It’s Hard to Juggle Work and Family

P1030248-124The scene: An enameled cast iron bathtub in a small farmhouse in New England.

The characters: An exhausted 34-year-old pregnant lady and her 2-year-old and 3-year-old daughters.

The time: 7:00 p.m.

The action: A phone rings.

“It’s probably Daddy,” I say, jumping out of the tub naked, water sloshing on the floor. If James had not been out of town, I would never have answered the phone.

I had just started working as a freelance writer and didn’t have a separate ring tone for work calls.

The voice on the other end was not James.

It was an editor-in-chief’s assistant at a glossy magazine in California, where it was only 4:00 p.m.

“Mommy, I want to talk to Daddy!” The 3-year-old cries.

“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy,” the 2-year-old shrieks.

“Could I, um, call you back in ten minutes?” I plead.

It’s hard to sound professional when you’re stark naked.

I bustle the girls out of the tub and leave them upstairs while I run downstairs to return the phone call. Ms magazine wants to assign me a story based on a pitch letter I sent them months before. Was I interested?

I bluffed my way through that phone call, insisting on my regular rate (I didn’t have one) and checking my busy schedule to verify if I could make the deadline (the calendar was empty). When two sets of pajama-clad feet appeared in the doorway of the kitchen (there was nowhere else in the house to talk), I hung up as quickly as I could, feeling both exhilarated and overwhelmed.

The bathtub incident was funny, even at the time, but I’m thinking of it today because—six years later with a new baby—I’m remembering all over again how hard it is to juggle work and family.

Now I make a living as a freelance writer, live in the Pacific time zone, own a house that has a home office with a door that closes, and use a separate ring tone for work calls.

I have a revision of an article due today, to an editor in New York City, who left work before I could finish. I’ve been typing emails with one hand while nursing the baby, my shoulder squeezing a cell phone to my ear to retrieve messages. There’s spit-up on my left sleeve, I’ve forgotten to eat lunch, and I need to advance the diapers in the laundry.

On a good day this juggling act seems like sit-com material.

On a bad day, like today, I feel inadequate: failing to meet deadlines, badly in need of the kind of high-quality dark chocolate we can’t afford, concerned I’m not paying enough attention to my children. I wanted this baby as much as I’ve ever wanted anything and I’m so glad to have her. I want to be a good mother to her, and to my older children, but I worry on days like today that I’m not doing a good enough job.

Take a break. Be kind to yourself. Rest when the baby’s resting. All of this is such good advice from well-meaning friends but there’s no such thing, really, as maternity leave when you’re self-employed in a country in a deep recession and the writing market has plummeted.

Clearly it’s time to take a bath.

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , ,

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Latest Comments
  1. Kaz December 10, 2009
  2. Kimberly Ford December 10, 2009
  3. Tara Rose Crist December 10, 2009
  4. Alexandra December 10, 2009
  5. Jennifer Margulis December 10, 2009
  6. Frugal Kiwi December 10, 2009
  7. Merr December 10, 2009
  8. Susan Johnston December 11, 2009
  9. ReadyMom December 11, 2009
  10. mataji4 December 11, 2009
  11. Claudine December 12, 2009
  12. ChristineGL December 30, 2009

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *