I’ve had the itch for a while now to do what a lot of stay-at-home mothers eventually do: go back to work. The problem is, I don’t have a workplace to go back to. Or a career. At least, nothing that takes me out of the house.
You might have figured this out, given my recent upsurge of blog posts. I’ve also been working hard on my Etsy store: adding and renewing listings, updating shop policies, taking inventory, and working on the overall look of the thing. I’ve also been working on a new novel, whenever I have the chance to write. The problem is, it’s hard to do these things with my kids around. For example, as I write this, my son has inadvertently unplugged my computer twice, and despite my warnings, keeps leaning in to see what I’m doing, thus putting tension on the cord. It makes me grumpy. And while it’s not his fault that he’s curious, and it’s only natural he should seek the attention of his mama, it doesn’t make for the optimal work environment. And if his sister were awake (hallelujah for nap time!)–well, I wouldn’t be able to do this at all.
Now, a lot of moms work from home, and they manage just fine. They use nap times, screen time, mornings, evenings–they fit it in wherever they can. This is sort of how I’ve been doing it, but I have to say it doesn’t feel like enough. While I enjoy the work I’m doing and I do think it’s helping my psyche to do something of my own, I keep fantasizing about going to an office every day. A nice, clean office with a big desk and all my own things, unsullied by small fingers. And choking hazards! Choking hazards wherever I want them. Liquid paper, Sharpies, various paints: all within arm’s reach. It makes me wish–
Well. It makes me wish nothing. Because I know that if I had all the money in the world and I did rent an office space to do my writing and I did leave my small children with a caregiver for even half of the day, I’d feel guilty about it. And I’d miss them. And I’d do that thing where, even when I’m free of the kids and can think about adult things, I end up saying “Fire truck! Look, there’s a fire truck!” every time I hear a siren, and I keep a mental tally of all the construction equipment I see. And I’d end up coming home early, or calling to check in too often, or just staring at the blinking cursor on my screen and wondering whether the girl had taken her milk and the boy had pooped in the potty. Maybe not every day, but often.
And if I had to go back to work, financially, I would be stressed out and might resent my job, and I’d be constantly tallying the cost of childcare versus my income and wondering if it’s all worth it. And if I hypothetically lived near my parents or in-laws and had a baked-in system of childcare, I’d feel left out because my kids might start to prefer them and/or I’d want to spend time with my family too. And if I didn’t have to go back to work for the money but I had a career that really mattered to me and I couldn’t leave it behind then I’d have a mix of all these feelings, combined with a tendency to overdose on books like Lean In and articles analyzing books like Lean In.
Either way, I should probably read Lean In.
But here I am. I’ve got an agent but no book deal, an Etsy store that does modest business, and a blog that you’re reading, which is something. Not nothing. It’s a lot more than I had this time last year, and if nothing else, it makes me feel like a grown-up. Like a person who isn’t a mother. I even ordered business cards. If you ever order something from me, you’ll get one in your package, but I think I’ll start carrying them around, too. Hand them off when people ask me what I “do.”
Here’s one for you:
Though, if we’re being honest about what I do, I’m missing a few items on there, but caregiver, cook, housekeeper, dog groomer, personal shopper, nutritionist, social coordinator, stylist, children’s performer and interior designer wouldn’t all fit on one card.