Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Learning to Juggle

Well before I got pregnant, Tom and I sat down and discussed how things would go when our future children arrived. And, well, as a writer, I pointed out that after more than a decade and a half in the trenches as a reporter and editor, I had the contacts to begin freelancing if we wanted to try it. We did the math, and discovered that just about half my paycheck would be going to daycare for just one baby. We did a little more math, and determined that really, we just needed a certain magic number - far less than half my paycheck - above Tom's paycheck to make ends meet and be comfortable.

And with that, we had a revelation - I could make that easily freelancing, and still be able to stay home with our future child.

And then I got pregnant with John. I began amassing freelance contacts, putting feelers out there, and got a few paying, regular gigs to supplement our finances. When John was born, I went from full-time employee of a communications firm to full-time employee of a tiny boy whose memos came in the form of whimpers, burps, poopy diapers and crying.

So how do I juggle, though, working and parenting, when the two intersect frequently? Well, first, I've found I have to be realistic. Some days (such as days when teething seems to be at its apex), I know I'll be doing my work after Tom gets home because someone needs Mommy all the time.  I also try to schedule doctor's appointments on Friday afternoons (especially if shots are involved) so that any side effects can be dealt with on the weekend, when I have an extra set of hands and no work demands.

But generally, my days are scheduled. Not overly scheduled to the point of being a stressor, but I generally budget my time by John's daily schedule. Daddy takes care of the morning bottle, which means I can get up around 7 and get some work done. John will go back to sleep until about 8, then we play, and have breakfast, and play some more. When John goes down for a nap at 10, I do some more work, and clean up breakfast dishes. At 11:30 or noon, John's back up, and he has my full attention. We play some more, then have lunch. He'll nap again from 1 to 2 and 4 to 5, and I get some more work done, and prep veggies and things for dinner.

And it's a schedule that works for us, and one that evolved over time. John is getting more and more adept at 15-20 minute spurts of independent play, too, which gives me a little more time to buzz the living room with a dust cloth, or declutter something.

The hardest thing, though, has been learning to say no. The common misconception, I think, is that, as a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom, I have a ton of free time. And it's hard to disabuse someone of that notion when I don't get up every morning, put on business clothes and drive to work. And, at first, I was rather undisciplined about it and thought I had a lot of free time, too, in fact. But then deadlines started piling up and I realized that it was crazy to think so - I had a full time job AND a part time job, that I was trying to pull off simultaneously!

My new jobs may keep me busy, but I wouldn't trade them for the  world. My new boss is demanding, but he's also so much fun. And now that he's paying me in hugs and kisses (open mouthed and slobbery, but enthusiastic kisses nonetheless), I am pretty sure I just got a raise.

Bethany Erickson is the wife of Texas Health Resources web editor Tom Erickson and Mom to 6-month-old John.

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