Then I was laid off. At first, I have to admit, it was pretty cool. Got to sleep in, spend extra time with my wife and kids and as a bonus (though I think you could hardly call it a “bonus”), I got a check from the state every two weeks. It barely paid anything, but still, money is money. Then the novelty quickly wore off after a couple of weeks, when it became clear that this was not a short-term situation.
That crappy job market everybody was talking about? Yeah. It really does suck. The job hunt has been like the Bataan death march these many months. Resume and application after resume and application have been sent out. Out of almost a year’s worth of applying to jobs and I’ve only received one response. It was in a line of work other than what I want to do but have the skills for. The reason I didn’t get it was because someone had more on-the-job experience in IT than my decade of the same work experience. Okay, fair enough.
There’s something nobody ever tells you about in the Stay At Home Parent Crash Course: The loneliness.
The loneliness and solitude is almost crippling some days.
Sure, there are things to do – I get up, take Things 1 & 2 to school, then take the wife to work and then Thing 3 and I come home. Due to her toddler ways, her nap time is a necessity and is smack in the mid-to-late morning, so it really limits the things we can go do, to get out of the house and break up the monotony. Normally doing so will result in a slap-in-the-face reminder of why it’s a bad idea to try to mess with a toddler’s nap sleep schedule.
For a long time, I’ve felt trapped in my own life. Unemployment has contributed greatly to this. I make just enough on unemployment that it would be harmful to my finances (keep in mind we have very, very little debt, so we’re talking the basics here) to accept most of the jobs out there due to low pay, especially when you factor in the then-necessary day care expenses.
On the flip side, the jobs I have found are in other parts of the country, where I would not want to move my family. So the job hunt goes on.
I’ve tried going back to school in the Unemployment-approved hours of the day (read: Not during business hours), but I did not qualify for financial aid because I made too much money in 2010. It doesn’t seem to matter that the gravy train stopped in March of 2011. The fact that I made good money in the past kept me from being able to go back to school. Ironic, huh?
Don’t get me wrong, I have a blast hanging out and bonding with Thing 3. She’s such a fun little person that her smile will literally make my afternoon. I know when she’s older I’ll look back on this time with her without regrets. This point in our lives is but a fleeting moment. The unemployment, the small income, all of this is temporary. I know that. But knowing that only goes so far at times when you feel like all you do is go from home, to the kids’ school, to the wife’s office, to home again.
Even my weekly guy’s night is in my living room. My “night out” is sitting on my couch with friends, pretending not to hear the kids being snotty and rude to their mother in the next room. It’s always fun but after a while I really do start to feel trapped in my own life.
Your sense of time also tends to get hazy and you forget that other people have to get up early to work the next day. So months of random attempts to get some friends together to go get a beer have always fallen on their face. You can’t blame them, of course. That’s life.
But the loneliness persists. It’s borderline debilitating some days. Thank god for the internet, though. Without it, I’m sure I would have almost no link to the outside world.
This isn’t a cry for help, but I figured someone should address the elephant in the room that most of us stay at home parents know is there, but feel slightly embarrassed to talk about. After all, we don’t have a 9-to-5, so how hard could our life possibly be, right?