Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hey Jealousy

Internet, I have some confessions to make. I know there have been hints along the way the past several months, but it's time for me to come clean. These are things that are difficult for me to write about, but they are what's truly on my mind, so I think I should write about them.

I want a baby.

I want a house.

I want to go to graduate school.

People I know and love have or are doing all of these things. I'm jealous.

I know they say that there's never a good time to have a baby and that you should just go for it. Well, we've got some plans in the works and needed to wait for some things to happen (Dan graduating, for example). I'm just so tired of waiting. Yet I'm not comfortable bringing a new person into the world without a few specific steps of preparation (primarily, two incomes and some significant savings). It's hard, because every month when I start a new pack of pills a good chunk of me just wants to say Nope, not going to take them. But every month I do. Having only been on the WANT BABY train for a couple of years now, I can't imagine what it's like for people who feel that way for a decade or more before they get to be parents.

It's going to be a while before we can buy a house. We need two incomes for a while. We need a decent-sized down payment. We need conditions to stay as they are for a while so housing prices don't go back up. And we need a lot of luck.

Graduate school is something I have wanted to do since I finished college. Well, maybe the first year after I graduated I wasn't interested. Over the years, I've had a lot of different ideas and even made some steps toward applying to one program or another, but nothing ever felt quite right. Then Dan got back into school to finish his bachelor's degree, and my educational aspirations were put on hold (there's no way we could have afforded for both of us to be in school at the same time). I've had nearly ten years to decide what I want to go to school for, and I think I've finally figured it out. But what I want to do will take a serious amount of preparation (taking refresher courses, some volunteer work, and some excellent references) that will take a lot of time before I'm even ready to apply. In the meantime, there's that whole want a baby-want a house thing. I don't know if grad school will happen (though I hope it does) and I think the idea I have is a good direction that uses my skills, interests and talents.

But I'm scared of all of these things. I've always had a reluctance to grow up, and a baby, a house, a master's degree will all mean significant changes - in my identity, in my finances, in my career potential. This is frightening stuff. Am I ready to be a parent? Am I ready for homeownership? Am I ready to finally get my butt back into academia where it belongs?

I feel so lucky that the dude I married feels the same way I do about things - that the reason we're waiting for a baby isn't because one or the other of us is unsure, but that we want to be in the best situation possible. That we'd rather be smart about buying a house, especially after seeing what some of our homeowner friends have gone through. Dan worked his tail off to finish school, to do well, to learn marketable skills so he can have a career he enjoys and not a job he just does for a paycheck (and so, for once, he can be the primary earner while I finally get the schooling I've wanted since we've been togther). He is supportive, he listens, we talk about our hopes and fears for the future. He's going to make a great father to our children, and we're going to have so much fun fixing up a house together, and I know that he will support me every step of the way if and when I do end up getting that master's degree. These things are scary, but we're facing them together, eyes wide open, hands clasped.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

POV from my graduate school experiences (past and future)

Why not get the refresher courses/tests out of the way for the MA degree during the wait?

I find that in some ways, the "gatekeeper" steps (standardized tests, pre-required degrees/classes) can be the easiest part of the process. Most of the standardized tests for graduate degrees (GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT etc.) are good for up to 5 years after you test.

You'll probably also decrease the the chances of succumbing to deadline overload later on, when you do decide to apply. I believe my LSATs were a year to two years old when I finally applied to school, so it was a simple matter of filling out the apps while I was sitting at home collecting unemployment (ah, dot com bust. I have a talent for fleeing the private sector during recessions, it appears). I'm currently facing deadline overload (test + apps while working a full time job in a few short months) for business school and it is not pleasant.

It simply wouldn't have been possible for me to pull it off this time without my parents' help (I swung it myself last time because I stretched it out over a year and a half). Well, it would have been possible, but it would have been a thousandteen times more stressful-which is why I think so many people give up on their plans.

I find that with education, and especially with graduate school, you have to really be firm about deadlines OR you need to be desperate. For law school, I was desperate (crazy pushy parents + losing my job). I'm not so desperate this time (financially stable, employed, parents seem satisfied with me, therefore not as terrifying) and it has led to me talking about it more than actively taking steps to get down to it. Things finally started happening for me when I reached my emotional limit with my work situation and I ended up scheduling the test and asking for help from my parents to push me towards it.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Also, if conservative pundits and my experiences are correct, graduate degrees are less about growing up and more about extending your adolescence :P

Leah said...

I second what Monkey said there at the end and also want to point out something you've probably already thought about, but just in case you haven't: a grad degree might not be necessary. My mom got her master's a few years ago and it's done nothing for her career (and not for lack of effort). I once thought about going to a post-grad publishing program myself, but then I realized I could have the job I wanted without sacrificing my time or money to extra education. Grad school can be positive in all kinds of ways, but I suspect it's at the bottom of your list of wants right now. Maybe graduate school can come after the kids start school?

p.s. You obviously know that I feel your pain on all the other stuff (BTDT) and that I hope it all happens for you in good time.

Anonymous said...

I very much know what you mean by all of this. As I get further away from the equalizer of college designations of freshman, sophomore, etc, I find it harder to feel content with where I am compared to my peers. I have friends who are married, friends who are about to purchase a home, friends who are done with grad school already, friends who are serving overseas (so far no close friends with babies); which definitely lends me to wondering when it will be my turn.

I guess for me grad school felt like something I could actively choose, where as marriage, babies, houses, etc, felt less up to me. As for advice, I am not sure I have any (although what Monkey said about some of the post-school hoops is very true), but just a hardy amen and I understand what you mean :)

tmjackson said...

I also understand - well, less about the wanting a baby bit but definitely about the wondering and waiting for things to seem right before you feel like you can go for what you want. I also get the marveling over the fact that you can be at this point in your life where you're making all these grown-up choices.

It sounds like you're being very sensible about the house and baby, and you're not only lucky in your marriage partner, you're smart to realize it. Those things will work out in time, and I sympathize with your frustration in having to wait.

Grad school - heh, well, I'm rushing head-long into that myself. You've clearly already thought pretty hard about what you want to do and what school will do for, plus it sounds like you want to go to grad school just to go (me, too), so go for it. I agree that you ought to be able to do the preparation-type things even while you're working and preparing for the other things. And if it helps to hear, a good friend of mine just had her first baby while she's in the process of getting her doctorate, so things can maybe happen together.

Anyway, good luck. Getting older is freakin' tough, but at least you eat ice cream whenever you want.

Anonymous said...

I hope you get everything you want exactly when it's supposed to happen for you. I know it's frustrating. I wish I had some sage advice to offer, but my grad school experience was a bust, and we bought a house when we really should have waited and saved. But hey, grad school wasn't in the cards for me, and we got the house we always wanted, so I like to think it all worked out the way it was supposed to. And the baby stuff? I think there IS a "good time" for a baby: when you both feel ready. Which you are, emotionally, and that's great. But there's nothing wrong with waiting until you feel more ready financially & logistically. Those cute little mo-fo's are EXPENSIVE, yo. I can't wait to see your future shorty. Staying tuned.

MLE said...

Monkey: My plan is to try to get stuff out the way. It's good to know that GRE scores are good for that long, I didn't know.

I don't want to go to grad school just to be in school (although that's part of it). I want to go to change careers, to use my brain again, and the job I really want to do is impossible without a particular degree. I can keep doing what I've been doing without a master's, but if I want to change things up I need the MA.

Leah, you know more than most people who read the blog about our particular circumstances. I know you have felt my pain (and, the baby-related stuff a lot longer than I have). Thanks for the support.

Abby, I've never been in your shoes specifically (since I met Dan when I was 22) but I applaud you for your decision to go to grad school and taking an active role rather than waiting. I'm really not a patient person so this post was just me whining. :)

TMJ, what will you be studying in grad school? (And I hope you know I love reading about your adventures in Japan!)

JT, thanks for the support. Like I said, I'm impatient and I'm tired of being sensible and it's hard when I see so many other people doing the things I want to do. My sister is in grad school and just bought a house with her husband. (They are keeping a blog to show the renovations they are doing.) Friends all over the place have babies. My cousin's about to start a master's program here in Denver. It seems like everyone I know is house, baby, grad school or a combination of all three. I know that my life, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty good (especially since I have a good, happy, functional, awesome relationship and a secure job with good benefits) and I'm not discounting what I have - just wanting the next steps to come.

Emily SW said...

Oh, what a great, honest post. It didn't seem like whining at all. I think all your wishes are completely legitimate. And I love what you said about your husband. That really is what's important. It seems like you are both on the same page and that you are in this together. Since I'm getting married in, oh, a month and some change, this really struck me. That's exactly what I want, and am pretty confident that it's what I'm getting. :) I'm with Mennogirl on this one--grad school is something that you can actively choose. Even studying for and taking the GRE might make you feel like you're at least getting SOMEwhere with your goals and hopes.

Cilicious said...

Mle, FWIW, I think you're right on schedule.
You have your head on straight and you are in a very healthy relationship.
Everything will come together for you--actually you two are in a very enviable position.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Folks who say "that there's never a good time to have a baby and that you should just go for it." are the types who just have a baby, regardless if they can afford said baby or not. How irresponsible! There most certainly ARE better times to have a baby than others. I am so grateful that we waited until we were financially ready to have a baby - we paid off debt, paid off cars and ensured we were in a house that we could afford on one income. When we did have our first baby, we had many choices as to the type of lifestyle we wanted. I am not lucky that I "get" to stay home with our children, we planned for it and made the right financial choices towards that goal.

All I am saying, is that you and Dan will know when it is right. And yes, I craved a baby for many, many years. I am not saying it was easy.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I don't think I implied or even came close to stating that you were going to graduate school just for the hell of it, or to say you did it. YMMV.

Jess said...

Being with someone you love and trust makes the rest of this stuff so much easier. Seriously.

And I really feel you on the baby thing. So frustrating to have to wait, but while maybe there's never the perfect time to have a baby, some times are certainly better than others.

Crafty Mama said...

MLE--I know it's so hard to watch people around you having babies and getting houses and stuff. I was in your shoes not that long ago.

I met my husband when we were 21 and we got married when I was 23. We put off kids for the first five years so that we could really feel "ready" both mentally and financially, as well as have some spoiled "us" time for a bit. But every time a friend announced that they were having a baby, it would break my heart. so really, I have no advice to offer but I empathasize (sp) your pain.

Only you and Dan will know when the time is right.

Yank In Texas said...

Just wanted to add I'm impressed you managed to talk yourself into blogging about it all. I know you've wanted to for a while...
Just do what you feel is right, at your own pace. Everyone does things differently- which is really hard to remember at times.

Erin said...

I second monkey's suggestion to start the preliminary steps toward grad school. Will you feel like you're making progress if you start volunteering and taking a course or two?

What is it that you want to study and what's the new career path? Just curious. Are MA programs in your field typically funded? Grad school doesn't have to mean big loans or impoverishment.

I feel for you - I know how it feels to want to move on to the next stage of your life and have much of that move out of your immediate control. Think small steps. Break it down to little stages and every time you pass a small milestone, you'll feel closer to your goal?