was sitting quietly with my seven-year-old daughter, Olivia,
when she asked, “Mommy why do you HAVE to work?”
I answered her honestly,
“I don't HAVE to work, I like to work. You know that Mommy
likes writing and filmmaking -- just like you love writing and drawing.”
she persisted with her agenda, “It seems like you love your
work more than you love your children.”
“Honey, I do love
my work. But I love you and Jared above everything else.”
“Then why are you
always working? Why are you always too busy to play with me?”
I admit that I have
been busy of late. With deadlines on a self-published webzine and
my growing involvement with a local independent filmmaking group,
I'm crunched to find time to do all the things that I’m trying
to do. And as a work-at-home mom, with an irregular work schedule,
I often find myself trying to squeeze in just a couple of more hours
of writing, returning e-mails, or reading (more like skimming) screenplays.
My children have
tired of hearing me beg for “ten more minutes” to work.
Up until recently, I
thought I was doing a pretty good job of balancing my mothering
job with my creative job. I made choices, I thought, that would
allow me to do both. I wanted to stay home and be my children’s
primary caretaker, and luckily we had the financial means to do
so. And so I had decided to pursue freelance writing and independent
filmmaking from my home.
While not for everyone,
I like this work-at-home arrangement. It gives me a good amount
of freedom and allows me to be readily available for my children.
It also allows me to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them;
take a dip in the pool or run to the movies in the middle of the
afternoon; drop them off and pick them up from school; put their
bandages on when they fall; hug and comfort them when they are cranky
and tired; break up their fights; and clear my schedule completely
for a spontaneous trip to the park or for an emergency visit to
the doctor’s office.
Still, my kids, tell
me that all I ever do is work. It doesn't matter to my kids that
I am a million miles away from the fast track and now spend most
of my days, spinning my wheels, on the so-called “Mommy Track.”
They don’t know that I graduated at the top of my high school
class; had a 3.75 GPA in college; took film classes at NYU; and
once dreamed of winning an Oscar by the time I was thirty. They
have no idea that I slowed down things considerably, and deliberately,
after their birth. And they have no idea what an impact their lives
have been on me – or how much I have changed.
The truth is, that rather
than working all the time -- I now work when I can. But to my children,
it still seems as if I work too much because they can literally
see me, while I toil away in my crowded, cluttered office that is
located two steps from the kitchen. Still it seems unfair to me.
After all, they never complain about their father working too much,
although he leaves the house well before they wake-up and doesn’t
return until dinnertime. What is it about a mom’s time, that
she must always account for it?
For five long years,
I was a full-time, stay-at-home mom. But, I eventually realized
that I needed to pursue work besides just the full-time caretaking
of children and home. I enjoyed those things immensely in the beginning
when they were still fresh and new. But I also began to miss the
other things that once fulfilled me– like art, reading, writing,
filmmaking, adult conversation. And I missed being someone other
than just “mom”.
My daughter still remembers
that time, when I stayed home all day and catered to her every wish
and spent all day every day inventing activities of fun for her.
She says, “Why can't you play with me all day like you used
to? Why do you have to work?”
“And what about
the days when you and Jared are at school and Mommy is left home
alone?” I ask. “What about years from now when you no
longer need Mommy and you go to college and move away? What will
Mommy do then, if she hasn't pursued other things in her life?”
Olivia says, suddenly realizing how demanding she has been of my
time and attention, “We are just horrible children.”
“No,” I say,
“You are normal children. You love Mommy and you want her
all to yourself.”
And so the “Mommy
Tug-of-Wars” continue. I probably will always feel slightly
guilty for wanting more for myself; for not being able to give my
children all of me. But I also realize that no matter how available
I make myself, or no matter how many times I rearrange my priorities,
it will probably never really be enough; not to my children.
Like all kids, Olivia
and Jared want to have mom’s undivided attention. They don’t
want to hear of other things that compete for their love. They want
their mother to be set aside in a glass room, always present, and
silently waiting for them to need her; assuming of course, that
she doesn’t have dreams and needs of her own.
mmo : december