I used to have a real job.
Now, when I quote real, I mean what society looks upon as work outside the home that pays a regular salary. This does not include self employment, being a stay at home mom, or a writer. I have realized by experience that being at home is not easy. I always loved working, even though it was a big shuffle to keep all the balls in the air, but I was the queen of multitasking and I never believed we’d make it without my job.
Then I got laid off.
My secret dream came true. I had time to write full time and try to make a go of it. I would finally be home with my son and give him my undivided attention. I could pick my older one up from school, which he had always begged me to do. I still searched for a job steadily, but there was literally nothing out there to choose from, so I made the best of my lot.
And it’s been fantastic. Can’t lie and say it hasn’t. But I’ve learned some things that I thought I’d share.
- My house is still never clean. Never. No, I mean never. Maybe for Christmas because loads of people will be over and I can’t embarrass my mother. I tried keeping it clean the first two weeks at home, feeling as if it were my job now. But I began to get seriously depressed by household duties. I did them all the time, wasting precious minutes away from my writing, and then an hour later it was messed up. Constant meals in the kitchen lasted forever. The never ending job sucked me dry, until I finally confronted my secret and accepted it. I didn’t want to clean, so I didn’t. Sure, I disinfect now and then, and straighten up when I can’t walk, but I don’t spend all day doing thankless tasks. I do maybe one per day. So we either eat or have clean clothes. Fortunately my husband takes up the slack. And I don’t care and I’m not gonna apologize for it.
- One child is a lot of work. Kind of embarrassing to admit this. My older one is in school, so that left me with only one, and he’s in pre-k for two hours three times per week. Piece of cake. I figured I’d get lots of writing done AND take care of his needs. But I was wrong. He interrupts me all the time. He pops in on commercials, brings books to my desk, drags games in to invite me to play. Even when I set up strictly our time and then me time, the child asks for a drink or snacks or wanders in with a grin and just says he wants a quick snuggle. He is talking to me right now as I write this post. Seriously. So, when my husband comes home and gets confused why I had no time to work on my book, I don’t know how to explain the situation. Then add all the errands and driving and picking up, and there’s no time left.
- I got uglier. I don’t need everyone to jump on me and say I lost my self confidence. This is honesty talking. First off, now that I have all this free time, I thought I’d be at the gym every day. What the hell happened? I used to squeeze it in after work and before dinner twice per week – that’s all I needed. I thought being home would make me lean and hot. Instead, my ass has grown twice its size. I eat weird stuff throughout the day and more at night. I don’t go to the gym, because by the time my husband comes home, I’m tired from the kids and fetching and serving and trying to write, and I don’t want to go back out. Also, I am now a fashion disaster. I used to wear cool jewelry and makeup and shoes and great clothes. Now I wear pjs or sweats. I don’t even comb my hair, just clip it up to meet the bus or drop off at pre-k. My skin looks sallow from lack of sun, and I’m down to two pairs of pants that fit from my weight gain. And I’m breaking out big time from all the chips and chocolate I stuff in my mouth.
- Social events are now a big deal. I don’t see many people anymore. I used to have these fascinating, intelligent conversations with adults. I had great stories to share with my husband and we’d laugh around the table. Now I talk about my hero who won’t do what I say or the black moment that lay flat, and he looks at me with pure confusion. (Thank God for my twitter friends or I’d be isolated.) So then I launch into what the kids do and even I’m bored after a while. So I listen to his stories.
But when I schedule a lecture or a dinner or a coffee date with one of my friends, I put on makeup, get excited over what shoes I’ll wear, and pretty much put on as much jewelry as I can get away with. Last week, one of my friends looked at me strangely and said I was pretty dressed up for the bookstore. Yep. How the mighty have fallen.
5. I can’t measure productivity. Day jobs are clear – finish the work of the day and you know what you have left. Writing is fuzzy. For instance, I need to do promo, blogging, and social media. Does that count at all in productivity? I need to edit and that takes up a lot of time. When I edit, I’m not doing any new writing. Should I complete 1,000 words a day? 2? It’s hard to define when each day is so different with what I need or want to accomplish. At the last RWA conference I attended, Susan Elizabeth Phillips shared she has a timer and she needs to write new stuff for 2 hours on the timer, not including pee breaks, children breaks, phone breaks or chocolate/coffee breaks. I am trying to find what works best for me, but this is a problem I never encountered having a regular 9-5 job out of the house!
Now that I’ve confessed my secrets, I must admit I still love staying at home. I get to live my dream and get up and write instead of doing a day job for a check but no soul satisfaction. Don’t know how much longer it will last, but I’ll enjoy it as long as I can.
I just wish I could look better doing it.