Tag Archives: working mother

May

Here are several things I know about May:

May is the month after April, in which I took a trip with Mr. P and enjoyed six days away from the ducklings.

May is the month right before June, in which all of my ducklings will be out of school and home again.

May involves overnight school trips, campouts, AHG field trips, service projects, book fairs, school auctions, and Memorial Day.

May makes me feel like I have a timer running down in my head. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . .

May is a month of growth. Growth means a lot of blackberry brambles in my backyard. Blackberry brambles mean a lot of yardwork in my future.

May is the month I signed my first new copywriting client since reopening my doors.

May is the month in which Tiger turns 11.

May is also the month when I fully expect to amply supply several 11-year-old boys with pizza, soda, candy, and enough AA batteries to keep four XBOX controllers running for the course of a “sleepover.”

May promises to be a wild ride.

Till next we meet (perhaps in June) . . .

J M

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Office Hours

My last couple of weeks have been quite a ride.

Last week was spring break. All four of my ducklings were home, and it was raining. A lot. Almost all week. And it was the first week that I tried to be diligent about maintaining some semblance of work discipline. I set office hours, expectations, and rules, and I gave the ducklings chores, tasks, and ideas for how to spend their free time.

Surprisingly, it worked. Mostly. Wednesday was mostly a day off, but otherwise, I managed to get in quite a bit of work time. I got my professional website up and running, I reconnected with a lot of old business contacts, and I did a lot of prospecting. At the end of the week, I was feeling pretty good about the general direction of my freelancing efforts.

And then, this week hit.

Two of my ducklings are still home–they get a two-week break. Fortunately, they’re the older two, so they entertain themselves pretty well.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I prepared for this week very well.

I don’t know what happened. Monday was spent mostly catching up on AHG duties, so I had very little opportunity to do any prospecting or writing. Tuesday morning I went to my Bible study, but then the rest of the day seemed to just . . . fade away? I don’t know. I couldn’t get on track the rest of the day. Yesterday, I took Hermione to the mall, partially because I promised I would at some point on her break and partially because we both needed some new clothes. All of the kids do, so I will likely need to spend more time shopping either today or tomorrow. But then today, I have to get groceries, or we’ll soon be eating dessicated raisins and stale Saltines for supper. Actually, I think we’re even out of Saltines.

So when I do the math for this week, it’s pretty dismal. Not a whole lot of time for work, and yet, there was really very little play involved, either. It was a whole lot of time sucked away from my week.

I think that I did myself a disservice by not planning my week very well ahead of time. Last week, I had a plan, and I executed it. This week, I *thought* I had a plan, but I didn’t. I didn’t prepare well for the week, and I let the week control me.

I’m thinking about how to make things better next week. I am really committed to maintaining balance and sanity this time around, and there are certain things that just have to be done to make that happen. One thing is that I need to be diligent about maintaining office hours. With summer quickly approaching (meaning all four ducklings underfoot for three months), I absolutely have to get into some habits now in order to make the summer bearable.

But there are also, inevitably, personal appointments and events that end up stuck in the middle of those working hours. Like my weekly Bible study–I’m coming to really look forward to that time, which I did not expect, and I am counting on that time to help keep me healthy and balanced. I won’t give that up.

And then there are the things that just seem to slip into the working hours because I don’t pay attention. I really must get up earlier and read my Bible before my office hours begin. And grocery shopping and errands–I’m terrible about getting those things done on weekends. I have to start getting groceries and running errands on weekends or in the evening. Some things just have to be in the middle of the work day, like doctor appointments and orthodontist check ups, so I guess maybe when those come up, I will have to take each one individually.

The real trouble here is that I feel a bit resentful that work has come along and interrupted my very lovely and settled and comfortable life as a stay-at-home-mom of tweens and teens. I was really enjoying my leisure–being able to read, knit, visit with friends, do a little shopping, run my errands when the kids were at school. Now, though, the reality of work is jolting me awake, and I can’t keep letting that other life slip in and steal it back. I have to start wrapping my head around this “work-at-home mom” thing again.

It’s a lot easier said than done.

This week is shot. Groceries and errands and getting my children out of highwaters and holey socks and ratty T-shirts is going to see me through the end of Friday. And I do have a couple of appointments scheduled for next week, so I’ll have to manage around those.

But I think that I will have to create a much better plan of attack for next week’s time. Work is going to have to take precedence over everything else between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on weekdays. The flipside to that is that I have promised my kids I will be done at 3:00 p.m. every day. After 3:00, I belong to the family and the house. If I do anything else that’s work- or writing-related, I’ll have to do it after they go to bed.

For today, we need milk, eggs, bread, and cheese. Those dessicated raisins are starting to look too good.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

Identity

There are days when I go to church and wonder why I bothered.

And then there are days like last Sunday . . .

Let me set the stage. Mr. P and Boy Patriot were camping last weekend. When they camp, I rarely go to church. I am not a social animal on the best of days, and church is often more than I can take. So I really didn’t have any intention of going to church last week . . .

. . . except that I couldn’t get rid of the nagging thought that I should go.

I won’t call it a guilt thing. It was more of just an insistence that I needed to be there. We’ve been intermittent attenders lately, anyway, so it’s hard to say that I was feeling compelled out of habit. I just thought I should go.

I went to bed with the sense that I should go to church, but I set my alarm and figured I’d see how I felt in the morning.

I woke up early.

That never happens.

The nagging thought was still there.

I sighed. “Okay, Lord. I guess I should go to church. I hope there’s a good reason.”

The first song was a favorite hymn–something that set my attitude aright. I think God knows what we need when it comes to worship. And worship isn’t just the singing–it’s the listening and integrating, too. I needed that little reset in order to hear the words offered by our pastor.

And such words they were, too!

He spoke on work–our need for it, our calling to it, our warped view of it, and the rest.

I have long accepted the notion that God created us to work–that we are wired with a deep need to perform some task that brings glory to the Father. And in my head, there are different kinds of work. I’ve loosely categorized them as creative, constructive, restorative, and maintenance. There may be more, but those are my categories.

But although it seems obvious, I never really thought about God as a worker.

It makes sense though, doesn’t it? That God was the FIRST worker in history? He made things. He created. He built and molded and shaped. And when He had finished, He rested. How could He have rested had He not worked first?

So that was a revelation.

But the real revelation was this:

I have identity issues.

My crisis over the past several months/couple of years came on because of idolatry and disobedience, and I do believe that. But what I didn’t realize until Sunday was that my idolatry and disobedience were born of a warped sense of identity.

I forgot Who I belong to.

I am so used to saying “I’m a writer” that I forgot what a lie it is.

I’m not a writer.

I’m a daughter of the King, forgiven and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, given new life and restored to right relationship with God the Father, bought back, purchased, restored, covered, and adopted as a child of the Most High God.

Who happens to write.

I think that my head has been moving in that direction for a while, because ever since I had my little “come to Jesus” with . . . well, Jesus . . . a couple of weeks ago, I have found myself much less bothered by the writing posts of writing acquaintances from my old life. Where they used to feel like a punch in the gut, I can now share them with my own followers on Facebook or Twitter. I don’t know if you can call it jealousy or irritation or pain or just the grief of saying goodbye to something that was so dear to me, but for the longest time, just even reading a post about someone else’s write almost drove me to tears.

And lately, those posts just don’t bother me.

Which, really, is rather ironic considering that I have had zero time to pursue any of my own fiction work in the last two weeks.

But I think, maybe, possibly, I’m starting to remember who I belong to. I’m starting to put my identity back in the Hands of the One Who created, constructed, restored, and maintains it.

And suddenly, going back to working on or sharing my fiction just doesn’t seem all that important.

This isn’t to say I’m shutting the door or saying I won’t work on it, and it’s not angst, I promise. It’s a recognition–a position of my heart–that says that even as important and fulfilling and wonderful as writing fiction was, it pales in comparison to the redemption and grace and mercy and love offered at the foot of the Cross.

I’m 44 years old. I accepted Christ when I was five. You would think I’d get this by now. But I’m still learning.

I’m still learning that He is my treasure and my strength and my source.

I’m still learning that my hope is built on nothing less than His Blood and Righteousness.

I’m still learning that nothing I do in this world–being a wife, mother, writer, troop leader, volunteer, or anything else–can ever get me to where I want to be, because the only place my soul longs to be is in the presence of Jesus.

So.

It’s spring break here, and the ducklings are home. And I’m working again, trying to maintain some semblance of discipline so that I can have focused time to work on rebuilding my freelancing business. Discipline means office hours, free time, and the things that I and the family need built into the day without begrudging any of it.

But it also means remembering–moment by moment if I must–Who I belong to.

Because for all my talk about balance and the work-at-home life and parenting and the rest, I never had the anchor in the right place. I anchored my best laid plans in the work itself, not the One who provided the work.

So maybe I am getting it, just a little bit.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

Work, Again

Well.

It appears that I’ll be going back to work in the not-too-distant future.

Faced with a significant increase in tuition at the small private school where we send Boy Patriot and Hermione (and next year, Tiger), we have been looking at what to do about schooling next year for our three oldest children.

Without going into too much detail about finances, let us say that under normal circumstances, we’d be comfortable. Mr. P’s salary meets all of our basic requirements with enough room to breathe, and breathe fairly well, at that. There was a time when my income made a huge difference in our financial world, but it’s been a few years since we really needed anything from me to make a big difference in our finances. After the crash of 2008, my freelance commercial work dropped off pretty quickly–I finished out some contracts, but by mid-2009, everything was mostly dried up with just a few trickles of work here and there. By the end of 2009, I was no longer interested in pushing my freelance work for a wide variety of reasons–not the least of which was the fact that I was pursuing my fiction writing career.

In any case, it’s been a few years since I earned much of anything as a freelancer.

But last night, Mr. P and I went out for dinner and had a long talk. In general, we can talk much more efficiently without the input and distraction of four outside voices. We agreed that we essentially have two solutions to our education dilemma: homeschool or private school. Our previous experiences with sending Boy Patriot to traditional public school have been dismal, at best, so traditional public school wasn’t even on the table. We also agreed that of the two remaining options, no matter which one we chose, my life would have to change dramatically. In other words, I’d either have to learn how to homeschool three children of very different educational levels very quickly, or I’d have to go back to work in order for us to afford private school.

I hate to admit how much of a “no-brainer” that choice was.

While it’s no secret at all that I have a severe confidence issue when it comes to writing, that confidence issue pales in comparison to the one I would face were I to undertake the massive homeschooling challenge. And while it pains me to admit this, the truth is that I just like having my kids out of the house for large amounts of time.

There’s something you don’t see on Pinterest.

But I digress.

The point is, it would take me a very short amount of time and a very small amount of capital to reengage in the world of freelance commercial writing.

Still, I was hesitant. The confidence issue, the balance problems, the frustrations of trying to work and be a mom, taxes–all of those things flooded to the surface. Couldn’t I just find a nice, easy office job somewhere? Work as an administrative assistant or receptionist somewhere? Maybe I could find something part-time. Maybe even something flexible or virtual.

So I asked Mr. P flat out what he’d rather I do–find an office job or return to freelancing.

He wants me to return to freelancing.

Now, there are a dozen reasons why, and I won’t rehash them all. He made some good points and had good insights into the advantages of freelancing over some other work option.

But what I heard–and what is so vitally important right now–is that he trusts that I can do this.

It’s not even that he trusts in me in the sense that he has to actually say, “I believe in you” or some kind of falsely sentimental platitude designed specifically to encourage me.

No, his trust transcends such statements. His trust in my abilities reaches to the point where he believes it’s an unspoken, objective, obvious truth that of course I can freelance, so why should he even have to say it?

That kind of trust is water to a thirsty soul.

But so quickly the lies leap to mind:

A better CHRISTIAN mother would homeschool.

Your work was the cause of everything wrong in your home.

You think you can write? You can’t write. There are other people who are far better, and you don’t even have a degree.

You have gaps in your resume now . . . You haven’t done this in so long . . . Who will hire you? The economy is bad . . . No one can afford freelancers . . . Maybe if you prayed harder, better, louder, whatever, God would bless Mr. P’s work more and you wouldn’t need to freelance . . .

I am such a mess.

*deep sigh*

I put the lies to death. Not everyone is cut out for homeschooling. The house is still messy and the kids still get grumpy and obnoxious, and I haven’t written much of anything in almost two years, so maybe I wasn’t the cause of all the problems in the house. I can write, and write well, and the list of former clients will testify to that truth. No one will care about the gaps in a freelancer’s resume, because that’s what freelancers do–they work for a while and then take time off. And in a poor economy, a lot of businesses prefer a freelancer to a permanent employee.

And as for not praying “hard enough” . . . I don’t know. It’s true that my prayer life could use some improvement, but as to whether it’s influencing God’s blessing on our lives? Who could say? What I do know is that God already has blessed us immensely, and I have no reason or right to ask Him to bless us more abundantly. He has already given us more than we deserve.

So, at Mr. P’s prompting and with his encouragement and blessing, I am, once again, at work.

And so the next phase of the journey begins.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

On Working . . . Sort of . . .

Has it truly been two weeks since I last posted here? It would seem that my last spate of blog posts from a couple of weeks ago was an anomaly. I would offer my apologies, but to do so would assume that you were all waiting with bated breath in anticipation of my next musings. That seems a little presumptuous and self-centered. Rather, let me assure you that I am, indeed, alive and well and functional.

Well, perhaps not entirely functional.

In truth, this volunteer editing project is getting a bit out of control. I am trying to keep a cheerful attitude about it, and I fully intend to fulfill my obligations and do what I agreed to do, but I fear I have discovered something about myself:

I am a terrible working mother.

In a way, this is not really much of a revelation to me. In my previous working life, I made no secret of the balance issues I had. It was incredibly difficult to keep my family and my psyche healthy and functional when I was freelancing full time. I questioned all the time whether I should be working or not, and when I quit commercial freelance writing, it was something of a relief to just focus on my fiction writing.

Except that when I started publishing my fiction, I had a whole new set of problems–namely, the work that went into those efforts. Not only was there the writing, editing, and publishing process, but there was also the whole host of issues around promoting, blogging, and networking that just completely sucked the life out of me and my family. I made the mistake of listening to all of those self-publishing “experts” who said I had to spend the majority of my time promoting myself and my work on Twitter, Facebook, my blog, and anyplace else that was the fad of the day.

I thought this most recent project would terrify me, and it did–at first. I was almost panic-stricken about editing someone else’s work. I slipped right back into the process like slipping into a comfy pair of slippers, which surprised me, but then I quickly began to exhibit a lot of old habits. I overpromised. I started to neglect my home and family. I became waspish and snappish. I started to feel overwhelmed. And here I am, just about six weeks away from Christmas, and it’s looking very likely that I will have no chance of finishing most of my handmade gifts.

I am not pleased by this recent turn of events.

So what was it that I did enjoy about writing when I was writing full time?

I think I finally figured it out. It was the writing that I loved.

Not the commercial writing. Not the myriad administrative details around running a business. Not the constant turmoil and tension of trying to balance life and work.

Not the publishing. Not the interaction with other writers (with a handful of notable exceptions). Not the sense that I really should read at least 400 or so more “good” and “successful” books in order to not be a pretender in the world of literature. Not the criticism or the social networking or the self-promotion or the checking of sales numbers or the abject terror of wondering when the first one-star rating is going to show up.

It was the writing.

Yes, it’s really one of those V8 moments.

This is, indeed, a compelling argument for never sharing anything again. It would seem that I really only liked the creation of my own stories.

The other compelling argument is that, really, I am a hideous mother when I’m working. There’s no question that I absolutely cannot take on another job while my kids are home. They deserve better.

So this is, apparently, where I am for the rest of the month–in front of a computer screen in full edit mode. Alive, yes. Well, yes.

Functional?

I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

Little Faith Stew

I find myself in the predicament of having to rely on God to provide a lot of things right now. In addition to needing several things for our American Heritage Girls troop, Mr. P and I also find ourselves in a less-than-ideal financial situation. It’s not dire–we have everything we need and many things we want–but his income has been down over the last several months, and we’ve definitely noticed. With two kids in private school (and yes, they need to be there, and yes, it’s a very reasonably priced school), one needing orthodontic work ASAP, and several housing projects that really need to be tackled soon, I find myself looking at the budget and the savings account and . . . well, I find myself stressed out.

Anxiety has always plagued me. I’ve worried myself into stomach troubles, weight loss, neck pain, headaches, and a veritable ocean of tears at various points in my life. Trusting in God’s provision has never been easy for me.

Mr. P and I are both rabidly independent people. We both hate to rely on anyone else for anything material. At the points in our marriage where we have struggled financially, no one has ever really known about it. We tend to fight those battles ourselves, eschewing even the idea of asking for assistance.

We’re also GenXers. As such, I have always had the ringing voices of those women a generation ahead of me on non-stop replay in my head: “You can be anything you want to be. You should work–you don’t want to be caught depending on a man for your survival. What about your kids? All women have to work nowadays, anyway. Besides, you can have it all.”

Add to all of this my own particular sin of pride and the aftermath of emotions that still flood my spirit as a result of shutting down all of my income earning opportunities, and you have a particularly savory recipe for Little Faith Stew.

I thought about not posting this. I thought about waiting until I saw the provision come through. I thought, “perhaps that’s what God wants from me–to see me wait this out, to see me be faithful in the little things while I wait on Him for the big things.”

But that wouldn’t be very honest of me.

Truth be told, I get scared. I worry that we won’t have enough to give the kids everything they need. I panic that our AHG troop won’t have what it needs in the right time. I consider re-opening my commercial writing business, even though taking on work is probably the very LAST thing I need to burden myself with right now. I think about cutting our household budget, and while there is definitely fat there, it’s not much. I toss around the idea of homeschooling, and then I remember that Boy Patriot is as disinclined to look at math as I am, and I think, “yes, he probably should be somewhere that they’ll make sure he does math.”

So here I am, being honest.

Here I am, walking by faith, trying take that one step, that one foot forward each moment, even though I can’t see very far down the path.

Here I am, trusting, because I don’t know what else to do.

Here I am, being faithful in the little things–making the phone calls for AHG, trimming the budget, planning the homemade gifts for Christmas–because the big things are not mine to control.

Here I am, waiting on the Lord to do His piece, the part that’s His job.

“Oh ye of little faith,” Jesus said. If I cannot trust these little things to the One I’ve entrusted my very eternal soul to, then who can I trust?

Myself? Mr. P? Family and friends? The government?

No.

Sometimes, the difference between a stew full of tough meat, crunchy vegetables, and unsavory flavors is just time and heat. It just needs a little more time over the fire, a little more tumult from the spoon, a little more pressure from beneath.

My Little Faith Stew is sitting over the fire, waiting, being turned around and around by a faithful Savior who already knows exactly what I need and when I need it.

And in good time, Little Faith Stew will become Big Provision Stew.

So for now . . . For now, I wait.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

On Missing Work

There are times when I really, really miss my work.

The last week or so has been very full. Scouting events, homework projects, and a birthday party have all conspired to eat up most of my free time. As if the usual busy life weren’t enough, Mr. P. and I are also preparing to undertake some fairly significant home improvement projects. Of course, there are also the innumerable daily duties and tasks around here as well–laundry, dinner, taxi duty, etc.

It’s enough to make me wish I could dive back into the work world I used to enjoy. Yes, work unbalanced my life, and yes, it was frustrating to be forced to let projects and duties slide when I needed to focus on work, but . . .

At least I had work. At least I had something more than just this.

I try really hard not to cast aspersions on the choices moms make about how to take care of their careers, kids, husbands, and homes. I know that whatever choices we make, raising kids is just hard, whether you have one or a dozen. But I have to say–sometimes, I have a really hard time with this choice I’ve made to be here, at home, devoted to home and hearth.

Please do not think that I don’t love my children or my husband. I do, and that’s part of why this is so tough, I think. Obviously, I love them more than I loved what I used to do–that’s why I chose this route. But I really, really, really loved what I used to do. There were aspects of it that I could have lived without, and the frustration of constantly choosing between kids and work was unbearable, but at least there I had something that was my thing–something I was reasonably good at, something that brought more immediate rewards.

Parenting? Um . . .

If I’m lucky, I might see some rewards in twenty years or so. I’m not holding out much hope before that.

My children are wonderful. I hear compliments about them from people outside my family on a fairly regular basis, and all of them are bright, talented, in good health, and reasonably well-behaved. But they’re children. While they’re still here, largely under my control, it’s hard to see how they might turn out in ten, fifteen, twenty years. Parenting is not the kind of thing one can undertake expecting instant gratification.

I question why I’m here. I question if I’m doing anything right. I feel guilty for no longer contributing to the household income. And sometimes–yes, if I’m to be completely honest–sometimes I pine desperately for that thing that used to be mine, that thing I knew I was reasonably good at.

The work I used to do is something I can do as a hobby, but I fear that route. I know that I tend toward obsessiveness, and I fear that, like Alice, if I follow the white rabbit of what I used to do, I’ll tumble right back down the rabbit hole and be of no use once again. Yet I cannot help wondering–why would I have this talent if I were not meant to use it? Why can I not find a way to use it while keeping myself sane and my family healthy?

What am I missing, God? Why did you bother to give me a gift or talent that I have no possible means of using in this role as a mother? And if you were to bless me with the opportunity to shepherd these beautiful little humans into adulthood, why did you not make me just a little bit better at it? Make me desire it just a little more? Have I merely fallen prey to the cultural lie that “you can have it all”?

For the last six months, I have been walking by faith. I have focused on obedience, on fulfilling my obligations to my family. I have said aloud, “the kids will grow up, and then I can do what I love again” while simultaneously believing that by the time the kids are gone, I will have no possible chance of success at my career. I have hoped that my reward for sacrificing my career would be productive, well-adjusted adults who leave the nest, but I have absolutely no assurance of that. And I fear–desperately, deeply–that I will be left with an empty nest and empty days and empty spirit.

I would be lying if I said I was not terrified.

More prayer is needed . . .

Till next we meet . . .

J M