Thursday, March 19, 2009

Portrait: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

My husband and I are both creatives (he's a graphic designer and I'm an ex-scenic painter/set designer, now interior decorator). We didn't start out like you and your husband. We met in college and were immediately best friends and roommates. Six years later we were married. I keep trying to reinvent myself career-wise, while C held a good salaried job with some wonderful, returning freelance clients. I eventually found some stability working as an interior decorator for an ikea nearby just as C was offered a full-time position as an art director of a growing NY hedge fund. For the first time we were completely flush. We could buy anything we wanted, see theatre, eat out. It was bizarre and amazing. We saved so much money, knowing it would eventually end. We saved money and bought a house. We saved money so I could get pregnant, have a baby and take a year off. We thought it would be no problem for me to take my experience at Ikea and find a job doing displays or decorating somewhere else. C would work another year or two at the hedge and then we'd talk about starting a design studio together. We dreamed.

Then J was born. She was amazing, but she didn't sleep, didn't eat well, couldn't be put down. She was five weeks old when C was laid off, his hedge being one of the early implosions. We had savings, so much more than most. C was so qualified and talented, he'd find another job in no time. Five months later there was finally a job, though J had gotten easier to care for, as she discovered the world. We were still tearing through our savings, so a couple months later, I
started looking for work. We played with budgets and possibilities. It was pretty unlikely that I would be able to find a full time job that would pay enough to cover childcare and our shortfall, but I had to look. Something was better than nothing, right? I looked for four straight months. I networked and emailed and searched. We tightened our belts even further. I recently found a job as an design assistant for a local interior designer and I love the work. The pay is good, and my boss is interesting and understanding. It still isn't enough, but we're almost there. We have to hope that the occasional freelance client will help us keep afloat as our savings dwindles and no better paying jobs are in sight. We're not as concerned as we used to be. We feel confidant that something will turn up.

Here are the good things to come out of our circumstances. For the first five months, of our daughter's life, both of her parents were with her, learning her personality, caring for her. We also cared for each other. We're still struggling with parenthood and all it's complexity. And we don't know the future. But we have to hope that things will start to get better, just like it has for us. Slowly and surely.

Philadelphia, PA