STAY-AT-HOME-PARENT– Zero consistency, no days off (including sick days), lots of human excrement, emotional garbage disposal, complete loss of sense of self. Managed by tiny dictators. Payment in leftover Goldfish crackers.
Okay, so the above is my first job, Job #1. Parenting is my priority (in terms of ‘work,’ not in terms of snacks or naps). I made the kids, I must raise the kids. Before we had kids, my husband and I decided, together, that I would stay home with them cause you know, I had the working breasts with which to feed them (ohhhh the irony). What I hadn’t realized I signed up for was the un-ending nature of the job. He gets to go to work and talk about things other than Bubble Guppies. I am all Bub-Gups, ’round the clock.
I also have a second job, Job #2. This one is more of what society would call ‘a real job’. I am a birth doula, which means I am hired to walk alongside families throughout their pregnancy, childbirth and immediate postpartum. I own my own business, Diamond Doula Care LLC. I am the sole employee, which makes me Owner, CEO, CFO, HR, Admin and Janitor.
Doula work feels like a vocation and sometimes, like a vacation. I truly feel the most at peace when I am in Labor & Delivery. Problem is, women don’t have babies on my schedule. In fact, they tend to go into labor at times that are downright crappy for my job #1. Finding reliable, immediate childcare is daunting. I have a wonderful support system in my family, but they can’t be at my beck and call.
Not only do my clients need me for however long their labor is (in my career, I would estimate that I spend about 20 straight hours with my clients on average during labor and birth), but I make myself available to them by text, email and phone throughout their pregnancies. This means that if I am at the pool with my kids, I am always checking my phone to make sure that I am attentive to my clients. Being a slave to an electronic device is a drain and I feel guilty pulling myself away from the kids so often, but it’s the job.
This is a big enough stressor for me that I have contemplated quitting this line of work many times. The problem is, I get to a birth and remember that this work fulfills me in a way Job #1 can’t. It makes me whole and makes me happy. Unlike Job #1, I am confident in my decisions and have a real sense of accomplishment when I leave. Doula work makes me feel whole.
In the past year or so, I have started another job, Job #3. I created #Grancer. I thought that Grancer would be a way for my friends and family to see how I was doing, but instead it became a place where people from around the world could find someone to relate to, someone they could actually contact to commiserate.
What I didn’t realize was that by being so open, people would always be able to find something that they could attach to, and in cancer treatment, feeling someone else understands something that you are going through or have been through, is a big deal.
What people got from my blog that they couldn’t get elsewhere was a peer. A real person who they can tell their stories to; who they can ask questions of.
Job #3 has extended beyond the blog. I lovingly refer to myself as ‘The Cancer Lady,’ because these days, I receive between 3 to 5 emails, texts, Insta messages, Facebook messages a week from people asking if they can connect me to a friend of theirs who has been recently diagnosed*. Remember, 1/8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and once you are entrenched in this world, you start seeing them all around you.
What happens next is that I say, ‘of course you can connect us!’. I want so badly to be able to help as many women and their families as possible. Me and the newly diagnosed will start a conversation and hopefully I am able to ease their mind in some way, but what also happens is that I start getting confused.
Who connected me to whom, what was their diagnosis again? Were we chatting on Instagram Messenger or email? Did I forget to check in on them after their surgery? Did I forget to ever write back? Am I giving them what they need from me? 4 new contacts per week for a year is over 200 people. That is a lot of stories to keep straight.
None of these jobs have an 8 hour work day. All of them are 24 hour, 7 day a week positions. There is no time left for any kind of self-care.
I find myself at a crossroads. Though it may not look like it from the outside, I am starting to fall apart. My brain is overflowing and I am feeling like I am starting to fail people. No one in any of my jobs is getting 100% of me. At any given time, I am splicing out 20% to a new cancer friend, 65% to my doula client asking about lower back discomfort and 15% to my 3 kids, one of whom is inevitably peeing in their pants as you read this.
I have been circling the drain on this overload for a while now. This morning my therapist sneakily got me to stare the problem down. You know what happened? Complete panic attack. I’m talking weeping and gasping for breath as I laid on her couch shoving wintergreen Life Savers down my gullet to bring up my blood sugar so that I could exit the room on my feet and not a stretcher.
Here’s the worst part… I don’t have an answer. I won’t stop advocating for & connecting to my cancery peers. I won’t stop attending to new families in labor. And though I have seriously contemplated setting up one of those water drips they make for cats and leaving my kids to fend for themselves, alas, I must continuing parenting.
Jobs #1 & #2 are my issues to manage, but perhaps you thoughtful and intelligent Grancer followers can help me brainstorm how to more efficiently create and foster peer to peer care for cancery folks. Or even, and I hate to say this, help me find a way to monetize my care for the cancery community via sponsors or advertisers? Mama believes in genuine volunteering, but mama also has to remember the value of her time and mental expenditure.
Though Grancer may seem larger than life, I ask you all to remember that it is actually just one person. One person with three kids & two dogs. One person with three kids & two dogs and owns a small business where she is on-call. One person with three kids & two dogs, owns a small business where she is on-call and supports hundreds of women around the world as they walk through the cancer machine. One person with three kids & two dogs, owns a small business where she is on-call and supports hundreds of women around the world as they walk through the cancer machine and wants to lay in bed and eat gummy bears and watch 90 Day Fiancé.
*If you are cancery and have reached out to me or were planning on reaching out to me, please do not be discouraged by this missive. I just ask for your patience until the cloning process is completed and Grace 2.0 arrives from the workshop to help me.