Thursday, December 18, 2008

Working Mom, Crazy Mom? Part One: In the Beginning...

Note: This is an ongoing series of blog posts aimed at answering a question that has been plaguing me, and no doubt other women, for several years: Is it a good thing or a bad thing for a mom to work from home? In this series, I'll explore my own experiences--good, bad and just plain frightening--and hopefully gain insight from other working moms.

"I'm going to keep writing from home after I have the baby," I told a friend of mine nine years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child.

If I remember correctly, she dropped the receiver and made loud snorting noises.

When she finally returned to the phone, slightly more composed, she had only one line for me: "Good luck, honey."

"Why?" I asked, filled with indignation and pregnancy hormones. "I can write from home; I'm doing it now."

"You'll see. It's hard," she said. Humph, what does she know, anyway?

For the first six months of my daughter's life, I praised myself for being the mom who could care for an infant, cook, clean and earn a paycheck at the same time. "I am woman, hear me roar," I found myself happily singing.

Then Mia learned to reach for things, like the computer keyboard, and to grab my attention by yelling at the top of her lungs. Hard to conduct a phone interview with that in the background. And that was the beginning of the end. Mia learned how to push my buttons faster than a fish learns how to swim. She knew how to distract me from my work, and how to get me to throw my hands up in the air, take her on my lap and start to hum the annoying songs of "Barney."

Of course, I had to admit to my friend that she was kind of right. She knew what lots of mommies know: Working from home while caring for young children is both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because...

1.) You are there to see all the "firsts": sitting up, crawling, walking and talking. You don't have to hear about them from the babysitter or the daycare provider.

2.) You can spend time teaching your child in a relaxed atmosphere. I can remember sitting on the floor and connecting two blocks over and over again. "Together, apart. Together, apart," I'd repeat to help Mia connect what I was doing with the words I was saying. Not that I couldn't have done things like that if I had worked outside the home, but I probably would have been so tired at the end of the day that I would have fallen asleep with the blocks in my hands.

3.) When they get older, you are there as the children get on the bus in the morning and get off in the afternoon. (Except for those afternoons when you are trying to finish up a deadline project and praying that the bus is a little late, but it arrives six minutes early and your children show up at the back door with their hands on their hips asking over and over, "Where were you?" So you make it up to them by plying them with chocolate chip cookies.)

A curse because...

1.) You feel guilty that you are constantly putting the child aside to do work or putting the work aside to take care of the child.

2.) You give up nice work clothes for drool-stained sweatpants, and you can't remember if you brushed your teeth or washed your hair this morning.

3.) No matter how hard you try, you feel that you will never accomplish a single task--from folding the laundry to fulfilling an order for a client--for the rest of your life.

A working mom is nothing if not flexible, and so you find yourself rearranging your days--and your nights--to make things work. And that will bring us to the next post in this series: "Time for a Few Adjustments."


BuenoBueno said...

Great Post! I'm a working Mom but a lot of what you said still applies. The guilt is there even when you work from calling off because your little one is sick to dropping them off at daycare to go to work. Thanks for sharing!

Diane DiPiero said...

Thanks for replying, BuenoBueno! I know, there's guilt all around; damned if you do, damned if you don't. It helps to know you're not alone!