Friday, June 25, 2010

Midlife Crisis

You're perfect, yes it's true.
But without me you're only you...
Faith No More - Midlife Crisis

Is it possible to have one at 36?
Don't worry readers, I'm not about to go out and buy a ferrari or find myself a toyboy!

Now I know you're all saying, she's had this traumatic experience, she's depressed, she's not herself...and you may well be right. But I wonder if I'm thinking differently because of these things, or if I would have come to these conclusions eventually anyway.

Please bear with me (or not - your choice as always), as I think out loud.

Of course nothing's ever simple with me; not lately anyway. I have some thoughts that run over and over in my mind, and then others that pop in and out that seem to contradict each other. It's very confusing sometimes, and probably not helped by the drugs I'm now taking. I can't make any sense of things by talking either, because of my general inability to express myself verbally.

Let me explain (because by writing it all down; and maybe even getting some other people's perspectives - I'm sure Anthony's sick of me babbling - I might be able to make some sense of it):

The one, overriding thought I have at the moment; and I don't think it's been brought on by the drugs or the depression, because I've had it for a while; is that I just don't know who I am any more. It's not that I have amnesia or anything, it's just that the things I want and the way I want to operate have changed. I know I'm still a mum, and a partner, and a daughter, and a sister, but I feel like I've changed, but don't know how I've changed. My opinions and values seem to have shifted, that's for sure!

Prior to Sam's death, I was probably a workaholic (I think I even thought of myself like that afterwards too, as this post seems to be saying). At the very least I was one of those people who spent far too much time working or thinking about work.
And it was OK. I justified it in any number of ways and, I thought, was feeling OK about it all. After all, I was still in the early stages of my career, and getting my head around everything. Of course, when I was still working hard well into my 4th year, I guess I knew it was more than working the job out.

But now, I don't want to be that person. I do like teaching, and I do like working, but all I want to do is be here for Ollie. I want to be able to walk him to school every now and then, or go to his assemblies. I want to have enough energy at the end of the week to be able to go for a bike ride, kick a soccer ball around, watch a movie with him without falling asleep. They grow so quickly, and I've only got one now. It's so hard to know I'm not there for him.
Of course, Anthony is here for him, and he is very lucky to have his dad here, I've always said that. But I want to be here for some of it too!
When I said this to my parents yesterday, they spoke of leaving me at day care and crying all the way to work. I'm sure this is pretty normal for all parents when they leave their kids in care, and certainly I already felt that way. But now, it's stronger. Maybe because I've lost one child already, and I want to hang on desperately to the only one I have left. To experience every moment.

Of course I realise that there aren't many jobs that pay well that also allow you these things. And that's part of the frustration. I do actually like teaching sometimes too! I love the relationships you develop with people; I love that you can do different things every day; I love the constant learning that's involved. But sometimes it doesn't seem worth the effort and emotional investment. Especially when you're trading off your family to do it.

To tell you the truth, as much as I didn't want to take the whole week off, I'm glad I did. It's not like I've done much, but it has been nice to be here not doing much. I've loved being here every morning and every afternoon to see Oliver.

So it comes down to this. What I keep coming back to; what I really think I would like, is to just work 4 days a week until the end of the year. It started as just a little thought, but now it is almost all-consuming. I think it's also a bit of a compromise for my crazed mind, because sometimes all I want to to is run and keep running! Go somewhere that there are no reminders, no stresses. I know that place doesn't really exist, so I've gone for a compromise aimed at saving my sanity. I keep weighing up the pros and cons, and it's about even, so I don't know where to go. Maybe you can help me?

  • More time with Ollie.
  • I can make an appearance at Ollie's school once a week.
  • I can have some time to myself to work things out in my head (without Ollie/weekend stuff happening around me).
  • I can try some other things (like maybe doing some writing - a book?, photography etc).
  • We would be around $350-$400 worse off per fortnight (would not affect mortgage, bills too much, but would mean some belt-tightening).
  • It *may* hurt my career options in teaching (although I don't really believe that, as I do have a fairly good name in the profession anyway, and it is only one semester).
  • The school would be inconvenienced.
Y'see, to me, the main reason not to do it is financial. And the way that I'm thinking now, and have been for a long time, is that that's not a good enough reason. It is a problem, I guess, because we do have a mortgage etc (and my stupid HECS bill - if only I didn't have that we'd be all right!), but if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that family (and I'm starting to think, my sanity) is more important than financial concerns. Anthony has said that we'd manage if we had to, but I don't want to put him through too much belt-tightening if it's unnecessary for other reasons!

Can you see my dilemma? Of course, it is possible that this is all because I'm looking at the world through a different lens, and some of you might be able to help me see reason one way or another. Maybe you could add to my pros and cons list. All I know is that if I keep running it all around in my head, I'll go even more crazy!


  1. Hey Mel, wow....your dilemma is all so familiar. I haven't lost a child and don't ever claim to know how you feel or what you are going through, but I have been faced with the prospect that I may not live as long as i would like. It changes you, and yes I put on a brave face and always try to laugh it off but sometimes it is just all consuming. I have a lot of 'if only ' moments. If only i hadn't pressed to buy a bigger and better house, because now i could be enjoying my family more and not feeling compelled to work to pay the stupid mortage. You only get one chance and things don't matter. People and relationships do. Think outside the square and find a way to make it work. Could you put your HECs bill on hold for a little while?? It would add interest but it would take some of the immediate pressure off. You are always in my thoughts Mel. Good luck with your decision making. Ange xx

  2. Dearest Girl, You will get some messages from various people, and they might well say, "do what you think you need to do for YOU and yours". I know how difficult things can be, even without something like Sam's death, but there is always a little something in all of us that says we have to go on.
    There have been a few times in the 40 years Mum and I have been married, that I sometimes wondered if this is what I still wanted. It was usually because of some "crisis or argument" (and sometimes as a result of something you and/or your brother did or didn't do, or more simply, money problems)., but when you come down to it, you may just be doing more "harm" by not trying to move on. There are three of you, together, (and I still wish it was four), but there may be more problems created by what you are thinking of doing. Money isn't everything, but you all still need to be comfortable, and as happy as you can, and perhaps having to tighten your belts might impose another kind of stress(?) The other 'problem' is that we don't really know what Oliver is feeling, because he may be just too young to express it. Of course he loves having you around more, who wouldn't? But, if Anthony was not there as much as he is, then perhaps you would have to think hard about it.
    Don't know if this will help, but like you, I can get it down in writing, whereas I can't always get to SAY the right thing at the correct time... Love, Dad

  3. See, this is what I mean. Two very different viewpoints, and I can see what both of you are saying.
    Ange, I know you understand my position better than most, and everything you say makes so much sense.
    Dad, I know you mean well and you're worried, but I do take exception to the whole 'moving on' concept. For one, I don't think it's possible to put a time limit on grief; two, I think we have moved on in some ways; and three, these things that I am thinking are part or me working out HOW I want to move on. When you're so busy working, sometimes you don't have time to do that.
    I do get what you mean about the money, and like I said, it's my biggest concern. But I am prepared to fore go some things in life. And I wasn't planning on doing it permanently.
    Still, it's all helpful; putting things in perspective and helping me think things through.

  4. Wow, the joys of a complicated mind! I was chatting with my good friend Jo the other day and observed "you know those people who never seem to agonise over anything? They always just do the sensible acceptable thing and never seem to question the status quo? As annoying as they are - don't you sometimes wish you were one of them?"

    I actually think constant re-evaluation can be a healthy thing. It's a sign of maturity when the world is no longer black and white but choices and complex issues, and you are unafraid to look even the scary ones right in the eye. Better than staying busy to avoid ever coming up for air!

    Have a great weekend xx

  5. Mel's Dad/Sam's GrandadJune 25, 2010 at 8:08 PM

    Sorry Dear Girl, I got lost in several trains of thought and things didn't quite come out the way I intended.
    We'll be fine with whatever you do, and always here to help.
    Love, Dad

  6. you know what I think about work.... its just work. I am going through a similar dilemma now that in 3 weeks I go back to work. When I had lucy, I was ready after 6 months to go back. Mainly because I was bored at home. As much as I wanted to be there for Lucy being so little, I needed 'adult' time, and that for me at the time was work. i went back part time and it was great. A nice balance.

    Now, Em is about to go through it and I just don't want to go. ever. not even part time. The idea of returning to work fills me with dread. I don't know what the difference is this time, but perhaps because I have found a nice groove at home, I pick Lucy up from school etc. But none the less, I will be back, part time again and its just what I have to do.

    Having said all that, I can fully endorse part time. Money is always an issue. People always say you spend what you earn, so remember the days when you were still a student... you got by didn't you? If at the end of the day it makes you feel 'better' (for want of a better word) about everything, then its a very small trade off really.

    that's my 2 cents. I admire you no matter what you do, you are definitely one of the bravest people I know.


  7. My two cents. I TOTALLY hear you. No, I haven't been through what you have, but I have been depressed.

    I went back to work in January this year and I am only working 3 days a week and I have absolutely NO intention of going fulltime for all of the reasons that you have stated in your post. I need ME time. I need time to be with the kids. I don't want to only have 2 days a week "off", when "off" means, cleaning, cooking, washing, kids sports........where do I fit ME in.

    I know it sounds selfish, but after a small stint on drugs for the depression, I realised it wasn't medication that I needed, it was finding myself that I needed. And to do that, I had to do things for me. Which is where my photography, hockey and scrapbooking now come in to play.

    When the kids go to school, I want to be there to help out, talk to the teacher etc etc, I won't be able to do this if I work full time.

    Before I had kids my whole life was about work. My friends were all from work. After kids my values, outlook on life etc changed completely. While I still want to work and have a successful career, it is not my main priority. (I would give it up tomorrow if I didn't need money and just take photos though :-P)

    So after this long rambling comment, I guess what I am saying is go for it. I KNOW it will make you feel better. Especially if you can budget for the difference in pay.

    Good Luck with your decision!

  8. While I understand how comforting it can be to seek others opinions when facing a difficult decision, I've found that the best thing to do, for me, is just to try to relax and go quiet inside and get in touch with my own intuition. Only you know what's best for yourself. None of us do. xx

  9. Wow, thanks everyone!
    Wanderlust, I know what you mean. Sometimes I think it's hard for me to make decisions, but perhaps what's hard is for me to trust myself to make the right one (for me). It is fantastic to have other people's perspectives though.
    Oh, and Dad, I think you're awesome! Sometimes you say things I don't want to hear, but it's good that you say 'em! Thanks for all you do for us!

  10. Oh and Boo, that's exactly what I was tryig to say! It's about finding myself.
    And the weekend thing too- sometimes I feel that's all that weekends are about: cleaning, shopping, sport, etc, etc! Life's gotta be about more than that!

  11. Hi Mel,
    Like everyone else has said, it is your decision.

    As I've managed as a single parent to work full time and spent the last three years also studying, perhaps what I can do is give you suggestions that will give you some free time on your weekends...
    1. get your groceries home delivered - coles online costs $9, well worth it IMO. I start an order and add to it whenever I think of something that we need and place the order when the list is big. No more stress in the supermarket on a Saturday afternoon!
    2. Whenever you cook, cook double and freeze. I also make the next days lunches while I'm cooking dinner.
    3. Don't clean often. I clean the kitchen while I cook. The shower gets cleaned while conditioner is in my hair. Or look into getting a cleaner to come in once a fortnight to do the bathrooms, vaccuum etc - it'll cost you about $80 for a few hours a fortnight. I refuse to spend my weekends cleaning!
    4. When the kids have sport you usually have to get them there 30 or so minutes before the game. Do something for yourself in this 30 minutes - take a book or your ipod and sit in your car til game time or go to a nearby cafe and read the newspaper etc (I used to use this time to study).
    5. Schedule the 'me' time. Even if it is just a couple of hours on a weeknight - use it to do whatever it is that you want to do. I've got a couple of 'non negotiables' - one afternoon on the weekend I get to 'nap' (or really just read a book in bed for an hour or two) and I have a monthly get together with some girlfriends that I never miss.
    6. Don't iron - I try and buy stuff that doesn't need it but stuff like work shirts go to the dry cleaners.

    7. (this may not work so well in Canberra)Use public transport to/from work - this means I get a little bit of fresh air and exercise walking to/from the tram stop and I can relax on my journey with my book or iphone rather than battle the traffic and I don't have to find and pay for parking. It also means that when I walk in the door after work the days stress has already left so I am (hopefully) much nicer to be around and I'm ready to hear about the kids day :-)

    I also try and always have some kind of 'reward' to look forward to. You guys seem to love Merimbula - plan and budget for it as often as you can afford it ( I have a separate bank account for this).

    Hope this doesn't sound like I am some kind of time-management nazi! I'm so not! Just very time poor.

    Money stress is not what you need now, so don't do anything that requires too much penny pinching!

    Also beware of ending up spending that extra time doing nothing. My brother's depression ended up being all consuming for him - near the end he basically did absoultely nothing - he slept most of the day away, would not leave the house, would go days without showering and getting dressedetc. It is too awful. When he had something to keep his mind occupied he was actually a lot better.

    None of this will help you have time for stuff with Ollie at school though - maybe you could do 9 day fortnights?? This would mean less of a pay drop and still regular enough for you to help at Ollie's school.

    I also think your HECS repayments are linked to income, so presumably if your income reduces, so do your repayments (Gotta tell you I try not to think about how much I owe on HECS!)

    ANyway, that is enough rambling from me. I'm sure you will make the right decision for you and Ollie and Anthony.



I love comments!