Freelancing is hard work. I like the variety of it, the ways that it has forced me to grow, but I am constantly searching for my next job — networking, sending emails, feeling desperate. I had planned to find a part-time job after having Henry, but good part-time jobs are very hard to find. Impossible, so far.
Even before having kids, I knew that I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom. No judgement. I just knew that I wouldn’t be a great one. I liked my career, and I knew that I would miss having work that both challenged me and made me feel capable. But I also felt that having a full-time job and raising kids would be a lot — maybe too much — to juggle.
I’ve had little freelance work the past few weeks, and so it has felt more like I’m a stay-at-home mom. I am really missing work and adult companionship. And of course there is guilt with that. My mom worked when I was growing up, but she always suggested that she would have preferred to stay home. And I remember some of the women at our wedding shower saying how nice it was that I was marrying an engineer, implying that I would be able to stay home with the kids. There was this assumption that oh, of course I would want to stay home if I could. So even though most of my friends work, and even though no one has told me that I should stay home, I still wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t be happy at home. This is supposed to be the dream! Clearly, not my dream.
Given the dearth of part-time jobs, that leaves full time. There’s a catch, of course. We live in suburbia, far from most of the jobs that I would like to have. A 40-hour job would mean more than 50 hours away from home because of commuting. But, in suburbia, we are able to live on one salary, a very lucky situation. If we move into the city to cut my commute, we will need two incomes. Working is no longer optional.
Nothing is happening yet. I am not ready to put our family through such a dramatic shift, and I continue to foolishly hope that more freelance work will come my way. And I stew. Why does our society work this way? Many of the stay-at-home moms that I know would like to work part time. Many of the parents I know who work full time are overwhelmed and would be happy to cut back to 30 or 35 hours a week. A lot of us seem to want the same thing, a job that gives us some balance in our lives, and yet that doesn’t exist. (If it does, please let me know!)