Parenting: Optical Illusion?

April 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Melissa Mensavage, Single Parents

By Melissa Mensavage

beach

 

Last week I attended a webinar offered by the boys school corporate marketing department.  This company is no different than any other major corporation, has a corporate headquarters, department heads, etc.  However, they are expanding their community outreach programs and making themselves more reachable to the parent community.   They are still far removed from the typical daycare center family community but when the topic of the webinar was ‘Tips to Keep Your Family Organized’, I signed up almost immediately.

You see I am all over the place.  I have no organization in my day, other than get up, get coffee and get to work.  I will start a load of laundry, get interrupted by one of the boys and later that same day I will find the washer filled with clothes and water, but the cycle never finished, let alone started.  I will put clothes in the dryer one day, and three days later I will pull them out when someone is out of socks or undershirts.

Then add in doctor appointments, birthday parties, tumbling class, t-ball, etc.  I feel like we aren’t living life.  We are just moving from one task to the next, with me completely unorganized.

The tips I took away from the webinar were:

-Find ‘good enough’ housekeeping.  Things do not have to be perfectly cleaned all the time.
-Menu planning.    I am working on this.  For whatever reasons the grocery shopping/having things on hand has really got me stumped.
-Rescue bag.  You know for those times when we are stuck at a doctor’s office or we are out to dinner, a bag that includes crayons, coloring pages, puzzle books, trains, etc.  Goal is for it to be non-electronic.
-Inquire on a grocery delivery service.  I’ve used Peapod in the past and would use them again, but I sometimes struggle with paying more for something I clearly know is cheaper at Target or Walmart.

Listening to the women speak on this webinar sharing their stories of how they run their families, it felt like it was almost like running a business and not so much like a family.  It also appeared as if they had it together as mothers.  They didn’t sound like they’ve been reduced to spanking on some occasions, or screaming their heads off for children not getting along and the whining was just too much.  They seem like they have well-adjusted children.  They have this illusion life is easy, organized, good.

Knowing that its pretty much not the truth, I tried to take what they said as a grain of salt.  Their tips are great.  However they are just tips.  I have to use my common sense with parenting and go with the moment.

Going with the moment is part of my problem with parenting and being stuck in our routines.  This past weekend I took the boys on an adventure.  I was tired of the mundane.  The laundry could wait.  The dinner will be simple and I’ll just have to make an effort on meals this week (instead of preparing).  We piled into the car on Sunday morning and headed into the city and went to the shore.  The lake shore.  Yes it was cold, it was sunny, windy, but it was the best thing we’ve done this year.

The boys loved being on the sand, throwing rocks into the water.  I loved hearing the mini waves, lake style.  The fresh air and the sun was good for all of us.  We walked along the lake front and enjoyed what it had to offer.  We went by the boat slips that were covered in snow and ice.  We counted the ducks sitting on the ice.   We had fun exploring.

I posted a picture of this fun on Facebook for my friends.  Not soon after I posted it, I realized that maybe I am giving off an optical illusion.  The illusion that we are always doing fun things.   I can honestly say that we typically do all sorts of fun things – whether at home or out exploring.  Its not an illusion.  We are fun.  We are having fun.  People make comments to me about it –‘do you always have fun with your kids?’ ‘where do you find the time?’ …I make the time.  I also make the fun.  This is not an optical illusion.  What you see is what you get with us.  Come on with us and have some fun!

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Parents: The Longest Winter. Ever.

March 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Family, Melissa Mensavage

By Melissa Mensavage

Trapped with kids in cold Chicago weather

Photo Credit: Arvell Dorsey

We are nearing the end of the winter season, from a calendar perspective.  In 17 days it will officially be Spring.  However, on tap for this week is another three inches of snow in the Chicagoland area, in addition the lovely frigid temps of less than 15 degrees.

I love living in Chicago, its my home and well, because we typically see all four seasons.  Some years, one may last longer than normal, or start earlier or later than expected.   So when I hear about snow storms or extreme heat, I am not phased.  I mean I live in Chicago.  Anything goes here.

However, this current winter season has just lingered a bit too long.  And its seems even longer with two young boys.  My house feels like it’s the size of a box of matches.  We are crawling all over each other.  We are all tired of being cooped up.

When cabin fever hits, along with it comes short tempers, irritability, laziness, too much screen time.  It dosent make for any fun in my house.  So this past weekend, I purchased a group pass to our community’s recreational center’s indoor jungle gym.   The best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.   Of course, as I was sitting there yesterday morning watching the boys run all around crazy and screaming and having a good time for themselves, I thought, ‘WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS SOONER??’ … hindsight.  It kills me.

boys playland

 Its hard to write this months post because I most certainly have the winter blues.  Not a serious case where I would need to seek help, but surely the ‘I am SO breaking up with you Old Man Winter!’.   Not much goes on here during these boring months and I find cheap entertainment for the boys.  (see above)

As I surf Pinterest and other websites that are advertising Spring, I am so ready to start doing these activities.  Man, I’ll even settle for temps above 40.  We can at least get outside and ride our bikes or play with our trucks, let the fresh air inhabit our lungs and minds.   Now that is a great feeling!

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Single Mom: Another day, Another year.

By Melissa Mensavage

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Today is the last day of 2013 and I feel like its just any other day.   I have been sad the last couple of days because though its just another day, it has pretty big significance.

We are getting older.  My boys are getting older.  After this year I will no longer have any kind of baby in my house.  This era of baby-making and baby-caring is over for me.  This era comes to an end for every mother and father, but its front and center for me now.

I am wondering if I have some regrets for not being smarter when I was younger and found Mr. Right, so that I could have had more years with my kids.  But then had I had my kids earlier in life, who’s to say that they wouldn’t be the kids I have now?  They might be different kids and our life path could be in a different direction.

I have been hugging my boys a lot more lately.  I have been putting down the phone, staying off the computer and just embracing their all-around awesomeness.   Yes I am sad the baby era is coming to an end, but I am more than excited to embark on all the fun things we can do together as they get older and are capable of being just a bit more independent.  (I am talking water parks, hiking without the stroller!!, movies, etc)

I’ve never really written any personal goals for myself, and I have always had the same New Years Resolutions, financial health, physical and emotional health, have a date or two, etc.  This year I am putting together a plan, in writing, and I am going to do my best to stick to it to make 2014 one of the best years we will have as a family.

It sucks getting older, and ending eras in my life but I look in my boys eyes and I can see a vibrant future and I want to do all that I can to help them embrace that future.

Happy New Year Everyone!  Max, Theo and I wish you much health and happiness!

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Walk the Line

By Melissa Mensavage

crazy_woman

For the last few months I’ve felt stretched very thin.  No solid focus on any one thing.  No completion of a task fully.

I hate unfinished projects or tasks.  I mean literally, I’ll wash half of the dishes.  Or get one of three loads of laundry done.

Is this motherhood in general? Or is this single motherhood?

Either way, its driving me crazy.

A perfect example is the due date for my writing.  It comes every month and its on my mind, but a three year old and an 18 month old suck the life out of me playing referee.  Mind you, we are getting better at playing together, but that is only roughly 15% of the time.

I love this task.  This lets me take what is on my mind and in my life and put it into words.  LOVE IT!!  Brandy has been very kind, and I swear I will do my best every month to be on time.  I know as a mother she gets it, but as an editor … she has a responsibility to get content published to keep her readership.

I digress.

They say raising a child takes a village … or whatever the saying is.  I’ve been trying to do it all on my own lately because I feel like I rely too much on my village.  I don’t want to burn that bridge for when I REALLY need them.  So here I am doing all of the doctors appointments with two kids, referee, illnesses, parties, household chores, etc, all on my own.  And I guess that is why I am stretched so thin.

Will this burn me out? I am pretty sure of it.  When?  Don’t know.  I do know that I am seeing the signs – I’ve been yelling at the kids quite a bit lately.  I hate that I yell.  Or I get frustrated with the fact that they don’t know everything.  (I mean how stupid is that?  They are kids, babies still and they shouldn’t know everything!)

As you can see this post is short this month because I am multi-tasking my passion for writing with my passion-less job.  Need to cut it short so I can make sure I still collect a paycheck and have insurance.

Maybe someday in the near future I’ll be able to focus again, or maybe this is the new way of life.  I am so unfocused right now I cant even come up with a closure to this jumbled post.

Le sigh.

Happy Holidays everyone.

(Where’s the egg nog?)

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Dealing with Post-Partum Depression: “These are NOT the Baby Blues”

November 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Melissa Mensavage

 

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At the end of this month I will have what I hope to be my final appointment with my doctor for my post-partum depression diagnosis I had received after I gave birth to my youngest son, Theo.  Eighteen months of periodic check-ups with my primary care physician, bi-weekly therapy appointments and countless mornings where I forced myself out of bed.

I had no clue I would ever suffer from such severe depression.  I had mentioned previously that I had situational depression episodes throughout my life but nothing a night out with friends drinking my sorrows away didn’t cure.  Or a few weeks time of eating and watching sappy romantic comedies.  Though neither of those solutions would have worked in this case.

My world was black.  My thoughts were fuzzy.  I couldn’t comprehend too much.  I was in care-taker mode of an infant and a two year old.  I didn’t sleep.  I cried.  A lot.  And then I cried some more.  I hated myself.  I hated my kids (oh do I have guilt for that).  I hated the world.  I hated that I wasn’t married.

My mother and I fought constantly.  She was trying to help me, and I was being a perfect bitch.  She comes from an era where you either just deal or you brush it under the rug.  She didn’t get it why I was so crazy.  So when I showed up at her house, sobbing, to drop off Max so I could go to the doctors, I think she might have gotten it then.  I know she was concerned.

And during this whole time – this first 4 weeks of Theo’s life, all I said to myself was, ‘What have I done?’.  What had I done to my family dynamic?  What had I done to bring this kid into the world – who is not perfect in my eyes (yes, of course he was he just wasn’t what I knew – Max.).

About a year prior to this I sat in my fertility doctor’s office saying to him with confidence I wanted to try for another baby.  He smiled and said, ‘fantastic!’.  I smiled knowing in my heart this is what was right for me and my life.  I got pregnant after the first try.  I was shocked, I had expected it to take a bit longer.  I was then excited and felt SO blessed beyond means.  Little did I know about the change that would occur when I brought Theo home from the hospital.  When people ask how it went, or how it was going, I was honest.  It was hard.  It was a huge change for all of us.

Yet, we made it.  We made it through the tough parts.  I started taking an anti-depressant after my initial appointment.  I started feeling better about three days after that.  Therapy helped.  Getting some sleep made it even better.   I started to research this diagnosis on the internet.  (A big fat no-no.)  Women die from this.  For some reason they couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I pray for them.  I pray for their children.  I am thankful everyday that those types of thoughts NEVER crossed my mind.

Its been a rough October for us.  We were plagued with illness after illness.  The boys are finally healthy.  Though I had a pretty bad case of bronchitis, and now an ear infection, I feel great.  I feel happy.  I am SO thankful for my two beautiful boys.  Life is good.

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I never could comprehend why people would take their own lives.  I never understood why they didn’t think they were worthy of  living.  After the black period I experienced, I now get it.  It breaks my heart to know that people don’t feel worthy.  I wish a hug would help.  And maybe it does in some situations.  So to anyone who might be feeling this type of pain or know of any one, you are worthy.  You belong here.

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Single Mom: “I Was Bitchy”

October 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Evie Peck, Family, Single Parents

By Evie Peck

Single mom

Have you ever run into someone you used to know and they aren’t nice to you?

My friend Marie just told me that happened to her. She ran into someone she had known for a period of time who pretended she didn’t remember her and at first I was like, “Ugh, what a bitch.” And then I remembered… ooops. I did that, not too long ago. It had nothing to do with the woman I ran into – it was all about me.

I was in my baby class, feeling a little nervous about being the only single pregnant woman in the room. I tried to exude confidence and security. Fake it till you make it. I reminded myself how excited and happy I was and it didn’t matter what any of these expecting couples thought of me.

As I was relaxing a bit, a very pregnant woman came up to me. “Evie! Hi, remember me from high school? I’m Tanya Lester?  I was a few years younger.”

OK. First of all, reminding me that I’m so old was off putting and second of all now I’m reminded how high school Evie didn’t have a boyfriend, didn’t really even date and felt weird about it – it was as if I was the same single person.  When I was 17 assumed I’d have a conventional family and a successful acting career…. Would Tanya think I’d failed at both? Was I a failure? I felt like a total freak.

All of a sudden, I felt defensive, like I had to prove that I was better than old high school Evie… except, was I?

“Oh, hi,” I said, in a distant, bitchy tone, as if I didn’t remember her but I was humoring her and being friendly to a stranger. So many levels I was playing – (I was such a good actress.) I remembered Tanya. I didn’t know her well, but under other circumstances, I certainly would have been more friendly. My instinct was to act cool and I guess, superior – like I was so awesome and successful, I didn’t have room in my brain for old high school acquaintances. I needed to feel stronger, so I was a bitch.

She introduced her husband and asked me when I was due. We were due days apart. I was distant and well, bitchy. I just really shut it down. I just kind of nodded and didn’t say much and let her feel foolish as she tried to bring up ways I might remember her.

I didn’t want her to see I was scared or think I was a failure or feel sorry for me.

For the strangers in the class, it didn’t matter so much what they thought of me, but this girl knew me in high school. I wasn’t prepared for that.

Maybe I missed an opportunity to have another playmate for my son.

I guess the real point of this story is if someone you know is rude or bitchy to you – it’s probably not about you… it’s about them.

That was over two and a half years ago. I was a different person back then; so excited but also scared and nervous. I was learning how to be a Mom Solo and what that meant to me.

Being solo isn’t such a huge scary thing anymore at all. I don’t really give it much thought – except when I blog.

Now, it’s all about my son. It’s all about being nice, setting a good example and making the world a wonderful place for him to live in. I don’t have too much time to worry about what people think of me. I like it like that!

Photo credit: www.maracaseyshoots.com

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The Shrapnel of Divorce Brings Back Memories

By Melissa Mensavage

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Since I was eight, I’ve split my time between my mother and my father. My parents divorced and we had the standard visitation schedule – every other weekend and one night a week. And to this day, I still get a pit in my stomach when my dad leaves from our visit.

Over the weekend Dad was in for a visit with me and the boys. I loved having him here with us, spending together and more importantly he and the boys building a relationship. So when he left on Sunday to head over to my brother’s, I teared up. I didn’t want him to go. I wanted to tell my brother, go home and Dad is staying here. But of course, out of fairness to Dad, I let him spend time with my brother and his family.

Today is his actual departure day. I texted him to see how he was doing and say I miss him. Its been on my mind all day that he is leaving. The pit in my stomach has been here. I am teary. I hate this.

I think its been around 35 years my parents have been divorced, maybe 34. I don’t know…who cares at this point, its just been a long time. I had no clue this feeling would stay with me into adult life. It could also explain why I am not a jovial person when he is here because I know he is going to leave and it’ll be a while before I see him again.

Now, I know as an adult, and a traveler, after so many days of not sleeping in your bed, living out of suitcase and interrupting routines (not intentionally), its time to go home. And you want to go home. I totally get it. Someday I will share the public meltdown I had as an adult in the middle of Singapore because I was exhausted from traveling. Quite embarrassing but reality.

This pit in my stomach solidifies my decision of being a single mother by choice. I don’t want my boys to have to choose. I don’t want my boys to have this sinking feeling of sadness when they cant be in both places at once. I see families in my neighborhood do the Sunday night drop-off and I am quickly reminded of mine.

I would get so stressed out about the drop-off, I started this rocking thing in the backseat of the car. I would sit and rock back and forth, almost in a manner of personality disorder. While doing this I would escape. I would think of everything but what was going to happen – the hugs goodbye, the sadness in my dad’s eyes, the I love yous. Killed me.

So yes its been killing me lately with the ‘Where’s my Dad?’ questions from Max. But honestly, I’d rather say ‘We don’t have one, its just you, me and Theo’, than have them go through that drop-off, sharing, torn experience. Its not fun, whatsoever.

Neither situation is perfect – divorced with children, or conceiving children with an unknown donor to raise by yourself. But I had a choice, and luckily I am able to break the sadness cycle.

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Single Parent: And Just Like That …

September 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Melissa Mensavage, Single Parents

… Summer comes to a close.

 

I usually write about the struggles or experiences I have as a single parent, but this time I want to show you that we are a happy family.  I tend to forget this when in the thick of parenting, when I am the bad cop and I am walking around the house like a screamin’ meamie because the house is a disaster or if one more fruit fly comes out of the kitchen sink drain I am putting a bomb in it.  (kidding of course)

So in between all of that, and even as I sit here and write this on Labor Day morning I can hear my two boys upstairs talking to each other in bed, we have a lot of laughs, smiles and fun.  Here, have a look.

beachcousins firsthike theobombed theofrosting wish

 

We went to the local pool with a giant sandpit, where I learned I need to work on my sandcastle building skills.  We explored a local park with our cousins.  Then we went on our first hike together (man I missed this activity!).  We enjoyed fresh fruit smoothies almost every day and learned that Theo can photo bomb with the best of them!  Theo’s choice dessert was teddy grahams and left over blue frosting.  And finally we  had a sole flower in the yard so Max made an End of Summer Wish.  It was a good summer indeed.

And you can see we do a lot of things together.  When I am away from work I hardly ever spend any time by myself unless its 4:30/5:00 in the morning where I get up just to veg and plan my attack on the day.  And maybe this contributes to the screamin’ meamie but the guilt of being away from them kills me.  Just yesterday Max got dressed all by himself.  I stood in the kitchen and rewarded him and had a little of relief but it hit me, he is growing up.  No more little sweet boy.  Now he is a boy who likes to wrestle and play with trains, can go to the bathroom all by himself and get himself dressed.

I will be honest, its great that the boys are gaining their independence, frees up time for us to do fun things.  This internal struggle I have I am pretty sure does not go away, hence why I rarely do anything now.  I figure when they are older and I have much more time to myself I’ll be able to date, have dinner with friends, read a book, etc.  And I will know when we do our seperate activities we will all be happy.

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Mom Flying Solo

August 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Evie Peck, Family

By: Evie Peck

play

The other day we went to gym class. I LOVE our gym class and more importantly, so does Spenser.

During some structured (yet unstructured) play with blocks, a more aggressive boy kicked Spenser after S knocked down his tower. Spenser’s favorite thing to do… knock down stuff. ANY stuff! I’d told him not to knock down the other kids’ towers, but the teachers were building towers for the kids to knock down and… well, it was confusing. And so he got kicked. Not hard, but still, it was not good.

Spenser looked at me with that what just happened? expression and my stomach dropped and I panicked. I looked at the boys mom and  she was talking to someone else, and had missed it.

I thought of my wonderful readers Madgew,  Jebhow515 Dean B Naima who gave me such great comments on MINED - giving me support, encouraging me to push through and not worry about my son becoming an aggressive kid from these interactions.

It’s funny, but I nannied and babysat and taught kids for 16 years. The girls I nannied – five different girls over 13 years- I really didn’t deal with much of this kind of conflict. Is it because I was dealing with girls? It was more about bruises and bumps than aggression. This is new to me.

Thinking of my readers, I said, “Spenser, he shouldn’t have kicked you.” I wanted to say something to the boy, but instead, I passively said, “He should say he’s sorry.”

“Yeah,” Spenser said and turned back to blocks.

The boy ran away.

I leaned over and told one of the teachers what had happened. “You can tell his mom,” she said. I looked over and all the boys were playing happily. I felt like the opportunity passed me by. The teacher didn’t witness it so she couldn’t intervene.

I thought about my lovely reader Naima’s comment on my entry MINED: make friends with the parents. Yes! If only I had made friends with the mom I could have said, “Hey Sue, Justin just kicked Spenser,” instead of me freaking out like a scaredy cat. This group is usually on top of their kids, but sometimes they aren’t.

I knew I should have taken charge of that situation a little better. A kid kicked my son and I didn’t know what to do. Maybe I handled it alright. I know that this is part of growing up. Me growing up, I mean.

After the class, I talked to the owner of the gym. She encouraged me to speak up to the other parents and to keep empowering Spenser with the right words – “Don’t kick me,” or “I don’t like that.”  I know this. Why didn’t I remember this? She also encouraged me not to have Spenser just avoid these aggressive kids – “You don’t want him to feel like a victim.” she said.

I agree. I don’t want to leave this great gym class just because of one boy. So…  I started up a friendly conversation with his mom, after class.

Today, it was one of those perfect times to go to the aggressive kid library. I decided to go and not be victimized.  I walked in, armed with the phrases “Tell him you are still playing with it” (in case of a grab) “Tell her you’d like a turn next” (in case of a non sharer) and “Tell him you don’t like to be pushed.” etc. I took a deep breath and we went in.

Kids pretty much left S alone and he did his own thing and we played with puppets a bit.

There was one indecent of a boy not playing with a truck that S wanted and then grabbing it when S touched it. The boy was like 7. “Tell the boy you’d like a turn, please,” I coached.

“I turn pweeze,” S repeated.

The boy reluctantly handed it over. He wasn’t using it anyway. I was elated even though Spenser played with it for 10 seconds.

There was one girl who grabbed a pretend pretzel out of S’s hand but the mom was right there and told her not to grab and gave it back to S.

It was good. I felt better… but I know it’s still a process.

Thank you for your comments and help. You guys are awesome!

 

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What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

By: Melissa Mensavage

boys backyard

Is this career burn-out, just plain ol’fashioned boredom or a midlife crisis?

I sit here at my desk in an office cubicle that has beige walls.  I hear the pounding of keyboards all around me.  People are huddled by the coffee machine, moreso now that the company has decided to offer free coffee, albeit crap coffee.   The world is gray in my eyes.  People are overweight here in corporate America because they sit all day long.  People are grumpy for having to do the same thing day in and day out.  People are always rushing in from being late due to traffic or oversleeping, and rushing to leave to get to their next activity whether its with kids, parents or the couch.

I started in corporate America right after college because I needed a job and health insurance.  And things just evolved since then.  Being so ‘I need to find Mr. Right’ focused, I never took an interest in my career.  Then my thirties hit and still no Mr. Right, though one failed marriage was behind me, I threw myself into my job.  However, I still viewed it as a job, and not something I was passionate about.  I traveled the world, something I was passionate about.  Then I became a mother, still with no Mr. Right around.

So I sit here today, most likely bored out of my mind with the mundane of corporate America.  I am done sitting at a desk.  I am done with staring at a computer for eight hours a day.  Yet, I am locked to this desk and computer because of my chidlren.  How can anyone make a career change with children?  And on a sole income?

I bet people do it all the time.  I bet people throw caution to the wind and jump.  My analytical and practical self cannot do that.  I chose to be a single parent on my own without a partner.  That means no breaks from the boys, as in every other weekend or one night a week.  That means I am the sole provider for the boys.  That means I need to make sure I have health insurance for them, and myself, and other benefits to keep everyone safe and secure.

That also means, corporate job for now.  It is here that I can get those necessities.

Yet, every day as I drive to work I feel an empty feeling in my stomach and my heart.  This isn’t what I was meant to do.  Recently I had a conversation with my sister about jobs and what I was meant to do kind of slipped out.  I wasn’t expecting it, it wasn’t something I was hiding, but it just surfaced.

Early childhood education, preschool or working with the elderly in senior centers or nursing homes.

Working with people.

Writing.

I Googled salaries for those types of careers and estimated starting salaries would put me in a poverty situation.  I wouldn’t make enough to cover my necessities, especially with two children.  And I am torn, why cant I have the job I love?  Why cant I be doing what I really want to do?  Is it true that things find a way of working out when doing something you love?

I don’t know the answers to those questions and I am not sure if I’ll ever find out – probably by choice because I am too chicken to jump.  Knowing at the end of the day when I leave my desk and I get to walk to the other side of the company campus to pick up the boys, this is worth it.  My commute home with them in the backseat and we talk about the day or what we are going to do when we get home, worth it.

As a parent, you have to make hard choices all day long.  For me, one of them right now is to be in a job that I am not passionate about.  A sacrifice I am willing to make for my two boys.

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