There’s nothing more misleading than the term Work At Home Mom. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s a load of horse crap. I’d rather say horse shit but there are children around, children who can practically hear through a keyboard. Whenever I tell people that I work from home I get one of those knowing looks that I take to mean, “So you don’t have a job.” I mean, how many jobs can you really do from home besides the ones you see offered in the back of the classifieds; “Make $500 a week stuffing envelopes in your spare time”, or “Make thousands of dollars a week as a phone sex operator”? But I do have a job – a real job – as a writer except that it’s almost impossible to actually do your job when you are at home.
You see, the person who stays at home is the one available for the biggest to the smallest household issues regardless of whether or not said person (me) brings in her share of the household income (okay, maybe not her share but some). If you don’t work at home you might think that a person who does has it made because they can be flexible if their child is ill and needs to be picked up from school or if the dog suddenly needs to go to the vet because he accidentally ate all your Valentine’s Day candy or if the cable guy can only narrow down his arrival time to sometime between 7 a.m. and midnight. But once you are the “at home” parent, things can easily get out of control. Case in point –today: my daughter, the sweet, lovely, smiley Elby, was constipated. Not just “I can’t poop, but maybe later. Let’s bust a move and get to school!” constipated, more like constipation on the level of the flu and at various times of the day pneumonia. It had started the day before with no relief so I knew she wasn’t faking.
“Mommy, rub me. It hurts so much.”
“Okay Sweetie” I oblige. I’m a woman, I’ve dealt with constipation on a non functioning level. Of course, I’ve never taken a personal day over it. But then again, my daughter is three – about to be four – what’s she going to miss in school besides making play doh from scratch or finger painting? Is my writing day important enough to send a whimpering, constipated girl to school? I decide no. School is just not going to happen. Even if I sent her, she’ll just be sent home when they realize how upset she is over her “no poop” situation. Sure, they might sit with her on the potty and read her a story but I know my daughter and it won’t work. So I stay home.
“Mommy, can I have a show?” Elby practically whispers from her curled up position on the couch.
“Sure, baby” I answer and switch TiVo from The View to Diego.”
My nanny Liz leaves for the park with the twins. “Damn, I need to write” I think to myself and head to the computer to capture some precious Diego time.
“Mommy, can you rub me more?” comes the plaintive voice of my baby.
“Okay, sure, here I come.” The phone rings. It’s my agent. I know it’s about the cover to my new book which is NOT DONE.
“Hang on baby, I need to take this real quick.”
My daughter whimpers in the background during my entire conversation with my editor. I make it as short as I can but, damn, this is my career. I’m not trained as a toddler masseuse. But eventually, I acquiesce and head back to the couch to resume rubbing in earnest.
The phone rings again. It’s the NICU needing me to please immediately fax my insurance card which I’d forgotten to bring to the follow up clinic for the twins where they were assessed by a million therapists who told me nothing absolutely nothing new about my babies but did manage to steal another entire morning and afternoon from my writing.
I fax over the card.
“Mommy!” She wants me to rub her more. Finally she’s half asleep and I try to sneak away, back to my computer, back to my career.
“Mommy! It hurts!” Screw it, I decide to call the doctor and talk to the nurse who tells me to give her a warm bath and let her poop in there if she wants. She fights me tooth and nail about getting into the tub but I win in the end because, after all, I am in charge. Magically, she does poop in the tub. I’m so relieved I almost cry. My daughter feels horrible about it and cries anew.
“Please don’t worry sweetie” I reassure. “I’ll clean it up. This is part of the job of being a mama.” It’s not part of the job of being a writer, but I…at least for today…and most days…am both.