Personal Space

7 Oct

Money is tight around here. Desperately tight. My time as a Stay At Home Dad might be coming to an end. My wife and I still want me here with the kids during the day, getting them up and fed and dressed and off to school. I still want my day free to do laundry and yardwork and remodeling on the house. And day care is freaking expensive, at the wages I could make going back to work as a carpenter, more than half of my income would be going to pay someone else to raise my kids.

So I have decided to look for a night job.

Last week I went for a tour of the UPS hub, looking at a position as a Package Handler during the Twilight Sort. There were about twenty other people in my tour. And as we each walked up to the guard shack and signed in, we were instructed to wait over by this picnic table. I was the fourth one there, and I sat down at the last open corner of the table. Now, that table would have held all twenty of us easily, but only four of us sat there. Each stranger stood about six feet from the others. We could have each extended our arms and not touched another person.

I found this interesting. There was more than enough room for each of us to sit, had we been willing to touch another human being. But we chose not to.

During the tour I was surprised by the cramped working conditions. It was a labyrinth of twisting walkways and cramped work stations. There was a row of perhaps sixty to eighty people standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a conveyer belt, receiving packages which they then sorted into one of the nine slots behind them. They had barely enough room to turn around.

This stood in stark contrast to the six foot clearance we had preferred earlier.

I could tell some of the applicants were seriously turned off by the conditions and type of work presented. Not me. I’ve been doing physical labor for fifteen years now, I am no stranger to it. In fact, I miss it. This sedentary life I have chosen is not good for me. I need to move, to stretch, to strain and work my muscles.

It seemed as though each of us were simply not used to being that close to people, to touching. No one sat at the table in a way that would have required us to touch, as if the idea of contact were unpleasant. As a society we have become too distant from each other, separated by chat rooms and cell phones.

It got me thinking about personal space.

For me, the personal space I value is not so much the immediate space around me, as it is my home. My home is inviolate, sacred. My time with my children is personal space that I value. I don’t want to give that up any more than those other applicants wanted to stand shoulder to shoulder with me, and that is why I won’t take another job that would require me to give up that time. Some people would never want to give up their evenings, but right now I would rather have my mornings and days with my children.

My writing is also a kind of personal space for me. A way to work out stress or ideas or worries, a way to express myself, to stretch my creative muscles, a way to exercise my mind. I think part of the reason I have not been able to write very much lately is this lack of exercise. I have access to the computer all day, it squats there like a high-tech toad, mocking me, teasing me with distractions(yes, porn is one such). Ideas don’t build up for hours while I am working, ready to burst onto the screen the moment I sit down at the keyboard.

So I am hoping this job will help with that. Get me out of the house for five hours a day, to let my creative mind wander, build up imaginative steam, till I am ready once again to sit down at the keyboard and write.

And as far as real personal space with people, I think I am a bit backwards. I desire my closeness with people who are important to me. I’m a hugger. And with those people I share an erotic relationship with, I’m a toucher and a cuddler, I allow myself to indulge in physical affection.

Last summer we attended an event with Fanny and her parents. I had to keep my hands to myself and I didn’t like it one bit. Her parents invaded my personal space, preventing me from holding hands or kissing her neck or even placing my hand on the small of her back.

There are lots of spaces I consider personal, places and ideas and times and relationships, things I do not want violated.

Having to choose to give up my evenings with my wife, dinner with the family, was a tough choice. I had to prioritize which of my personal spaces were important. I let my need for money intrude into my Evenings With the Family space. So be it. Some personal spaces are more inviolate than others.

Oh, I got the job. I start monday.

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8 Responses to “Personal Space”

  1. Sonata October 7, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    I have never understood the opinion that children in child care are not raised by their parents. My children’s teachers do not provide a home, food, clothing, extracurricular activities and experiences, loving family gatherings, medical care or anything for the kids except part of their education. My son’s teacher did not care for him when he woke up at 5 AM – I did. Since Bayani works outside the home, does that mean she isn’t raising them? When your children start school, will someone else be raising them at that point?

  2. Kasini October 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Ah, yes, that sentence bothers me, too. Where it seems to bother Sonata on the level of a parent, it bothers me on the level of a careprovider, as well as that of a parent. And it maybe reveals some of your heterosexual male privilege. I’ve heard that argument against daycare a lot — why have kids if you’re going to let someone else raise them? I most often hear it from women married to men who expect them to say home, sacrifice their career and earning potential, to raise their kids. In fact, I don’t know a working woman who HASN’T had that leveled against her (either internally or externally) for working, who hasn’t had to resolve that within herself for the necessity of working (whether it’s because they need the money or because they need to work for their own happiness and well-being). And while when I worked for a center that was open from 6-6, and we had parents leave their kids there for those entire 12 hours 5 days a week, I was definitely judgy about their jobs as parents, for most people who leave their kids in care the 9 hours required by most 8-8.5 hour jobs, it’s necessary and a RESULT of their being good parents.

    I wasn’t raising those children; I worked to reinforce the parenting their parents were doing.

    It’s one reason I was so upset when my ex and I worked out our original custody agreement and I mostly had the kids during daycare hours. Because daycare is not raising children, daycare is not parenting (though I AM parenting my kids while NOT parenting the others in my care) and my position as their parent here is tenuous enough that I NEVER want anyone — especially them — to think I’m just a glorified daycare provider.

    I know it was a hard choice for you, to lose your evenings with your family, and I respect you for choosing according to your principles and the best decisions for your family. And I know it’s a rare man who has to make the choice of how to balance the need to work against the need to be with their children. But you are one of the lucky ones that get to make a choice about whether or not their children need daycare.

    As for your definition of personal space, and your application of that to time, I find that really interesting. I’ve never thought of personal space temporally before, but I find that I need a great deal of personal space — both physically AND temporally. I can play the two off each other (for example, you are more touchy feely than I would like EXCEPT that I only have a limited amount of time in your physical company, so I do not feel like my need for physical space is being violated) but I cannot ignore either need, though I’ve never defined the second one like this.

    • Myrddwn October 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

      Sonota, you are absolutely correct, I agree with you completely. That was a poor choice of words on my part.
      By referring to daycare raising my children, I was hoping to express an extreme of opinion not necessarily my own. When my daughters were in daycare before I did not feel they were being raised by the daycare workers, it felt no different than dropping them off at school. They were being looked after and taught, kept safe. I trusted the providers, I liked them, I was not resentful.
      I have a great deal of respect for daycare providers. Looking after children, especially younger ones, is extremely taxing. I could not do it, I do not have the patience. I think most daycare workers are not paid nearly enough, yet they cannot charge more by economic necessity.
      I don’t think it’s ever easy to leave your kids with someone else so you can work, I think most parents probably feel at least some degree of guilt for doing so, even though they most likely did not have a choice. I have been very fortunate to be able to spend the time with my kids that I have. Money has been tight, very tight, because I have not been working a high-paying carpenter job. It’s a trade off. And when forced back into the position where I must work, I was able to choose a night job over a day job and daycare. If I didn’t get this job, I would have had to open my search to include daytime positions, and right now wages are depressed and what used to be a $20 an hour job is now only paying $15, so even more of my wages would have gone to daycare. Part time night job brings home $500 a month, full time day job brings home $1500 but $800 to $1000 of that goes to daycare. Luckily I got the job.

  3. K77 October 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    Carpentry and other trades pay pretty well here, once fully qualified. Interesting that it can be so different.

    I don’t usually enter into daycare discussions because we’ve never used it and don’t use school either, so I’m not exactly well-placed to comment on it 🙂

    Congrats on the job, I hope it gives you what you need.

  4. Myself October 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Thinking more about the apparently loaded words “raise” and “parent”. “Raise” isn’t a word I tend to use at all, not sure if that’s just me, or if it’s a geographical thing. I do use the word parent, as a verb. If one of our young friends is in my care, then I’d be parenting him/her during that time. If one of our adult friends helps one of my children at a moment when I’m busy with somethign else, then we might say that person was parenting my child at that moment. But then if I did something to help one of our adult friends, I wouldn’t be parenting them, I’d just be helping them. Interesting stuff going on in my head, which probably isn’t translating with clarity or interest here 🙂

    • Kasini October 10, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

      I generally use the word parent as a verb, too, but I never apply it to other people. But, then, what ARE they doing when they’re setting those boundaries and guidelines and enforcing consequences… hmm…

      • Myrddwn October 11, 2011 at 9:07 am #

        I think if you are watching a friend’s child in a temporary capacity, you are ‘caring’ for the child(interesting emphasis on emotional state?). If you are doing this in a more long term situation, but not as a parent, you can still be ‘parenting’, this would be disciplining, setting boundaries, etc, for a child you see regularly that is not your own. And then there is ‘raising’, which to me means being a parent at all times until that child is no longer a child. I dont know, the language is all messy about this topic, and I don’t think one way of labeling things works for everyone in every situation.
        Kasini and I occasionally watch each other’s kids. I don’t think I am ‘raising’ them, or even ‘parenting’ them, even though I do fill the role of a parent. To me, ‘parenting’ implies some form of permanence, or at least belonging. And ‘parenting’, in that context, just might be one of those personal spaces that should remain inviolate. Like I said, the language is messy. I would certainly say I am ‘caring’ for her children at those times. I am providing care, and I also care about them and their well being.

  5. roxy5683 October 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    I used to work in group homes for adults with rather severe developmental disabilities. While they were adults, they also needed much of the same care that children need. I dealt a lot with families who felt guilty for not providing this care themselves. I saw my clients lives in the group home as their chance to actually be adults. Even though we provided cooking, bathing, and grooming care, they still were offered as much freedom as possible in their leisure time activities and choices. It was our job to discover what they liked and wanted to participate in and then support them in doing that by doing what they couldn’t (driving, communicating, reading, writing, etc.)
    It was interesting because their parents were still their parents. Totally and completely. We were their aids, and companions as well, but we were their to help them be as independent as possible. Parents are their to guide and direct, to teach and to love unconditionally. To make choices for their kids even when the kid might want something else. While I did this in my own way, I was more an extension of the clients desire, not an overt figure telling them what was good or true.
    I think many liberal parents might want to be this free with their kids, to cultivate their independence and not tell them what to do directly but I don’t believe that is the healthiest role of a parent. Parents are there to tell us what to do when we are screwing up, when we don’t know what’s best, etc. This provides the type of security one can only get at home. Caretakers are there to support our best choices, to intervene only when we are about to cause ourselves or another harm. The best care takers can respect the parents influence and desires for their kids, while also allowing the kid the freedom to experiment on their own, maybe make some mistakes, and learn more about why their parent’s advice and intervention really is valuable.
    I think it’s healthy for children to go out into the world, being watched over by responsible folks who are there to help, but allowed to experiment with their own identities separate from their families, and then get to come home to the safety and support of those who usually really do know whats best for them.

    Tangent: I recently got to go out with my husband and a gentleman I’ve been seeing this summer. I felt closer to both of them due to their awesome interactions and obvious comfort with one another. But at the same time I felt distant because I couldn’t touch them the way I do when we are alone (a kiss on the cheek, hug, arm around them, etc.) It was like playing bumper cars when really I just wanted to make out in the back seat!

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