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Monday, April 18, 2005

Where we go from here

Mission accomplished. Well done. Bravo. I'm reaching over my shoulder to pat myself on the back. I pitched a story, interviewed people, constructed neatly organized prose, filed it to my editor on time. Now I anxiously await its debut at local newsstands, libraries, and bookstores.

I conquered freelancing writing and there is more if I want it. My editor is interested in hearing more about another one of my story pitches. I just need to suck up and do the research. So why am I still talking about a story that I filed six weeks ago? More importantly, why haven't I already started researching that next piece?

Was this an exercise in rubbing my under-stimulated ego? Did I desperately need to publish something so that I had some recent accomplishment to point to? So that I could say: Look at me hubby, I'm not wasting all of my talents at home. I still know how to form complex sentences. Look everyone: Just because I'm home raising a child, don't write me off. I'm still here. Look at me world: There's my name in print to prove it.

But instead of plowing fist-first into research while still soaring from the joy of accomplishment from the last piece, I've been dragging my fingers in other directions. Maybe I feel like I've proven that I'm still worthy, that someone would hire me if need be. So I sit in my computer chair surrounded by the red walls in my home office and blog. There is no research, pitching, or pining for my next byline going on now.

I'm sure it is an ego thing. So much of the time, at-home parents feel invisible. There isn't a whole lot to show for at the end of the day. If we're lucky, everyone is wearing relatively clean clothing and our bellies are full of something, hopefully something nutritious. It's not glamorous work. It's thankless work. It's invisible work.

The longer I'm out of work, the more I worry about how hard it will be to jump back in, if I needed to, or if I wanted to. I think of Portfolio Manager Mom. Doesn't seem like she had to look to hard to find a fabulous job. Are my writing skills as desirable? As hirable?

I feel the way I felt when I first graduated from college and moved across the country: why would anyone hire me? There are hundreds, thousands of other people out there with better skills, who are smarter, who have more experience, who are more driven, who will work for less money, who exercise more, who drive nicer cars, who wear more fashionable clothing, who know how to solve world peace. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but being away from work compounds the feeling of worthlessness.

I know these are unjustified feelings, but they are real to me, none the less.

"While some stay at home moms are thinking longingly of the independence of the office and the camaraderie of colleagues, I spend my days wishing I could be home," wrote Mandy over at Fosterfest, in a recent post called Jumping Fences. "I long to tell those stay at home moms -- quit trying so hard. So what if you spent all day running errands and only played peekaboo once -- you were there."

Perhaps part of this struggle to be seen comes is a result of being a writer in the first place. When I was a scribe at a technology news site, everyday the world could see that I had been productive. Everyday there were two, three, four, five items that I could point to that were directly related to my productivity for the day. I could see them, my boss could see them, our readers could see them. It was out there and it was visible.

And now that I'm home and mostly invisible, not having that recognition and visibility is hard to adjust to. So knowing that I'm still capable of getting published will hopefully lessen the performance pressure so that I can enjoy my full time job as parent.

1 comment:

  1. I think I struggled with similar issues shortly after becoming a stay at home mom. In fact, I was supposed to do freelance work... it was in the plans, honestly it was! :) But after overcoming the shock of becoming a new parent, I just didn't have it in me. I was overwhelmed and just plain unorganized. That was a very disappointing thing, so I was almost happy to fade into invisibility so I wouldn't have to stress over it. As a result I've pretty much lost my identity, with hardly any time for hobbies or even a quick run to the gym. Now that is something I struggle with almost daily, so I think it's wonderful that you're making that effort to continue working from home, even if you do take much-needed breaks every so often.