Friday, October 4, 2013

Day four

I filed for unemployment today. There's something I'd never imagined doing; I'm a federal employee, full-time, tenured past the probationary period. I'm in my 30s. Healthy.

The state of Maryland made it easy. They've set up a special page on their unemployment website for furloughed federal employees. That makes sense, of course, although it surprised me. There are a couple hundred thousand of us in Maryland. I read that my county, never mind the state as a whole, is losing $760,000 a day in revenues. All politics are especially local here.

We're having some turmoil. The lovely husband and I are being really conservative with money. We warned the kids not even to ask for all the silly stuff they love to ask for all the time. For them I think we've thus far succeeded in striking that delicate balance of explaining that this is serious but also reassuring them that they don't have to worry. For us, it's not that simple.

I spend all day with G, the littlest, the never-only. Until now. He can't figure out much what to do with out sister-input, and all the things I suggest lose their glamour without either his schoolmates or girls. He's a lost soul now. 

I'm a lost soul now. It's like being on maternity leave again. I spend all day on childcare, patiently giving him my every attention because I'm the only one here to give it. My brain is raging. I miss books, conversations with adults, intellectual challenges. I miss a core me part of me. I keep that to myself, because my little boy didn't ask to be Congress's collateral damage, and because I know to appreciate these hours with him, even as they were thrust abruptly on me and my brain is struggling with the transition. We play and we go for walks and we color and we cut and paste and we climb and then we get the girls, that lovely husband returns, we do dinner and evening and bed and then my mind races to dive into all the brain things, but my body is too tired. 

He's funny, my little boy. He's affectionate and happy for being able to command so much input on our minutes. He gets to pick which grocery store and which cart and which melon we buy. He gets to come home and have me slice it up right away. He gets to stand by my elbow and eat cantaloupe cubes just as fast as I can fill the tupperware box. For fifteen minutes we stand at the counter side by side, and it's just like maternity leave: he's full and sticky, the whole kitchen's a mess, there's not enough melon left for anyone else, I'm ready to eat, he's sated and ready to play. I feel gratified to make him so singly satisfied. I feel frustrated that I'm not having everyone else's furlough experience, checking off long-awaited projects, taking day trips, completing home improvement dreams. 

I'm struggling against the three conflicting emotions at once:
::grateful for this unusual one-on-one experience with my boy
::frustrated at the intensity of childcaring and my brain's inability to adapt to it
::jealousy for some self-directed furlough time

As usual, it's a swirly mess up in my head. This particular concoction, though, is unprecedented. I have a sweet boy's sweaty head in my lap. He swore he wasn't tired and fell asleep reading books. He smells like mineral sweat and cantaloupe and he's holding my ear with his sticky hand.

He and I can do this, of course, and I can say honestly to you that when it ends, I will think of his companionship fondly. But I think it will take us several weeks to find a routine that works for both of us at home, a balance between his needs and mine, his happiness and mine. And I really hope this shutdown doesn't go for several more weeks. 

A little bit of happiness in the form of those flowers up top -- they were sent to us by the lovely people at, which is a local business that helps you order flowers from local independent florists. They sent us these flowers last week and I took that photo today. It's been wonderful to have this treat cheering me up during our week at home. They didn't ask me to write anything about them.

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