It is that time of year when the life of a stay-at-home mom can suddenly change. Leaving a child in preschool for the first time can create tears and fears; it also presents a chance for moms to redefine their weekdays. If there are no younger children at home, the freer mornings (even if they are limited to just a few mornings a week) might enable a mom to feel on top of household chores rather than beneath them; find precious time for herself; return to her former job; or maybe, the reality of a quiet home at the end of summer will open up new opportunities.
A year ago, my mornings became my own when my youngest started preschool.
I had thought that I would take a few months of indulgence after six-and-a-half years as a stay-at-home mom to my three children. Within that period, I had given birth three times, breastfed for almost four years and cared for my kids pretty much 24/7. I felt it would be time to re-shape my body, refresh my mind, read some books (without pictures) and rediscover “me” before I re-entered the workforce. I seriously flirted with the idea of becoming a Pilates-latté mom. A choice of the privileged, I am aware.
But the real me revealed itself way before I could sit in a café in my sports gear, novel in hand, and order my latté. I sensed the free mornings waiting for me on the horizon and I instinctively knew I would have to fill them with something (financially) productive.
I found a project quite a while before my youngest entered preschool – it became my self-published book. It has allowed me to work flexible hours and look after my kids each day after 1pm.
My self-publishing adventure marks the reawakening of my professional drive and self-expectations, concern for making deadlines and meeting targets – all characteristics that I had neutralized when I first became a mother, back in 2004.
Prior to the birth of my first child, I had worked as a marketing manager in a software company. Six months into motherhood, I wrote an email to a friend summing up what I felt were the major changes in my working life, beyond the tasks of childcare, which had occurred as I had moved from international marketing to being a full-time mom:
1. The enormous change of pace.
2. The lack of deadlines and the sense of excitement at project kick-off, and satisfaction on completion.
3. The lack of positive feedback on my work (how often does anyone tell a mom that she is doing a great job? Not enough.)
4. The endless time spent at or close-to home.
Now as an ambitious self-publisher, I have adopted a new working pace, although needless to say, the pace of work as a self-employed mother who still looks after her three children every afternoon is not that of a full-time marketing manager. I work hard to meet my deadlines, although I should call them deadline targets (my wish list) because they are at constant risk of being swept away by family, school and kindergarten commitments. It means I must be exceptionally determined yet flexible at the same time.
Fortunately, I am enjoying the rewards of positive feedback on my work, which is tremendous compensation for the endless hours I still spend at home, including very late nights in front of my computer screen.
I feel lucky that I was able to find a self-employed route back to financial productivity (I say it this way because I don’t feel I ever stopped working). I know my biggest challenges are finding the right balance between advancing my book and spending time with my family, and eliminating the sense of guilt and disappointment that arise from working passionately in two roles and constantly dashing between them.
A year after I greeted my new day, I am learning to embrace the imperfections.
I have also learned to make lattés at home, yet still dream about Pilates….
If you are a stay-at-home mom with a new day, what are your plans?