Last night the SAM household hosted A Big Discussion. Or as big a discussion as is possible when I'm one half of the participants, anyway. We were going over our family financials and came to a number of unpleasant realizations about our current and foreseeable future status. Such discussions always lead to the question, spoken or not, about just what the hell I'm doing with my life. Am I an at-home mom? Well, obviously not, since I go to work five days a week. So am I a working mom? Well, that's sort of tricky to answer. I do run two businesses on my own, yes. And that's work. But most working adults draw a salary of some sort to pay for things like food and shelter and the childcare required to allow a full-time work schedule. So, really, what the hell am I doing?
I've been trying to answer this question for months now, ever since I announced that I was putting the store up for sale. At that point, I'd decided that it wasn't in our family interest to keep a stake in a business that was taking so much of my time and wasn't bringing any income, especially with another time-sucker ... er, baby on the way. I wasn't happy about it, per se, but I could see the advantages, especially when The Admiral's massive swaths of vacation time were repeatedly wasted by my tether to the store.
The plan then, as I saw it, was to sell the store and focus fully on booking, perhaps expanding into management, promotion or publishing. There would be virtually no overhead, my hours would be extremely flexible, and my pay would be determined by how much I was able to work rather than the fickle demands of the sling-buying public. Plus, I'd get to keep that minor degree of coolness imparted on music professionals. Maybe once the babies were bigger, I could tour manage, actually hitting the road and seeing all the cities I was vicariously working in.
But then something happened. Or a few somethings, maybe. Firstly, a really cool group of moms started coming to the store on a regular basis, anchoring our playgroup and resurrecting our breastfeeding support group. They became good friends and compatriots, and their concern over the future of the store made me start questioning the true necessity of my leaving. And listening to their questions. Could I make a go of it if I had more help? Were there marketing opportunities or revenue streams I wasn't yet taking advantage of? If I couldn't find a buyer, I wouldn't really, truly just close the doors, would I?
Then I noticed a For Rent sign in a newly renovated house across the street and started having fantasies about what we could offer in that kind of space - more classes, bigger gatherings, maybe even a diaper service. I told the other moms about it, I discussed it with The Admiral, I practically decorated it over the phone with my mom. I started making a business plan to include the capital I'd need to expand. I could really see things working out.
And then the sign went down, just like that. As if the owner couldn't psychically glean all my big plans for that space. When I saw the empty spot on the lawn, my first reaction was disappointment. I didn't know how attached I'd gotten to my hypotheticals until I realized they couldn't happen. It got me wondering how I'd really feel about selling or, worse, closing the business, and whether I'd really considered all of my options.
During all of this, of course, I was trying to set up anywhere from 1 to 4 multi-state tours at a time. And that ... was not fun. As much as I enjoy working with musicians and going to shows, the daily drudgery of pimping gigs is a consistently soul-sapping venture. I also felt like I was always behind, always neglecting at least one artist (usually more) for the sake of another. I have a very low tolerance for disappointing people, and even when I was trying my hardest, I couldn't shake the feeling that someone was constantly disappointed in me. And then I'd get just a teence resentful that I was exhausting myself on behalf of grown (childless) adults when I could have been spending an equal amount of time doing something more personally rewarding. Like napping.
So ... easy decision, then? Scrap the booking and save the store? Sigh. Of course it can't be that simple. For starters, I'm about to the end of the fraying rope that's passed for my operating capital. I can't keep the store open without an investor or outside loan, both of which I'm reluctant to pursue. And then there's the reality of this tiny person about to emerge from my body. I had 8 weeks of maternity leave with Miss M before I had to go back to the rigors of my at-home office, and it was still a very tough transition. I imagine being able to spring back and come to work with a 2-week-old strapped to my chest, but I have to keep reminding myself how fatigued and frazzled and possibly physically encumbered I'll be. I've had lots of moms offer to help out, but I know I'd still need to be heavily involved in the day to day, just to make sure bills were getting paid.
Yet another factor: the most likely potential buyer for the store won't be making a decision until at least late May. As in, two weeks before I have a baby. So at this point, my options aren't fully known, and they won't be until it's just a fraction before too late. And as much as my college study habits would indicate otherwise, I really prefer not to put anything that important off to the very last minute.
All of this was going through my head last night as we were trying to figure out how we're going to afford Miss M's next month of school and the dog's overdue annual exam all in the same pay period. It's a crushing feeling, as anyone with money woes knows too well. But I tend to take it personally, too. It wasn't all that long ago that The Admiral and I were bringing roughly the same size paychecks into the house, and it's still a blow to my pride (and degree) that I'm not making that kind of contribution anymore. It's also a scary feeling to be a mother to almost-two and not have any sort of financial independence. Without The Admiral, we'd be sunk (boat pun intended but regretted).
So, much like this post, there's no quick, easy wrap-up. The questions are still lingering, with no obvious answer in sight. The sign is there one day, and then gone the next.