Thursday, August 26, 2010

Work-at-home mom - REALLY??!?

This Dr. Laura thing is killing me. No, not the latest flap over the N word..... I'm talking about what I discovered on a recent trip to her website. To back up a bit: The Fry and Sprout have been at Grandmama's this week while Jim Dear and I did some massive house projects. Subsequently, having the gallons of free time afforded by a no-kid existence has allowed me to become aware of things that would not normally cross my radar screen. So while lingering over breakfast with my husband this morning I happened to read that Dr. Laura has accepted her own resignation from radio, presumably for some segment of her show involving the N word. I haven't actually heard this show (see above comment about my normal life with kids) but I was intrigued and, crucially, had time on my hands so I went to my trusty Google search bar, typed in "d-r-l-a-u-r-a," and was shortly staring at her official site.

What I found there made me laugh in astonishment.

Again, not the offending segment (I still haven't heard it), but the assertions via multiple ads and posting on the main page, that, as a mom, you could easily work from home. Not only can you work from home, you can do it with your child in the office with you.

Come again??

I am a mom and I work from home and - let me pause for emphasis - it's close to the same level of difficulty as achieving cold-fusion. I could be wrong, and could have the only kids on the planet that won't be quiet while I'm on the phone, but I am here to say that any starry-eyed new mom who thinks they can build a career from the spare corner of their playroom, while 2 year old Jr. chatters happily (and quietly) behind them, needs to get more sleep. Oh sure, when Small Fry was a baby it was a leeetle easier.... I remember taking my first assignment after he was born. The Fry was about a month old, and I feverishly worked while he slept. Which, little did I know, was going to be most sleeping he did ever. I met the deadline handily, the art director thanked me for the awesome work, and I patted myself on the back for having this work-at-home-mom thing down. Three months later it was different story. Now almost 5 years and two kids later, I have a drawer in my studio filled with plastic toys but the bulk of my work is done while my kids are at the cold, institutionalized childcare option known as our church's Mother's Day Out. I do work on naptimes, one ear glued to the monitor, while my hands and brain fly over the keyboard in a desperate attempt to be as productive as possible in a 90 minute window. And I work at night a lot. Which doesn't sound so bad until you add that onto a whole day of taking care of two naturally curious beings with a ho' lot more energy than me. Wonder how many CEO's of fortune 500's would like to make key decisions for their companies after 10 hours of that.

Now I'm not whining (very much). I know I signed up for this on a long ago Valentine's Day with my husband. I don't regret either having kids or continuing my career, which means I work for myself at home. But I do take offense at people like Dr. Laura promoting its relative ease compared to working outside the home. Women who choose to raise their children and work, not matter where the corner office is, begin a balancing act that puts Philippe Petit to shame.

The ads on Dr. Laura's site featured moms holding smiling children while typing away on a laptop. No sign of back strain from sitting with a child in your lap while also trying to see the screen. No tell-tale sign of important papers flipped everywhere or stained with coffee jerked out of reach at the last minute. No questionably safe office accoutrement's being handed to the child as a distraction. There was one ad that got it about right. I'll call this one "right before she missed an important detail of the contract." Notice the baby gnawing on her hand: she's bored and teething and tired of mom's attention being elsewhere for the last 35 seconds. Baby is strategically positioned to flip backwards in annoyance, wham her hard baby head into Mom's collarbone causing Mom to lose her grip on the cell phone while simultaneously keeping Baby from hitting the floor. The good news is Baby doesn't hit the floor. The bad news is an important piece of the cell just went skidding under a nearby bookshelf. The really bad news is Mom had been waiting for that call all morning, praying it would come while Baby was on a nap. Of course it didn't. Looks like Mom had a good start to her day, she got dressed - even managing to put in earrings - but she's not exactly smiling here. Maybe because she knows it's only 9:30, her cell phone's under the furniture, her child's wailing is drowning out her client's bewildered "hello hello's?" from the floor, she can't remember where her coffee cup is, ... and there's eight and half more hours before hubby walks back through the door.

No, she's not rushing to get her kids and herself dressed and out the door at 7am. And she's not dropping them off with some well meaning, scrutinized, and highly paid child care worker. And she's not picking them back up 9 hours later, on her way home to get through the frenetic bedtime rush before settling in to relax with a glass of wine and her husband. But maybe she should be. At least then she might get 15 minutes in the car to herself. 15 minutes to listen to the radio. Maybe even 15 minutes for Dr. Laura to tell her everything she's missing by not working at home.