I’m officially changing my status from stay-at-home-mother to stay-at-home-daughter.
It never occurred to me that as my children, Luke, 19, and Meg, 16, got older, my mother was aging too. I thought by the time Meg reached high school I’d be back to writing on staff, going from my current freelance status of the last two decades to perhaps part-time, then full time. That can’t happen, as my mother needs care-taking. I realize there are other options, but when she was a single mother in the Bronx, she always managed to take care of me; then moved to Manhattan when Luke was to born to help me raise him and eventually his sister. I feel that I owe it to her to act in kind.
As I transition from one title to the other, I do so with gratitude to my husband Neil, who has supported four people so I could take care of two of them; allowing me to watch Luke and Meg progress in their activities like gymnastics, baseball, basketball, swimming and acting, as well as volunteering at school when called upon. I was also able to be there to share in every triumph and comfort in any disappointments.
I can’t say, though, that I never had doubts about leaving my staff job in advertising. As my children moved up in grammar school, I had moments of wondering if I was wasting my time and talents by not utilizing them on a full time, full steam ahead basis. My friend Susan, who I always admired for being a great mother of two, as well as a successful CEO, chastised me for not appreciating what she called, “The best of both worlds;” working from home, as well as being available for my kids.
That shut me up. It’s not the first time another mother has saved me from myself. And I did my share of saving too. I had a number of friends, besides Susan, who worked outside the home, and on days off from school my home often looked like a small day care center. I am grateful I was never part of the Mommy Wars that others claim still rage on today.
On a personal note, I got to enjoy our Upper East Side home and neighborhood; something my husband only gets to do evenings and on weekends.
Was being a SAHM ever boring? ‘Fraid so. That’s when I would fantasize about how I could be doing something productive if I were in office, imagining exciting projects and people running around trying to get them accomplished by deadline, a la an episode of anything ever written by Aaron Sorkin. Then I’d talk myself back to reality where I’d remember having my share of boredom at my company, particularly during meetings that were often like a long day’s journey because of colleagues who thought their points were so brilliant that they felt the need to make them twice. There were also times when dealing with Luke, Meg, their teachers, and yes, other mommies, were frustrating and aggravating – just like at my paying job had been.
No, staying home was not perfect, but it worked out perfectly for me. And quite frankly, for all my big dreams—and talk—about returning to the on-site workforce, I don’t know if I could – and not just because of the present economy.
For the past two decades I haven’t had to work in the 9-to-5 box, instead doing my assignments when I felt most motivated, whether it be 6am or 6pm; I’m self-motivated, so the thought of a boss standing over me asking, “Where are you on that assignment?” would be irritating, especially since I’ve never missed a deadline left to my own devices; and since, as long as I have my laptop, I can work anywhere, like the park; so being chained metaphorically to a desk might bring on a bout of claustrophobia.
Even though per diem work can be feast or famine, I’ve done all right for myself, aka I never felt as though I got “mommy tracked.” There was always someone who needed me to write something, and that’s still the case. A good thing, since, even though the players have changed, my personal/professional work off-site situation hasn’t. So, as I go from being a stay-at-home-mother to a stay-at-home-daughter, I hope this new phase works out as well.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is a freelance writer in NYC and author of the novels, Fat Chick and Back to Work She Goes.