Monday, November 23, 2009

November blahs

Time once again for what seems to be fast becoming an annual tradition on this blog -- my "I hate November" post. ; ) As I explained that first year, early in my blogging career, November has always been my second-least-favourite month, ranking higher only than February -- a month by which time I am generally totally sick of winter -- redeemed only by the knowledge that Christmas is just around the corner.

November has always seemed grey & melancholy after the bright colours and milder weather of September & October (although the weather has been unnervingly balmy so far this year). Maybe it's the time change early in the month, which means we head to work before the sun rises and arrive home just as the last rays are fading in the west. Maybe it's the month's association with Remembrance Day -- the solemn cenotaph ceremonies and mournful bagpipe music every year. Or, in the dimly remembered days of my toddlerhood, the Kennedy assassination (46 years ago yesterday).

In Canada, we have no Thanksgiving holiday (or Black Friday bargains) to look forward to either -- already been there, done that, ate the turkey in October. Maybe that's part of it too -- reading everyone's posts about their Thanksgiving plans with their families; thinking about those days, so long ago now, when my mom would pull my sister & me out of school for a few days & head down to my grandparents' in Minnesota for our second turkey dinner of the season. The warmth of my grandparents' tiny old house, always the smell of coffee percolating on the gas stove, the laughter around the kitchen table over an after-dinner card game. Gosh, I'm getting teary-eyed just writing these words. I miss them so much. :(

In 1998, I thought I'd finally have something to look forward to in November -- the birth of our daughter. But that never happened and, along with being the busiest month of the year for me at work, November became a month of sadly unfulfilled promise for me.

I know I never liked November much before Katie. And I've worked at this job long enough that I know (and if not, I should know) how the month is going to unfold. But why does November still have the power to bug me so much?

I think the month is still tainted for me by the lingering feeling of being cheated. I was cheated out of a baby. I was cheated out of all of the experiences that go along with being a parent, good and bad. I was cheated out of the joy of that first wonderful Christmas. Cheated out of the fun of taking her for a picture with Santa. Cheated out of the joy of dressing her up in red velvet and buying her a Christmas stocking. Cheated out of walking off the plane with her, bundled up in a snowsuit, & placing her in the arms of my parents & grandparents.

And cheated out of getting away from the drudgery of work -- just for that one year. I can remember feeling positively gleeful when I figured out that my November due date meant I would probably get to skip most, if not all, of the year-end rush at work. And needless to say, while going back to work would have been tough no matter what the date, knowing that I was going to have to slog through the usual year-end stuff after all, after thinking I was going to get away scot-free, was a psychological blow from which I don't think I've ever quite recovered.

I know, I know -- maternity leave is not a vacation. And we're very fortunate to get such a long maternity leave, compared to women in the States (nine months then, a whole year now, most of it at least partly paid). And I DO like my job, for the most part. Heck, with so many people out of work right now, I know I'm damn lucky to have one, and such a good one at that. And we always manage to muddle through this busy time, somehow. Eventually, everything manages to get done.

But it ticks me off that I've paid so many years into Employment Insurance (which funds maternity leave). Needless to say, I'm never going to need it for mat leave purposes, & they've tightened up the regulations so much in recent years, I doubt I'll ever be able to collect it if I ever lost my job.

My girlfriend worked for a provincial government for many years & was able to take not just one but two paid year-long sabbaticals (funded through a deferred salary program) -- one when her children were small, & one a few years ago, when her oldest was a teenager. That summer, she bought a used camper van & drove with her two daughters from coast to coast to coast, across Canada and back again. What an experience! I would LOVE to be able to do something like that.

I guess I've just been at this job for so many years, I know what to expect -- and at this time of year, it just ain't pretty, no two ways about it. I find myself looking longingly at the magazines, full of beautifully decorated houses and gaily decorated cookies, and at scrapbooking magazines & blogs, full of wonderful ideas for holiday mini-albums and homemade cards and other cute craft projects -- projects that look like lots of fun, something to set the holiday mood -- that I simply do NOT have time for. If I can get my Christmas shopping done, the tree up & decorated, some cards mailed before I get on the plane to head to Mom & Dad's, and maybe catch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on TV, I consider myself Superwoman.

It's bad enough that I don't have kids to give meaning to the season (at least, that's what everyone tells me -- "Christmas is for kids," right?)(bah humbug....). Even if I don't have kids, I feel like I still deserve a little fun somewhere along the way -- & right now, I'm just not having much of it. :p

OK, whine over. Thanks for letting me vent. I DO have a few things to look forward to in December, & it's not that far away...!


  1. oh loribeth, it's natural to feel cheated. it's a tough time of year anyway.

    maybe you could take a little sabbatical from work some time and do only things you want to do?

  2. Hoping December comes quickly for you and that at least a bit of fun sneaks into November somehow, too.

  3. November is a blah month. It is unfair you have so many feeling of sadness and loss tied to an already crappy month.

    Thinking of you . . .

  4. This morning I was just thinking of a quote from "Little Women": "November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year." As a February child, I've always liked my month, but I know I'm in a minority. The dreary weather and impending holiday rush can be a tough combination.

    I really don't like the "Christmas is for the kids" sentiment. It hurt during infertility, especially when my in-laws discussed only buying gifts for the little kids "to keep things easy and even." Uh, not even close to even...! And also, I think Christmas is for all those who celebrate it. It's not about putting kids front and center. Modern kids get enough of that year-round!

  5. I think the only answer is to hop in the car and drive down here to DC so I can give you pumpkin pie and a hug. I am too aware those tears involving the memories of grandparents and how a holiday can change. My heart is with you for the other change that came in November, the fact that Katie isn't here. Always feel free to vent.

  6. I'm with you on November & February. I remember growing up (where i woke in the shadow of the mountain & came home from school in the dark) that February seemed like the longest month of the year.

    And i understand the feelings of loss & feeling cheated. I still often feel "when is God going to fix this mistake & give me my daughter" who would be 3-1/2.

    And, much as i like Christmas, i do tend to lean toward the "Christmas is for children" sentiment. I want a child to decorate with & make cookies with, etc. This holiday is particularly hard for me, ah, that will make this too long.

    I'm thankful that my husband's family has chosen to celebrate Christmas the weekend before because we won't have to be there. We'll have a much smaller family Christmas instead of the big family with all the little children. I'm feeling bitter & i don't like it.

    I made this all about me, which it is not. Your post definitely resonates with me & i understand the pain & disappointment behind it. I wish there was a way to fix this (for all of us!) but all i can say is that i wish i could give you a hug.

  7. You're entitled to it, to all of it, the feelings, the missing, the blahs. She should be here.
    Thinking of you and Katie.