Parenthood

Working from Home is Hard

June 20, 2014

I have the extravagant privilege of working from home for now. I do bits of professional writing and editing for a consulting company in exchange for dollars that are heavily taxed by the state of California. I search for misplaced punctuation and butter up paragraphs that need a little finesse. I use semicolons in moderation and consider myself a real stickler for the Oxford comma. My whole job is excavating the caverns of what people actually mean to say, or occasionally re-packaging what they mean to say in a way that sounds less agitated.

It is equal parts rewarding and tedious, a professional mix of curiosity and banality, but I’ve come to realize that that is what a real job feels like.

When I found out I was pregnant exactly one year ago, Mike and I started praying about what to do with my daytime profession. We both knew that great moms come in all varieties. There are great moms that spend their days at offices and great moms that spend their days at home. All moms work 24 hours a day, so every mom is a working mom. I just wasn’t sure what type of working mom I would be.

I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to define my brand as a working mom, to negotiate what productivity looks when domestic and professional endeavors collide. I’ve learned that multitasking works only occasionally. About once a week I feel like I can do it all: hold a baby, meet a deadline, load the dishwasher, and put on pants before the husband gets home. The rest of the time I shuffle priorities. I hold a fussy baby; I ignore her in a bouncy chair. I clean the breakfast dishes; I eat off paper towels to avoid them. I deliver a beautifully polished product to my boss; I send an error-riddled reply to an email I partially read.

On the days I drop Molly off to play with a lovely, responsible friend, I alternate between extreme feelings of guilt and gratitude. I cook maybe three times a week. I often forget we have a dog. I intend to exercise daily. I do so sporadically. I view a second cup of coffee as the most pivotal weapon in my arsenal. I work really, really hard but always feel like there should be more to show for it. Meanwhile, my postpartum hair falls like the rain and my child farts with such a toxic vengeance that I assume she must be unwell. I then proceed to waste a full hour on the Internet sifting through mommy forums that discuss the toxicity and potency of baby farts and whether or not this is an indicator of a serious medical condition.

I hoard time and waste time and lose track of what efficiency looks like.

I find myself excavating each day, asking “Is this the best use of my time? Am I being the best version of myself? Am I investing in the things that truly matter?” I keep agreeing with value systems that seem to contradict each other:

Take time. Slow down. Cherish every moment.

Carpe Diem. Seize the day! Seize it NOW! Don’t waste a second!

Commemorate every moment. Take a picture of it, filter it, Instagram it, caption it, and then make a Shutterfly book about it.

Live simply.

I wish I could hire myself as a third party editor of my life, a consultant to reorganize the spacing and articulation of my deepest values with commas and semi-colons. I need to streamline the message, get my topic sentences in order. I need to find a concluding paragraph that makes sense.

It seems that we are all working really hard for balance, stretching arms like airplanes, holding breath like it’s stolen, alternating weight between heel and tip toe. And for all the times I’ve been urged to find balance in work/life, food/exercise, personal/private, or otherwise, I can’t seem to get there. I’m starting to suspect that balance might not exist as an actual destination.

The only perfectly balanced entity in all of history is the Holy Trinity, and that mystifying family miraculously adopted us into their home. Jesus came so we could enter into this perfect balance, His complete equilibrium. So when we can’t find balance in our physical life, we can always find it in our spiritual one. We are offered balance of the soul.

I guess that means my working mom brand is a wobbly sort of faithfulness, a collision of endeavors that I offer to the God that makes them whole, the God that makes me whole. Because at the end of my untidy day, God isn’t necessarily redeeming my work as much as He is redeeming me, producing non-taxable returns of patience, perseverance, and wisdom.

As I write this, baby Molly is on the floor practicing rolling over. She’s really good at rolling from back to stomach, but as soon as she rolls into the plank position, she panics: “How did I get here!?” “How do I get back?” “Was this supposed to happen?”

Molly  is learning the frustrating dynamics of balance.

Every few minutes I walk over and recalibrate her. I flip her over and she tries again. All day long we do this. She searches for physical balance while I pursue the metaphorical kind. We are wobbly, but Molly and I are learning balance together.

We are working on it from home for now.

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