Work can feel like a break from parenting, and that can actually help make me a better parent.
As a freelancer who works from home, I get the best of both worlds as a parent. I am around 24/7 for my kids and get the satisfaction of still holding down a career outside of my parenting identity. I’m doing what I love, actually putting my English degree to work, and have tremendous flexibility. I can’t think of any job I would want more at this juncture in my life.
Except that it’s not always the perfect gig I make it out to be in my head. The truth is, it’s hard to work around my kids’ schedules, only using the fringe hours after bedtime or maybe a brief 20 minutes while everyone is content watching the same TV show (which, let’s face it, is a rare occurrence).
My work hours are always shifting. Opportunities are constantly passing me by because I am in the thick of parenting.
Some days, I’ll get up at 5:30 a.m., ready to jump on my work for the day only to find that one or more of my children have decided to beat me to the punch — waking as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning.
Sure, there are days when deadlines are beckoning and all I want to do is ignore my work and bake cookies with my kids (both for fun and for stress eating). But if I'm being honest, there are plenty of times where I would rather work than be with my kids.
There is never a time when I am thrilled to have a child sprawled across my lap whining while I try to finish an article that is due in an hour. I don’t feel like I’m killing it as a mom when I’m checking my phone for editor emails every two minutes.
I love writing and love freelance, and sometimes I simply want to lean in and relish the feeling of accomplishment I get from being in the zone and writing for hours on end. I want to indulge my creativity without the creeping worry that I’ll be interrupted at any moment by someone who needs help wiping their butt.
It isn’t because I don’t enjoy being a mother. I love being with my kids most of the time. They bring me an immense amount of joy. But my work also brings me joy and fulfills an entirely different part of me — and I shift between wanting one or the other.
There is never a time when I am thrilled to have a child sprawled across my lap whining while I try to finish an article that is due in an hour. I don’t feel like I’m killing it as a mom when I’m checking my phone for editor emails every two minutes. I want to do one thing at a time and do it well, and the very nature of freelancing from home with kids makes that virtually impossible.
There is no balance. These two sides of me don’t coexist in harmony.
And to be honest, I don’t want to feel guilty about wanting to work. I don’t think I should feel ashamed of the fact that I want and need space from my kids to satisfy my creative side. I don’t think my career should have to be placed on a backburner because I chose to become a mother — or that I should have to feign heartbrokenness every time I step away to do a job I love.
Work helps give me a break from parenting that I really need to feel whole again. My life isn’t complete when I do nothing but mother. I don’t find satisfaction in pretending I enjoy playing Legos for hours on end, or reading the same book twenty times in a row. Writing allows me to be a better mother, because it gives me the chance to step away and be on my A-game when I return.
It is something I hope my children see too. I do not want my daughter to see me tearfully leave her because I have to work. I want her to see me happily step away to do something that excites me. I want them to know they are loved more than anything, but that there are other things I love too. I want them to someday find a job they love this much, and I don’t want them to feel guilty for loving it.