We are coming up on our anniversary in Rome. Or our Rome-iversary as I like to call it.
Wow. We’ve come a long way. I look back on early recaps like this and realize just how different things are now. We have enjoyed plenty of trips. We have eaten at lots of restaurants. We have had lots of fun exploring the city.
Sometimes I get frustrated because it feels like all the new arrivals are able to do stuff immediately that it took me six months to do. I’m happy for them. But I can’t help but wonder: what was wrong with me?
And then I try to tell myself that I’ve come a long way on the kids front. When we arrived, l didn’t have experience watching one of my kids full-time, much less two of them. There was an adjustment period. (Understatement of the year, that one.) Now I’m much more comfortable with the adorable weirdos. I still get intimidated by them at times. We don’t always try for big adventures. But we’re getting better.
Things aren’t perfect. Things could be tweaked. I’d love a little more uninterrupted time for myself. But I’m happy.
I realized how happy when it hit me: I no longer dread Mondays.
Back in DC, I suffered from chronic Sunday afternoon sadness. James can attest that this was very real. It would manifest itself in various ways. I might frantically try to squeeze in one more adventure so that I could feel like we enjoyed the weekend enough. I might get cranky. Or mean. There could be crying. It was not a good scene, yo.
All of this because of my anxiety about work on Monday. Even when things were going well at biglaw, I never bounded out of bed ready to start my week and lawyer everyone. When things weren’t going well, I truly dreaded setting foot in the office. Even though the office found you outside of normal hours, being at work usually felt worse.
Now Monday is just another day. It will be filled with kids and frantically typing at naptime and cooking and messes and running. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I’m bummed that James has to go back to work. But I don’t dread anything about the day.
I like this.
But I can’t say that everything is all roses and sunshine. Even though I’m pretty content on a day-to-day basis, I worry about the future. And I worry about money.
The best thing about my biglaw salary was that we didn’t worry about money. We didn’t spend like crazy or anything. But I never worried about it. I didn’t think twice about buying a shirt I wanted or going out to dinner. There was always enough money for whatever we wanted.
Now there is still enough money for whatever we want. But I have to think about it.
This came to a head when plotting our August trip to SC. We are pumped to see all of our family in South Carolina, but it felt all kinds of wrong to fly all the way across the ocean and not see our dear DC friends. James and I plotted deploying Camp Grandparents and heading up to DC for a day sans spawn. But the plotting did not turn into reality. First, it was worry about Mac and the boobs. Then just general worry about the kids even though we knew they would be fine and not wanting to take advantage of grandparents. We also squeezed in some worry about whether DC in a day would be fun or stressful and disappointing because we wouldn’t be able to see and do and eat everything we wanted.
While we worried, airfare, of course, just kept creeping up. Every price hike set off a new round of worry about whether we should be doing the trip. Which caused more delays in action. Which resulted in higher prices.
Long story short: we eventually booked a flight.
But all of this back and forth and worry did not feel good. I didn’t like it. And I couldn’t help feeling that law firm salary-earning Melissa would not have had this stress. Yes, I would have wanted to get a good deal on a flight. Yes, I would have grumbled when prices went up. But, no, I don’t think I would have had the same gut-twisting anxiety about whether to do it.
I’ve started reading The Compound Effect. (The tone is a little aggressively self helpy, but seems like good info so far.) Just like compound interest, the general principle is that very small, hardly even noticeable changes add up in a big way over time. The first step on making a change is tracking your behavior.
So that’s the plan. After mentioning a financial challenge to follow the 30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge, I’ve actually tried a few days of tracking spending, but I get derailed before accumulating a month of data. Failed information capture rears its ugly head again.
And THEN when I thought I had a plan to deal with all these feeling of weirdness, we actually did the flight overseas and the Passport Customs Whatever dude looks at me and asks, “what is your occupation?”
Uh . . .
Cue the crickets.
Serenading a deer in the headlights.
Part of this was because I was racking my brain (good to know) about whether my passport actually LISTED an occupation. Was this a quiz? Was I failing? Would I be singled out as an unsuspecting drug mule because I gave a shady answer??
I think eventually I mumbled something awesome like I don’t have one.
And slow clap for this Passport Customs Duder who is all “do you take care of these kids? Hardest job in the world there.”
I appreciated what he was doing. I guess. But I was more all like THANKS dude. I don’t need rando Passport dude to make me feel better about my life choices.
Or maybe I do. Because this continued to bother me for several days. I haven’t dealt with many “so what do you do” insinuations in our current gig. There are a lot of people who are in between things or doing something unconventional. I don’t ever feel like I have to EXPLAIN myself.
And even if I could bring myself to say it, homemaker or housewife just doesn’t sound right. My house is not clean. I don’t bake. Don’t homemakers have their S*** figured out and NOT wear their husband’s boxers because they haven’t bothered to buy new underwear?
My main “occupation” is keeping the adorable weirdos from killing themselves. But saying “Mom” doesn’t seem appropriate as an occupation either. I’m a mom whether I’m doing work to be paid or not. As are bazillions of other women in the world. So being Mom is something I love. It is something I am. But I wouldn’t call it an occupation.
I’ve thought more about what I would like to tell Mr. Stamp My Passporter. Would I have liked to say “I make money off the internet?” (I currently don’t.) Apparently money is not a prerequisite based on Duder’s standards for listing occupations. I could have said I’m a screenwriter! I mean, I’ve never gotten paid for being a screenwriter. Technically, I haven’t even written my screenplay. BUT I TOTALLY feel like I have a screenplay within me. Just this morning I was tickled at the thought of Santa’s reindeer operating a submarine. If Pauly Shore can make a move, I surely have 85 minutes of laughs in that premise, right? I should tell that Judgmental Duder that I am a screenwriter!
James, of course, is vehemently shaking his head and screaming NOOOOOooo in the vacuum that is trying to reason with me. Because YES I know that the whole point of Passport Control is NOT to be a shady weirdo and YES I get it that the lady who pauses for 20 seconds and declares she is a screenwriter is SUPER SHADY. Don’t stick out. Blend in. I don’t need to explain that I’m a former lawyer. I don’t need to explain that the piecrusts I’m not attempting to make are not light and fluffy. Just be a full-time Mom.
So, a rambling 1300 words later, there we have it. My day to day happiness has undoubtedly increased. But I still worry. Money. The future. I still have some ambivalence about my “occupation.”
All good things to think about for the coming year. Unless you never hear from me again. Then just assume that I was imprisoned by Border Control for wearing a beret and being an “Aspiring Writer and Recovering Lawyer and Child Minder and Adventure Planner and Traveler and Runner and Food Lover” on my trip back Romeward. Their fault for asking really.