Back in the spring, I wrote about my decision to quit a decent-paying, but time consuming and stressful freelance writing and editing job. Summer was coming, and my young daughter would be out of nursery school. So my husband and I decided that it was more important that I spend time with her and that I relax my schedule a bit, and thus we all could have a more tranquil household.
The decision felt liberating, yet filled me with trepidation at the same time. Would I be happy working less and just focusing on my daughter? I know from past experience that I don’t do “idle” well, and maybe I’m just OCD enough to feel like if I’m not working or thinking about working, I’m somehow slacking off. So I really wasn’t sure how my newfound commitment to be a more present mom was going to work out.
Before I had a chance to test these new waters, a work opportunity dropped in my lap and let’s just say, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse: a multi-month, high-paying freelance writing job with a monstrously well-known company. It meant committing a lot of hours—those hours I’d promised to commit to my daughter—but it also meant the chance to pay off some debt, make some improvements on the house and maybe even take a year-end vacation. So what were those things worth in comparison to quality time with my girl? I feared that Naomi was going to be the loser in this equation, again.
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But after I got through the stress of the initial learning curve of the new job, I found that something in me had shifted. Maybe the new job is less pressure than the old one—it certainly does allow me to work at my own pace and it’s not nearly as time-sensitive as the last job was. Maybe I just decided to operate differently and change my approach to the work and motherhood balance. Maybe with middle age, I’ve finally figured out that an hour more or an hour less of work in a day or a week is not going to alter the course of the universe.
So yes, my daughter still goes to her nonna’s every day and spends most of the day with her, with her aunts and with a few playmates on the block. But I don’t rush her out the door like I used to. If she dawdles at breakfast or watch cartoons for a half an hour, that’s what we do. Maybe I catch up on emails while she’s dawdling, maybe I don’t. When I drop her off at her nonna’s, if my mother-in-law asks me whether I want a coffee, I usually stay for a coffee instead of refusing for the sake of hurrying back to my computer.
Some afternoons, if I feel I’ve done a decent amount of work during the day, I’ll pick her up early at Nonna’s and we’ll hit the community pool. She’s learning to swim and it’s a joy to witness and assist with. An hour or two at the pool is enough to wear her out and again, it doesn’t drastically change my productivity. Plus how do I put a price on getting to laugh, play and relax with my squealingly happy toddler?
In the evenings, I’m no longer checking for the “drop everything and do this now!” emails I so often used to get. I can’t even remember the last time I had to race into my home office and work on some rush project after dinner. So now we sit outside after dinner, we play on the swing-set or go get an ice cream. And best of all for everyone, my husband and I aren’t sniping at each other as we used to. (Of course there’s still an occasional snipe, but nothing like there was when I felt I was always on the clock.)
I’ll admit that sometimes I still have to force myself away from the computer to go spend time with my family. After all, old habits die hard. And really, I haven’t made good on my promise to work less and spend more time with my daughter. Or, at least, it hasn’t happened in the way I’d imagined. But I have fulfilled my promise to be more present for her during our time together. Work won’t go away—thank goodness—but it will wait long enough for me to teach my girl to dog paddle or pump her legs when she swings or to knead bread dough. And for now, that’s a balancing act I can manage.