It’s funny, really, that the toughest year of my maternal life was the one I thought would be the easiest. I spent a year finishing my Masters, teaching every day and writing every night. In my spare time I raised a toddler while I worked on growing his younger brother. That was the year before the hardest year. During those seemingly hard months, I dreamed of the easy year I was earning. I really thought I was going to be getting a terrific break as the summer rolled around and my second chid was born. I was going to be a relaxed WAHM for fourteen months.
I was delusional. Apparently I’m not alone in this sort of thinking, I’ve learned since.
Two days after I finished the mandatory internship for my Master’s degree, I had my second son via scheduled C-section. I checked client email in the hospital that night. Four days later we arrived at home and I had some blogs to write and deliver so I took care of those between feedings. My schedule hasn’t let up since.
Why didn’t I take it easy and relax? Because work-at-home mom’s don’t have sick days or maternity leave. I was fortunate to be pregnant while teaching because otherwise I would not have been able to get maternity care with insurance – a common problem with self-employed insurance that might be a problem for anyone thinking about starting a family down the road. As it was, I had to have my son on July 2 to ensure I had thirty days left of coverage after his birth because new insurance companies in Texas apparently won’t pick you or the new baby up until thirty days out, but I digress.
I could have taken a few weeks off, but as we all know, the online world doesn’t wait. My clients, who have ongoing content needs, can’t just wait six weeks for me to come back to work. They are awesome, but they are busy making money and my work is part of that. It’s a responsibility every serious writer I know shoulders. My budget would have probably fallen apart as well as I'd just lost my teaching income. I would have lost some of the momentum the self-employed must keep up to bring in steady work on an ongoing basis.
The real work of being a work-at-home mom started almost immediately. In my fantasy life, I was writing while the baby napped. After all, my first had slept all the time and was still taking three-hour naps in the afternoon. It was going to be fine, and it was for a few weeks. But then the toddler stopped napping. So there was no more work time during the day. Three years later, I might eek out a few email responses during the day, but there is little improvement time-wise.
All work moved into the evenings where it has stayed since then and will stay indefinitely. My days then and now involve the hard jobs of mothering during the day – believe me, days with two small boys involve dirt, bugs, training potties and constant stain removal – there are no soap operas or bon-bons in sight. And then after bedtime, I write.
With each sentence I write, I have an ear cocked to the monitors that buzz around the clock to alert me to any change upstairs that will require my immediate assistance. By the time I go to bed tonight, I’ll have two snuggly boys who’ve already clambered down the stairs and climbed into my bed ready for Mom to keep the bad dreams away while she contorts to avoid being smacked in the face or used as a pillow.
But you know what? It’s an awesome life.
I might not have slept a full night in four years, and I might rely on the microwave far more than I should to feed us, but I am incredibly involved in my children’s lives. And at the same time I can afford to give them the things I want them to experience. When we travel, you can bet that trusty old laptop comes along with us to Sea World and Disney (okay, the laptop’s only a year old and a terrific shade of pink), but somehow or another I managed to make it work that year with a newborn, a toddler and huge financial pressures to resolve in a few hours a day, and today I've got it fine-tuned to a science.
I went back to teaching after that incredibly tough year because working with at-risk teenagers is a job I love as much as parenting and writing. But every summer, I’m that full-time work-at-home mommy again. I perform my mommy duties in the day and my professional duties every night, but it works for me, and I know it works for countless other mothers who are cramming two lifetimes into every day either by choice or by necessity.
I joke about my future plans of movie watching, ice cream eating and Snuggie wearing in the evenings like all of the other mommies in the world. But then I couldn’t really name a single Mommy friend who doesn’t work her tail off in one way or another during her five minutes of free time to support her family in some way. Mine just happens to be a monetary way.
And that pink Snuggie I put on my Christmas list? It will get plenty of use in a few years when the little men I’m raising are willing to sit through more than a single episode of Max and Ruby with me. It’ll be worth waiting and the lessons learned and shared in the meantime are truly priceless.