Saturday, January 30, 2010

Of all the things I've lost ...

OK, I admit it. I miss my paycheck the most.

It would be much more professionally savvy, I know, to talk about how much I miss working. (I can feel you cringing from here, mom.) The intellectual stimulation. The adult companionship. Career advancement and feelings of accomplishment. All good stuff.

I don't miss any of that. Not yet, anyway. And since I didn't take this time off so I could mindlessly follow my children around and catch up on what's been happening with Oprah these days, I don't imagine I will for a while. I have eight years of unread books and journals, unwritten poems, and unthunk thoughts to catch up on.

What I don't have ... is direct deposit. And I am of two minds about it.

It's like this. Every year at Christmas, I start off the season with the noblest of intentions. I wax poetic about family, the true spirit of the season. I expound the virtues of simplicity and generosity. Our family is so blessed, I lovingly note with tears of gratitude, we don't need anything more than each other.

Then, because I do not learn, I walk into Toys R Us.

I don't know what happens in there, people. I have my suspicions that they somehow erase your memory with that scanner thing at checkout, while distracting you with a mind-boggling number of requests for personal information and credit card offers.

The next thing I know, I am standing at the exit. Two hours have passed, I am holding a receipt totaling twice the gross national product of a small country, and I am weeping inconsolably because unless my children get a full-size walking, talking robotic dinosaur baby for Christmas, they will be social outcasts forever.

In a similar vein, I can tell you at length (and likely have) why this sabbatical is worth any amount of lost income. No amount of personal sacrifice is too great for what I will gain in sanity.

But when it comes to the kids making sacrifices? That's tougher. I have, with much effort, finally reached the point where I can justify doing things for myself. But I am not yet in a place where I think it's OK for my kids to suffer in the least in order to do so.

As a result, my ability to say no to "extras" like gymnastics, karate, piano lessons, and the occasional cheerleading clinic (please note that if you do not have an 8-year-old girl who has just been offered the opportunity to have lunch with a CHEERLEADER! In her UNIFORM! you are forbidden to judge me for this) has not yet caught up with the reality of our steadily-dwindling savings account.

On the other hand, money can't buy quality parenting, right? You can't overestimate the value of your kids waking up in the morning to a home-cooked breakfast, a stimulating family discussion, and creative lunches complete with love-notes on hand-stamped stationery.

Or ... what I do. Set out cereal, point the kids to the spoon drawer, throw a PB&J in a paper sack, and wait for them to go to school so I can write about them. Priceless, right?

Hey -- it's a sabbatical, not a personality transplant.


  1. Jilly, Paychecks come and paychecks go, but husbands who support your taking time off to think are priceless! Robert Butler (and I) always say, it would be ideal to mix up the periods of education, work and retirement. We tend to get good educations, so we can get good work, stay with work because of things like health insurance (don't get me started) and then retire. Good for you! Your kids are flourishing, enjoy this adventure. There will always be work! Mom

  2. What a supportive mama you have there... :)

    Also: yeah. :)


  3. Amen to Mom and Dana. An adventure provides the unexpected or it wouldn't be an adventure. Reach right into the heart of our culture and pull out your own will and soul and your own version of common sense. Make 'em a big breakfast after that.

    We love you, Jill.

    Uncle Doug

  4. Jill,

    You have just uncovered another gene we share! When I retired, I looked back longingly at the rewarding work and peer associations - for about a minute and a half! Actually less, as I said my good-byes at a company all-hands get-together in Las Vegas two months before (since I was on the bench, and I knew I would not take another assignment, but I held on - there's that darn health insurance thing again!).

    Carpe your diems,

    Love, Dad