Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Luck Has Nothing to Do with It

I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do, they typically fade quickly. This morning, when the alarm woke me, I was dreaming about people telling me how lucky I am to be able to stay home with my daughter, and the feeling of resentment that their words evoked.

When we learned we were having a baby, we looked for a house. We were in an apartment in Chicago, and there was no way we were raising a child in the city (plus the apartment was too small, anyway). We ended up moving about 30 minutes south of his job, and I worked right up to my due date, schlepping boxes as a receiver in a bookstore. I went back to work after a few weeks, working part-time on weekends and one night a week. Living so far from friends was pretty isolating, but at least I had a little time with other adults a few days a week.

The amount I could make in retail would have been consumed entirely with daycare, so it made financial sense for me to be at home and work only part-time. When we got the diagnosis of autism it was one more reason to be glad that I was able to be home. It wasn't luck, it was necessity, and the fact that my husband made enough that he could support us all if we were careful. When the store I worked for closed, I just stayed at home. But it was hard, so hard. I could go days without talking to an adult other than my husband. Not only was I isolated by geography, now I was isolated by a diagnosis. I don't think friends knew what to say to me.

When I started taking belly dance classes, I got to talk to other adults again. I made friends, awesome and funny women. One class became two when I added yoga, then three when I added tai chi, and it was wonderful. Adults! Who wanted to talk about things other than autism!

My husband had gotten a new job, considerably farther away -- a 60-mile, one-way commute, 4 days a week. (He worked from home once a week.) We had to move closer. We had to do it before she was in high school, because the high schools in the district where we were living were not good for her. So we moved. We found the perfect house, with a good commuting distance, and good schools. And an hour for me to get to my classes... One hour there, one hour back, for a one hour class. Assuming no accidents or bad weather. That, coupled with my vast hatred of the expressways, meant that I wasn't able to attend those classes. So I was isolated all over again. I haven't yet found replacement classes, or a new tribe to hang with, except online.

I stayed at home because the jobs I qualify for didn't pay well enough to justify the daycare cost. I stay home now because I need to be available when she's at school. This is what I need to do for her. It's not luck. It's love, and necessity. Sometimes those things come at the sacrifice of adult time that isn't spent talking about kids and earning a meager paycheck.

It's not luck than enables me to stay home, and it's a little short-sighted to tell me I should feel that way. And to dismiss people as stay-home parents is demeaning, depressing and wrong. It's not a vacation!

I am grateful that circumstances allow me to be at home, but luck has nothing to do with it.