I hate it when people ask me what I do for a living.
The truth, the answer that they want on insurance forms, is Stay-at-Home-Mom.
I hate that title for a lot of reasons that I’m not going to go into here as this is not a mommy blog, but in truth I think of myself as a Work-From-Home-Mom. (These are actual terms, with acronyms. Did you know that?)
My child is two years old, and he is home with me. Which means from about 6:30 a.m., when he wakes up, to about 8 p.m., when he goes to bed, he is my primary vocation. We have play groups and appointments, we volunteer together once a week, and he is my buddy. As I write this, he’s telling me about what he’s doing right now while he eats his breakfast.
But I also have a weekly (okay, it’s summer, so twice monthly) fiction podcast that I am running, as well as a monthly baseball podcast plus I’m trying to develop myself as a writer which means working on short stories and a novel and this blog. And, of course, you can’t be a writer without being a reader, which means I need to figure out how to squeeze in reading time.
My hours? Really hard to quantify, but producing the podcasts (including scheduling, working with contributors, recording, editing, file conversions, writing notes, etc.) takes an average of six to eight hours a week to do, more if there are more complex or longer episodes, extra episodes and specials, or something goes wrong (nothing ever goes wrong with technology, right?) That time does not include marketing, social media, or what I would term if this was a real job “professional development” (networking, learning new skills, improving production and audio quality, etc.) It also doesn’t include time for my own writing, this blog, or reading. Add all of that together, and you are starting to see hours that resemble a regular part-time job.
I have a couple of friends who are Work-From-Home-Moms. One teaches in a ballet studio at her mom’s home (where she and her children also currently live.) One runs an online re-seller business mostly focusing on children’s books. Both do this while caring for one or two children under the age of three, and it’s really hard.
I’ve spoken before about how working parents and stay-at-home parents are jealous of each other…on the one side there is the luxury that is daycare and being able to sometimes leave your kiddo there for an extra hour or more to get something done, on the other side there is the idea of late mornings and not having to get everybody out the door and being able to focus all your energies on being home. For my work-from-home friends, they get the positives and negatives of both. They usually get some child care, some time away from their children, some interaction with the adult world, while also managing some play dates (another term I really hate) and activities for their children. They also suffer from extreme busy-ness and lack of personal time.
It’s tough. As the friend of mine who teaches ballet told me yesterday, she really doesn’t know how to define herself as she doesn’t fit entirely within one realm or the other. She has some things in common with her working mom friends and her stay-at-home-mom friends but doesn’t really fall into either category.
And I was jealous of her. Because I relate to everything she is saying but don’t feel like I can claim my work as work because at this moment it doesn’t make me any money.
The conversation on how, when, and if writers get paid is one I’ve had before in this space and not a new one for writers, so I’m not going to get into all of that here, but yeah, for me now is not a time in my career when I am making money as a writer or a podcaster. (In fact, podcasting actually costs me money, as media hosting is not free.) So here I am, a stay-at-home-mom with no income of my own spending part-time job hours and some of the money I don’t make doing something I love doing and will make time for, but when I’m asked what my job is I can’t really claim this because jobs make you money and this doesn’t.
I don’t expect to ever make a full-time living as a writer. There, I said it. If it happens, fantastic, I’m all for it, but I do not anticipate or plan for that reality. It would be great to get to the point where it makes me some money and I think that is doable, but it is a process and I’m not there yet. But even if I never make money, I won’t stop writing. I could not stop writing. I know people who have music or sports in their blood and must pursue those regardless of what other people think. Writing has been that for me since the age of six. Not making a living at writing is not going to get me to stop doing it, and whether I am working full-time or chasing a toddler around, I will always fit it into my life. Whether I am a “writer” on insurance company forms or not.
I get that staying home with my child is a luxury. (It’s also a luxury borne of the fact that going back to the job I had before he came would essentially mean working full-time to pay for the cost of full-time child care, which is a separate story.) While I don’t like the term Stay-at-Home-Mom, I do like the work (most weeks) and I won’t complain. I just wish I knew how to explain to others, even to other moms, about that 10-15+hour a week job I work in addition to what I am doing as a mom. What you do for a living is a big part of your identity in this culture, and mine is somewhat closeted. I also feel guilty every single time I am distracted from the job of raising my child to focus for a few minutes on the job of writing and podcasting. Because you can’t do it all, but you can certainly try.
How about you? This isn’t just an issue moms face. Most writers are “writer and something else” and even when you get to the coveted place of writing for a living most writers face the “write what I want to” vs. “write what is paying me” question. Is writing a job title to you? Does your family love when you talk about your fun writing hobby? Is a vocation more than how you pay the bills?
However you are fitting it into your life today, happy writing!