How has it been nearly a year since Fritter was born? Where did the time go?
I have spent the last month or two slowly gearing back up to work mode, because in a month I am going to have to go back into the world of unmet expectations and absolutely no down time which is the life of the working mother.
I don’t wanna.
I don’t want my cuddly baby to get bigger.
I don’t want to leave her at daycare because she has some stranger issues (which I will discuss at some point).
I don’t want the stress of having to meet people’s expectations, avoid judgement, etc.
I don’t want to lose the hour and a half of down time I get every day during Fritter’s morning nap while Owl is at school.
I don’t want any of it. I LIKE maternity leave.
But, since it isn’t a choice, what I really want is to get my dog training business going, and going HARD. Because training dogs pays between 40 and 70 dollars an hour and working at the vet clinic… doesn’t. Also because it’s one of my life dreams, along with being an author.
So, I’ve been working at it and it’s actually going pretty well.
One big goal was to find a venue for group classes. As a trainer I honestly think group classes are a lot less effective and are more stressful to teach, but honestly, their price point is a win-win. I can charge a quarter of what I would normally charge for private lessons, but if the class is full, I make twice as much per hour, and that’s after I give half of the money away to the owner of the venue.
If I ran three full classes every six weeks, I would make $320 a week solid income, plus whatever hours I did at the vet clinic. With a few private clients on top of that, I could boost that to $500 or more a week, which might even be enough to sustain us without any hours at the vet clinic at all. With three sets of classes and FIVE clients at a time I could make as much as $3,000 a month, which would be amazeballs.
But without group classes I would need to maintain as many as ten or fifteen private clients at all times, which is much less doable.
I assumed that I knew all of the local daycares and groomers around and I knew they already had trainers. The daycare where I trained while pregnant has been sold and the current trainer is a friend of the new owner, so no hope there. I started looking for other spaces – the legion hall, maybe, or some other community location? Not much luck.
Then one day, just for the heck of it, I googled local dog daycares. I was thinking maybe some of them would be interested in hosting a trick dog class, since that’s my specialty and most trainers don’t do that so it wouldn’t infringe on current classes offered. And I found a brand new dog daycare, a three minute drive from my house (practically ACROSS THE ROAD), that had NO TRAINER. NONE! So I emailed and asked if she wanted a trainer and she said yes!!
It was a stroke of luck. It turns out other trainers were also sniffing around but they were already training out of other facilities, and the owner of the new place preferred an exclusive relationship. Plus her innate sense of fairness said that the trainer who didn’t have a location should get her location, instead of a trainer who already HAD a location.
So I was in! WOO HOO!
But that meant that I needed to put together a class, and quick, before she decided that I was all talk and no action.
So PH and I had to talk.
Here’s the problem – dog training classes are almost always on Tuesday nights. I don’t know what is so magical about Tuesdays but every single trainer in my area does them Tuesday nights.
Nights weren’t an option. Fritter was going down to sleep at 8:00, after spending the previous hour fussing and crying while I read to Owl and put HIM to bed. There was no way I could leave PH to deal with that. Heck, in his current state he couldn’t even deal with Owl so that I could put Fritter down when she got cranky, instead of jiggling her on my knee for half an hour while reading over her screams to a very patient five year old.
I couldn’t very well offer classes at 9 PM, when both kids were finally asleep.
So that left weekends, during Fritter’s nap time.
I decided to try a puppy class on Saturday morning. I set up the classes and advertised the HECK out of them. Google ads. Facebook ads. Fliers at my vet clinic.
I got no responses. Zip. And who could blame them? People want to sleep on Saturday morning, or have to take their kids to soccer. It’s a terrible time for a puppy class. But I was hoping that since every other puppy class in the area was a) booked solid and b) on Tuesday night, SURELY there were seven or eight puppy owners who worked Tuesday nights or couldn’t get a sitter and would prefer a Saturday?
And, of course, because I have anxiety, this is how my brain worked:
No one signs up for Saturday class –> No one will ever sign up for a Saturday class –> If I can’t do evenings, I will never be able to make a living training —> I can never be a full time dog trainer —> I will die miserable and unfulfilled working as a nurse in a vet clinic.
Then, the day before I had to cancel the class, I got three sign ups! My minimum class size was four so I texted a private client of mine and suggested the group class as a socialization opportunity, and that gave me the minimum amount!
So the class went ahead. It has been going okay, and I’m getting enquiries about the next start date, so that’s all in all a good sign.
Find venue for group classes: CHECK
I have also spoken to my daycare lady and she says that babies often go down to bed as early as seven so I’m going to try and get Fritter to bed BEFORE Owl. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. That way I could run an evening class at, say, 7:30 and PH would just have to read to Owl and put him to bed, which he could do once or twice a week, surely. Or if he couldn’t, it is much easier to ask a neighbour to stop in and put Owl to bed than to hand them a screaming baby AND a five year old and say “good luck”.
So there’s that hopefully sorted. Once I get her solidly onto this earlier schedule.
Meanwhile, I have decided to actually pursue my certifications. Dog training is a wildly unregulated industry, allowing people to practice completely unethically and without any training in behaviour or learning *cough*CesarMillan*cough*. But there are a lot of certifying bodies that will let you put letters after your name if you demonstrate some basic competence and agree to their ethics policies. *cough*pleasenoticeCesardoesn’thaveanylettersafterhisname*cough*
Anyway, I paid to become a Certified Trick Dog Instructor like three years ago and never got around to putting the necessary paper work and videos together and mailing it all in. So I started getting together videos of me working with Beloved Dog that we took back before he went deaf and blind. There are a couple of holes in the footage but I think I can get him to perform those necessary tasks. I got a friend of mine to film me training her dog how to take a bow and shake a paw, so that’s done. I just need to upload everything and actually mail it in.
I also paid money to become certified by the CCPDT, which is the most widely recognized certifying body. I had to find the name of everyone I had ever trained and log how many hours I trained each dog as well as get a letter from a vet I work with, photocopy my ID etc. That, plus several hundred dollars, qualified me to take a 250 question test in a supervised location an forty minute drive away. I have taken that test and hopefully I will soon have TWO certifications after my name.
Get Certified: ALMOST CHECK
I am also getting inquiries from a bunch of potential clients who want me to train their dogs. I should be happy about this. My career is starting to take off.
And I am happy. But mostly I am anxious because this is also a big problem.
Here’s the thing – my husband is home on disability and so it sounds like he should be able to help with the kids while I go train. But he’s home on disability FOR A REASON. He simply cannot handle the baseline stress level of a kid plus a baby, especially if the baby is cranky/tired. He wants to handle it. He likes to think he would be able to handle it. Someday hopefully he WILL handle it. But he can’t.
So what do I do?
I have committed to part time daycare, thinking I could work at the vet clinic while she is in daycare, possibly squeeze in some training before or after work, and take the occasional client during her naps or when she is asleep at night, between her wake ups which are still pretty common.
But it stresses me out. Knowing that I can only train dogs when my baby is sleeping really limits my potential ability to train. I am terrified of overtaxing PH and having him crash like he did last year. Even with him semi-functional, there is always the risk he will have a short crash and be unable to care for the baby at short notice. So then what do I do?
I have already tried taking on a couple of clients here or there and going during Fritter’s naps, and out of four attended private sessions, one resulted in PH crashing for three days, and another had to be rescheduled because PH crashed.
What if that is a common ratio? What if I am constantly damaging my husband’s mental health/asking too much of him just so I can earn money and live my dream?
Wouldn’t it be better to just work regular daytime hours in a vet clinic where she can be in child care and nothing extra is asked of him except to maybe pick Owl up at school in the afternoons?
Why am I pursuing a job that takes place largely outside of daycare hours, which is going to require my husband to look after a baby which he is simply not equipped, health-wise- to handle right now?
The lack of security about child care and my inability to work if work arises has given me nonstop terrible anxiety for the past month or two.
How I envy people who can just, like, go to work and schedule appointments without it being A Thing. I mean, every time I take on a client I’m going to have to organize baby sitting or something. Imagine needing to find a different sitter every time you go to work. That could easily become my life.
PH and I have tried to talk about it but it doesn’t work well – he gets frustrated and understandably so because it must SUCK to not be able to take care of your own children. He knows that it is unfair that I constantly handle both the kid and the baby but he is overwhelmed by handling just one of the two for an hour at a time. And he wants to be able to do it so that I can train dogs, because he wants me to do what I want to do. He wants me to be happy. But if wishes were horses I would be riding a UNICORN. Wishing doesn’t make it so.
So instead, I just have an awkward situation where my husband gets annoyed with me for worrying about childcare vs work because he feels like this shouldn’t be an issue and also annoyed with himself because he is partly the reason why I worry about childcare vs work (although much less so than if he were dead) and it clearly IS an issue, and so I just kind of have to work around it without bringing it up too much.
And so I just internally agonize over it with no real end or solution.
One more month to go…