You know those stories you hear from someone who’s successful and accomplished and they tell you about how they grew up disadvantaged and you’ll hear them say something like, “My mom worked 3 jobs to put food on the table.” You know that story.
It’s a nice story. A story of sacrifice and reward. You think of that mother and you see her as someone noble.
Well, right now I am working three jobs to put food on the table and make sure our bills are paid and we have a place to stay. I have my 9-5, I have freelance writing projects due nearly every week, and I have my new part time delivery job.
I’m writing this on Saturday night. I spent all week doing my 9-5 from Monday to Friday. On Monday and Tuesday nights I took care of kids. On Wednesday night I came home and worked on freelance projects. On Thursday night I took a shift on delivery. On Saturday morning I got up and took a delivery shift, a longer one than I expected. I was working until 3, then I took a few hours to run errands, then I came home and started working on freelance jobs. On Sunday morning I’ll get up, work another delivery shift, and then pick up the kids and start the week over again. The only time I wasn’t working this week was Friday night.
So let me tell you something. Working 3 jobs to put food on the table sounds noble.
Working 3 jobs doesn’t feel noble. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it for your kids, it doesn’t matter if it’s to put food on the table. You don’t get to feel noble, you don’t get to feel fulfilled or satisfied. You don’t get to feel like it’s all worth it, or at least it will be eventually.
You’re too tired and busy to feel those feelings.
All you feel is tired and busy. That’s pretty much it.
And honestly? If I had the time and capacity to feel my feelings, I don’t think I would feel particularly noble. Other people have a place to live and food to eat and clothes to wear without working 3 jobs. It’s not like working harder or longer makes those things any better or more worthwhile.
I’m taking a break from my work at the present moment because I’m fading. The deadlines don’t care that I’m fading. The hours I have to put in don’t care either. These things must be done and that’s that. Tomorrow will be another day, and after that there will be more days, and the days will just keep coming. I have a tiny blip in a couple weeks, a period of about 30 hours where I’ll be mostly off the hook. It won’t be enough, and I won’t be able to stretch out and relax enough to feel ready to get back into the grind again. But that’s life. That’s how things are right now.
Oh, and “now” has morphed into Sunday night. Because I went back to work on my projects and then collapsed of exhaustion around 10. My morning of work and afternoon of kids has me beat enough that I’ll probably be in my bed at 8:30, which is coming up soon. Tessa is making little noises from her bed. She wasn’t feeling well at her dad’s house and it’s possible I’ll be sharing my bed with her tonight, which will be a setback for the week for sure.
I wonder if I’ll ever tell the kids about this time. Will they ever ask me what it was like after their dad and I split up? Will they ever be curious about whether we went through hard times? Of course, all this assumes that eventually times won’t be hard. I force myself to think that way. I think that I could meet someone, get married again, and go back to the bliss of a household where two people can share the responsibility of meeting financial burdens. I think that the kids’ dad could be making a lot more money in a few years, which would mean my child support payments could go from miniscule to actually helping. I think that maybe we’ll move somewhere that I could find an apartment at half the price I’m paying now. I think that things could change at work, or maybe there will be a different job in a few years, or whatever other tricks of fate could have an impact on my monthly paycheck.
Part of me insists there’s no need to tell my kids about my struggle. But most of me disagrees. Most of me thinks it’s important to show that adulthood doesn’t mean you’re free from trouble. It doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes or that bad things won’t happen. Things go wrong, life takes turns, you shouldn’t judge someone for their misfortune. If I tell them, that’s how I’ll do it.
And who knows, maybe one day, years from now, one of my kids will be at a microphone, telling the story of their single mom working three jobs. I’m hoping if they do, at the end they tell everyone about how thanks to their unbelievable success they’ve sent their mother off to a beach to retire in luxury.