We hear about postpartum depression all the time. The baby blues. I’ve known women who have suffered from this affliction, and it’s awful. All the more so because society insists that women should be rejoicing in the birth of their child; not wallowing in depression. As if it’s a choice.
As I’ve been purging old paperwork from my past, I’ve had an opportunity to revisit the highlights of my career. I’ve unearthed old recognition awards, letters of appreciation, and even a couple of articles I co-authored that were published in technical journals. If you were ever an avid reader of Disaster Recovery Journal or Site Magazine, you might have read one of my articles about the potential hazards of operating and maintaining lead acid battery banks in telecom environments. Pretty riveting stuff!
I’ve reviewed old tax returns—the ones where my income was steadily climbing—only to be reminded of how successful I was and how much promise I had professionally. And as I reviewed my more recent tax returns, of course I was reminded of how far I’ve fallen.
I’ve looked for an appropriate label for my current state of depression, but I couldn’t find one. So I made up my own:
postcarrus depression (noun)
1. a period of sadness or emotional withdrawal following the abrupt end or loss of a career or livelihood.
When I got married last year, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to go back to work fulltime. The plan was for me to take a few months off so I could finish my degree and get acquainted with a new city. I enjoyed those first few months of staying home because I knew they were only temporary, and I was absolutely confident in my ability to find work as soon as I was ready to jump back in the workforce. And then my stepdaughter came to live with us, and everything changed.
My husband recently accepted a new job that has tremendous potential for his own career. He had to accept this new opportunity, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he has been essentially hamstrung in his current position by upper management’s unwillingness to face reality. That’s a frustrating place to be—I’ve been there several times myself—so I couldn’t very well tell my husband that he should stick with his current job. The truth is that his current employer is heading straight for an iceberg, and the captain of the ship is stubbornly determined to stay the course.
The project will inevitably fail without a dramatic course correction, and my husband would likely be out of a job when that happens anyway. So his best option was to start looking for a new job. Another opportunity came along synchronistically almost the moment he fully committed to a new job search. It was one of those things that just fell into his lap, apparently from out of nowhere, so he took it. He’s the right guy for the job for certain. Whether or not the organization is the right one for him remains to be seen, but I’m proud of him. He’s going to learn a lot in his new role, and he’ll make some important network connections that will help him reach his ultimate goal of working overseas. It’s a huge step in the right direction for him. For us, really, but where does it leave me?
Essentially, it leaves me even more beholden to my stepdaughter’s needs than ever. My husband is going to have a brutal commute when he starts his new gig, so there’s virtually no chance that he’ll be able to either drop off or pick up the kiddo at school. She was a latchkey kid while living with her mom, and she spent most of her time in a dark and dreary daycare facility where she, as the oldest kid of the bunch, was expected to entertain the little ones. She rarely complained about that situation, but we could see the toll it took in the way she would retreat to her room for hours when she got to our house. Much like her father and I, she’s an introvert, so she needs solitude in order to recharge. She enjoys socializing with other kids, but too much noise and chaos wears her out.
Knowing this about my stepdaughter, I can’t very well force her go back to being a latchkey kid—not now while she’s still living under our roof anyway. So I’m stuck. I can’t very well put aside her needs so I can pursue my own selfish interests. The right answer to the question is obviously that her needs are a higher priority than my own. Friends and family not so subtly remind me of this fact whenever the subject comes up. I’ve heard all the clichés about how I’m making a positive difference in the life of a child; I’m giving my stepdaughter greater opportunities; children at the most important work; yadda, yadda, yadda…
Intellectually, I get it. Emotionally, I’m not there yet.