Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Small, but Meaningful

When I was pregnant with twins, Travis was working a full-time job and making freelance videos on the side. During part of this time, he was also a full-time student!
So. We were pretty busy and I was pretty dang needy.
Then the boys were born, and about 2 months after those little hell-raisers came into being, Travis and I decided that the time was right for him to quit his stable, insurance-supplying, steady-paycheck-providing job.
(In this economy?) Yes. Very much so.
We had a dream.

A dream of "making our own hours" and "setting our own paycheck."
A dream of traveling the world as a family; filming, photographing, and exploring the world together.

A dream of doing what we love and providing for our family.

And then we learned about how startups work.
We learned that "making our own hours," really means, "working until the project is done, and if the project isn't done at 5pm, you don't go home for dinner, and if it's still not done at 10pm, you don't go home for bed;" and "setting our own paycheck" means, "no constant assurance of money, and a crappy insurance that we pay for ourselves, and if a client doesn't pay us when he's supposed to, then we have to buy the cheap crappy milk, instead of the fancy milk we want."
We learned that traveling the world is mostly a pain with two infants, and just as hard with two toddlers. Apparently, we have to pay for plane tickets if we go with Travis anywhere and if he's in the Philippines working, then he doesn't actually have time to play with us.
Travis would be filming, and the boys and I would be photographing and exploring without him. (And if I get overwhelmed by taking care of the boys myself at home, I certainly can't do it in the Philippines.) So Travis travels and explores the world, and I stay at home by myself and hope that he posts pictures of his adventures on Facebook - since he doesn't have the money to actually call home, or the time to write lengthy emails.
We learned that making art for a job is all very well and good, but sometimes you need clients that pay you money (and lots of it), and those aren't usually the jobs that you love. The videos about employee-training at MLMs pay for the videos about non-profits, and extreme-sports, and adventure.
We learned that you can't call in sick, because there's no one else in the office that can do your work. We learned that sometimes you go to work in your sweatpants and throw up between edits. We learned that every time Travis crosses the state-line, the boys get really sick or stop sleeping through the night and I have to call him a thousand times a day and cry and wish he was home.

And usually things are good. I don't want any one to read this and think that we're unhappy or struggling in our marriage or even that Good Line isn't worth the trouble.
I am so proud of Travis, he is the hardest worker that I know, he is amazingly talented. I am amazed by the company that he's been able to build up in the last two years, and I am grateful every day that he makes enough money for me to stay home and take care of our children.

But damn. Sometimes it's too hard. Some months he travels from New York to England to Ukraine to San Fransisco, and he's away more than he's home. Some weeks he works 15 hour days, 7 days a week. Some days I follow him down the driveway and beg him not to go to work. It's Saturday. The boys are sick. I am sick. I miss him. I love him. I need him. And he has to get in his car and go to work, because Good Line is Travis. Travis is Good Line, and there are clients that need him at work, too - and if he doesn't go and doesn't get paid, then I can't pay for the hospital bill from taking a boy to the emergency room for pulling his arm out of the socket.

It's hard. On a regular basis, I wish that Travis was a plumber, an accountant, a middle-school teacher.
Then he could go to work in the morning, and come home at night.
He wouldn't need to fly to Denver with two-days notice. He could call in a substitue. He could leave his stresses and troubles at work and not dwell on them all day, every day.
In my mind, I see this (inaccurate) vision of a "traditional family."  Mom stays home all day, taking care of the home and children, Dad works all day bringin' home the bacon. Then Dad comes home, and the family spends the evening together. They share the burdens and the joys of their children. They eat dinner together every night. They do stuff like go on hikes.
So, once we went on a hike. We do manage to eat dinner together at least three or four times each week.

But I think that the real struggle of being the wife of a small business owner, is the expectations that I have for Travis, and the fact that it's impossible for him to fulfill them. I expect him to make enough money to provide for our family. I also expect him to devote the majority of his time and energy to me and our children.  I expect him to drop everything if I need him. On more than one occasion, I've wept and mourned that sometimes I am "practically a single parent." But then I remember.
I'm not a single parent. I have a husband.
If I was a single parent, I would have these perfect, beautiful boys to take care of and I would have to get a job. I would have no one that would appreciate the stories and pictures that I tell and take all day long, about the little things. The things like, Micah asking for juice, please - using his words. Things like the way Grey says "Love you."
There would be no one in the world to completely and totally adore and love Grey and Micah like I do. More importantly, there would be no one to completely and totally adore and love me. There would be no one for me to completely and totally adore and love.
There would be so much more lonliess. There would be so much more weight and struggle.

And while it's tough for Travis to have to work, everyone has to work. Except rich people. Or... maybe homeless people. But we are neither or those things. We're regular people.
So even though it's hard, Travis has to have a job. And we can't spend every moment of our time together.
Travis likes to remind me of the times in "Little House on the Prairie" when Pa has to leave for months at a time to work across the country. He has to walk across states during winter blizzards and has no way to contact home besides a few slow letters. He doesn't have FaceTime.
And Ma handles it.
It annoys me when he says that, because he knows that I want to be like Ma. And Ma didn't complain.
She just cried a little, then she sucked it up and worked. And their family was happy.
And our family is happy.
And our lives are meaningful.
Actually, I just read an article about how meaningful lives are not always the happiest ones. The happiest lives are the ones where people receive constant and immediate gratification. Parents, it said, are notoriously unhappy. They don't have sleep. They don't have the gratitude that they deserve. They are forced to serve others and think of other's needs first.
I deny that the truthfulness of that.
My life is hard. I have to spend almost all of my time taking care of three other people. I don't have endless money or resources. But worst of all, my husband has to work long hours and take far away trips and I don't get to sit around and snuggle with him all day.
But I'm happy. I'm very extremely happy. I am so much happier than so many of the people that I know.

I know my struggles aren't the hardest. Two of my best friends are combatting illnesses and piling up medical debt. Several women that I know are suffering and struggling with infertility and the inability to get pregnant. So many people have much harder lives than me, and I don't even know what the point of  this post is, except perhaps to say:
I feel you guys. Life is hard.
But life is also good. Life is so good. All that hard is worth it.
And Travis might have to work all day, but I'd say that the fact that we would rather spend every moment of our time together is a pretty good sign of our marriage.
And I would take my hard, meaningful life over a different life any day.
Especially if a different life didn't include my three favorite boys.

** Two Notes **
The winner of the "Cheer Up, Mouse!" giveaway has been emailed. Check your inboxes.
Who can name the movie that the title is from? I'll give you a hint, "I lead a small life. Well, meaningful, but small."

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Anonymous said...

Amen to this sister! Totally feeling in solidarity with you! Josh is gone for at least 4 weeks starting a week ago and this is my regular life. And I'm self-employed so I get both worlds in a little different way. Anyway, so good to feel like I'm not alone! I was feeling so alone.

Emily said...

This may be my new favorite post. Thanks for your thoughts. My husband and I have been thinking about how life would be if he changed jobs or started his own business, and I always get scared that I'll never see him and be miserable. So this gives me hope. Thanks, Becky.

Lorna said...

Keep going. Amazing things happen when you do the best you can dealing with a startup. I wish I had been a little more supportive, a little less clingy and not worried so much when my husband was starting his company. We made it through the rough years and life got better and better. He runs a very successful company now and has lots of time and money to spend with me and the family. Looking back I realize I just didn't understand the pressure and time it took to build a successful business. You are way ahead of where I was!

faeriequeene said...

That line is from "You've Got Mail", and your title alone got me thinking of those lines in the movie.

Joanne @ Our ABC Life said...

My husband is a small business owner - he works crazy crazy hours over the summer. Monday-Saturday from before the sun comes up until dark. It feels like forever. I tell myself the same thing. I got married and had kids so that I would not be a single parent - its not what I signed up for. But then when I am the most frustrated/tired whatever I remember he is doing the best for his family and I should not complain... (at least not to him : )

Polly said...

I feel your pain. I felt that way most of my married life. Owning your own business is hard work and something not all people are capable of. Travis is a keeper!

Jessica Smith said...

I so needed to read this! Your line about you feel like a single mom really hit home with me. My husband works 12 hour night shifts so on the days he works he sleeps all day then is at work all night. I am constantly saying I am a single mom on those days. But you're right, a single mom would not have the privilege of staying at home with my sweet baby boy!

Natalie said...


Elizabeth said...

Such a good post. I got all teary. We do all have our trials and such, but like you, I am so grateful for my little family.

Karissa said...

This was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you so much for writing it.

I am having a major "life is really hard" night tonight. Or maybe month. Let's just say so far 2013 has been kind of a jerk.

And I, like you, am very happy with my life. I have so much to be grateful for. My trials have just been weighing on me a lot lately and they're burning me out. Maybe it's the weather?