Running a household is a lot of responsibility. Most of us delegate out some household work to third parties like housekeepers, gardeners, or babysitters and nannies. And most people tend to pay cash for these and think nothing of the relationship. But in California, these are usually classified as domestic workers and are subject to various tax and employment laws.
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I am never away from my kids. I mean, you know, except for 40-50 hours a week while I’m at work. But like, never away away. In the 16 months my son has been alive, I have literally not been away one night from him. Not one night. And my daughter just turned four. In total, I have been away from her four nights. But only one night at a time. Combine these with the fact that my husband regularly travels for work plus some travel for pleasure, and I have been totally overdue for a trip away.
It took A. LOT. for me to ask my parents to watch the kids for us while we went on vacation. My parents are helpful, but they’re busy. They have lives. My kids are little. They need a lot of supervision and attention. And to be honest, that is kind of a pain in the ass. Not only is it hard for me to ask for help in the first place, but it was torture for me to ask for someone to parent for four whole days. But I am so glad I asked. We needed this trip so badly.
I’m at that weird time in life where I still need a lot of things for my kids but maybe not enough to fill a diaper bag. Since I work full time, I don’t typically carry my diaper bag with me–I don’t want it to sit in a hot car all day with snacks, sunscreen, and diaper rash cream going bad. Unfortunately, I’ve found myself picking up the kids from daycare and going straight to dinner and being caught without a diaper, a sweater, or a pacifier for an overtired baby. Since using my diaper bag as a purse isn’t an option for me, (although there are really great ones out there today that could, theoretically, work for some professionals,) I found a nice middle ground for transitioning from full-time diaper bag to a regular purse.
My first move was to think about all the things I could potentially need on an emergency basis and separate those from things I regularly use.
I have a special hatred for making lunches. It’s hard enough for me to get anything made for my kids, let alone for me to make something to bring to work. I’m a special case because not only do I dislike cooking/food prepping, but I also can’t stand the idea of eating the same thing three days in a row or prepping the same meal every other week. My sister is a pro at this. She basically has a rotating menu of about five go-to meals, and that works for their family. But if I made chili two weeks ago and ate it for lunch and dinner three days in a row, I’m not making chili again for two months.
I set out to do this challenge to save money, eat healthier, and prove to my stubborn self that I can find a way to inject variety into my meals even when I’m not eating out at restaurants. So how did it go? Well, it was a mixed result.
It was 10:45 pm on a Thursday night. My husband was out of the country on business since Sunday. There were two days left in the fiscal year at work and I was slammed. The baby was teething. The toddler was being a contrarian about everything. I was exhausted. And I was lonely. Not just I-need-a-hug-from-my-husband-or-a-friend lonely. Lonely in a deep, deep place. I felt lost. Overwhelmed. Like no one understood me. No one knew what it was like to be me. In that moment. Drowning in a sea of responsibility and expectations.
I looked over at my nightstand to check the monitor to see if I finally won the battle of getting the toddler to bed and a book caught my eye. It was a novelty item I was gifted. A parody of a children’s classic. I had flipped through it once and set it down, not knowing whether it was something that should be placed on the bookshelf, re-gifted, or frankly, tossed in the trash. And an idea struck me.
You know what feels like a crazy idea? Moving into a non-legal career after spending five years as a lawyer and almost $200,000 on law school. But I did just that. It was scary, exciting, and filled with the thing I hate the most–the unknown–but I came out the other side with a job I love and a new career track that felt right for me. 30 might seem young to some, but after seven years in higher education, it felt like a huge step backward in my career. In hindsight, it was more of a side step, but it was the best move I could have made. Below is a rundown of the dirty details of my career change.
I’m totally late to the podcast game. My husband has spent years mentioning different podcasts he was listening to, and I just didn’t have an interest. But one day, while driving to work, I was listening to some morning radio and realized what complete trash it was–both the talk and the music. Although I’m sure I could have found a better station, I decided that I’d look for some podcasts instead. I picked up a few based on some quick internet searches at work, and I’ve added to my queue mostly through recommendations.
I listen to podcasts on my way into work (less so on the way home since I have the kids in the car), at the gym, while doing dishes, folding laundry. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in interesting and relevant topics when you can’t necessarily sit down and read a book or article. I listen to mine on the pre-loaded podcast app on my iPhone, but my husband prefers Overcast.
When I say I’m not a green thumb, I can’t stress it enough. I kill plants faster than they die naturally. How long is a bouquet of flowers supposed to last? More than two days? Could have fooled me. I’m not really into plants, except for the whole life-giving-oxygen-provision thing. So I have happily gone about my life without them inside my house. I tried to get some fake stuff, and to be fair, I’ve recently happened upon a few decent-looking items here and here. But I started to look around our house and feel like it was looking a little, well, dead.
My colleague recently gave me a little potted bamboo plant, and after a few weeks of successfully keeping it alive in my office, I decided it would be a nice addition to the abnormally large counter space behind my sink in the kitchen. I’m happy to report that the thing is still living five months later! My new confidence of keeping living things alive (toddler and baby included) led me to do some research on plants that aren’t high maintenance.
I’m all about practicality, so I decided if I’m going to put effort into keeping anything alive in my house besides my kids, I might as well make them useful. So I focused my research on plants with air cleaning or other good qualities. Thankfully, NASA already did the work for me. Check out my list below for some mean, green, hard-to-kill, poor-air-quality-fighting machines.
The prenup. That dirty little word. In all honesty, before I went to law school, I had the same reaction. “Why are people getting married if they’re preparing for divorce?” But if you think about it from a different perspective, it starts to make more sense. You don’t buy homeowner, car, or life insurance planning to need it. It’s there in case the unexpected happens. Just like estate planning, you hope you won’t need to utilize the documents (at least in the short term when it comes to estate planning). But being prepared can save the headache–and a hell of a lot of money–down the road. Unlike an estate plan, which everyone needs in some form, not everyone needs a prenup. So how do you know if it is right for you? Here are a few considerations.
Have we established yet that laziness is my mantra. Okay, let’s go with a nice euphemism: efficiency. I’m not a big drinker, and if my day/week/month has been one where I need to knock a few back, it needs to be as simple as popping off a bottle cap or a quick twist of a corkscrew. But I have had house guests that prefer a little something stronger when the clock strikes six thirty, so I’ve made a point of trying to stock a bare-bones bar. I don’t want to stock hundreds of dollars of liquor, mixers, and garnishes if they’re not going to be used. The key is to stick to a few classics that are likely to satisfy the broadest number of potential imbibers. Check out my summer cocktail bar–a minimalist bar utilizing a few key liquors and a host of things that should already be in your kitchen.