forever. But 15 months. I got this. Maybe even the holes will be filled in by then.

Being a Working Mom in a Pandemic + Being a Working Pregnant Mom in a Pandemic

Talking to other working mothers, it’s clear that even the most optimistic of the bunch have realized that life has changed for good… at least for a long while. I’m not sure how anyone thought the pandemic would be a 1-3 month blip in our working lives given how fast the virus spreads and without coordinated federal political leadership, but everyone is now aware this shit has gotten real. All too real.

Professional women I know are discussing quitting the workforce to take care of their kids. Women who contribute 50% of the income to their families. Women who need their jobs. Women who rely on their husbands as breadwinners but who love their careers. Who never saw themselves as stay at home mothers. All now facing the reality – my company has given me no choice but to quit (or get fired, eventually.)

I find it bizarre that my company has not addressed the issue of being a working parent in a pandemic at all. I mean, there was a brief mention, there was the generic comment about how family comes first — but no follow up. No tactical advice how we can do our jobs and be parents and all that entails. Even though schools have announced that the school year — at least the first half of it — will be remote — workplaces have the upper hand and have no reason to offer any more flexibility. We are in a recession. You are lucky to have a job. Take it or leave it. Plenty of other people out there willing to take your place.

I’m fortunate in that as the breadwinner of my household, my husband’s part time job enables him the flexibility to watch our son. I’m also pregnant and yes that was planned but we both know it will be a huge challenge in the winter when our new baby is born. At least I’ll on maternity leave for a few months. Hopefully by then there will be a vaccine or treatments. Either way, I am in a position where I can likely work from home for the long term, and we will shelter in place with my in laws who can help watch our older son while we survive the first year of parenting in a pandemic.

I’ll go back to work–because I have to. I didn’t think I’d get pregnant this quickly but I knew it was possible. I determined that I could survive through the end of this year and go into next year on maternity leave for a few months, and then return in the late spring and hope my boss offers some flexibility to get back up to speed. Unlike my first child, which I had when I was just 9 months into employment at this company, now I’ll have been here three years. I feel like I’m in a bit better place. They can certainly get rid of me, but I don’t think that is their top priority at the moment.

Long term if COVID doesn’t go away I’m not sure how this works. We’ll have two kids under 3 and bills to pay in a HCOL area. We’ll figure it out. I always tell myself I’m lucky that my kid isn’t in school – that we aren’t expected to homeschool while we work. Yet at least that would provide some structure. I worry my son is falling behind socially because he can’t see other kids. That is what hurts the most. But if we allow him to see other kids we put ourselves at risk for getting COVID (which is extra bad if you’re pregnant) and then we can’t see my in laws which means no socialization with them and no childcare. We just had to make that tough decision.

We have a year before my son turns three and I’m really hoping by then the world makes sense again. I’ve given myself mentally until then to just survive whatever is to come. So now that’s 12 months of having a child, not losing my job, and reassessing next August. I’ve committed (to myself) to stay in my current role at least until the end of next year (if I can) in order to vest my entire initial grant,  then start looking for a new role the following year. If all goes well, I’ll be in a solid financial place to start really thinking about work life balance in my career choices — and certainly to focus on finding a company that actually did something meaningful during this COVID craziness for their working parent employees. Not just lip service. Actual policy changes and support. Even if the pay isn’t the best, I’ll be at the point of my life where I want something stable with a company that actually cares about its employees.

Until then, it is just about survival.

Am I Having Another Baby?

Given it took months and $5000 of fertility treatments to conceive our first child, I was momentarily bewildered by a very faint pink line on a cheap-o pregnancy test I took two weeks after our first month trying for number two. I joked to myself, as I do, that of course my previously infertile PCOS-ridden womb would get pregnant the first month we tried. I’d be taking the test on Mother’s Day weekend, so it was only appropriate to find out that I was to become a mom – again.

I had taken a test two days prior and it was negative, but I figured I’d waste another cheap-o test and move on with my life. I was convinced that it was impossible to have conceived this month anyway, since my husband and I missed the time in the month I thought I was fertile. But then, as I blurred my eyes at the test, I saw not one, but two lines. I blinked. I waved the strip in the air. I walked away and came back. I took a picture of the strip and sent it to a close friend who knew I was hoping to get pregnant by fall. She responded, “you’re pregnant.”

I dug through my drawer of random things I never used and pulled out the more pricey early response tests I saved for when I might actually be pregnant. Took one. The positive line came back dark pink. “I’m pregnant.” My friend, with one more photo to document proof, confirmed.

Suddenly, my next year flashed before my eyes. I had imagined it all, but not quite so so soon. And with the coronavirus, everything became much more difficult and scary (I was aware of the pandemic when we were trying and decided at 36 with fertility problems and the hope to have at least one if not two more kids, we should get on with it — I figured we’d probably get pregnant in a few months and I’d be giving birth in spring 2021, maybe around the time a vaccine would be available–not exactly January 2021, in the middle of what could be a bad second or third wave.)

So the next year blur — a stomach growing bigger and bigger, being unable to sleep well and having all the horrible third trimester symptoms, not being able to travel to see my mother or sister or visit my childhood home that needs to be sold, the worst possible ways one might have to deliver with COVID-19 around–laboring with a mask and with full-blown corona symptoms unable to breathe, and then just the reality of now having 9 months to move from our one bedroom apartment (a needed impetus to stop being so frugal and get more space), I sat there and took in the reality of what this little pink line meant.

And despite all that worry, I felt really happy. I pictured my son, not able to interact with any other kids these days, having a sibling to grow up with. He has no cousins, and it’s unlikely he will have cousins (my sister is our only hope and if she does have kids it won’t be for quite a number of years), and I want to give him a family (this is also why I want 3 kids even though that’s kind of crazy… we’ll see how I do with two.) I pictured my kids growing up together and fighting and laughing and having fun and being silly.

I went to get my son out of his crib and he was the first to hear the news, and he kept my secret all day. We often jokingly ask him if he wants a brother and he exclaims “or sister!” so I asked him again and told him there is a baby in my stomach. He’s 22 months old so he isn’t going to understand but I made a cute video of telling him and planned to show it to my husband at some point. I knew he would be quite surprised.

That evening, as he was putting my son to bed, I sent him the video and told him I took a cute video of our son but it was too big to upload to instagram. I videoed him watching it. At the beginning I go “do you want a brother?” and so on. My husband, watching the video clueless looks at me and says “it’s a good thing you didn’t post this to instagram, people will think you’re pregnant” (classic) — a few seconds later, when the video reveals me handing a positive pregnancy test to my son as his “present” my husband figured out that he was right about one thing… people will think I’m pregnant.

But over the last weeks, I’ve had some reasons to think that this baby won’t stick. I won’t go into details, but I ended up having an early ultrasound and with only a gestational sac and a yolk sac seen, it’s possible the baby isn’t growing and isn’t viable. It’s also possible I’m just earlier than they think (which I know is true at least somewhat) and we just need to wait and try again in a few weeks. So I’m in wait mode now. I have another appointment on June 15 and will find out if there is a baby or I’ll have to make a horrible choice between getting a D&C, taking a pill to miscarry, or waiting for my body to handle it naturally. I’m hoping I don’t have to make that decision, but accept hat may be the case. I’m 36 now, and it’s just more likely that anytime I get pregnant we’ll hit a bad egg. I’m trying to tell myself that it’s good news either way–I’ve proven I can now get pregnant without fertility treatment, and I should be able to again. And if I am actually pregnant, well, that’s terrifying but amazing and I really can’t wait to have a baby again and grow my family and continue building the life I want.

I successfully achieved having $1M before baby #1 and I wanted $1.5M before baby #2 and I should get there, adding in my husband’s savings. And $2M before baby #3, if there is to be a baby #3, also seems possible. My personal capital account, which shows our pre-tax networth, is at about $1.4M right now. That seems insane to me, as I still remember looking at my mint account with about $10k to my name, wondering how on earth I’d ever save $100k. I have a good $350k sitting in cash for a downpayment (and soon will have another $50k more thanks to some strong performing company stock vesting soon) so everything is really just working out… somehow.

Why is it I still feel so out of control though… afraid to purchase a home… afraid to make any commitments or live slightly less frugally? I really want a home. I want a reasonably nice home, which seems to cost like $2M in the Bay Area, but I’m willing to settle for something a little cheaper, like $1.7M (sigh) and handle a house that isn’t perfect but that is a place to call our own… a place to make our memories. It’s time to leave this 800 square foot apartment and move on with our lives. I’ll miss it, but I won’t miss it that much. Not if we have a home of our own.

At this point, I’m waiting until my appointment next week to see how much we need to rush the moving situation. If there is no baby, then we have a little more time. If there is a baby, then we have less than nine months to move. Even if we wanted to, we can’t legally stay in a one bedroom with two kids. So here we are, family of 3 maybe about to become a family of 4, in the middle of a pandemic, having to buy a house and move and set up our life and figure out if we move south to have a little more house for our money or stay in the area we want to live and have a lot less house or who knows. I realize financially renting makes way more sense but I’m at this point where I feel like what is the point if we don’t have a home to put down our roots in… and a sense of stability and a place that is ours. I’ve saved $1.2M on my own and I know that’s not enough to really buy a house here… but on the other hand, having all that invested in the stock market is risky too and while it will probably perform well over time, why avoid buying the one thing I really want just to have a big number in the bank?

I hope I am pregnant and I hope this forces us to move and find a house and meet our neighbors and be grown ups and grow up. Life is so short and I can’t believe I’m almost 37 and really almost 40. I thought I’d be a lot more settled by this age, but I do think that my 40 I want to have some serious domestic accomplishments, not just financial ones. And I hope that when travel is possible again I can have a guest room for my mother and sister to come visit. I hope I can have a yard to have friends over and sit around a fire pit and maybe eventually buy myself a hot tub though that will probably never happen but it’s a thought. And a garage where I can store my bike and some other things so my living room doesn’t have to be my storage room and my living room and my son’s room with his crib and toys and slide and rocking horse. And my bedroom doesn’t also have to be my husband’s office.

I guess I’m tired of making smart financial decisions and want to make ones that make my life better now. I know I’m so fortunate to be where I am and have what I have. With all that is going on in the world right now, especially the injustices against the black community, I feel guilty being concerned with any of this mundane life stuff. But life still goes on, even as the world needs a big kick in the ass and a whole lot of fixing. I’d like to figure out how to contribute to fixing the world too, but I think part of that comes with my settling down and not having to spend a lot of my energy thinking about “what’s next” and instead focus on stability in my own life and how I can then give back to the world.

Anyway, lots going on right now. I very well may not be pregnant… but I could be. If I was 5w6d at my prior appointment, or even 6 weeks (which I think I was), then maybe it was just too early to see the fetal pole and heartbeat. Or maybe the doctor I saw (not my normal doctor) rushed the appointment and didn’t spend enough time looking because she knew if she found it or didn’t, it didn’t really matter at this point… she was just confirming the pregnancy was not ectopic, which it wasn’t. She did say maybe it’s just earlier than we think and gave me a glimmer of hope pointing to a little speck on the screen saying “maybe something is growing there” so there’s nothing I can do but wait.

…And even if my next appointment, where I think I’ll be 8 weeks and some-odd days, shows a healthy embryo and heartbeat, I can still miscarry at any time or have other complications before a healthy baby is actually born. So I don’t want to get my hopes up. My last pregnancy was relatively smooth, but my childbirth was not. I am trying to just have not expectations here other than hoping that I remain healthy and safe through whatever happens. And that maybe all of this leads to purchasing our home and really starting our life as a family together–I realize that owning a home is not a requirement to do that, but it still feels like something that needs to happen before I feel like I’ve made it as an adult.

 

We ALMOST Bought a $1.8M House…

And I am, at this moment, regretting not doing it.

$1.8M.

$1-8-0-0-0-0-0-0.

That’s a heck of a lot of cash.

We’re not rich people. We’re not the type of people that should be spending $1M a home, let alone $1.8M.

But — that is what it looks like we HAVE to do if I don’t want a crazy horrible commute and we don’t want to leave the area.

What makes the $1.8M possible is that we’re still strongly leaning towards buying with (AND LIVING WITH) my in laws. The big requirement is that they have a separate living area from us (separate unit on the property or at the least an in law with separate entrance.)

The $1.8M house was super cute. 3 bedroom, 2 bath, with a 400 square foot garage we could convert…

It had its issues. Other than being $1.8M. It had some termite activity, according to the disclosures. The 400 square feet of the garage would be challenging to turn into a real 1 bedroom apartment (my in laws aren’t married but are friends, so they can live in the same unit just need their own rooms.) The lot didn’t seem that big, though I guess it was at 7,500 sq ft, but most of that was in the front yard and in a very long driveway.

I regret not buying it, but I would have regretted buying it.

It was originally a 2br/1ba, and along its life some time an addition was plopped on the back of another bedroom and bath – the master suite. But the suite wasn’t that sizable… a full sized bed felt tight in there. While the home showed quite nicely, the reality was that for $1.8M it was too small for us, given we want to grow our family soon.

But I don’t think anything here will really be the right fit… unless we want to spend $3M+, which we don’t, and we won’t, unless we win the lottery we don’t play.

That said, my husband and I started tracking our joint net worth and it’s about $920k right now. Not too shabby. Mine is about $840k of that! But that’s ok. We’re doing well, yet living in a 1 bedroom apartment. I realized that this year, with my stock and bonus and such, I could clear $300k-$350k before tax ($117k of that I’ve already made as of April 1, which is crazy to think.) If I could maintain this level of income for the next 30 years, sure, we can afford a $1.8M home. But I won’t. I won the job lottery at the moment and am holding on for dear life. In 3 years, I can save a good $300k and we should break $1M in net worth. After we hit $1M, I’ll feel comfortable having another child… but I’m not sure I feel comfortable purchasing a home for $1.5M+. $500k, sure. $800k, maybe. $1M, possibly. $1.8M…

That’s too much for a house. That’s just insane.

My husband makes $80k a year. We aren’t paying for childcare right now, but if his parents got sick that could change any minute and we’d have $2k/ mo right there. With another kid, that’s $4k a month. It just doesn’t add up. Even if his mother puts down $1M and we have a $800,000 mortgage, that’s about $7000 / mo. How does anyone do this?