Embracing the hustle

embracing-the-hustle

First and foremost, let me say that the “just” in front of any reference to stay-at-home-mom (i.e., “I’m just a stay-at-home-mom”) diminishes what is a very difficult, very important job. Being a stay-at-home mom of one baby for the past five months is the toughest gig I’ve ever had.

So if you’re a stay-at-home-mom and keeping your children alive and fed and entertained is “all” you’re doing, it’s plenty. You’re killing it. Nothing I’m about to say is intended to diminish or denigrate what you’re doing. Okay? (And cut it out with the “justs!”)

So.

I really like writing. I also really like dabbling in the print design (desktop publishing?) I’ve been doing since I was editing my high school newspaper. Writing greases the gears in my brain when they seize up from all the breastmilk and high chair hose-downs and endless rereadings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear. For some people, self care is getting a haircut more than once a year or browsing their favorite store. For others, it’s typing, alone, over a bowl of ice cream while dad rocks the baby to sleep. Different strokes.

This blog has been a nice outlet for my creative pursuits when I find the time to put my thoughts together. However, we’re working with a pretty thin margin on my husband’s income, so freelancing has been an important contribution to my family since I left full-time work, too (and thus has had to take priority over blogging on many occasions. I just don’t have it in me to try to monetize a blog right now.) Freelancing also scratches the small but persistent entrepreneurial itch I’ve had all my life.

One of the reasons I was afraid to embark on parenthood earlier in my life was the daunting mountain of responsibility that children come with–I didn’t feel like I had enough financial security, even with nonstop full-time work with benefits–to hack it. The irony is, now that I’m home with the baby, living really frugally and making smaller change in weird spurts, I feel less of the suffocating anxiety I felt before The Baby arrived and more of the vastness of possibilities that lay before me.

In addition to money worries, I also feared that giving up my full-time career would mean losing the fulfillment and pride that came along with it, but I’ve learned to embrace the hustle that is gig work. It’s a tough juggle, but it’s also exhilarating to choose projects that excite me and to deliver good work to satisfied clients.

I’ve also started babysitting a friend’s baby one day a week (what a workout!), and today I visited an amazing flexible child care center where The Baby is going to spend a few hours a week so I can grow my business a little bit.

I have far, far less free time than I used to. But I’m also operating at maximum efficiency with the time I do have.

As many obstacles as parenthood throws out for us, The Husband and I are relishing the great privilege we’re realizing we have: We can build the life we want for our family, however we want. Being parents doesn’t mean that we are chained to the traditional gender roles of American families, nor are we condemned to both working 60-hour weeks and missing our kids in daycare all the time.

Yes, for the foreseeable future, The Husband is going to continue to work long hours and have a crap commute (and to come home and summon a second wind so he can bathe, chase and otherwise thrill The Baby while I catch a breath), and I’m going to pound out articles and design annual reports in the stolen 15-minute increments I can find during naps. But none of that is preordained and none of it has to be forever.

In the not-too-distant future, we will finally be able to pay off our student loans and start thinking about the real long term, now that we have a feel for what it’s going to be like. Maybe we’ll save up and start a small business. Maybe we’ll switch places and The Husband will stay home with the next baby while I go back to work. Maybe we’ll get really wild and go off the grid and become self-sufficient preppers. (Unlikely scenario, but it is an election year!)

I don’t know what the future holds, but five months after hesitatingly stepping into the SAHM/WAHM life, I’m so glad this was the choice I made.

Fellow moms (working from home-for money or for the satisfaction of keeping your kids alive, working out of the home, or whatever combination applies to you right now), how did parenthood affect your ambitions? Your perspective on your career? What greases your gears when they get locked up from the parenting drudge work?

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Embracing the hustle

A love letter to my library

summer reading
The summer reading saga continues!

What better way to rebound from a somewhat belligerent (though I would still argue justified) rant about a place that made me feel like crap as a mom than to talk about a place that makes me feel wonderful every time I set foot in it?

I am, of course, referring to my local library.

The library was one of the first places I ventured with The Baby during maternity leave. Ever since then, it has become a routine destination for my attempts to leave the house on a daily basis.

Of course, perk No. 1 of the library is that it’s free (or, really, really, cheap, if you tend to have overdue books here and there…) Now that I’m no longer in a super walkable neighborhood (frown), I can’t just throw the baby in a carrier and take a walk around the block to count as my outing. Generally, I have to run an errand, which almost always means going into a store of some sort and spending money. And as a post-Great-Recession, one-and-some-change-income family, we don’t go shopping just to shop.

The Baby isn’t quite big enough that places specifically made for kids (children’s museum, playground) are a worthwhile trip. Right now he’s basically just psyched by anything that isn’t our house. But I know when he does start to get more interested in play and exploration, my library’s children’s section is a great place to spend some time!

Another great thing about the library is the great sense of possibility I feel every time I step inside. Thinking about raising goats? Pick up a how-to book. Itching for a good conspiracy? Read about the JFK assassination. Etc. ad nauseam. While the Internet is a vast resource to learn about anything I could possibly imagine, you can’t beat the feeling of wandering the aisles and coming across something you weren’t looking for that piques your interest.

I find myself unintentionally choosing books around a theme almost every trip. My last library haul centered around ghost stories and, more practically speaking, raising goats. (That’s still in the works, though slow-going.) In the ghost story genre, I read The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce and I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. I love a good ghost story, and while neither of these was life-changingly good, they satisfied the part of me that gets a thrill from a few chills down my spine.

(For those of you following along, I haven’t finished Cannery Row yet. I returned Doubter’s Almanac unfinished because I always read too many books at once, it was due back at the library and it didn’t hook me in the first three chapters.)

I’ll spare you the review on the goat raising book.

Today’s haul was exclusively nonfiction. (I have another randomly chosen novel I renewed from the last trip, resting unread under by bed still.) Anyway, I picked up two books on writing fiction, something I did obsessively as a child and teenager but haven’t touched since then but have been daydreaming about. I’m hoping that reading about writing will give me the little nudge to try it out again (though I will keep those exercises to myself and stick with the real-life navel gazing for this particular outlet.)

I also got Baby Knows Best, a parenting book about the “RIE way,” which I’ve never heard of. But I like reading about child development and don’t know that much about it, so it’s always interesting to broaden my horizons on that front. I’ll either learn some knew ways to help The Baby grow into an awesome Kid and Adult, or I’ll find something else to call bullshit on and get sanctimonious about. Win-win.

Finally, I got On the Move, A Life by Oliver Sacks, whom you’ll recognize if you’re a Radiolab fan, as he was a beloved neuroscientist who explored some amazing facets of the human brain and struggled with his identity and love and human mortality and who was a beautiful storyteller on top of being a brilliant scientist. He died not too long ago and Radiolab gave him a beautiful tribute, and I can’t wait to read this book.

So there’s an update on what’s on my nightstand, and a reminder to my fellow new moms to go feed your soul at the library!

One more parting tip: Libraries usually have a shelf of used books for sale for CHEAP (a “Friends of the Library” fundraiser type deal), and it’s a great place to pick up children’s books, especially board books because you can clean off the pages before you hand them over to your baby. I picked up a few gems today for a buck!

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A love letter to my library