Viewing category ‘A mother's work is never done’

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 http://www.wouldashoulda.com/

Hey, it’s not Monday (and other surprises)

Categories: A mother's work is never done, My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing)

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(Pictured here: Not me. But that’s totally what I look like right now on the inside.)

So it’s nearly 3:00 on Tuesday as I sit down to write this, and up until about an hour ago I was convinced that today was Monday. It’s, uh, not. The weird thing is that I had deadlines yesterday and I met them all and yet, this morning, I was sure it was Monday. Again? Still? I really don’t know.

My kids didn’t have school yesterday, so that’s part of the problem. It made the day feel Not Like A Regular Work Day, so I’m going to blame that for my temporary time warpage. That’s the first rule of parenting, anyway, isn’t it? Blame the children? I’m sure it said that in my manual.

Oh, don’t be jealous just because you didn’t get a manual. Anyway, my confusion over the day isn’t really the point here.
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What’s that they say, about not praying for patience?

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Maybe I can pencil in a nap, Now I'm free(lancing)

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(Pictured here: Someone who is a lot more coordinated than I am. But also dumb. Because wearing high heels on a tightrope is just silly.)

I’ve now been freelancing from my home office for half-a-dozen years, and I think I can say with confidence that this summer has been the first one where I felt like my work/life balance was very nearly in order. I’m not saying that it was easy or perfect, but I worked less, spent more time with my kids, and—although I felt like I wasn’t getting “enough” done, sometimes—in general my frustration level was a lot lower than in summers past. I’ve finally cracked the code, I may have mused to myself in a smug moment. I’ve got this.

Sure, a couple of times I felt a slight longing for the return to our school-year schedule and being able to up my work game a little bit with the extra time, but on the whole I felt like this summer really showed me that it’s possible to achieve a doable balance.

And so of course I promptly blew it all to hell this week.
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How often do you check your email?

Categories: A mother's work is never done, My boss is an idiot

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They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and I completely understand that. Heck, I’ve lived that. Back in the 90s, I made fun of people who had cell phones. “I never want to be that important,” I’d murmur to friends, watching blowhards conducting business transactions in the middle of the grocery store, shouting into their phones while the rest of us were just trying to find the best deal on breakfast cereal. “Who needs to have a phone with them everywhere? That’s just crazy.”

But then I had my first baby, and suddenly, a cell phone seemed like a good idea. You know—for emergencies. And then you know what happened after that, right? “Just for emergencies” became “well, as long as I’m in the car I’ll return some calls” became “you can reach me at absolutely any time at this number.” And then one day it was time to get a new cell phone and it was the weirdest thing—now you could actually check email on your phone if you wanted to. Huh. Well, that might be handy… you know, in case of emergency.

Down the slippery slope I went. By the time I got my first iPhone, I was freelancing. It was a business purchase; I would need to be reachable, even away from a computer, and while shuttling kids around to various things, it sure was handy to at least be able to catch up on email.
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In defense of the un-schedule

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Maybe I can pencil in a nap, Now I'm free(lancing)

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Take a look around the ‘net for articles on how to be a successful freelancer, and you’ll see it time and time again: advice that either hints our outright claims that without an airtight schedule for your time, you’ll never make it. Successful freelancers are organized! They’re masters of time management! And it’s impossible to get your work done and/or live a balanced life if that’s not how you proceed.

I’ve been doing this for long enough, now, that I feel compelled to respond to this mindset with a resounding “Yeah, not really.”

It is absolutely true that you have to be organized; if you can’t keep track of deadlines, you’re not going to get very far in this business. If you can’t get things done for clients, they’re not going to hire you again. That’s obvious. But must you set a strict schedule for yourself in order to be a successful freelancer? I don’t think so.
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New summer, new rules

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Now I'm free(lancing)

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School’s out for the summer, and for perhaps the first time in my life as a parent, my kids are old enough that—if I needed them to—they could be left to their own devices most of the time without starving, burning down the house, or tormenting one another to death. The reality is that I could continue my “regular” schedule and the kids would be able to entertain themselves while I work. I don’t have to send them to camp or schedule a babysitter. If I need to work a solid eight hours, I can do that.

What I’m discovering is that just because I can doesn’t necessarily mean I want to. In fact, this year when the “Gee, I wish I got to have the summer off” twinges of jealousy reared up, I decided to take this as an opportunity to restructure not just the kids’ summer, but mine, too. Isn’t that supposed to be the perk of working for myself? The flexibility? Being my own boss?

And I ask this in all seriousness, as I sit in our dentist’s waiting room as the kids’ get their teeth cleaned. Heh.
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Working moms and working with the schools

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Maybe I can pencil in a nap

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Four years ago my kids and I moved to a new state, a new school district, and what often felt like an entirely new world. (That’s what we get for being a bunch of yankees in the south.) My solution to the stranger-in-a-strange-land predicament was to dive in head-first: I joined the PTA, I volunteered for committees, I did my best to get involved and be there for my kids.

The result of my gung-ho attitude is that I was a cheerful participant for most of the first year, and felt bitter and burnt out by the end of the second. Our third year brought the change of having the kids in two different schools, so my husband and I each sort of manned one school (albeit at a fairly minimal level, attending meetings and such), and this past year—the fourth one—I did nothing. Nothing. Wait, I lied; I did volunteer in my son’s class for a holiday party, and last week I chaperoned a field trip. But basically: nothing.

I work from home. My schedule is flexible. Theoretically I should be all kinds of involved with the schools because I’m potentially more available than parents with conventional jobs. So what’s the problem?
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I forgot about the crash

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Maybe I can pencil in a nap, My boss is an idiot

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I almost have to laugh at the things I conveniently forget even though I know better.

It’s like… childbirth, for example. Any woman who’s ever done it knows it’s excruciating. Worth it? Absolutely! But even the women who go all-natural and birth at home aren’t going to tell you that it doesn’t hurt, because it does. Still, the world is filled with women—myself among them—who voluntarily choose to go through childbirth again, ever after experiencing how traumatizing it can be. We just sort of forget. Or convince ourselves that the outcome is worth the pain. But I think our memories really do soften and fade and we convince ourselves it’s not that bad.

Kind of like how I’ll happily sit down and write out a conference primer, because, after all, I’ve been blogging professionally for half-a-dozen years, and I’ve attended a lot of conferences, and this stuff is old news to me, now, plus I tend to be extremely pragmatic so I’m good at boiling situations down to pros and cons.

I’m good at picking and choosing events to attend and events to skip. But somehow I managed to completely forget that every single time I travel for business I get sick when I come back.
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Everything I need to know about freelancing I’m learning from my kids

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Now I'm free(lancing)

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I talk a lot, here, about the challenges of fitting a career into the spaces between packing lunches and doctors’ appointments and Science Fair and such. And even then, it’s hardly like I’m exposing some heretofore unknown segment of life—anyone with kids can tell you that managing your work is a whole different ballgame once there are human beings completely dependent upon you for their care.

What I haven’t really given much thought to, in the past, is the ways in which being a mother to my particular children has actually helped my career. I’m not talking about giving me blog fodder, either (though I do appreciate that). I’m talking about concrete skills and vital lessons which I believe would’ve been harder won (or lost completely) were it not for the two smallish folks currently eating me out of house and home.

Granted, I may be a tad bit biased towards the awesomeness of these particular children, but even so, I think they’re excellent proof of the “you’re given the lessons you need” adage. I apparently needed a lot of lessons, because I’m currently parenting a nearly-teen and a Aspie. So let’s talk about what that’s taught me.
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Is it easier to achieve balance if you know it’s a myth?

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Deep thoughts, Things you should be reading

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I recently started taking yoga again, because the opportunity presented itself (the class is nearby and conveniently scheduled) and because it’s possible that I tend to be just a tiny bit high-strung (NO REALLY). I love the way yoga makes me feel, both physically and emotionally. If I’m able to just let go of everything else and enjoy it, it’s a really wonderful way to feel refreshed and centered for at least an hour.

Of course, whenever we do any poses in class that require me to balance on one foot, I try very hard to calm my mind and my body and be one with my mat and all of that, and to just stand still… but in reality I weave from side to side and my muscles shudder and twitch and my “up” foot thumps to the floor as I catch myself from falling on my face. My balance, you see, isn’t all that great. And that turns out to be a great metaphor for balance in my life, actually, because as much as I want it, the rare times I achieve it are shaky at best, and short-lived. At some point the other foot—metaphorical or real—has to hit the floor again to prevent disaster.

I suppose it’s no wonder that I gravitate towards writing and people that reiterate that work-life balance is merely a myth we all want to believe. That’s comforting, knowing I’m not the only one who just can’t seem to get it right.
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Use all the tools at your disposal

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Now I'm free(lancing)

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Last week I told you about my pitiful attempts to multitask while working, having one child home, another child needing forms and rides, and just generally trying to keep my house running and my clients happy. My conclusion, then, was that sometimes multitasking backfires. Sometimes trying to do everything at once means that really, at the end of the day, it feels like nothing has been done at all.

My conclusion this week—with the same work and kid needs I was fielding last week, but with a post-surgical child at home now—is that my downfall was in trying to do everything at once, rather than figuring out how to accomplish all of the same things, but perhaps in a more logical manner.

This is not to say that I’ve mastered it and we’re having totally smooth sailing this week, of course. Would that it were true, but… no. Ahem. I’m finding a few ways to maximize the tools available to me, though, and although this week is harder in some ways (um, my kid had surgery and is being kind of needy, imagine), it’s easier in others.

My inspiration came in the form of… a Sonic Cream Slush. Yes.
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