On Motherhood & Sanity

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Just as I begin to panic, I get hit the other way. Diatribes of a working mom

Recently I begun to panic. Let me explain.

I left the UN to became a freelancer after my daughter’s birth. It was not my plan, it was no where near my plans really, it just happened. Once she was born the four months that I was given to be with her –generous by most standards- no longer felt enough. I got it into my head that I wanted 6 months, I don’t know why really, I assume it had something to do with the fact that everyone keeps saying you must breastfeed exclusively for that long, and it seems hard to do so if you are not around.

But it was not that thought out. It was just a gut thing. So I asked for extended unpaid leave, again a privilege I know, and I got one year. I was not intending to use that whole year, it just gave me time to find a new job as we had transferred to Cambodia. And then I was offered a job….. and I struggled between what I thought I should do –take the job- and what deep down I knew I wanted to do.

As fate would have it, I became accidently pregnant again, which gave me a fantastic excuse to turn the job down, and ask for another year of unpaid leave. So it was only after almost two and a half years that I had to accept the fact that I was not willing or able to go back to a 9 to 5 job, (and I’ll take this opportunity to highlight that they are never actually 9-5).

It was quite a shock really. I did not expect that from myself. So I entered this rollercoaster where my identity and self worth were thrown completely off.

Nearly four years later it seems that the plan I set out has worked. I work mostly from home. In exchange for a few weeks of travel a year, I get to stay home the rest of the time, and have extended holidays that I can enjoy with my children. Working from home means that even though I am working, earning money, and continue to have a career, I can have breakfast and lunch with them, pick them up from school, take them to play groups (some times). As long as I get the job done, it is up to me how I distribute my time.

Recently as the holiday season hit and I finished my last job of the year I accepted that I would be effectively unemployed for a while. Work rarely comes in at that time of the year. And I was ok with it. Free to decorate the house, go visit Santa, look after the grandparents, wrap the presents. Then January came and went. And as February stretched out I –like most freelancers-begun to panic. I was waiting for news from all the CVs sent before the year had wrapped. As the days passed with an empty in box, I begun to fear I would never get work again. Ever.

Then February turned out to be a very generous month. I am currently booked up for the entire year, and February is not even used up. Of course, they are all happening at the same time, and I am faced with the fact that -if I take all the work offered, I will be traveling on a monthly basis from January until May, ten to fourteen days at a time. And so, the other shoe drops. Is this too much? How will my constant absence affect the children? Should I turn some work down? (my husband seems completely bewildered I even consider this option)

You see, children cannot express themselves. Well, they can, but they rarely make any sense, at least mine which are two and three years old. So I cannot use them as a gauge. They are important to me. But so is my identity as an independent and valuable member of society. I also work because I want them to have a feminine role model that they can look up to (not that not working is not positive, this is just my choice as a parent).

And so, I struggle. Again. Does it ever get any easier?

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