Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Freelance Writer/Mom

The moment I realized I was crying -- outwardly weeping -- because I could not find my sunglasses and I needed to go outside and get Ethan from school and didn't want people to actually SEE I'd been crying was when I acknowledged that yes, it had been a very bad afternoon.

What's worse than a toddler who doesn't feel like napping but rather engaging in destructive practices? A toddler who doesn't feel like napping but being destructive, WHILE mom is trying to do work.

I do have another job, right now, even though I've tried to keep it to a minimum, working primarily around naps and early in the morning. Sometimes this all goes splendidly and I'm living the balanced life of being at home while still using my brain in a different way, and all is good. Other times? Well.

What happened that afternoon? The question should probably be what DIDN'T happen. I desperately needed to be on the phone scheduling things, while Chloe desperately wanted to stay up and wreak havoc. In every room. She left no stone unturned. Books off shelves? DVDs on floor? File folders emptied out and spread randomly all over the dining room? Sure, why not. I could not SEE her bedroom floor. Then, there was the potty no-so-much-of-an-accident. Things get really, really ugly when they don't have a diaper on. The horror! And all of this while I was attempting to reach people who ignored deadlines and were infuriatingly unreachable. Good times.

I always have to add a disclaimer, when people ask what I "do" for a career, and I tell them I mostly stay at home with my kids, but that I'm a freelance writer/editor as well.

"It's not as glamorous as you might think. I mostly write health care articles," I sometimes say, in case their idea of a freelancer is that I'm dashing off magazine articles or possibly novels. Or, maybe they are like my eighth grade self, who figured it just might be possible to stay at home all day, keep an eye on my children, and become fabulously rich writing about young adult characters. I had stacks and stacks of my "books" lying around my room -- stories about "Jessica" and "Tiffany" and the trials and tribulations of middle school.

That vision lasted a few years until career day in high school, when I attended a session with quite possibly the most depressed journalist on the planet. "Don't do this," he essentially told us, which I thought was rather strange on a day designated for kids to explore their dream careers. His demoralized attitude got me thinking, and before I knew it I'd decided to pursue psychology in college instead of journalism. Only, after a year I was disillusioned with too many crackpot theories, and particularly by psych professors who seemed more depressed and disillusioned than that journalist back in high school. So after winning the freshman essay contest, I decided to switch to an English major, which led to everyone in the world asking me, "Oh, are you going to teach?"

"No, I want to write," I'd tell people, which they thought was rather hysterical. Even my advisor, well-meaning as she was, suggested I pursue a health career. That's where the jobs were, she reiterated, and asked if I'd consider becoming a nutritionist. Which -- to this day -- is so laughable I'm not sure how I respectfully exited her office.

Yet somehow I DID become a writer (with some video producing thrown in for good measure), and wouldn't you know, a writer on health care topics, after taking a last-semester internship in Marketing and Public Relations for a large local health system. A year later I was hired, and when I left seven years after that when Anna was a baby, I began taking on projects on a freelance basis.

Which is where we are today, and I am immensely grateful to have a chance to be home with my kids and get to write, and get paid for it (even if I'm not writing books but rather articles about medical procedures). I've learned a few things on this 10-year plus journey through freelancing and mothering. Sometimes, unfortunately, I forget what I've learned, which leads to days like above. But in my more wise moments, I remember:

1) There are days you just have to turn on the TV for a little while for your child so you can get your work done. Your child will not be permanently scarred. You will finish whatever you need to get done infinitely more quickly than with someone tugging on your sleeve and asking for more juice. Again.

2) When dealing with people who are convinced of their superiority (this happens sometimes -- not always! -- with physician interviews in particular) it's always best to admit your ignorance up front. Willingly own your lack of knowledge, and they are immediately disarmed and a bit more sympathetic and patient when you don't fully understand their "medical speak" and ask them to elaborate.

3) When I'm on conference calls and think there could even be a chance of being interrupted by a young child, I give everyone a heads-up. Because there's nothing worse than talking business and then having a little voice pipe into the conversation, "I have to go pee-pee!" This, sadly, I learned from experience.

4) When a big project takes over, something's got to go. In our case, it's the house. I've got not choice but to put some of the less essential cleaning chores on hold. The way I figure: I'd rather my kids recall me putting the household chores aside rather than putting them aside to vacuum.

5) Working from home means never fully escaping your job -- which can be the greatest blessing, or curse. I love the luxury of answering emails at 5:30 a.m. I hate the pressure of knowing I COULD be working on a Saturday, if I really needed to.

There are always going to be days like last week's nightmarish afternoon. I am still trying to get questionable smells out of our living room rug. And I may never publish a novel about Jessica and Tiffany, or have that newspaper column I always dreamed of (who reads newspapers, anyway)?? But I am so glad to be able to do this work thing and kid thing, as crazy as it may sometimes be. Tears and all. I can work in my jammies while sipping tea. How could I possibly not be thankful for that?

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