When I think about my job now in comparison to where I used to work, there’s no question I am a hundred—a thousand—times more fulfilled and happy than I used to be. I could list the reasons why, but it would take many increasingly expletive-laden paragraphs and I’d likely burn any remaining bridges down to cinders along the way.
Suffice to say I am insanely grateful for the opportunity to earn my paychecks writing from home. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel lucky as hell to have found myself in a career that’s perfect for me right now—I have the flexibility of freelancing, with the stability of a regular income. It’s a goddamned dream come true.
In my dreams, though, I somehow managed to gloss over the part where I actually get the work done. Maybe I pictured some sort of romantic scenario involving the words pouring forth with ease as I luxuriate over my laptop in my quiet home office, sipping sun-steeped iced tea while I periodically take a break to wave at my cherubic children, who have naturally found occupied themselves with some peaceful and industrious activity such as polishing the stainless steel appliances while independently serving their developmental needs, Montessori-style.
I don’t really have to tell you that the reality is nothing like this, do I? Still, let me make it perfectly clear: oh god the reality is nothing like this.
If there is a way to combine working from home with small children without involving the television, I have not managed to figure it out. The only way I can sit at the computer long enough to meet a deadline is to stash the boys in front of the screen and pump Curious George directly into their tender growing face-holes.
(O, television! Teacher, mother, secret lover.)
I always think an article isn’t going to take that long, but I routinely underestimate everything that’s involved. There’s the process of pitching my topic ideas, which can take much longer than any of the actual writing. Pitching involves looking at what’s trending, trying to come up with a unique angle on the story—this is where The Stir differs from the great majority of entertainment sites, as they discourage re-reporting in favor of strong opinion*—and emailing back and forth with an editor to approve the topic and come up with the right eyeball-grabbing title for it.
*Ask me how easy it is to come up with an opinion on, say, The Real Housewives of Wherever. NOT EASY.
Then there’s the content itself, which must include a photo, but said photo cannot be held to copyright laws, so I either have to go digging through Flickr for Creative Commons-licensed images or I have to use The Stir’s account to purchase a photo from an agency. This entire workflow makes me a little crazed whenever I see blogs that blatantly rip off high-quality media photos because HELLO. STEALING. Not only is that kind of shitty and wrong, but more importantly, if I can’t do it, BY GOD YOU SHOULDN’T BE ABLE TO EITHER.
Anyway, then there’s the tagging and categorizing and getting the right number of characters before that annoying-ass jump (you know, the ubiquitous “Read More” button I wish would die in a web-wide fire) and formatting the text and adding the randomly bolded terms that seem to appeal to folks who prefer to skim or maybe there’s some other important reason for it that I don’t know about but whatever, I just bold some shit like crazy and hope I did it right.
Which is all to say that producing three articles a day takes a lot of time. I have a babysitter who comes by a few hours a week, but I can’t save all my work for when she’s there, because it’s all about what’s trending and when. (Dear America: stop searching for Kim Kardashian. Please.)
So that is the compromise: I get to stay home with my boys, but I have to spend part of my day shushing them and distracting them with the TV. It’s not ideal, but I know for me it’s a damn sight better than it was, and I hope to god it is for them too.
Is there any possible parenting scenario that does not involve guilt? I remember thinking that things would be so perfect if I could work from home. Is there any such thing, you think? An utterly perfectly flawless setup for parent and child? If there is, I’ve yet to meet someone who’s living it.