Today’s post is part of the Moods of Motherhood blogging carnival celebrating the launch of the second edition of Moods of Motherhood: the inner journey of mothering by Amazon bestselling author, Lucy H. Pearce (published by Womancraft Publishing).
Today over 40 mothers around the world reflect on the internal journey of motherhood: raw, honest and uncut. To see a list of the other contributors and to win your own copy visit Dreaming Aloud.net
I work at home in two capacities: I teach online as a faculty member for a college and I co-create Brigid’s Grove with my husband. I also teach outside of the home once a week at a branch of the same college that is located on a military base about 40 minutes away from our house. All my preparation, grading, students emails, etc. for the in-seat class also take place at home. Beginning in July 2013, my husband took a significant leap into being a “free-range human” and now works at home with me. This was a leap because my teaching is on a contract basis and I make 1/3 of the money that he made when he was working full-time, but, I only have to leave the house for seven hours a week, leaving two parents home full-time the rest of the week with our homeschooled kids.
Shortly before Tanner was born, I posted the following on Facebook:
I heard back from the [campus] yesterday and they approved my proposal to teach my January class as a modified hybrid, which means I’ll be able to leave at 8:00 and get out the back gate (saves me 30 minutes drive time!) to get back home to my baby, rather than having to drag him + caregiver to class with me til 10:00 the way I did with Alaina!
(Of course, it also means I’ll have hours of extra online posts/grading about controversial topics, but I can nurse a baby and diplomatically moderate discussions simultaneously…)
I’d also like to take a minute to be grateful that, even though we’re a bit on the edge financially over the next couple of months, that we have the opportunity and ability to *do this*–have two parents home full-time, except for that one night to the [campus] for me each week! Lucky! (And, with some hearty dashes of good planning and creative other multiple streams of income.)
I got a comment that gave me some pause for consideration: “living the dream. We’d love to be able to do what you are doing.” While I want to be thankful that we are in a position to make this choice, I also want to acknowledge that it isn’t always “shiny” or dreamlike! Nor did it come from only “luck,” since I want to be clear that our current household financial structure would be unlikely to work if we lived in a more expensive geographic region OR if we had household debt (Something we avoided, yes, luckily, in thanks to my grandma for a debt-free college and graduate school education, but also thanks to our own financial management and good savings habits that allowed us to pay cash for our land and to build our own home using only money we saved from Mark’s work as a computer programmer, rather than having a loan.)
So…when Lucy Pearce asked for contributions for a blog carnival celebrating the release of her second edition of the book Moods of Motherhood, I knew that I wanted to write about the moods of self-employment and co-creating a business with my husband…
We light our intention candles (yes, really!) and set up a mini-altar on the floor with items of significance to us. Cups of tea or hot cider are in our hands. Our kids are at my parents’ house, leaving us to have two hours on our own to talk shop and brainstorm ideas. We lay out our Amazing Year planner and many colored markers and review our biz goals for the month, goal-set for the following month, and the ideas start to flow. We feel in perfect synchronicity. Our collective creative energy is humming, our ideas are bubbling forth effortlessly, we are literally on the “same page.” One idea bounces off another, notes fly fast and furiously in our “book of amazing possibilities” (again, yes, really, this is written on the top of the first page of the notebook in which we brainstorm our ideas), and it feels like something alive, this process of co-creation. It feels vibrant. It feels limitless. It feels sacred.
In the pause between note taking and idea flowing, we hold hands and just sit there for a moment enjoying each other’s company. And, at that very moment, our eyes meet in the thrill of hearing the etsy app make its cha-chiiiing sound notifying us of a sale in a way that feels just like the universe is acknowledging and blessing the success of our work together…
The real-life-sucks-sometimes mood:
We accidentally sleep until 9:30. The kids eat Hot Pockets for breakfast. We argue over who gets to take a shower first. I feel dragged down in molasses by the vastly different energy levels we possess—I’m a morning person who immediately wants to hop up and get moving. Mark and our kids are not. Mark claims to be getting ready to pack orders and yet he is really looking at Imgur or sorting through Magic cards. I claim to be starting my grades for the week, but instead I fiddle around on Facebook and then speak snappily with a light dash of martyrdom. I slip into “lecture mode” about what a better job we could be doing with our house, our lives, our parenting. The kids whine and bicker. I suddenly decide that they should do excellent homeschooling work immediately, even though we’d all rather be doing something else. I try to submit my grades for the week, while also having eight other windows and/or documents open on my computer for things I’d also like to work on, while simultaneously attempting to answer questions about their worksheets. The kids bounce from parent-to-parent with their questions while Mark tries to pack up the night’s orders for mailing and Alaina sits on the floor saying, “why is nobody playing with me?” in a plaintive tone.
In my multi-tasking frenzy, I suddenly decide to add our online banking to the open windows on my computer and see, unfortunately, that we are behind $500 in our bank account and I won’t get paid for another three weeks…
Here are some things that make working together from home difficult:
Score-keeping. I was terrible at this when Mark worked full-time and I am still pretty terrible at it. By this I mean mentally keeping track of who has spent more hours doing what, who has had more time alone, who has come up with more ideas for dinner, and who has done more of what with the kids.
Different styles/types/routines/schedules/patterns. Part of this comes from personality, part comes from how we each spent the prior ten years working. I spent the ten years prior to 2013 as the primary at-home parent, with the scattered focus, multitasking, and “mother-sized jobs” that that role requires. I became very used to having to snatch at free moments to work frenziedly, accomplishing a great many tasks in a small window of time, because I don’t know when my next chance is coming. Mark spent those ten years (as well as many before that in other workplaces and in the public school system) with a structured existence in which starting and ending times for work activities were clearly defined and the impetus for tasks/goal-setting comes from external forces rather than being self-directed by the individual. We continue to approach our days at home together with similar, somewhat discordant, habits.
Different energy levels. Being the “driver.” Related to the above, I have spent my entire life being essentially self-directed and self-motivated. I’m not sure how much of this is personality, birth-order, or environment (me: type-A-ish, oldest child, homeschooled. Mark = laidback, youngest child, public schooled). I have tons of energy pretty much all of the time. I am constantly popping with ideas and bubbling with “steam” for projects. I rarely settle down and relax. Productivity is my middle name and my default mode. I never drink anything caffeinated, I always get at least eight hours of sleep, and I’m always buzzing around doing stuff. I wake up in the morning with one million ideas of things I’d like to do that day and I want to start immediately, if not sooner. I think I exhaust people and I can be wearing and controlling. Mark works in focused spurts of concentration. He is slow to start in the morning and I rarely, if ever, have seen him “buzz” about anything. He takes his time. He stops to rest. He is stable and calm and methodical. He lets ideas percolate and form. He doesn’t need to talk about everything. He watches videos to learn things and after he has let information soak in, he tackles new and complicated tasks with complete focus and usually total success. He is patient and if something fails, he will learn more about it and try again. He is rarely, if ever, critical of himself or of me (I am self-critical enough for both of us, plus). He is also very used to working in environments where he does not have to be particularly self-motivated and, again, whether it be personality-based or environmental/socialization, this often puts me in the position of family “driver.” Sometimes this feels fine, sometimes I am completely sick of the role of household manager and motivator.
Never being “off.” Still related to both of the preceding two points, as someone who is used to working from home around and between my small children, I never feel like I’m off. There is always something more to do. Mark works until he is finished and then stops, even if there is something else that could be done. At home, together, all the time, neither one of us truly ever gets to be off. Kids keep needing things, dinner needs to be fixed, and I keep coming up with one more thing to “finish” before bedtime. When your life and work are entwined so deeply, there is no clear distinction between “work time” and “home time” (or family time). This is something we want to work on differentiating more firmly in the coming year.
Haphazardness. We do not have a clearly structured daily schedule which leads to a feeling of haphazard effort and randomness through the day. (Also on list for coming year.)
Introverted personalities. We are both introverts. When Mark was at work all day, he worked on his own much of the time. When I was at home with kids, I still had two hours a day on my own each day while my kids visit their grandparents. Now, neither one of us actually ever has time alone. I wrote about this in a past post:
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the household navigation of being an introvert mama with now having my also-introvert husband home full-time. Turns out that both parents home doesn’t magically extend the hours in a day actually seems to shorten them and it means both parents end up feeling pretty maxed out by kids and in need of somewhere quiet to recharge! I love having a “free-range” husband and I’m blown away by our joint creativity, which is an energy we’ve never experienced before at this level in our 19 year relationship because he was always at work all week and we had to squeeze everything else in around the edges. I also notice these interesting facts about having us both home all of the time: the house is way messier, we consistently stay up “too late” and sleep “too late,” it seems harder than ever to cook/figure out meals, we have less time to spend on homeschooling !!, we still don’t feel like we have enough time to talk to each other, I seem to have less time to write and focus on writing, I feel like I give my kids less attention than I did when I was the only at-home parent because I now have Mark to pay attention to too and I really like him, it is perhaps harder than ever to get the TWO HOURS I desperately need, I feel as if I have less time to focus on my teaching work, we argue more over household and parental responsibilities, we laugh way more and have more fun with each other and with our kids and we do more spontaneous, relaxed and fun stuff with our kids. It has been an interesting experience!
Homeschooling. Neither one of us really thrives in the role of homeschooling parent. We homeschool because we can’t really envision another alternative that is good for our kids, not because we uber-love homeschooling and are amazing at it. It often feels like a bit of a competition for who can not be the one to do the homeschooling with the kids that day. I have never felt like I thrived in the role and so sometimes it feels good—or like, “I told you so”—to now share the responsibility (and the failures). It is hard to work with multiple ages of kids at the same time. It is hard to be patient. It is hard to do stuff that is boring because we feel like we should maintain a minimum standard of official “schoolwork” each week. Our kids can be very frustrating, obtuse (perhaps deliberately), and are often extremely distracted and appear to be purposely driving us crazy. Homeschooling also means that working from home must always be done around the edges of family, again making there be no distinction between home time and work time. We often feel only partially present and often feel preoccupied and distracted, since there is never a break! We are also in near constant contact with all members of our family all day every day and this can wear. The total immersion the lives of our kids can be exhausting, diminishes the “cherishment factor,” and leads to a sensation of oversaturation with our kids (and them with us!). Somehow we still never feel like we have enough time with each other though, again because, like our business, our relationship has to fit in the edges around very energetic and noisy children.
Here are some things that make working together from home work:
Goal-setting and regular review. We have a biz meeting a minimum of once a month. This is incredibly important in helping us stay on track and focused.
Looking outward together in same direction. Our motto from the time I was 16 and he was 18. This has been a guidepost in our marriage, lives, and now our business.
Capitalizing on each other’s strengths/having complementary strengths. In addition to the differences I’ve referenced in the list above, we have complementary strengths that make us work extremely well together and in a way that often feels effortless. I am good at communicating with others, with writing, and with keeping up with tasks. I write all of our etsy listings, I answer all emails/messages from customers, and I do all social media work, as well as lots of other tasks. This does not feel like a chore for me, it does not feel “unfair” (nor do I scorekeep over it). Mark does all order fulfillment, packaging, and shipping as well as the hand-finishing of everything we make. He also is the one who learns the new skills we need to move forward—I may make the original sculptures, but they wouldn’t go anywhere without his willingness to handle hot metal, study how to make molds and then go for it, and learn the chemistry of resin-casting. When we wrote our Womanrunes book, I joked that if Mark was in charge of it, it would have had an excellent cover and great images, but no text. If I was in charge of it, it would have been a Word document with good text, but nothing else.
Appreciating one another and enjoying each other’s company. Not much else to say about this one. We like each other a lot. We have been together for 19 years. We have a symbiosis and a relationship that works and works well.
Shared focus/mutual benefit. In the years that Mark worked outside of the home, there was often a sensation of competing for “free time.” When we are working on projects together, there is no sense of “competition” when project is a shared one. When he goes to pour new goddesses, it feels like working together. When I make new sculptures, it feels like working together.
Self-direction/self-motivation. As referenced, a lot of this still feels like it comes from me, but it does really help our business and our lives move forward.
Financial management skills and mutually compatible simple living goals and strategies. We decided a long time ago (way pre-kids) what is important to us and we naturally and easily continue to make good financial decisions that are in harmony with one another. We drive crappy used cars, have only used furniture, don’t have credit card or other debt, etc. This only works when both people are completely on board with the goals and purposes of living consciously within a fairly frugal simple living framework and spending accordingly.
Grandparents!!!!! A factor beyond personal control, having my generous, loving, connected, supportive parents one mile away cannot be undervalued. Our kids go to visit them for two hours (or a little more) every day except for Thursday. How much of a gift is this? Invaluable. And, lucky.
Kids that like each other. Also a factor beyond personal control, having sons that are best friends with each other and who therefore get to play together all day long and enjoy each other’s company is invaluable in creating a home atmosphere that is conducive to a rewarding, home-based life.
We’ve still got a lot to work on! We also have a lot of amazing goals for 2015 and look forward to carrying them out together.
We’re also still working on this…
I envision a life of seamless integration, where there need not even be a notion of “life/work” balance, because it is all just life and living. A life in which children are welcome in workplaces and in which work can be accomplished while in childspaces. A life in which I can grind my corn with my children nearby and not feel I need apologize for doing so or explain myself to anyone.
Somewhat related past posts: