It was the beginning of 2009, and after 2 1/2 years of being single, I finally decided I wanted to start looking for someone. I was oblivious to the dating world, but that's for another blog. I was in my last semester at Houston Community College, ready to graduate with my Associate of Art's Degree in May.
And I was still living at home. At 24 years old.
My parents are still married and together, but my father has been working out in California since 2008 where he has his own business. My mom works here for minimum wage at a distribution center. I have twin sisters who are 9 years old.
For 1 1/2 years, I went to school on weekends and followed my courses online, all while managing a social life- or at least attempting to. It didn't bother me too much that I was doing classes on Saturdays and Sundays because I wasn't partying it up every weekend. I actually preferred one-day-a-week courses because it was easier for me to study.
But then I became unhappier. While my mom worked the graveyard shift (and still does, and I'll explain how in a bit) I had to stay home and watch my sisters. She would start work at 5pm, and my work schedule was 8am to 4pm. I didn't take a lunch so that I would work 8 hours and leave to make it in just as my mom was leaving for her work around 4:45pm. We hardly saw each other during the week. I would see her on the weekends after my classes were over, but most of the time, we communicated through post-it notes on the kitchen counters, mirrors, and microwave.
I was sad. My mom wasn't around anymore, and I was also unhappy that I had to spend every single weeknight cooped up at home. I couldn't go out. I could only go out on Saturday nights because my Sunday classes started a bit later.
My sisters were also very difficult (they still are, but my mom has to deal with them now.) I didn't like doing errands with them because they would become irritable if I spent too much time in a store. The only time they were manageable was when they were doing something they wanted- like the playground at the mall, but other than that, they were always running around the aisles, screaming and fighting in the stores making a mess.
It was embarassing, and it got to the point where I despised having to make a quick run anywhere with them if I was out of something. They were too young and I couldn't leave them home alone.
I often talked with my friend/coworker Jennifer about my stress in my home life. And even though I complained a lot, I always came to the conclusion that it was balanced out. I didn't pay rent, and my parents had a stay-at-home babysitter.
But one day,Jennifer finally laid out the cherry on the cake. "You can't keep living for your parents. You're unhappy just by going home. They're the ones who had the children, let them take the responsibility! They're not your kids."
I always tried to defend my family, because it felt like a personal attack when they talked about them, and I always said "But family is family, and we need to help each other out. They need me just as much as I need them... so I guess that makes it even."
"No, it's not. You need to be able to live your own life. You're 24 years old! You need to be able to do whatever you want. If one day you want to go grab an ice cream, or go watch a movie with a friend- you need to be able to do that, not say 'Oh, I can't. I have to watch my sisters' " she argued.
I just looked at her, trying to take it all in. Then, I started thinking.
It was true. I couldn't make any plans during the week. I was already committed to my sisters.
And I was so unhappy, frustrated, angry and taking it out on my mom and the twins.
Around the same time, I met Sebastian, and I opened up to him about my situation. He didn't seem to mind because we were spending the weekends together after my classes were over. At a certain point, it was enough. But there were some activities that took place during the week, and I couldn't take part. Sebastian was very understanding, and luckily, he loved children, so he actually liked being with my sisters.
We all went out to restaurants and shopping a few times because he knew that if my sisters couldn't go, I couldn't also. It was important for me to find someone who was compatible with my sisters even if I wasn't with the girls. It was almost a necessity that the person I hang out with not be annoyed by their behavior. Plus, it led me to believe that the person was truly interested in hanging out with me and them. Not many people would want kids in the package.
So during the 4 months we were together, I lazily searched for my new apartment. We visited a few complexes together, but never really found one that wowed me. After we broke up, Sebastian assumed I wouldn't move out because we weren't dating. I decided to prove him wrong and show that I was still committed to taking the next step to independence.
My parents weren't extremely supportive of my decision to move out, but they couldn't stop me either. My uncle told me they believed I was moving out with Sebastian. I never considered it. My mother was lost as to how she was going to manage working and caring for my sisters, and while my father said that I should take this next step in my life, I shouldn't rush out of the house since no one was forcing me to go. They both considered it a waste of money deciding to move out because I had a roof and food readily available at home. (About the time I started dating Sebastian, I began paying them $300 to help a little with costs. I only got to pay them for about 4 months, because my mom told me to save the money for when I would be moving out that summer.)
Nonetheless, the day I decided to make the move, I knew I was making a good decision. My relationship with my mom and sisters had begun deteriorating because I was tired of babysitting the girls. I had begun lashing out and was stressed at work because I had to leave at 4pm everyday even when my tasks weren't complete. I came to the conclusion that by leaving the household, I was saving my relationship with my family. I would be happier on my own and able to enjoy spending time with them when I visited.
My grandma arrived from Europe two weeks before I moved out. She's staying until November, while my mother continues to work. Everyone has asked me what my mom will do after my grandmother leaves, and I have no idea. My assumption is that she won't work anymore, but I can't feel guilty anymore. If I feel guilty, then I become unhappy. And when I'm unhappy, I become depressed and lash out. At this point in my life, I have to start taking care of myself first rather than my parents' situation. I wasn't the one to make the decision to come to Texas. I merely tagged along. I keep telling myself that if I'd stayed in California, they would have managed without me just fine, so why do I have to worry they won't make it without me now that things didn't work out?
Maybe it's selfish, I don't know. Jennifer reminded me that I wasn't the one with daughters- they were. It wasn't my responsibility to take care of them as if they were. It was selfish of them to assume that I didn't mind taking care of them.