Imagine prepping for a road trip. Perfectly detailed car, a fully loaded gas tank, neatly packed suitcases, a well-curated playlist, a box full of snacks and drinks, properly aligned side-view and rear-view mirrors. You would think you are well-equipped for a long journey ahead. You start driving, then you quickly run into a horrendous traffic jam. Your wife is having car sickness, and the whole car smells like poop because your son’s diaper leaked. You would think things couldn’t get any worse, then you find out you have a flat tire. You are stranded in the middle of the traffic jam calling a towing truck only to find out that the car insurance is expired. The trip is massively disrupted. You are hungry, angry, resentful, and bitter. You are having a gigantic meltdown, but you still have a family to take care of. So you are pretending to be composed, calm, and collected.
Going into the year 2022, I felt well-equipped and confident after having achieved important milestones in the previous year. Then, I felt flat footed, incapable of retaining last year’s momentum. I believe I was having a mild burnout. I was overly ambitious, and I was trying to do too many things. I lost motivation to do even things that I enjoyed a lot. Bike rides became infrequent. My reading diminished. I stopped writing. I wanted to be dormant in the comfort of my bed, not wanting to do any hard work. Then, new challenges started to pile on.
A new home
We decided to move closer to our in-laws as my wife was expecting to go back to work after her maternity leave. Although I am thankful that my housing is being subsidized by my company, the subsidy constrains the search process because the new housing has to be within the confine of the company’s contractual limits: budget, location, and duration. I had to do some serious haggling for a few months to get the whole thing approved. I dislike rocking the boat, but I had to be aggressive at times to make HR folks acquiesce into agreeing to a new deal.
Not knowing where we are going to live made it impossible to plan well. From choosing a daycare center to figuring out our work schedule, we had to be in limbo guessing our way through uncertainties. I spent most of the first half of 2022 despising my inability to provide security and stability for my family.
A new job
As mentioned above, my wife ended her 15 month maternity leave and started to work again. During the maternity leave, she ended up finding a new job, which is better aligned with her interest. I am very proud of her being able to switch jobs while taking care of my son full-time. Unlike a typical maternity leave, she was going back to a completely new environment: new position, new organization, new coworkers, etc. The new company offers flexible work hours, including work from home, to accommodate parents like us. Unexpectedly, she was asked to come into the office every single day for the first three months. That meant one of us had to leave super early, so that my son could be picked up early enough from the daycare. I ended up going into work by 6 am everyday and left work by 3pm for three months. I was solely responsible for keeping my son alive till my wife showed up a few hours later. The new arrangement felt like having two full-time jobs. Although I loved supporting my wife during her transition, I was constantly fatigued. I don’t doubt my wife was even more fatigued with the added stress of working at the new company. During the first three months, we bickered and argued quite a bit.
An old job and new issue
So things did not pan out the way I wanted to at my job. After many twists and turns, the project started to drift without a clear direction. We were getting conflicting feedback on how to move forward with the project, and our team suffered a lot trying to cater to all different stakeholders. I think all of us worked together with utmost sincerity to right the project, but I think our effort came short this year. The top leadership heavily criticized our team, and it was difficult to push the project forward with dwindling morale.
A new daycare
Haju’s daycare is awesome. It is a short walk away from our home. We like the teachers who are thoughtful, meticulous, and passionate about their jobs. My son loves going to the daycare, but that doesn’t mean that sending my son to the daycare is a risk free experience. We quickly found out one of the kids at the daycare was super sensitive and irascible. Even with the teachers’ best effort to prevent incidents, the kid would scratch other kids; my son was no exception. He got scratched up a few times, and we had to do multiple impromptu visits to a dermatologist.
Moreover, as we were warned, my son is getting sick all the time. When he is sick, he has a hard time sleeping through the night. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease was particularly difficult for us. When his sickness became more frequent, our quality of sleep deteriorated. We did not mind being sleep deprived, but what bothered us the most was a banging sound on the wall whenever my son cried late at night. BANG, BANG, BANG.
A new and angry neighbor
We initially brushed off the banging sound as an one-off occurrence. Then, it happened again and again, progressively getting louder and more frequent. We later learned that our wall adjacent to our neighbor has no sound proof, and our neighbor could hear every sound emanating from my son’s room. She was just as sleep deprived as we were, and she was not happy about it.
We wanted to talk to her to resolve the issue. At the same time, we weren’t sure how she would react to us reaching out. We definitely did not want to irk her with an unsolicited invitation to talk. I decided to lay low not wanting to exacerbate the issue, but my patience was wearing thin.
One day, against my wife’s request, I penned a hand-written letter to my neighbor. I tried to be gentle, courteous, and respectful. I enclosed the letter in an envelope with a gift certificate hoping the gift would appease her a bit. A few days later, I received a spiteful letter and the unused gift certificate in return.
My trip into the year 2022 got massively disrupted. I had gigantic meltdowns, but I still had a family to take care of. I tried my best to be composed, calm, and collected, but it did not work.
Some challenges are resolved now while some are still ongoing. My wife now enjoys flexible work hours as promised. Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out how to proceed with my project. Our trip to the dermatologist paid off, and my son has no permanent scar on his face. However, my son still gets sick quite often. Once angry neighbor no longer bangs the wall, but the soundproofing is still very horrid. It is very likely we will have to search for new housing again this year.
The rear-view image of 2022 is ugly, dissatisfactory, and chaotic, but I was never lonely. It is one enormous distinction from any other sucky years I’ve had. All the difficulties paused when all three of us hugged and laughed together. Having my wife and my son meant that I couldn’t afford to be dormant in the comfort of my bed. I pushed, jumped, and crawled. By doing so, we managed to continue to build memories together as a family instead of being paralyzed by challenges of this world all by myself. Not sure what 2023 has in store for me, but I will cherish moments when I can afford to be dormant in my bed with my family cuddling, giggling, and tickling one another.
I am thankful for assistance, encouragement, and constructive criticisms that helped me push forward. I am especially grateful for my in-laws and my parents who constantly offered to take care of my son. Lastly, thank you wife for bearing with my dysfunction. I will do my best to be a better man, better father, and better husband 🙂