Double duty: The hazards of working at home with kids
The term “working mom” always bugged me. It’s redundant. All moms are on the job full-time, as in 24/7.
“Stay-at-home mom” is another misnomer since many of these so-called moms burn daylight in automobiles, waiting rooms, checkout lines, bleachers and more, hardly staying anywhere long. And, what do we call moms who raise kids and earn incomes, both at home? Perhaps courageous and slightly nuts.
After having child No. 1, I surprised everyone — including myself — by surrendering a coveted parking space and dental insurance for what I considered the best of both worlds: taking care of my kids and freelancing from home. Admittedly, retiring pantyhose and heels was liberating, but I soon discovered that middle-of-the-night feedings weren’t the only rude awakenings.
For starters, I traded one whiny boss for tinier whinier ones. My desk became a legal pad on half my lap, the other half occupied by a needy toddler who relentlessly swiveled my head toward him like a Lazy Susan. And, it never failed. Elbow deep in my baby’s radioactive diaper, I’d get a business call and have to lunge for the phone before my self- appointed, paci-chomping secretary answered. Distractions were also plentiful. For example, it was virtually impossible to ignore dust bunnies and cobwebs only a Swiffer’s length away all day.
Gone were dependable, relaxing noon breaks over chilled salads and ice teas at restaurants or behind the closed doors of a private office. Suddenly, nibbling scraps off high chair seats and bibs chased with backwashed apple juice from abandoned sippy cups signified mommy’s lunch. Adios, support staff. I was on my technically-challenged own whenever impulsive office mates jammed, dropped, threw and/or submerged company equipment; likewise, I had no one down the hall to gossip with or hot coffee to drink while waiting for repairs. Unimaginably, I also missed Muzak after “The Wheels On the Bus” and “B-I-N-G-O” replaced it at home, in the car, and stuck to my brain like the Spiderman and glitter heart stickers to my old briefcase.
Along with going to the bathroom sans an entourage, having reasons to depilate and using multi-syllabic words, the opportunity for non-mommy work was scarce. Frankly, colleagues in onesies don’t respect privacy or give a damn about inspiration. Every Mom! Mom! MOM! irretrievably erased a (surely brilliant) thought. If only there were a home version of waiting rooms, cordoned off areas for kids who’d sit patiently reading out of date Highlights magazines while mommies attended to agenda No. 2. With extended days at home, I initially thought there’d always be time; however, when cranky associates finally conked out in front of the Disney Channel, an equally exhausted, immobile mom found herself watching DuckTales and munching on Goldfish Crackers found between sofa cushions.
“Homework” hazards stalked me away from home, too, like bumping into other moms whose second jobs required shoes and deodorant, and hearing things like:
• “I envy you doing nothing all day.”
• “Your house must be clean!”
• “I’d go stir crazy being home. Aren’t you bored?”
• “I couldn’t afford the hole in my resume.”
• “Since you’re free, would you mind …?”
Though novel at first, being the sole person at work wearing pants — albeit pajama pants — lost its charm after awhile. Just for today, I vowed each morning, I’d wear a pair with belt loops … and a bra. Ultimately though, simply being mom eclipsed my supermom alter ego and I threw in the legal pad, giving up my paying day job until a little uninterrupted time to complete a project — any project — didn’t seem like a crazy daydream .
My advice to moms considering double duty at home: Dump any fallacies about bonbons and soap operas with stinky diapers. Then, discard lofty parenting principles, which eventually succumb to a whatever works approach when deadlines and kids together loom. Yet, if you can swing it, benefits are unrivaled: being able to attend recitals, games, school functions, witness milestones and tend to sick kids. Plus, no more bathroom keys … or pants.
February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness for the leading cause of death in American women: heart disease. And perhaps no one will be sporting her red more proudly than 20-year-old Nashvillian Nykia Babb.
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