Panic in the Mother’s Room

It all started innocuously enough.

It was an ad.

As I was feeding Chick breakfast and listening to the news, I heard an ad announcing that a very large company will be moving to my city. It will take a few years– 2018– but they’re relocating their entire headquarters. My first thought was “Man, housing prices are going to skyrocket.” My second thought was “Man, I either need to buy now or get out before it happens.”

As you all know, I’ve been seriously thinking of leaving the East coast. I’ve been looking at a few cities. In typical fashion, I created a spreadsheet comparing said cities with an Ostrich Quality of Life Index (patent pending.) I like to make informed decisions, and this process helped me quickly eliminate some options and zero in on others. Using my proprietary formula (factoring potential income, average commute time, average cost of a 3 bedroom, and average cost of daycare) I quickly tossed out San Francisco. LA would be possible, but Seattle was looking like the very best alternative. I shared my findings with Mr. O and started to dip my toes in the Seattle waters.

Mr. O had been rather silent. Not entirely out of character, but in retrospect I should have known better. You see when Mr. O doesn’t want to do something, he ignores it. Pretends like it just isn’t happening. And because this Ostrich abhors a vacuum, I fill the silence with whatever I *think* he thinks. And I thought silence was complicity.

With the dawning realization that Very Large Company is coming, my urgency to leave kicked into high gear. I went to work and started looking at how to make this move West work. The trouble was, I couldn’t. Even with all my spreadsheets and research, the three places we were looking at weren’t working out. The logistics were wrong, the cost of living one I can’t support, or commutes I can’t bear. I have been working on this relocation puzzle for weeks, and no matter how much I tried I couldn’t make it fit.

I started to spiral. I couldn’t breathe. My chest felt tight. Cue panic attack! So I ran to my one refuge at work– the Mother’s Room.

While trying to get my shit together, I tearfully called Mr. O because I really needed to talk. More specifically, I needed someone to talk me down.

ME: I’ve tried and tried, and I can’t figure out how to make this work. I’ve looked at all the pieces, all the variables…

 

O: You’re putting too much pressure on this one decision. You need to slow down. Why don’t we just move and see what happens?

 

ME: I can’t do that. I want a home, Mr. O. I want to settle down with our family. I don’t want to move across the country, only to pick up and move again because we can’t afford it.

 

O: Maybe we need to compromise on somethings. You’re not going to find everything you want in one place. Maybe it will mean a longer commute…

 

ME: I know, but there are somethings I won’t compromise on. I want our own home, and I want to be with our family. Chick is growing up so fast, and I don’t want to miss that because I’m driving two hours in a car everyday. That matters to me.

 

O: …

 

ME: I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t make San Francisco work. I know that’s where you want to be, but I can’t figure it out-

 

O: Well, I don’t want to move to Seattle.

 

ME: … What?

 

O: I never wanted to move there.

 

ME: I can’t make California work, Mr. O. I don’t know if we can move at all.

This, it should be noted, triggered more crying and chest heaving. Because I realized that when Mr. O said he wanted to move West, he really meant he wanted to move to San Francisco. There is a part of me that feels this is totally irrational on his part. It’s like a kid who says they want to live in Disneyland. That’s charming, but completely unrealistic.

69025388This is where our partnership typically hits the skids. Mr. O is the dreamer, the kid who wants to live in Disneyland. I’m tethered to reality. It isn’t like we don’t know this about ourselves– we even have a joke about it. This dynamic first came to light when we went on vacation together for the first time. Mr. O doesn’t plan anything and just likes to let serendipity take over. I have to plan everything because… well if I don’t, who will? Thus Vacation Ostrich is the planner, while Vacation Mr. O is the free spirit.

(That makes me sound like a total kill joy, but if it weren’t for me we quite literally wouldn’t have places to stay. Mr. O doesn’t even want to pick a hotel because “Let’s just see what happens…” I’m not okay with just rolling into town without a bed booked because I did that in my 20’s with very poor results. This is not my default mode- you can tell because I looooathe the planning process. In fact, I’ll admit I even resent it. But I’d rather that than sleep on a park bench, literally or metaphorically. Yes, I am justifying my behavior. It’s my blog. Deal.)

Anyway… Where was I? Ah yes… panic attack in the Mother’s Room. I was crying while mumbling “I can’t make this work, I can’t fix it, I can’t fix it…” when Mr. O told me to stop and breathe. And made the radical suggestion that we swap roles. He will be Vacation Ostrich and I will be Vacation Mr. O, at least for a few weeks. We come at problems differently, but we’re not going to go anywhere unless we meet some kind of middle ground. For the next few weeks anyway, I have agreed.

Since then, I’ve been trying to define what being Vacation Mr. O really means. It isn’t so much that he isn’t realistic, but that he sees possibility. I’m trying to broaden my perspective a little bit, even opening myself up to staying where we are.

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What do me and Donna Reid have in common, besides a love for home appliances? No really…

I’m also trying to sit back and figure out what is important to me and why. It’s been a good clarifying exercise so far. In the midst of my sweaty panicky freak out, I blurted out the two most important things to me: Home Ownership and Family. Smack me with a wet noodle, I never thought I’d say those things. It’s just so damn Leave It to Beaver, but there you have it.

Family… okay, yes. It isn’t uncommon for a mother of a small child to want to spend more time with said small child. As much as it was a surprise, I wasn’t really shocked by that response. The specificity of home ownership? Yeah, that seemed weird. While I was driving home from dinner with friends last night, it dawned on me where that is coming from.

Since my mom died, my father’s mortality has become more real. No, he isn’t going anywhere any time soon. (Hopefully. Seriously, Universe, if you even think of screwing with me like that right now, you and I will officially have a smack down.) But I’m also keenly aware that he will die some day. When that happens, my family home will be gone. My siblings and I will have to sort through ~40 years worth of our collective identify, and decide what to keep. At that point, I will be without a mooring… Unless I moor my goddamn self.

There are other things here that need unpacking, like the realization that my income is what keeps my family afloat. I am the head of the household, which wasn’t really a role I was prepared for. With that comes responsibilities I haven’t even started to grapple with. You’d think Vacation Ostrich would relish that, but I don’t.

Mr. O and I have agree to regroup in a few weeks to see what this Freaky Friday swap yields. Until then, I will do my best to dwell in possibility.

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7 comments

  1. My Perfect Breakdown · June 23, 2016

    I love the role swap. If nothing else it will be interesting, but I think it might also help you see things in a different way.
    Wishing you the best trying to find a city/lifestyle that brings together your two main priorities – home ownership and family. I have to add my two cents on one thing – do not sign up for a long commute. Studies show that 45 minute commute is most people’s breaking point. I used to do a 35 minute commute daily and I hated it, I’ve also had a 10 minute commute which was good. And now I have no commute which is clearly the best. Anyways, for me, a long commute is a deal breaker, I would do anything possible not to avoid it.

    • thecommonostrich · June 24, 2016

      For me, it all depends on that commute. When I took the train for 45 minutes, it was fine. When I had to drive 50 minutes (just 5 more minutes) I was a complete shit show.

      Right now, I’m at a 30 minute drive (when you factor in drop off at day care.) It works, but I also know that I couldn’t handle much more.

    • thecommonostrich · June 24, 2016

      Also, thanks for the vote of confidence. This is strangely turning much harder than I thought it would be. You know… because uprooting your ENTIRE life should be easy, right?

  2. AdoptiveBlackMom · June 23, 2016

    Why did I think you were already on the west coast?? Seriously, if we are within a days drive I will fight you when I get there.

    I think you’re also going to have to define what a long commute is…I live 10 miles from work but it routinely takes about an hour or so each way. That’s my time; I make calls, listen to podcasts. It may be because I’ve adapted, since it just is the way it is.

    I’m looking forward to hearing about the swap. Consider the possibilities! 🙂

    • thecommonostrich · June 24, 2016

      (I replied to your comment… by commenting on my own post. #fail)

  3. thecommonostrich · June 24, 2016

    Because I give off that laid back west coast vibe? (Oh, the sarcasm…)

    You bring up a good point- I view my commute differently now than I did BC (i.e. Before Child.) It has become “Me” time. I listen to podcasts, sing loudly and terribly to the 90’s Smash Hits channel on spotify…

  4. conceptionallychallenged · June 28, 2016

    Thanks for sharing. H is very much the Disneyland kid. But he also wants to have a say in all the planning. My current strategy is to procrastinate until he looks into flights etc. himself. Which probably means we pay more than if we could just get our act together…
    Having lived in SF, I think your math is spot on. We’re currently looking for a home (in the laid-back European city we already live in) and that process is exhausting. Hang in there. I hope you get to enjoy some aspect of being Vacation Mr O.

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