Thursday, March 29, 2012

Must be nice

As you may know, I work part time. It's fantastic. Have I mentioned that recently? Fantastic. I love my job, I love that I don't do it too often, I love the freedom I have to get things done (or not) on my days off, and the time I get to spend with my family. I also love coming home from work on Monday and shouting TGIF!, though I'm pretty sure it makes my husband want to murder me in my sleep. But I don't feel guilty. Nope, not a bit.

So I started to realize something the other day. Here's what your average joe probably sees when he looks at me:

1. Wife of a doctor
2. Works part time
3. Kid in Montessori
4. Must. Be. Nice.

Now, I have embarked on a pretty solid mission to disregard what other people may or may not think of me, but if I could just tweak that a bit for the purposes of accuracy:

1. Wife of a resident doctor - who gets paid modestly, is frightfully overworked and mostly absent
2. Works part time - to aid in paying down $275K* of student debt and to avoid day care costs
3. Kid in Montessori - because we made it a priority over having a second car, buying a house, etc.
4. Yes. It is nice. But it's certainly not as it appears to most people.

We make less than most of our friends, we have astronomically more debt and less savings, and we have shockingly less family time. And if it weren't for the vast amounts of help we've received, we would be in very bad shape indeed. This was our choice, and I'm glad we made it. Someday we will be much more comfortable than we are now. But right now it's tough. It has been tough for about 5 years and it will be tough for another 4 or so.

Why am I mentioning all of this?

For perspective. Yours and mine. I do it all the time. I look at other people's lives from the outside and I say it. Must be nice. And then I hear it said to me and I cringe. So I've decided to take another route. Yes. It must be nice. Because it's my life and it's all I have. So it must be nice, because the other option is that it sucks and I'm not interested in getting to the end of my life and realizing that I spent it being envious of my perception of someone else's reality. Because that sounds like a wasted life.

On Tuesday (or, as I like to call it - my second Saturday), I made myself slow down and really enjoy the day. It was beautiful, sunny, and all mine. I lounged a little on the couch and read mom blogs. I went grocery shopping and lingered in the aisles. I bought freshly roasted coffee beans and a birthday present and blew off renewing my passport. I made dinner for my family before E got home so that I could take her to an after-school playdate without worrying about rushing home and trying to figure out what to eat.

That was one of the most important things I did - or rather, didn't do - all day. I didn't rush. We were a little late for school in the morning because a pint-sized version of myself has been digging her heels in pretty good recently. But the world didn't end when I showed up to the school 5 minutes later than usual, and I didn't feel like Sucky Mother of the Year for once, because I kept my cool and rode out the stubbornness. I was also a tad late picking her up (about 2 minutes, which would normally give me heart palpitations), but I didn't rush and when I did show up the kids hadn't even been dismissed yet. When I had the option to try to squeeze in folding the laundry and walking the dog in the time I had, I left the laundry and had a relaxing walk with Ralph. I know he appreciated it, and the laundry could care less. It's very ungrateful.

I eventually did fold the laundry and clean up the kitchen a bit in the evening, which gave me a little burst of satisfaction, and then I flopped on the couch and read The Help.  I reminded myself to stop and breathe, I recited the things I am grateful for in the car, I smiled at my husband and my daughter whenever they looked in my direction, and I was happy. So happy.

So, you know what? Go ahead and must be nice all you want. I might just agree with you.

*Yes, $275K. No, I'm not exaggerating. And yes, that is just the student debt portion of our total debt. If we put $1000/month toward it, we'll have it paid off in 30 years. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Pass the wine.

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