Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Epic Rant About Work

BJ finally got home last night. Unfortunately by the time he got here I'd already fallen asleep, so he didn't get the marching band and ticker tape parade reception that he should have. I think I sort of rolled over, said, "Oh, you're home!" and went back to sleep.

At work I have this yearly project called the ICE (Incurred Cost Explanation - fascinating sounding, right?) that I have to do for the Defense Contracting Auditing Agency. Basically they look at how much we spent on overhead expenses (rent, copy paper, etc.) versus how much we made and how much we spent on our contracts directly, and eventually they give us a percentage that we can charge the government on future contract work for overhead.

One would think that there would only be a little math involved. I mean, I could pull the total amount of overhead expenses for 2008 out of Quickbooks in about 10 seconds. I could compare that number to the total receipts, or the total direct expenses, or pi, or the speed of light, or whatever all day long. But no, this is the government, so there is a huge spreadsheet with multiple (27, actually) worksheets that have mathematical links to one another that I have to fill out and submit by the end of June.

I hate yearly projects, because I don't do them often enough to know what I'm doing.

And our childcare situation for the summer is complicated, because Allison is going to Spain. I checked with a couple local daycares, but none of them do part time for Claire's age group. I'm going to end up heavily utilizing the church's "mommy's time out" program (but that's limited to five 2-1/2 hour sessions per week, and a max of 2 sessions per day - essentially, I'll be able to work at the office 5 hours a day twice a week, with another 2-1/2 hour day once a week - but by the time I drop them off and get them settled, get to work and settle myself, check my e-mail, it'll be time to pick them up again). I tried to get Bumpa to commit to spending a day a week with the kids until late August, but he changed the subject...

So, the big project? Sometime in early May I started looking online for the current version of the spreadsheet thing and I read the following:

The ICE application is currently unavailable. The Version 2.0.0 (Released May 2008) is under review to correct a reported error in the calculation of the G&A rate/allocation when a Value Added base is used. Any user of version 2.0.0 that allocated G&A using a Value Added base should independently validate the resulting rate calculation and allocations.

Um... Ohhhh kay... I don't know how to independently validate anything.

I didn't really worry about it at the beginning of May. I had enough other stuff to catch up. A couple weeks ago, though, I got a little annoyed and wrote to my auditor and said, "Um... What?" and explained that I don't have much childcare available in June, and if they want this thing by June 30, they really ought to fix the formula and put it back up before, say, June 29.

Yesterday was Allison's last day of babysitting before she leaves. Guess when they e-mailed me the Excel file I needed? Yesterday.

I made pretty good progress. I think I got about half of it done yesterday, which is incredible. It was really hard the first year, because I had no clue what I was doing, and the way I'd been doing the accounting didn't match the way they had set up the spreadsheet... I had to do a lot of formulas just to get my own data to match the format they wanted for the form. Now I've refined my process throughout the year to match what they want me to do, and all the old data has (finally) fallen off. So, between the better processes and the 3 or 4 years of experience I've got doing this thing, it's going a lot faster.

One lady I know whose company is larger than ours, who has been doing this for at least 15 years, said that it takes her an entire month to do this report. I think mainly it's because she still has all her other work to do while she's working on it, but still... a whole month. If we get any bigger, I'm hiring someone else to do this stupid thing.

On Thursday, Jane who is 8 and who I've known since long before she was born, was shocked to find out that I work. "Where??" she asked. "For Uncle BJ, honey. I do all the bookkeeping, and I do the paperwork and the taxes every month that we need to do because we employ people, and I buy the supplies that BJ needs for the office and for his rockets. I also make sure that we pay for the stuff we buy on time. And if we do work for someone else, I have to send that company a bill for the work and make sure they pay it on time, and if they don't I follow up with them to find out what's wrong. I talk to our vendors and keep up a relationship with them. I work with the accountant every year to get our taxes done. I keep the licenses on our softwares current. I proofread the reports and proposals that BJ writes. I review the contracts that we get to make sure that there aren't any surprises later..."

"Wow," she said, "that's a lot of explanation."

I realized later that I've totally become what Lloyd in Say Anything said he didn't want to be...

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

I love that movie.

I hate it that people (not just kids, but, well, almost everyone I know, now that I think about it) think I sit around and blog and eat bon bons all day. I work, and I work really hard. Even BJ has, in a moment of anger, accused me of doing "everything half assed." I was not trained for this, and I've had to figure it out as I go along. I took Accounting 101 twice. I got a C the first time and a B the second, and even after the B I didn't understand half of what was going on. I figured, at that point, that I've learned all that I am capable of learning from Accounting 101.

I've had to start from nearly zero knowledge of accounting, and learn the hardest type of accounting there is (government contract accounting). And the stakes are high. If I screw it up I could end up in jail, or BJ could, or they could shut down our company or stop awarding us contracts or any number of really freaking horrible scenarios. Talk about stress! (But my FB quiz, "How stressed are you," came back at 3%. Ha. To hell with FB).

I am almost entirely self-taught. Aside from my accountant, who has been a TON of help over the last six and a half years (but she can't sit and hold my hand every day), and the woman at the larger company I mentioned earlier, who helped me through the ICE the first time, I've learned this all on my own.

I'm a total big picture thinker, and I don't usually care about details, and I suck at math and Excel. Accountants (successful ones, anyway) are detail oriented thinkers who are good at math and Excel. I'm completely ill-suited for the job I'm doing, but I do it because BJ doesn't have time, and we can't hire someone that he'd trust the way he trusts me. I have complete control over all the money going in and out of the company. BJ looks at it once a year when we do the taxes. He couldn't trust anyone else in this job.

And yet, I'm still blown sh*t, even by the other owners of the company, for being involved. We had a meeting, once, at one of the owners' houses, and after dinner when the four owners went downstairs to talk, and I went too, one of them said with a sneer, "Are all the other wives going to be included too?"

I'm still pissed, and it was years ago. I should have said, "Yeah, when all the other wives who've never even seen the office put in 40 hours a week, they can sit in, too, you dick." But I didn't. I didn't because I love my husband (although he heard it when we got home, and got an earfull for not defending me) and we need our business partners. The irony is when we set up the company, they wanted to make me the "on paper" owner - because women-owned businesses get perks - but I said no because it's dishonest to say I'm the owner when I'm not.

You know what integrity gets you? It gets you screwed, that's what.

So, it's a beautiful Saturday and when BJ gets up I am going to go to the office to finish this thing. Because I have to. And people are going to read this, and in about 20 minutes will return to thinking that I sit around and blog and eat bon bons all day. And no one's going to think about the fact that in addition to all of the above, I have a home to run, too, with laundry and dishes and shopping and doctor's appointments and every other detail that goes along with that. And that I have a workaholic husband who travels frequently.

I can't relax when I'm at home, because I'm thinking about the 10000 things I really should be doing at work. I can't relax when I'm at work, because I'm thinking about the 10000 things that need to be done at home. When most stay-at-home moms are getting a break, when they have a sitter or a mommy's time out program or whatever, I'm working. When most working-outside-the-home moms are getting a break, I'm playing catch-up at home. It's the worst of both worlds, in a lot of ways. I always feel like I'm behind.

Rachel said, on Facebook, "We both have the same problem - we think, 'I can do it all by myself,' and at the same time think, 'Why isn't anyone helping me?'" I think in my next life I'm going to be one of those "wilting flower" types - the "delicate" girls who can't do anything by themselves. The ones that men seem to fall all over themselves trying to be the big, strong hero for. To hell with being Scarlet O'Hara, I want to be Melanie.

BJ's up. I gotta go. *sigh*

This post has been brought to you by PMS, which I have somehow completely forgotten how to deal with in the past 4 years.


Cathie said...

I have NEVER thought and will NEVER think you sit around blogging and eating bon bons all day. When I worked a measely part-time job which I could easily "leave at work", I still felt stressed at home. AND, I only have ONE child. Kudos to you, and ALL YOU DO!!!!! Self-employment is something which overwhelms me even to think about. Best wishes with your ICE report. May it be completed swiftly and without frustration or complication.

strwberrryjoy said...

lol. this post was brought to you by pms. ;)

Cate said...

Nah, we just you're just a hindu goddess with eight arms. :) hee.

Anonymous said...

I took away a lot more than just to say, 'say anything'! omg! so worth the sit. And you quoted it perfectly! Love John Cusak. He's out there somewhere and that's why I love him... veeeery fitting you would love him/that movie being that ... being married to a rocket scientist, I know 'you're out there somewhere too' which is why I love you! Didn't even try to make that rhymn! ;>)

ML said...

We hear you!! We hear you!! I too am accused of bob bon eating. And I can't even make time to blog!!!!