In my corporate days, I managed teams of sales reps. One of my biggest pet peeves was working on a schedule for the team for hours, only to have them ask for changes- “My kid has soccer practice” “My dog needs to be walked” “My kid has a fever, I need to go home early”. “My daycare charges by the minute if I am late, I have to leave now”.
Karma is a cruel teacher. I’d grumble under my breath about my reps and their kids, the germs they’d spread in the store from whatever preschool or daycare they had the toddler in. I was 25 years old and in the midst of climbing whatever corporate ladder I could- no kids, or significant other- would stand in my way.
I put in the hours, days, months, years, to get where I was. I missed weddings. I missed family funerals. I missed birthdays, anniversaries, social events, I missed everything that connects a human to fellow humans. I was good at my job; I received bonuses (which I would splurge on myself and family to assuage some of the guilt from missing events); I got the promotions I wanted. I switched companies at the proper time to maximize my potential for pay and ‘career growth’.
At 29 I settled down and got married, and three years later I had Vincent. My corporate plan was to take the 6-8 week maternity time off, and then jump back feet first into my job- maybe I’d even go for a new position higher up in the company.
Vince was overdue by a week. An ultrasound discovered an enlarged kidney and bladder- and in those five minutes between when the ultrasound tech left the room to get a doctor, and the diagnosis that was to come- my big dreams of corporate life went out the window. I was out of control. This little human came to me with big health issues, and from then on, work was 2nd in my life.
Anyone who works in corporate jobs knows the politics of it. It is fine to get married, as long as the spouse doesn’t stand in the way of your advancement. It’s fine to have children- as long as their role in your life is a 5×7 portrait on your desk you can smile at and tell visitors to your office, ‘oh, yes, they are wonderful, just growing up too quickly”. Outside of that, family is a distraction to the task at hand- selling whatever service or product your company produces- and focusing on profits.
I lump companies in a large pile- I have heard stories of ‘family friendly’ jobs; flex schedules; long paid maternity leaves. I never worked for one, and I admit, I never made it easy for my employees to have those luxuries. Again, we pay for our sins.
Vince had 3 years of non stop doctor appointments, ultrasounds, fevers, infections, surgeries, sleepless nights, dehydration. I plugged away at work as much as I could, trying not to feel guilty when my Mother/babysitter scolded me for not being home for my son earlier in the day; or when I was, being on the phone and computer all the time.
It took one night of fighting off my drunk ex husband to get a PFA, then a separation, then the divorce- to finally clear my vision of what was to be important in my life. Being laid off from work during a merger was the single best thing to happen to me; the divorce was the second.
The layoff was the start of Minimalism in my life- although I didn’t know it at the time. I cut cable, cut off phones, downsized cars, sold off my electronics, shopped at discount ‘crash and dent’ stores that sold expired food, bought 2 DVD cartoons to entertain Vince, used WIC to supplement his food supply (blessed enough not to have to get food stamps)- all this on a $10 an hour job I was able to secure. I kept the car, I kept my mortgage and my home, and found the essentials to my happiness– the bliss of time with my son.
I did end up at another larger, better paying job for a year or so not long after- and nearly lost all the wisdom I learned in the down times. But nagging in the back of my mind was the notion that I was happiest, Vincent was happiest- when I was home and not making tons and tons of money.