When I worked full time, I was a Master Compartmentalizer. There was a time to work and there was a time to parent.
On the occasional rough day, those two things did collide — like when I’d get a phone call from the daycare director in the middle of a meeting with my boss, explaining that Ryan had a fever and must be picked up.
For the most part, though, I left work at work and home at home. I knew I only had so much brainpower on any given day, and I could not waste it on something that didn’t need my immediate attention.
Now that I stay home with Ryan and freelance on the side, those lines are blurred nearly to the point of invisibility. The mental stamina required to keep a spirited preschooler entertained while writing 400-600 words on any topic (let alone conducting the phone interviews necessary to gather the information … let’s not go THERE) is challenging.
I have to get creative with where and how I work.
Bathe, dear son, whilst I write about ovarian cancer. You will splash way too much, and I will scold you for it, as I simultaneously attempt to do justice to the story of a woman who has survived cancer more times than you can count on your little hand.
Swim, dear son, whilst I write about online liberal arts education options in the Lehigh Valley. (More accurately, splash for 15 minutes, then we’ll take a break and eat popsicles, and we’ll both feel fulfilled even if we accomplished little more than the accumulation of wet laundry and a dead laptop battery. Cuz, popsicles.)
Once in a while, I do get to drop the kid off with some (free! family!) babysitters and get a little work done in peace.
That day, I cranked out an article about getting one’s finances in order before applying for a mortgage in the time it took my hubby to drive from his office to meet me for lunch. Evidently this atmosphere is the most, uh, inspirational for me.
It’s a work in progress.
The good thing is that as a freelancer, I can pick what projects I take on; if things get too busy at home, I can back off of work. In theory, that is. Realistically, as a perfectionist, I want to take on alltheprojects and smash them out of the park while also introducing a new sensory activity to my kid every day and cooking a fabulous dinner for my family.
The end result is that some weeks, I make a fairly respectable amount of money (but Ryan eats copious amounts of chicken nuggets and watches copious-copious amounts of TV). Other weeks, I feel like a good mom (if not a mom who is going a little Zingo Bingo stir crazy).
That’s life, right? You teeter to this side and your work benefits, you teeter to that side and your family benefits, and somehow you manage to keep pulling yourself back to center. As long as you don’t come crashing down to the floor, you can probably call yourself a success.
I’d love to return to my Master Compartmentalizer status one day; in the meantime, I’ll have to settle for Master of Lots-Of-Irons-In-The-Fire.