plan B

I’ve slowly been coming to terms with the fact that travel nursing isn’t the perfect solution I thought it would be, and here’s why:

  • Lack of community: I’m starting to see how important a community is for my daughter. We aren’t a family of 5, she doesn’t have siblings built-in as playmates, and basically she’d be in a new social group every three months or so. A set up for failure, especially at this age?
  • Unstable childcare: If I’m relying on M’s school and childcare community to be her social community, what will happen if she has a different caregiver every three months? And how stressed out will I be if I can’t find a satisfactory one in time for a new job? When I’m stressed, she’s stressed. Without a spouse/partner/friend to travel with to provide consistent and stable child care, that would be a very risky situation in many ways.
  • I don’t like nursing. I know, I’m a nurse, I’m supposed to love helping people and all that. But I don’t really love my job. Some days it’s ok, once in a while it’s good, and a lot of days I’m just counting down the hours. How much worse will it be when I don’t know my co-workers, or the hospital system, or where to find things, etc? How exhausted and stressed will I be on my days off? If I don’t like my job a ton at a facility I like, with coworkers I like, how awful would it be if I don’t like even those things???
  • Best interest of a young child? Lately M has been telling me she “wants to go home” when she’s needing security. She often says, “This is my home! No monster, no boogeyman, no ghost. Safe!” When we were in Tennessee she was comforted by the thought of going home soon, and seeing those people and places she loves (her grandma, her kitty, her school, her lake). I was much the same as a child, and though I love to travel all the time now, back then I needed the security of home to comfortably make those first travel leaps.

So, goddammit, I’m back to wondering how the hell we can travel frequently and long-term without a career that is not location-based. I still think we can live in Nepal from time to time, and do a significant amount of traveling with it as home base. Perhaps we can do some house-sitting and relative visiting along the way. It isn’t really enough for me, but at least I won’t be subjecting my child to upheaval and lack of community as a foundation.

At the same time, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I can’t unschool her for many of the same reasons. She needs peers and community, and I need affordable childcare. These are the facts, as I’m not wealthy by any means nor do I have the option of being a stay-at-home parent. So the next best thing is to put her in a school that unschools, or is democratic. The closest thing to that is located in the city where I work, an hour’s drive away. So, not only would I have to move closer, but I’d also need to find a democratic school that would give me a scholarship or some other form of significant financial aid, or settle for a public or free charter school that is similar in philosophy.

Housing
Until I was seven, I lived in a townhouse cooperative. My best friend was black and she lived next door. My next best friend was Chinese (her parents had recently come from China), the family across the street was Muslim (the women covered completely), and the family a few doors down was strict Catholic and legit had 8 or 9 kids. My mom had lots of opportunities to explain a lot about other cultures, and yet we all got along. The backyards were all one large yard with playground equipment, and the front yards were essentially long cul-de-sacs in which all the kids played and rode bikes. Parents watched out for each other’s kids, and children often raced across grass or sidewalk to run through each other’s homes. Garden spaces were provided, and everyone decorated their front stoops and garden patches just a little differently. Everyone had a back patio for sitting out and watching the children play from. The exact kind of community I wish my daughter had!

My paternal grandparents moved to this neighborhood when I was a teen, and I loved visiting them because of my warm memories and the happy vibe that existed there. I co-signed for my sister to move there a few years ago, and I’m always super happy to be there when we visit. M and her cousin run around the sidewalks with chalk and bicycles, climb the trees, and do cartwheels in the grass while we sit on the front stoop. We often go for walks, stopping at one of the many playgrounds that are everywhere and visiting the “mobile library” located in front of the community center for a new book. At Christmas the place is covered in lights, and there is a very safe neighborhood trick-or-treat at Halloween. The townhouse is two stories with a full basement (with washer and dryer), a kitchen, dining area, and livingroom on the first floor with hard wood flooring, and two bedrooms and a bathroom on the second story, and a private reserved parking space for each resident. In short, everything one would need. And she pays $490 per month. Did I mention that the going rate for a studio in this popular college town is about $1000 per month? A studio???

You can’t earn too much and live here. This is great because it keeps kids from seeing other kids with a ton of expensive clothes and stuff and wanting it, too. I thought I earned too much to qualify, but as it turns out, with a family of two you have to earn under $64,000 per year, and I do! The waiting list is about two years long, so I’m thinking of getting on it. In two years M will be almost finished with her third year in the Montessori class she loves. It would be ideal to move before the start of kindergarten at a new school. Too much newness at once makes for rougher transitions!

My cottage on the lake I would still keep. My mom would pay me monthly rent, which would cover the rent of my townhouse. We would come home on weekends and days off, and I would send a cleaning lady regularly to make sure the place stays clean and tidy. (My mom can be a bit messier than I like, but I’m OCD.)

Schools

There is a public school nearby that is “Open”, or democratic. However, it is very much a part of the public school system, and still has bells and grades and testing. I’m not a fan and don’t really want my kid feeling like a bell is telling her to get somewhere. She isn’t a dog. I also don’t want her to have homework or take tests, and I’m pretty sure they will take issue with that. They do have great sports offerings, though, including swimming. There is also a free charter school just down the road from the townhouses which is democratic, and sounds much more so than the open school. Finally, there are two very democratic tuition-based schools that we would have to apply for financial aid in order for her to attend. Unless it’s a full scholarship, however, it seems unlikely to me that I could afford it, considering that M would need before and after school care on my work days.

Childcare

One super benefit of living in the townhouses, among many, would be living so close to my sister. We could walk over there at any time, the girls could go back and forth to each other’s houses, and my sister could potentially pick M up after work for me or drop her off for me. Obviously I’d do the same for her and her kids. This would be not only financially beneficial, but again would foster that sense of community we both crave. Both of the tuition-free school options I mentioned above have before and after-care, from 7:30am to 6pm. My sister could potentially drop M off before her work and pick her up on her way home from work. I would get home closer to 8pm instead of 9. I could try to work Fridays and Saturdays, and my mother could pick her up Fridays and take her home to the cottage and I would meet them there Saturday evening.

Other options: my cousins, aunt, and paternal grandma all live right there in town, a ten minutes drive away. I also have Nepali friends living in the same townhouse cooperative! I can imagine having Nepali daal bhaat with them from time to time and being able to ask them to look after M for an hour or two here and there. If my Nepali best friend ever comes back to Michigan (her husband’s work requires them to travel around), she would be nearby, too. Also, co-workers and friends with kids will be easier to meet up with.

Travel

In order to make enough money to travel regularly, I’d have to have M in a school that is tuition free, 100%. After care would have to be fairly cheap, and I’d have to work an overtime day from time to time. I’d still be bound by the vacation rules set by my employer, so traveling would be less frequent and the duration would be less long. I’d have to plan for an extended leave, like one year off, at some point and live in Nepal. Otherwise it would be frequent, and expensive, and short-term travel.

So there it stands. Opinions? Am I just a nut, bouncing between ideas, unable to follow-through or make up my mind? Or am I being rational and changing my mind based on some of the other goals I have for us? Ugh.

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Categories: lifestyle, parenting, travel

3 Comments »

  1. I think your Plan B sounds pretty awesome, all things considered. I think it’s great that you’re seriously taking M’s needs into account with how you proceed. I know that sounds like an obvious thing to do, but as a homeschooling parent who has traveled and moved around quite a bit with two younger children (they’re teens now) and is now raising a third preschooler, it’s been interesting to look back at how we did things to begin with, vs. how we’re planning on doing them now. I could still give you chapter and verse on why we did what we did and how we felt like it was the best thing, at that time, for all of us. It’s just one of those hindsight things now. And my teens don’t seem any worse for the wear, but I can see how a couple of those years were rougher on them than they had to be.

    The older two love to travel, and are always looking forward to our next trip, but our youngest seems to need more. Just, more. Maybe less travel, lol, but she does love to visit family and re-make the connections. My older two are 18 months apart, and had I realized how much their companionship helped them both, I would’ve wanted to have another one right after our third, as well, but secondary infertility is the reason she’s so much younger than the other two as it is – no reason to believe another baby would’ve made an instant appearance. So she’s kind of the Lone Ranger, and in terms of birth order, she’s an only and the baby. We’ve been looking and looking for more connections for her socially, but this area isn’t really yielding a lot of options for her age group. The teens have loved making lots of friends in the homeschool community, but those families don’t have preschoolers. And your talking about how M has done in Montessori has me looking into that as an option for the little one, even though we hope to homeschool her still, it may be best for her to at least start out in that type of environment. We’ll see.

    Looking forward to seeing how things play out for you guys!

    • Thanks for the comment! I really do think things would be different if M had cousins or siblings built into her every day life, or even a group of neighborhood kids. Her school environment is providing her with that and I hope that as long as the school environment is nurturing and inspiring, and not authoritarian, it will suffice. Montessori is awesome if the teacher truly adheres and doesn’t fall into the mainstream schooling train of thought.

      • In light of how we’ve both talked about socialization here, I’m amused that I keep talking about finding other “preschoolers” for her to play with! She does great integrating with older kids, it’s what she knows, and is totally unintimidated by adults, teens, anyone, lol, but *she* seems to genuinely want and miss having people nearer to her size to play with and do the stuff younger kids are interested in doing… if she wasn’t missing it, I wouldn’t think twice about it. She connects easily with anyone and everyone at the activities we participate in, but it’s a more rotating group of people. That’s making it harder for her to build friendships with the other kids, which makes me think something more scheduled and organized might make help her find her people. We live in a former retirement community turned rural town. There are not a lot of children in our area, and most of the ones that are here are in school and / or much older. We’ll be moving, I don’t even know where to, before this fall, so our next step is kind of hard to determine, as far as the best way to help her find what she’s looking for.

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