Sunday, August 19, 2007

What I fear

I've been ruminating on a number of blog posts for the past couple of weeks and have had a good deal of mental and emotional paralysis about the topics. That's partly because they're so intricately intertwined and partly because they straddle the line that determines what I will and will not blog about. To break this block, I'm just going to write about these topics and what unifies them: fear.

Subject #1: Money

Seriously, does anyone in my social and professional cohort (this means you, blog readers) ever feel you have enough of the stuff? I look at our tax returns each year and the gross income reported there looks pretty attractive to this recent grad student. But we live hand to mouth in a very special middle-class way. Meaning: we're comfortable month to month, but if I didn't have the safety net of my family, I'd live in sheer terror that we'll be living on the street within a month if one of us loses our job.

Subject #2: Career

What do I want to be when now that I'm grown up? I like what I'm doing now, but once again I find I'm in a position where there isn't the possibility of upward mobility. I like the job and I adore the people with whom I work. It's interesting work, and it's another one of those jobs that I can leave at the office. Which is glorious after all those years of being a student and teaching, both of which can easily become 24/7 gigs.

But I didn't get a raise when I transferred into this job, and there's little hope of me seeing more than a cost of living increase each year, unless I move into a job in a different pay bracket. And you may recall I was offered another job (unofficially) on the same day I was (officially) offered my current gig. Well, that job is now officially posted and I've been encouraged to apply. If I do apply, there's a good chance I'll be offered the job, which is with Fantastic Mentor. The pay scale is higher than that of my current position, and the title is "associate director" instead of "coordinator," which will look much more glamorous on the old CV when Mr. Trillwing finally decides he's had enough of the heat and declares we must move from this town. The day-to-day responsibilities of the job are slightly less interesting than my current one, but the people are just as fantastic and the big projects associated with the job are pretty damn interesting to me.

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself: too many ifs. If I apply for the job. If I get an interview. If I get offered the job. . . Would I be a bitch for taking it only a couple months into my current position? I suspect yes.

Subject #3: Family

Career and money angst bring us to family angst. Mr. Trillwing and I love Lucas. But the little guy just about killed us that first year (literally--the sleep deprivation and pain and stress were unbelievable, of a magnitude we did not anticipate). At the same time, we're both talking about how it would be nice for Luke to have a sibling.

But the house we're in now isn't big enough for another kid, unless he or she shared Luke's tiny bedroom, which of course is unfeasible in the first couple years, with the night waking and all. And I took a looooooong time to recover from childbirth. Plus I hated breastfeeding and its attendant agonies: thrush, mastitis, engorgement, leaking, public displays of nipple wrangling.

But if we could magically have a clone of Lucas as he is right now--a mostly easy-going, healthy, well-adjusted almost two-year-old, I'd jump at the chance.

Adoption is sort of a possibility. However, Mr. Trillwing himself was adopted at age 14 months, and we suspect many of The Ways In Which He Is Messed Up come from those early days of neglect at the Catholic orphanage. If we did go the adoption route, we would have to go through through public agencies where the expense wasn't too high--but so many of those kids are special needs children that we just don't have the energy or resources to care for. And then there are the transracial adoption issues that would arise because the available kids in this state tend to be children of color. I'm game for a transracial adoption, but I suspect I'm very naive about all the issues surrounding them.

Of course, we could just as easily birth a special needs or physically ill child. Which then puts us in an awkward position: do we have a third child to increase the odds there will be someone around to take care of adult child #2 if we should become incapable of doing so? I recall all the furor around parents who conceived another child to be a bone marrow donor for the first, and I suspect there are millions of other parents who have special needs kids who have decided to have another child to help take care of an older sibling.

Do you see the kind of (probably needless) obsessing I've been doing?

And then I think, well, life is pretty good right now. Maybe an only child is the way to go--after all, caring for just one puts significant strain on our marriage from time to time. But then I try to imagine life without my own sibling and I get all weepy.

Plus: tick tock tick tock. I'm 32 years old, and I don't want to push the childbearing envelope by being pregnant past age 35. (Yes, I am a control freak in this arena.)

And what if we couldn't conceive as easily the second time? Would we go whole hog on the fertility treatments? Do we need that kind of stress?

(Obsess, obsess. Freak out. Obsess.)

It doesn't help that many of the local moms in my birthing cohort are pregnant or have recently birthed their second children. I don't feel any direct peer pressure (I'm not around other moms much, to be honest), but I wonder if everyone knows something I don't about child spacing or fertility and age, or is keeping from me some other Big Secret About Second Children.

So there you have it: my recent bloggy silence explained. In general, I'm well and happy, but these thoughts are always lingering just at the edge of my consciousness, if not occupying it completely.

I've probably asked this before, but for those of you with children: How/why did you decide to increase (or not increase) your family beyond one child?


Rachel said...

I hear you. I am obsessing about many of the same things.

My daughter is three, and we've decided not to have another child. I don't want to go through the baby stage again, and money is an issue too. It definitely puts me in the minority among my parent friends.

P.S. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Are you still in the area? I don't know of many other Long Beach bloggers.

Anonymous said...

Your title, "What I Fear," suggests that Karl Rove may be one Google search away from stopping by your blog to take notes for talking points for the next GOP candidate he guides to a razor-thin electoral-college victory. Fortunately, I don't think your concerns will add up to anything he can sell to his mouth-breathing fan base; clearly, you're still stuck in a pre-9/11 frame of mind...

~A. Nonymous

Leslie M-B said...

Thank you, Mr. Trillwing, er, A. Nonymous, for your insights.

Anonymous said...


I have to go by the old standby: when you're ready you'll know. We had our two girls close together (21 months) and even though the first baby was tough, I was ready to do it again. Unfortunately, the second one was tougher and nearly brought our house of cards tumbling down. But, we prevailed! Now they are 6 and 4 and loads of fun. I also really value the relationship they have with each other. We thought about a third....and thought about it...and always talked ourselves out of it. I think we're going to stick with two, even though I always thought I would have more. I did the right thing by going with my gut both times--"yes" to a second and "no" to a third. So, if those doubts continue to outweigh the other thoughts, don't ignore it. If/when that moment of clarity arrives, you'll know its time.

One quick thing about only children: My mother is an only child (and a widow) and I'm now watching her have to deal with her own mother's elder care all alone. It is a huge responsibility and I really wish that she had a sibling to share the burden with. It makes me grateful for my brother, and I'm glad that my children will have each other when I am a cranky old woman. I'm not judging anyone's decision about how many children to have, but it's just recently that I've realized that one's relationship with one's children goes way beyond just that first year!

Best of luck to you.

Fang Bastardson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"It's just recently that I've realized that one's relationship with one's children goes way beyond just that first year!"

The question isn't whether the relationship survives the first year, it's do we. Do I?

~Yours sincerely, Mr. T., high-strung and nervous about it.

Ben W. Brumfield said...

Regarding #1, yes, actually.

10 years into jobs with real salaries, our reasonably frugal lifestyle and debt-aversion have bought us some real freedom from worry. I spent a great deal of the first few years thinking about how far the wolf was from the door, as I was paying off debt. Now we can go on a foreign vacation and not even feel it. I never would have imagined it ten years ago, though.

Regarding having another child, we're struggling with that. Our two year old may have to wait for another couple of years before she gets a sibling. Where would we find the time or energy?

Anonymous said...

On Money…One approach that has worked well for us is to treat emergency savings like any other bill. We allocate a particular amount each month for savings. At first it was minimal, but over time we have been able to build up a substantial amount of savings in case one of us lost our jobs. Maybe this approach might reduce the amount of stress you feel.

On Career…Based on what you shared there are lots of factors that make you love your current position --- the job itself, the people you work with, the work is interesting, the fact that you can leave the job at the office. The factors that bother you about the job appear to be the lack of promotional opportunities and the pay. If you were to rank all of these factors in order of importance, which ones would be the most important to you? To me it sounds like you have a dream job. Perhaps it two or three years you will feel that you have gotten the most out of the job and will look elsewhere for opportunities. Or maybe you will decide now to interview for the other position and weigh your options. Being open to options is one way to grow professionally.

On Family…Unlike you, our families and friends have given us a really hard time about adding a second child to our family. We are both 37 and our daughter is 4.5. I had our daughter several months after defending my dissertation. We have weighed the pros and cons of adding to our family for the past three years. Some days we felt in favor of it and other days we did not. As time passed and our discussions got deeper about what we wanted out of life we concluded that our family was complete with just the three of us. Much of our decision related to time and energy. Finances played a very minimal role in our decision. We both grew up in families with four kids and are very close to our families. We both have satisfying careers (in academia and finance) that do not require us to work extra hours. We have a strong relationship, both together and individually, with our four and a half year old daughter. We have time to go out on dates, time to pursue hobbies that we have had for years, time for our careers, and time for our family. Things feel right for us.

People who have more than one child will most likely encourage you to add to your family. People who are satisfied with one child will tell you that it’s okay to not have any more. There are pros and cons of having one child and pros and cons of having more than one. In the end it’s a matter of figuring out what works best for YOU and YOUR FAMILY. You are lucky that you still have time to explore what’s best and what feels right. Take the time to discuss things. Best of luck!

Heather Clisby said...

Okay, so I am not a mom, however, I will point out that I was adopted specifically because my mother was an only child (she's STILL pissed about it) and did not want my older brother to be alone.

Now, my brother and I preparing for our parent's senior years and I'm so, so relieved that we are facing it together.

Just a thought.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I worry about money and career too. I notice that in the past 20 years my salary has tripled and I have changed careers twice. I don't worry any less than I did in grad school. I need to learn to live without the anxiety.

As for children, I think you should only have more if you really, really want more. I have a friend who says everyone tends to have exactly half a child more than they want. We tend to keep wanting more until we get enough that it feels like almost too much - half a child more than we can reasonably handle. LOL I think that theory proves true all too often.

I have given birth and adopted, and I can tell you adopting isn't easier. The first year and succeeding years have just as many challenges as the infant year after birth, no matter what age you start with. It is often new and different challenges, with a whole new learning curve.

That said I wouldn't change having adopted transracially. It is wonderful, painful, delightful and difficult. More kids = more love = more pain = more joy. If you want to live on the edge, go for it.

Bardiac said...

Money/Career: What Ann said.

Kids: What ever happened to the zero population growth movement?

It seems disconcerting to hear people talk about trying to reduce their footprint and wanting more kids at the same time. I just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

yes, all the time on the money front.

re: the kids. i've always thought of it as when you get older, your kids will have to care for you in some way, and also, when you die, if there is more than one kid, they can comfort each other. because no one knows what it's like to lose a parent, *your* parent, like your sibliing. then again the second sibling could end up being like my sibling who doens't help at all. hmm, maybe you should have three or four kids total. ;o)

Dark Daughta said...

Hey, I was googling around in the blogosphere when I found your blog. I think my whole blog is a pretty fearful place. I mostly blog about things other people avoid blogging about. Call it me finding my "niche" or freaking out's a labour of love. :)