The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get

Working at home is a luxury. I know many moms would give up their corner office and chicken finger day in the cafeteria in order to have my situation. I am lucky that I have the opportunity to pursue the freelance dream I've harbored for the last 10 years of my life while I paid the bills as a technical and marketing writer.

On paper, being able to stay home with my daughter while still earning money looks like the best of both worlds.

But the actual practice of trying to work during my daughter's waking hours is just about impossible.

I've never been able to write in a noisy place. I was spoiled by the work environment of my first job out of college, where I was an editor and technical writer for seven years. I worked among other writers and editors, who, like me, appreciated quiet and demanded it of coworkers.

I experienced quite a rude awakening when I left there and moved to the company where I worked until last month. There, I was the only writer, plunked down in a cube farm surrounded by sales guys and tech support who not only held just about every conversation using speaker-phone, but also listened to music without headphones and would shout to coworkers several cubes down the row while seated within the walls of their very own cubes. And I was constantly interrupted by someone either requiring something of me, or choosing to enter my cube uninvited to carry on an "over-the-cube-wall" conversation with my neighbor.

It's within this circus of sound and need in which I'm currently working.

Isabella is able to play independently and without venturing off to explore an area of the house she shouldn't for approximately three minutes, and that's on a good day. After which time, she's either attempting to climb my leg, toy in-hand, begging for attention, or she's having one of her 10 daily meltdowns. And my writing is set aside.

I've done everything I can think of to carve out some uninterrupted and relatively quiet time in which to work. I've set her up with her favorite toys and books just inches away from my desk's chair. I've tried a suggestion Melissa offered of playing with her for 15 minutes, and then trying to sneak away to allow her to play on her own for a few minutes while I'm working just steps away.

Nothing has worked. She's just too young to play by herself.

I don't expect to write Pulitzer-worthy prose while she's up and around. I know I need quiet in order to write well, and I can only really get this quiet when she's asleep. But I do wish I was able to fire off an email, do a bit of research, or write some of the easier parts of one of my contract jobs during the day.

And then there's the mommy guilt.

Isabella will be young only once. Should I should spend each waking hour thinking of new ways to entertain and stimulate her growing mind? Should I sublimate my own professional agenda in favor of attending to her, at least while she's little and so needy? After all, this is what I wanted, right? I wanted to be a mom. I paid a hefty sum to be a mom. My husband stuck me in the ass with a 12-inch needle every night for 3 months so I could be a mom. I quit my full-time job to stay home with my her. How dare I complain.

But I want this. I really, really want to succeed as a freelancer writer. This dream was mine before the embryologist ever donned the space suit, took out the dish, and made Isabella. And while being her mom serves as my viewpoint and, at times, my subject matter in my work, being a mom is not the totality of who I am. It's a huge part. It's the most fulfilling part. But it's not everything.

I know she won't always be this young and this needy. I know it's only a matter of months (years?) before she will entertain herself for longer periods and I can work while she's awake.

It's just hugely frustrating right now to stand at the starting block wearing cement bricks instead of sneakers.

13 Responses to “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get”

  1. # Blogger Tracey

    Ah, the familiar lament of new moms everywhere. Yes, it will get easier, but yes, she it will get harder. Reassuring?

    Have you thought of carrying around a recording device? I am SO not techno savvy anymore to know the latest gadget, but something that you could quickly press record, ramble off whatever tidbit just occurred to you at the most random mommy moment, and then be able to play back the various tidbits at a naptime or when she's REALLY occupied, later on?

    I SO wish I had something to record the moments of brilliance I've lost throughout the years! Moments that came to me while sitting in a pile of blocks or driving to soccer practice, and that I attempt to reassemble later on, but just can't?  

  2. # Blogger Marie

    I hear you!

    That starting block may be a few years away, unless you get someone to watch Isabella now and then so you can work.

    As Mom of a 3 1/2 year-old, I can tell you that I get nothing done when he's home and awake. If I'm on the computer, that's where he wants to be! Just wait til Isabella discovers computer games...  

  3. # Blogger Beagle

    I do know you're not alone in this. I know a book illustrator and a landscape architect going through the same frustration/challenge.  

  4. # Anonymous Melissa Garrett

    Ah, the mommy guilt . . .

    I feel guilty because I am not doing more to bring in a steady income with my writing. I feel guilty because I am not giving Bridget my undivided attention when I am trying to work. I feel guilty because Hannah's math grades have slipped and she now has to have an in-school tutor. I feel guilty because Jacob won't eat vegetables.

    Darn that guilt!

    I don't know what to tell you in order to make it any easier, mainly because I just don't have the answers. If I did, I would be a very rich woman! I like Tracey's advice about getting a hand-held recorder.

    As Isabella gets older, you will find that you are dodging different obstacles. Like this morning, Bridget squeezed half a tube of toothpaste onto the bathroom floor and smeared it all with her hands. Then the cat got stuck in the silverware drawer (don't ask how). The cat is just as bad as the kids, by the way.

    Just hang in there and do the best you can!  

  5. # Blogger My Wombinations

    Man, I could have written this (how often do we say this about each other's posts?) It is so hard to work at home and so many times I envy mothers who have daycare and can actually get some time to themselves once in a while to get actual work done.

    Sometimes I feel like a working mom trapped in a stay-at-home mom's body or vice versa. I have no good advice, since Sam is even younger than Isabella, only commiseration. Maybe it is time for both of us to consider childcare? Even part time?

    As for the Mommy guilt, I hear you loud and clear. Everyime I step out of the house, especially to run (with her in the jogger), I have to force myself to do it. Suddenly I second guess myself and ask if I am being selfish because I am taking an hour for my health, while she just hangs in the stroller. Crazy? Yes. Irrational? Definitely. But we moms are so adept at feeling like crap no matter what we do. Loads of fun.

    Always feel free to call (I can email my number) or email when you are at the breaking point. It always helps to talk to someone who is also there:)  

  6. # Blogger Damselfly

    Ah, yes. I totally get it. I gave up a project last year because I couldn't make work work with Fly. So clearly, I don't have any answers.  

  7. # Blogger Shannon

    What about putting in a dvd of her fave show... or turn the tv to her fave show to keep her some what entertained... it is how I cook my meals... turn on the tv to Lore's fave shows and I don't have to worry about something falling on her head while I am cooking lol...  

  8. # Blogger Shannon

    ohhh what about recording your thoughts that you want to write down and then when she is down for her nap or down for the night right them out then...  

  9. # Anonymous sher

    I know it's impossible not to feel the mommy guilt, but you are doing so much to share this time with Isabella. I think the recording device idea is good. And, I bet you will figure out a workable solution for all of this as time goes by.  

  10. # Blogger Stephanie

    This sounds like a day in my life too. Pursuing dreams, trying to write, wondering what my priorities should my little girl tugs on my leg or points to the back door.

    I want to play with her, to teach her, to hug her, to love not regret this terrific toddling time. But I also want to move forward professionally.

    Ah, the elusiveness of balance.  

  11. # Blogger Binulatti

    Um, I'm posting this one for Isabella (she paid me in M&Ms):

    Maybe the rest of the words to that song should harken the solution:

    "...when you sleep I will creep into your thoughts like a bad debt that you can't pay, take the easy way and give in..."  

  12. # Blogger Laura McIntyre

    I can only imagine how hard trying to work at home while dealing with a child is, i know i struggle with household tasks. I cannot offer much help but hope you find away to fixe everything soon  

  13. # Blogger mrsmogul

    I freelance write from home and have no mommy guilt at all. I give him breakfast, change his diapers and put on Nickoldeon and he is occupied. I always take him for a walk in the morning so there is a balance.  

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