Cornered Office

with Mir Kamin

I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.

To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at

Finding work focus without doing actual work

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing)

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I think I’ve been pretty honest, both here and elsewhere, about how tough this year has been for my family. For months I think I tried to operate on the assumption that the Bad Stuff was temporary, and if I could just tough it out a little bit longer, things would go back to normal and that would be that. (Ah, naivete. I miss you!) By the time my kid ended in the hospital for the third time, though, it became clear that 1) this wasn’t going away and 2) any new normal we might someday attain would be very different.

During the first hospitalization I all but stopped working. Slowly, once my daughter was home again, I tried to pick up where I left off. Then she went back into the hospital and I stopped again. Then she was home but things were still busy and stressful and I really hadn’t even gotten my feet back under me when this last hospitalization happened, and now she’s been away for far too long and I’ve continued to struggle with finding that elusive groove where I can get stuff done.

I haven’t been able to quite put my finger on what my continued difficulty is—aside from “life kind of sucks and it’s hard to care about anything other than my child right now” which may be true, but doesn’t excuse me from working—but I accidentally figured out a way to jump-start myself again.

See, I wrote on my personal blog about some other kids at the hospital stealing my daughter’s stuff mostly just to blow off some steam. I knew, even while I was writing it, that I was kind of being a jerk for being so bothered by it. On the one hand, my kid is already going through so much, I don’t want her feeling like what few personal items she has with her aren’t safe. But on the other hand, the kids taking her things are kids who have next to nothing, and am I really the sort of self-centered monster who complains about having to buy more Stridex because some kids who think it’s “fancy” pilfered it? (Answer: apparently. Oops.)

That whole post was basically one giant whine I could’ve replaced with this: My child is sick and unhappy and scared and we are also unhappy and scared and also paying an enormous amount of money for treatment which so far seems slightly nicer than jail. But my personal blog isn’t work; I was just… doing what I do. Writing about my tender, delicate feelings. Etc.

So I wrote the post, still feeling supremely unmotivated in general and also probably fairly sorry for myself. And then lots of my readers offered to send toiletries to the kids at the hospital if I would facilitate that happening.

It took some time to get approval from the hospital, and then I had to go rent a mailbox, but yesterday I unveiled the go-ahead for folks to make hygiene item donations, and something incredible happened. I knew that my readers would respond—my readers are awesome, and generous, and they’re the ones who gave me the idea in the first place—but I didn’t anticipate the energy of it all. People are fired up. People are ready and eager and willing to help.

Now, instead of sitting around worrying about all of the things I can’t do, I have this to focus on, instead. A concrete way to meet a specific need. It may have a side effect of helping my daughter (if everyone has “nice” hygiene items, hopefully the kids won’t steal from each other), but even if it doesn’t, it does help kids who need it.

Doing this isn’t “work.” I get no benefit from doing this other than karmic warm fuzzies. I’m not being paid. Heck, this isn’t even related to what I do for a living, except in that it has reminded me why I love writing so much: It’s not about what I have to say, it’s about the conversations that happen when we share with each other. I’m not making this happen, my readers are… with a little help from me. Truthfully, I’m just excited to be a part of something so simple that’s likely to bring so much joy to a group of kids who really need a little pick-me-up.

I suspect that for the next week or two I’ll be hauling a lot of toiletries to the hospital every time we go to see my daughter. I’m kind of excited about it.

In the meantime, I feel reinvigorated. I feel like my ability to sit down and get stuff down is coming back. There’s nothing quite like doing for others to help you remember the things you can do for yourself, too. And it takes you out of your own head when you’ve kind of gotten stuck in there.

So yes, I’ll be playing sherpa for a bit, for a good cause. And at the same time, I think I may just rediscover my work groove. Somehow it’s all connected.

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