I'm so pleased to host Catherine Connors from Her Bad Mother and 6000 other places around the internets here today. I hope she'll forgive me for not listing each one out. Suffice it to say that she gets around. Ahem.
You went from college professor to work-at-home-mom - how was that transition?
The transition was easier than I might have thought, had I ever given any thought to the possibility that I might actually do it (which I didn’t - when I did it, I just did it.) I gave up an office and regular interaction with other adult human beings, but the thing about academic life is, you do so much of it on your own anyway. Long nights and days at home, alone, marking papers and writing chapters and watching too much reality TV. The only difference with being a WAHM, really, is that it’s Dora or Barney on the TV instead of re-runs of Paradise Hotel. That, and I don’t go and stand in lecture halls and make people listen to what I have to say (I have the Internet for that now.)
Speaking of which, you were recently criticized for not "using your schooling" and that it was "a waste." (or something of that nature). You shared your thoughts on this in your post, but can you share briefly your thoughts on this?
It was nonsense, obviously. And although it angered me (because of how it disparaged the very real work and important contribution of mothers), it didn’t personally upset me, because it was just so plainly absurd. The idea that it’s somehow better or more important that I teach undergraduates how to read Plato (or that I or anyone sell cars or make widgets or record music) than it is that I raise my children to be good people is ridiculous, and I have no patience for it. Parenting is the most important work there is, full stop, because it is the work of creating and nurturing citizens. (Okay, sure, neurosurgeons and presidents and some others do important work, too, but you ask Obama whether he considers the work of being a dad insignificant and see what he says).
It happens that I don’t *just* stay at home with my kids - I work at home - but even I didn’t do any kind of outside work, the important work that I do as a mom remains. My dissertation supervisor, when I was pregnant with Emilia, said to me, "you’re going to learn, when you become a parent, that there’s a constant tension between serving the world and serving your family. You’ll teach, and you’ll ask yourself whether your time wouldn’t be better spent teaching your own children, rather than other peoples’ children. You’ll ask yourself that constantly.” And I did ask myself that, from the moment I went back to teaching. I didn’t want to spend the bulk of my time with other peoples’ children. I wanted to spend it with my own.
College professors often have a lot of carry over work from office to home. Did you think your experience, in that vein, helped or hurt your work as a WAHM where it can be a challenge to turn off?
It helped. As I said above, I was well-accustomed to working weird hours, at home, in my pajamas, never really turning off.
You've been pretty vocal about taking no-internet breaks. Has that become important due to the nature of being a WAHM in a very-always-connected space like the internet?
Absolutely. Otherwise I would NEVER turn off. I have to make a special effort.
You sort of stumbled on WAHMdom - how did that affect childcare and making time for your family, kids?
Well, it meant that we could get rid of the (very expensive) nanny, who we needed because my teaching schedule and my husband’s work schedule spilled beyond daycare hours. Emilia and Jasper have both spent a couple of days a week at a nearby daycare, to give me some uninterrupted work time. Otherwise, I work around naptimes and bedtimes. I try to keep the rest of the time free to focus on them. When I’m working, I’m working; I shut. The rest of my time is theirs. And the beauty of being a WAHM is that that time is way more flexible, and there’s way more of it.
Speaking of childcare - what is your childcare situation right now and how did you come to decide that one in particular?
Daycare, as I described above, a couple of days a week. Emilia also goes to junior kindergarten two days a week (senior French Immersion kindergarten this fall, which will also be two days per week.) We like it because both kids really thrive in that environment, and it gives me at least two full work days per week.Describe your work days when you've got childcare and when you don't.
On daycare/school days, it starts when I get home from dropping off the kids, and finishes when their day ends. On days when one or both of them are home, it’s restricted to Jasper’s nap time (if it’s not a school day for E, she watches a movie or something; yeah, I KNOW, so sue me) and to whatever I can get done after hours. I’ve been known to do conference calls while they’re around, but I try to avoid that.
What's the most challenging aspect of WAHM-dom for you?
Turning off. If I get busy, I too often end up working into the wee hours, or compulsively checking my iPhone while waiting during karate or ballet or bathtime or whenever there’s a free moment, which I hate. And it sometimes seems as though there’s never any ME time - there’s work (which, thankfully, I love) and there’s parenting (which I also love, despite my very public bitching about how hard it can be) and if I’m lucky, maybe fifteen minutes for a bubble bath every now and then. Don’t even ask when I see my husband.
Speak of the handsome devil, how has this gig affected your relationship?
See that last line above. I think that it’s a bit harder on marriage than is working outside the home, just because a) it’s hard to turn off - if there’ve been lots of kid distractions in a day, I end up working during ‘couple time’, and b) there’s so little grown-up interaction in my daily life, I get a bit manic about wanting to get out of the house, which sometimes - often - clashes with my husband’s desire to just hang out at home on weekends, etc.
Your husband travels a lot - how does that affect your work, taking time for yourself, and your own travel, which you do a fair amount of?
My husband works in television, VERY long hours, and is effectively absent A LOT. So I do a lot of solo parenting, which is hard, because it’s - duh - more work. I don’t get a lot of time for myself. I just don’t. Full stop.
Looking back, what advice might you give yourself when you started working from home? What advice can you offer other moms who are finding the balance to be challenging?
Make a schedule and try to stick to it - even if it’s a schedule that depends entirely upon naptime. Tell yourself - write it down - ‘I have two (or however many) will spend twenty minutes answering e-mail, forty minutes drafting X post, thirty minutes prepping Y article, fifteen minutes brainstorming new ideas, fifteen minutes filing receipts,’ or whatever. Make your time count, so that you don’t angst over how you’re spending it. Oh, and find a quiet, comfortable place to work every day. You’ll just fall asleep on the couch with the laptop on your lap.
Many WAHMs comment about missing the quiet office, even the commute to work - what aspects of working outside the home do you miss most?
Having an office, moving about in the world of grown-ups, having somewhere to wear pretty shoes... it’s easy to forget that you’re a grown-up, a full-fledged woman, when you spend your day in a Kermit t-shirt and yoga pants, contemplating the politics of Barney.What's been the biggest helper or tool that's made your life more organized as a WAHM?
A supportive husband, and my iPhone.