Thursday, June 26, 2008

Working from home

I am a work-from-home mom. That is how I describe myself, anyway. What is the difference between a work-from-home mom and a stay-at-home mom? The word "work".

Before fingers start flying across keyboards and links to this get posted everywhere, let me clarify. By "work-from-home" I mean that in addition to the duties associated with being a full-time, in the house mom, I also run a business that generates income. I write and edit from the comfort of my home and my office, for the time being anyway, is usually my kitchen table. In no way am I inferring that stay-at-home moms do not work, although this is the on-going debate amongst the estrogen set. I've already mused about that topic and you can read it right here on page 7

There are certain challenges associated with being a work-from-home mom with a pre-schooler. I have to balance deadlines, interviews, writing, editing, querying and all the rest of the business side of my life with the demands of my high-energy, high-intelligence and easily bored 3 year old. It's amazing how many words you can write when you know the Winnie the Pooh DVD is exactly 47 minutes. I often work at the kitchen table with Vampira occupying the other side occupied with Playdoh or crayons or stickers. We're currently potty training, and the best spurt of creativity can be sidelined in a heartbeat by "mommy, I have to go pee" (or more commonly lately...the sound of liquid hitting the floor and a guilty look on my daughter's face) It doesn't matter when the deadline is; a three year old's bodily functions don't care that the article is due.

I've had to impose some strict rules around the telephone. Vampira loves to talk on the phone. The grandparents think it's cute; a potential client, not so much. She is forbidden to answer the phone, and if I'm expecting a business call, I hide all the handsets except the one that I keep nearby. Nothing kills a potential contact faster than a shrill "hello" on the telephone as terms are being negotiated.

If I have to conduct an interview and my husband isn't available to remove Vampira from the premises (or at least distract her long enough for me to complete the task at hand) I warn my interview subjects up front that I work from home around a three year old. So far, I've only had one person take exception to the untimely interruption. Of course, it's a good thing there are no videophones because the person on the other end of the phone would get a much different picture of my life as I maintain my professional tone of voice while frantically gesturing and making threatening faces to send Vampira back to her books or her DVD. More times than I can count, I've continued an interview, phone tucked under my chin as I pour a glass of milk or take the back off a sticker or solve some other "important" emergency that can't wait until mommy is off the phone.

It's a constant struggle to balance the two full-time jobs in my life. If I'm writing and editing, I'm not cleaning, doing laundry or dealing with the weeds. My husband often wondered why the house looked like a bomb went off in it when he came home, since I was "home" all day. After losing his job in the winter and being home for four months, he knows why. He also has a better appreciation of what being a "writer and editor" means and what is involved for me to work full time at it, while taking care of Vampira. He's gotten used to the glazed look of panic on my face when he walks in the door at the end of the day to find me sitting in front of my laptop, oblivious to the time and dinner still in a yet-to-be-determined, frozen state in the freezer. After being home all winter, he also knows first hand what it's like to try to clean around Vampira. Our house still looks like a bomb went off in it; now he knows why.

Working from home has its advantages though. I find nothing busts writers' block better than a load of laundry, and for a family of 3 we sure generate enough of it. Now that the warm weather has arrived, most of my laundry goes outside to the clothes line. I start the load, work a bit, and then spend the time outside pegging out the clothes. More times than I can count, the bit that I couldn't figure out, or the phrase that was playing hide and seek in my brain will come to the fore while I'm pinning out the clothes. Working from home has positives and negatives. On the positive side, I can take tea and stretch breaks; on the negative side, I can take tea and stretch breaks, which seem to multiply in direct proportion to how boring the project is that I'm working on.

Some days, I just have to close the laptop and take my kid outside. My time with her is finite before she goes off to school and I waited a long time to be a mom. I can always work after Vampira has gone to bed (oh wait, her nickname is Vampira because she DOESN'T go to bed, but that's a story for another post) but I can't always take her to the park, or to make snow angels outside. I am a work at home mom because of my daughter (and the overriding terror at the thought of returning to the corporate workplace...) and Vampira will always come first.

And so, I juggle. I juggle dust bunnies with deadlines, articles with potty training and queries with quality time. I don't always do everything perfectly and I've learned to be okay with myself about that. I'm doing the best that I can do, and that's okay. I wrote about that before, too.

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