Thursday, May 9, 2013

You're On Your Own

It’s funny how much my family has changed from when I was a child to now. Growing up, I lived within walking distance of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second and third cousins. We had sleepovers, dinners, and picked each other up from school. Holidays were fun and memorable. My son doesn't have that. I miss that part of growing up and I want my son to experience it as well.

Everyone has moved away, spends more time working or pretty much does their own thing (whatever that means). Holidays are smaller in size and shorter in length. We don’t get together “just because” and we don’t babysit for each other either. In fact, my grandmother has received criticism from family members for babysitting because it’s “not her responsibility”.

I wonder why all of a sudden my family seems to have this you’re on your own mentality. Or why we don’t seem to want to be around each other. Granted, many people have moved away but there are still a handful of family members in NYC that I only see a few times a year. I spent a lot of time with grandparents and was babysat by nearly everyone in my family. What has changed?

Is it because we are making more money and the consensus is we can afford our own nannies, daycare and after school care? Is it because there are huge economic differences between family members and now we don’t have much in common anymore? Or because fewer people are having children and the only real reason to get together or celebrate holidays is to bring the kids together? Could It be there is such a negative stigma around having children no one wants to be involved?

I think about these things because for right now, I do not plan on having more children in the immediate future. I want my son to grow up surrounded by family and other children outside of his daycare. Although we struggled financially growing up, I had a lot of fond memories and I am afraid he may not have the same experience I had. I know I can join or create a playgroup and meet up with local moms at the park which I’m not opposed to, but there is just nothing like spending time like family.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My life is ruined...or is it?

I remember my mother telling me on numerous occasions when I was younger that she wished she would have waited until she was older to have me. She wished she would have gone to college, had a good job, and traveled. I know she did not tell me these things to make me feel bad or unwanted, but to prevent me from making the same “mistake” she made and suffering as a result of it.

I have to admit, this did often make me feel pretty crappy. I mean, had my mom went to college, had more money and more time to pick a more suitable husband (which would mean I wouldn't be here) we would be so much better off, right? We would have lived in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood and took family vacations. We wouldn't have been repeatedly evicted, forcing us to cram into small apartments with other family members. She wouldn't have had to rely on welfare and food stamps to get by. I understood my mother's point perfectly, having a child young (she was 20) will ruin your life.

As I got older and became a sort of young mom myself at 26, I realized how challenging being a parent, especially in expensive New York could be. I was renting a small apartment, didn't have a clear path as to what I wanted career wise and had a ton of debt. Having a kid made saving and paying off debt harder and being able to pay for the continuing education classes to advance my career nearly impossible.

One thing I did realize when I became a mom was how much time I wasted after college in getting my act together. I found out I was pregnant about four years after I graduated from college. That was four years of my life I could have spent taking those continuing ed classes to advance my career and save money. I took for granted that I was still young and had time to figure things out and as a result I wasted five years at a dead end job and found myself in serious credit card debt. I only had myself to blame for not being happy. 

Had I not become a mom would I have more money? Yes. I would not have to worry about paying for insurance, daycare, food, clothes, medicine and toys. Had I not become a mom would I become focused on advancing my career and becoming debt free? Maybe, maybe not.

My life is harder, but better. My son has inspired me and motivated me to become the responsible, mature adult I want and know I can be. I want to be a good example to him, I want him to see me grow as a person, to see what hard work and success looks like so that he may take those life lessons with him as he grows. I don’t want him to grow up watching his parents fail, give up or make excuses. He will learn that in life there are always going to be struggles and hardships but that we have the power to make the change we want to see in our lives.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Working Mom

For me, going to work after my son was only three months old was not a choice, it was necessity. My boyfriend had been laid off and found work he wasn't necessarily happy with shortly before I gave birth, and we knew a dual income household was the only way to get by. There was so much pressure, so much to do. Bigger apartment, car and health insurance for our son. Every time I turned around something was going up whether it was our rent, utilities or medical expenses. I decided shortly after going back to work something had to change so I quit my job to work as a real estate agent.

The opportunity for money was there, it just required a lot of time, more than I felt comfortable with. I spent my days and sometimes nights hustling around Brooklyn and Manhattan, taking phone calls and e-mails 24/7, working an unpredictable schedule that was often very chaotic. I knew if I kept at it, I could be really good, and the opportunity to work for myself and earn my own money was great. There was just one thing; I felt really sad about not being home enough with my son.

I couldn't help but feel something wasn't right about this scenario. I was lucky enough to have a family member care for him until he was one so I knew he was in great hands. I just knew that I wanted to be the one at home caring for him. I wanted to be able to be there when he woke up in the morning, feed him his dinner and put him to bed at night. I wanted to have days off so that we could spend time together to make up for my days at work. I knew something had to change, so I got a job in the same industry in an administrative role with a set salary, good schedule and benefits.

Do I make as much as much as I would like? No. Am I being challenged, pushed to my limits (in a good way) or working to my full mental capacity? No. But I can say I do have the security of working for a great company, decent benefits and the work-life balance I felt I needed. I will admit, I can do more and want to do more, I just need to work within what my boyfriend and I feel is best for us and our family. We both decided it would be best if he spent more time working and I spent more time at home.

The pressure is there to have it all. Go after what you want in the work place, expect more from our husbands and partners and earn more. Our lives will be more fulfilling and we will set an excellent example for both our daughters and sons. My story is different than Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer. I wasn't working as an executive with a Fortune 500 company when I became pregnant, I was at the bottom. I’m sure if I were in the position they were in, I’d have more to fight for, more of a reason to keep climbing up and not give up. I won’t call my leaving my commissioned based position as giving up, but I didn't see myself as losing anything by not sticking with it and going back to the world of being an admin either.

I think as much as we support the Sandberg’s or the Mayer’s, we should be supportive of the SAHM or the mom that works her butt off outside of the home without much to show for it. I think this discussion about “leaning in” and having it all is really a discussion about choices, and making the right choices for our families and not giving in to pressure from those on the outside.