Karin Mitchell's books on Goodreads
Between Families Between Families
reviews: 5
ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.75)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Struggles & The Luxuries

I made friends with my birthing class teacher. I did it because she is the kind of woman you can tear your pants in front of and not bother to change, the kind of woman you don't have to clean your house to have over, the kind of woman you can give birth in front of. It doesn't hurt that she's beautiful.

I like having beautiful friends. And I have a lot of them. I'm spoiled like that. I hate to admit this, but I really like to have good-looking teachers. The truth is, if someone's teaching you, there's a solid chance you're staring at that person's face for a long, long time and it's nicer to do if it's a pretty face. I bet there's no research on that, but I bet it's true that all other things being equal, we like pretty teachers better. So I made friend with this pretty teacher lady and it's turned out really nicely. I also love her daughter who is a special class of spitfire.

Anyway, my friend came over the other day to have our kids play while we drink coffee and be in this world together. I can be in the struggle with this friend. And that's quality. She and I are having similar struggles. We're good moms who are skilled at finding resources and activities in the community and sometimes we don't get enough sleep and get annoyed with our kids. We both stopped working at maximum capacity and stayed home (mostly) with our kids. We both bought our homes when we were DINKs (dual income no kids,) and then nearly cut our incomes in half and now have two kids. We both enjoy working and enjoy grownup time and trying to figure out how to approach a balance with that is a challenge.

I have cast my lot and made my choice. I quit my job and went to school and I'm finishing my book which isn't as good as I want but isn't bad either. I pursue being a writer. And eventually I'll make a living at it. It may take a long, long time, but I have a long life ahead of me and enjoy working at this so that's ok. Mostly.  Sometimes it doesn't feel so ok.

It doesn't feel great that we buy gifts for birthday parties at thrift stores. Even though it is a more earth-friendly gift giving method, I feel cheap and trashy about our gifts sometimes. A three or four-year old doesn't know where you got a present. He only knows it's awesome. Still, I feel cheap when I get them at a thrift or consignment store. Even though I don't feel that way when someone gives us those gifts. I prefer them. Because it's a more sustainable practice and it makes me feel like the person giving the gift gets our family and its values. But when I do it, I know we have to do it that way. We don't have the income to spare.

And the income struggle is the struggle for us. I feel that struggle when we can't afford to visit family most. When I stress about how to pay for insurance which I haven't purchased yet. When I can't take the kids for an activity like a cool scenic train ride or when I can't buy the expensive coffee I want. Or when I'm deciding whether to attend graduation and not having the money to rent the cap and gown is a problem. Sometimes not being able to do something makes me want to do it more.

I quit my job at the beginning of 2012 and I don't regret it for a second. That job was killing me. And I'm good at tons of things so it's profoundly stupid for me to spend time working in something that makes me that miserable. That said, I feel responsible for the financial situation we're in now.

I fantasize about the day when I'll make a good living and enable my husband to quit his job and play guitar all day. He knows I'd do it and there's a reciprocity there that helps me get through this time when he's supporting us. I feel uncomfortable about that. Him supporting us. It feels like I've done a shitty job as a feminist even though that's not what it's about.

What it IS about is making a good decision for our family. Parenting my kids and pursuing writing. I have to do it. Or what the hell kind of person am I?

When I think back to how I got through it when I very first quit, I remember thinking of all the luxuries this choice provided for our family. So much time to sit on the floor and sing with my boy. Time to make elaborate healthy meals with whole ingredients, including grating my own orange zest and making a rue for pasta. The time I spent with Magnus resulted in him being more secure; you could tell within a month or two he felt that way.

And it's still a struggle. That truth sits in my delicious coffee mug filled with homebrewed coffee with my favorite chip in the side of the mug. I like the way the chip fits against my bottom lip when I hold my spoon to the side and slurp. We don't have money. We've sold our car and tried to sell our house and deferred our loans in order to have this life together. That truth cools my mouth.

But there are these luxuries that you just can't buy with money. I play ring-around-the-rosie and read parenting books that I get time to apply. I stop what I'm doing to run outside and jump in puddles or grab handfuls of the first snow with the kids. I lay in bed in the morning with both boys clambering for snuggles from every person in the bed. Sometimes they bonk heads and laugh and do it again because all those smooches and hugs pad the pain of any struggle. I write. I write and write. I teach and live to inspire myself to write and teach more. I watch videos to see what I can use to inspire my students and catch the bug in the process. I help. I cook and I pet my cat and wear yoga pants while writing my blog. My life is luxurious. It is full and well worth the struggle.