It's been about six weeks since we changed Gwen's daycare arrangements. Previously, she went to daycare 3-4 days a week and spent one day with Gramma. Now, she spends 2 days at daycare, 1 day with Gramma, and 2 days at home with Chris. (Chris was smart, too: he chose to have Gwen at home for Monday & Friday, which means that Gwen's intense at-home time is Friday through Monday; since I am home on the weekends, it means Chris gets a break instead of having a four-day stretch on his own.) Chris commented to me recently that he feels more tired now than he ever did when he worked full time. Perhaps more surprisingly, I feel exhausted too. I don't think I've ever felt the "second shift" workload as keenly as I have for the past six weeks.
When I get home from work, I'm tired - both mentally and physically - and need a rest. However, Chris is tired too, and he needs a break from Gwen. Most compellingly, Gwen misses me and needs my attention - my active attention, as in "Get up and dance with me, Mama," - right away. I've been reflecting that from Gwen's perspective, she doesn't really notice that she spends less time with her caregiver and more time at home. But I know she notices that she is home more than I am, now, which has got to be pretty weird for her. Previously, when I left for work she would go to daycare. Now, I go to work and leave her at home to wonder why I keep leaving her. So while I am apart from Gwen the same amount of time that I was before, I think she experiences that absence in a different way. This is reflected in her response when I say things like, "Tomorrow, you get to go to the pool with Dada!" and she says, "And Mama too?" Naturally, this shreds my heart. However, I've talked to Chris and he confirms that she doesn't talk about me all that much during the day, so it's not like she spends that eight hours pining for my presence.
Another way the single-income lifestyle is impacting Gwen is that we are now a one-car family. This means that all three of us get into the car in the morning so that I can be dropped off at work, before Chris and Gwen turn around and head back home. Last week I had a hair appointment right after work. Now, if I had my own car still, I would have just driven straight from work to the appointment. But instead, Gwen and Chris came to pick me up at the office, then we all drove home together and got out of the car, and then I said good-bye to them and got into the driver's seat to go to the salon. When I said good-bye to Gwen, she looked so confused. It was the exact look I get when someone is trying to explain physics to me. I could see she was trying SO HARD to understand, but it just didn't make sense. Carefully and slowly, she said, "But ... we just picked up you." So true. Poor kid.
I feel a little self-conscious when I mention things like hair appointments and yoga classes, because wait a minute - all those things cost money! I imagine that whomever is hearing/reading these comments gets all suspicious, like why is this whiny blogger trying to engender our sympathy, obviously her life is not all that bad. And let me say: my life is not all that bad. Part of the reason it's not all that bad is because I have worked out some private deals with my yoga teacher and my hairdresser, such as work exchange, so that I am able to continue doing these things that I actually can't afford to do. I am really grateful to these people for their flexibility and graciousness.
And again I repeat: my life is not all that bad. This can't go on forever, and it won't. In the meantime, I think the only thing we are living without that I consider a necessity, rather than a luxury, is our monthly contribution to RRSPs and Gwen's RESP. This includes a Home Buyer's Loan payback as we took money out of our RRSPs to buy our house four years ago. We are living without a lot of other stuff right now but that is the one that nags at me. Unfortunately, I don't think our financial advisor/Revenue Canada is interested in any kind of work exchange regarding those funds.