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.

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dani
dani
10 years ago

ya, the perfect setup is NOT WORKING. (and being independently wealthy.)

Gigi
10 years ago

THANK YOU for telling people about stealing images or whatever!! Especially, since it’s my job to (single-handedly) try and get them taken down.

I think when small children are involved there is no “perfect solution.” And no matter what you do, or how you do it, there will always be guilt of some sort.

Now, if I could just convince my boss that I don’t have to be in the office to do my job….

http://www.designermama-manaallamano.blogspot.com/

Its crazy hard to work with a kid or two around, freelancing is not free as they say. I try to work at night but that is getting harder as I get older. We should start a freelancing mama coop and trade hours of kid care.

Amy Ritchie
Amy Ritchie
10 years ago

“…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.” Awesome.

I assume you use programs that track trends? I have something for my iPad that tells me what’s trending in what subjects, etc.

Now I have to go back to my own deadline, in 19 minutes, while my youngest runs around naked from the waist down. Oooh. I think I just heard a crash. Later.

Stephanie
10 years ago

“Perfectly flawless setup for parent and child?”

I think – and I might get a lot of crap for this – it’s called Being The Dad. Because I know it’s busy and stressful, but there isn’t any guilt that I see, and my children throw him a g.d. party every single day when he gets home from work.

moojoose
10 years ago

I was thinking it will be so nice for you when they’re both in school full-time, but then…maybe your goals will be different then, too.

whoorl
10 years ago

“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.”

Yes, there is. A part-time nanny. (Except for OOOPS, there went my freelancing paycheck. Kind of defeats the purpose, right?)

Andrea
Andrea
10 years ago

I grew up in the traditional Dad-works, Mom-stays-home-raises-kids-cooks-cleans-etc. household. I watched my fair share of Sesame Street and 321 Contact while my mom did laundry and scrubbed floors and prepared meals and did her housewifey things. This modern idea of stay at home moms being all up in their kids’ faces engaging them 24/7 is ridiculous. Is that what a helicopter parent is? I don’t really know but whatever it is it’s a stupid and unrealistic idea.

Whether you work from home or stay at home or do whatever you do under your roof, there will be times when you have to Get Shit Done and the kids will have to fend for themselves for a bit. I don’t feel guilty about it at all.

Erica
10 years ago

There will always be guilt – there will never be a perfect set-up.

Jenny
10 years ago

I don’t know who exactly started the whole idea of the perfect set up, but I would like to punch their face for making us all feel guilty. Somehow, I doubt the pioneers quit shucking the corn or whatever they did in order to sit down and gently educate their children by the fire, and the 50’s housewives just turned their kids out in the street or whatever they did but now . . . I’m a full time student so I’ve got SHIT TO LEARN all day long and trying to keep kids happy and calm while I do it at home just is impossible. And it’s child cruelty to turn them out in the yard for several hours with the southern heat. So toys, ipods, movies, whatever keeps them happy and alive all day is fine and dandy with me.

Kylie
Kylie
10 years ago

For what it is worth, I think your articles are the best on The Stir. Your hard work definitely shows in the quality of your writing and your well thought out opinions. Some of the writers on The Stir make me crazy with their uneducated assumptions and rash comments. If it weren’t for you, I would include it in my daily rounds on the internet.

Kylie
Kylie
10 years ago

*would NOT

bari
10 years ago

not trying to be a pain in the butt here but I just don’t know how anyone could possibly work at home with kids and no help, it doesn’t make sense to me. you must want to pull your hair out! i have a 2 year old and have been working at home since 2006 (im a freelance event planner) I have a part time nanny who is willing to do hours when i need her but a usual day when i’m busy is 6am-10 with kid, 10-4 or 5 nanny, 5-7 or 8 i do his dinner, bath, etc and then i work 8-10 or 11 because i can’t get behind in my work if I want to be hired again. I feel SO SO SO SO lucky to be able to work at home and sneak an extra hr or 2 with him, see him while he’s eating his lunch, etc but I don’t kid myself that I can get significant work done while we are together. It wouldn’t be fair to either situation. I know your guys are older but you might have luck with a middle ground between you having a hell commute to a job you dont love and you doing something you like and also parenting 2 kids full time. a compromise might be the perfect sweet spot you are looking for.

Betsy
Betsy
10 years ago

I have a similar job – producing about 4 article a day, plus editing and main content page updates. At the moment, though, I have only one child, which I assume makes that easier. I spend a lot of time saying, “Just one more minute, honey” while I frantically type in my concluding paragraph. I also get up an hour before him everyday and work for an hour after he’s in bed and OMFreakingG I’m so tired.

k
k
10 years ago

No such thing as a perfect scenario – I quit work and am home with my kids (but send them to preschool) and worry about the fact that my brain is leaking out of my ears from non use. My working mom friends wish they could stay home and not deal with daycare/nanny/whatever. Nothing’s perfect.

I’m sure you already considered this, but is there a public or low cost preschool you could send them to for a couple of hours, even a few days a week?

jonniker
10 years ago

Errrrrrgh, yeah. I’m with you, there. I have a client call tomorrow that is JUUUUUUST on the cusp of Sam’s nap. Like, an hour in to what is, on a good day, a two hour nap, but on most days? 1.5 hrs. Which means I went to Target today and bought a bag full of surprises to keep her piehole shut for, so help me, the last half hour. I am praying that between a new Abby Cadabby, a box of Matchbox cars and an animal sticker book, not to MENTION Super Why, I’ll have achieved some level of success?

Melissa
Melissa
10 years ago

When we hard our third child I gave up my job that had hour long commute because it was just too damn hard to do everything and daycare cost way too much. It wasn’t easy to make the budget work, but we managed. That meant no extras, no life insurance, no college funds. Two years ago my youngest went to pre-school and my older two were in school. I found a job with the school district so I have summers off with them. After years of making things work and struggling this last year went pretty well. It’s not perfect but it is so much better then it was.

MaryPoppinSertraline
10 years ago

My only experience with nannying for a work-at-home mom consisted of staying upstairs with her two boys, while she worked out of her basement office as a remote call center rep for a Teletech company. Not nearly the same thing, I realize.

Maybe you’ve reached a point where it’s prudent to delegate the scut work somehow? To a student intern/researcher, for example? Your time is at a premium, and the help would allow you to focus on only the writing.

In lieu of that, another notion is to perhaps take advantage of free Wi-fi, and bring the boys somewhere they’ll stay entertained while you work. It’s at least an alternative to television.

Where I live, there’s a Parks and Rec program offering a supervised indoor/outdoor summer “Day Camp” where the kids play organized games, and do arts and crafts. If your area has something similar, it would free up hours out of your day.

One thing I’ve learned, is drastic times call for unusual methods. These suggestions may or may not help. If nothing else, they might get you thinking of creative alternatives better suiting your circumstances. :)

Michelle
Michelle
10 years ago

What Andrea said, totally! Ditch the idea that you’re supposed to be spoon-feeding enriched moments of interactiony learning goodness all the stinkin’ time and just let life roll the way it needs to be. It does all balance out. SRSLY.

Anne
Anne
10 years ago

There is. It’s called winning the lottery.

Maureen
Maureen
10 years ago

Nope, I must disagree-it doesn’t matter about the money. You know how you deal? Realize there is no such thing as flawless, and start enjoying your kids. Just enjoy being with them, without expectations. Know that you love them, they love you-and all is right in the world. Shit happens, they misbehave, you misbehave-but you keep going every single day. I am so glad the internet wasn’t around when I was raising my kid, I think it sets you up for failure. Your kids are lovely, you are a successful mother.

H
H
10 years ago

I agree with those who say there is no perfect scenario. I had some work-at-the-office years with daycare, some work-at-home years with daycare and some work-at-home years without daycare. The net of it is that there are always things that go wrong and things you could do better but your children are humans who make mistakes and misbehave. My children are grown (20 and 23) and I think that they are mighty fine people, not perfect people, but good people. I have regrets but I truly believe it is impossible to get it all right, all the time, so you do your best. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with questioning, as you are, because I think that is what keeps us on our toes. On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up.

Kristin
Kristin
10 years ago

I would have the same ideal as you. I always think being an author would be like that…sitting around an office in my home over-looking some gorgeous view, while sipping my orange juice and typing eloquent paragraphs. I’m not an author, but I would like to do what I described–with a dog under my feet, I might add.
But anyway, I was going to say, to get a new angle, maybe you should volunteer at a middle school. I teach middle school and those girls LOVE Kim Kardashian. Maybe you could find out what else they like… :-)

Amy
Amy
10 years ago

I think having kids that can entertain themselves should be a GOAL of parenting. Your kids, from the sound of it, are at that tough age where TV is one of the only means of “self” entertainment (read: entertainment sans parents) but it will get better. Workbooks, coloring books, those “where’s waldo?” type floor books from Costco – those things save my skin when I have a class to teach in – oh, say 2 hours – that is sorely lacking in the planning/lecture formation department. So I totally know that panicky – deadline-driven feeling of NEEDING to entertain/distract the kids for just one more minute. Not sure these methods are guilt-free but I agree with the other posters, I’m not sure there is a guilt-free option. And on those weeks between quarters when I’m off and don’t have (as much) work to do, I honestly don’t spend THAT much more time with direct one-on-one teaching or activities….I start them on something (probably in a bit more relaxed manner compared to when I’m busy) and then they take off with it. I inevitably find my own things to do, and we’re all being productive and happy in our own ways. But still together, which for me is better than a traditional work-outside-the-home job. Hang in there, sounds like you’re doing great!

Ness at Drovers Run
10 years ago

The perfect set up doesn’t even involve a full time nanny, since I know people who work from home with that advantage (friggin luxury) and the kids still find a way to come and *need mommy* for stuff. Right now, it’s damn near impossible to avoid the TV, unless I want to find one of my two boys seriously injured, whether by his brother, or just from sheer mad boyish craziness and shenanigans. So I pick CBeebies (British TV for kids – totally awesome – nothing scary, weird (unless you count the tellytubbies) or freakish, unlike the stuff you find on cartoon network)…which reminds me, I hear the strains of Ben10 coming from the lounge, so it’s time to confiscate the remote control…

JMH
JMH
10 years ago

I am a teacher, so I get to stay home with my kids in the summer and then I work the other 9.5 months of the year. However, I totally agree with Andrea (4:24). Kids NEED to learn how to be independent and how to entertain themselves. In fact, I read somehwere that parents today actually spend MORE time with their kids then parents in the ’50’s and ’60’s. Back then, kids went to school and then played with the neighborhood kids until dinner, etc. Interesting, eh?

Amanda
Amanda
10 years ago

My 3-year-old entertains herself without tv all the time. It’s called destroying the house. You can’t store play-dough high enough to keep her from getting it, prying off the lid, and mashing it into the carpet in the 5 minutes it takes to move laundry from the washer to the dryer.

Even if you do manage to find some guilt-free peace as a parent, rest assured that some super-mommy will come along and remind you that you are RUINING YOUR CHILD. Life is great like that.

Carrie
Carrie
10 years ago

Nope…no perfect parenting scenario…no perfect childcare scenario…no use looking for perfection here.

I left a demanding corporate job a little over a year ago to be with our children more. Our daughter was a newborn, and our son approaching four, and I figured that if there was ever a time, that was it. In the process of being home for a year, I decided to start a photography business and turn my long-time passion and hobby into something that could help support us.

On paper, it’s perfect. I work when I can/want. We avoid the high cost of day care (both financially and in terms of health – our son spent an entire winter sick one year, something I wish not to repeat). We kept our son in his preschool program but reduced his schedule dramatically. I figured, I’d work when he’s at school and when the baby is napping. And, she’s a crazy-easy baby, so I will also probably get work done while she’s quietly playing (cherub-like) with her books, blocks and dolls.

Right.

My daughter naps, and most days it’s a good one, but two to three hours isn’t really a lot of time when you’re working on building a blog, a website, a clientele and a marketing strategy. And the quiet playing ceased about a month ago, to be replaced by a crazy, menacing walking machine bent on turning over furniture on her head. So basically, I race to get done what I can while she sleeps, and then I work at night.

Ideal? Of course not. A whole lot less stressful than the life I was leading? Certainly. Different stresses invading (i.e. small business ownership, long-term financial implications, etc.)? Definitely. I traded one set of woes for another, no doubt about that.

But on the balance, I’m much happier, and my children are healthy and happy.

Now, to turn off Sesame Street which is occupying my 15-month old while I type this.

Carrie
Carrie
10 years ago

All of that is to say, I get you, Linda.

Sarah
Sarah
10 years ago

Please tell me that this crossed your feed this week:
http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/loving-parents-unhappy-children/

I have a similar type of job where the product appears to take 40 minutes, but in reality there is a tremendous amount of background work. I think that managing expectations (as you laid out the process here) is part of the battle. The writing doesn’t take long, its the prep. So you manage for it. Really be there with your kids when you aren’t working, and have patience with setting up the activities away from you. They really will be ok, we over program them so much nowadays, they need a break from us and from each other.

Nolita
10 years ago

Nope. Every part of parenting involves some sort of guilt (in my world anyway). Just don’t let it cause you to let the kids take advantage. A little TV time won’t kill them and I think it makes for a well-rounded kid. Maybe you could find a topic you’d like to write about and let us know so we can research/trendset for you? I think you have enough of a following to do that… whatever we can do to help with the writing because we love your writing! Happy Friday!

Ed
Ed
10 years ago

You don’t have to sift through Flickr -just write what you’re looking for @ http://creativecommons.org/ and it’ll give you only CC images

Nik-Nak
10 years ago

I always wondered why all those random words were bolded hahaha

Amber
Amber
10 years ago

I used to have a full time job where I worked from home 20 hours a week and worked in the office the other 20. It was great in that for the afternoon hours I was home with my girls, I could pretty much focus on them (with the caveat that I answered emails and phone calls during business hours). However, once I got them to bed it was time to roll up my sleeves and do the REAL work. And somehow find time to do the day-to-day cleaning. End result? I was up at 6 with my early-to-rise girls, working, home with them but actually working, then working some more and cleaning, and falling in bed somewhere around midnight on a good night. Usually much later. It was kind of a beating.

Now I work in the office full time and I see my kids much less and my mother-in-law watches them during the day. I feel much less harried with a clear division between work and home, but yesterday, my five-year-old declared that she has TWO mamas and started addressing her grandmother as mama. Then she stabbed me in the heart and danced on my bleeding corpse.

I don’t really know which situation is better, at this point.

Rachel
10 years ago

Parenting without guilt? Whaaaa?? I don’t know what you speak of.

I work full-time in a soul sucking and mind numbing job. In the odd little part of the world I live in, the vast majority of women in my area are stay-at-home mothers, so the guilt of working and being away from my child is often intense. My husband watches her during the day, but he also works from home part-time as he finishes his degree. Little Einsteins and Toy Story regularly save the day.

There is no perfect scenario for anyone. However, I will admit that I am often jealous of mothers who stay home, working or not, because good crap it just seems so much easier when the problems of life crop up, like a sick kid, you know? But then again, I know things aren’t always peachy in their situations either. The grass is always greener, right?

Perfection IS a myth, but fortunately, happiness isn’t :) Hopefully someday we can all find our balance, perfect or not.

cagey
10 years ago

Over the past 6 years in my “Staying at Home” gig, I have periodically added “Working From Home” to my list of duties. In fact, I have worked from home in three different capacities and each one involved a complicated web of TV, new toys, a little bit of extra babysitting and nerves of steel. Ultimately, I was relieved when each gig ended and I could go back to “just” being a mom who “stays”. :-)

Kudos to you for being upfront about the Myth.

Farrell
10 years ago

Andrea and Amy both make good points.

Also, I work from home two days a week; in office 3. When I work from home, my 6 1/2 year old is NOT with me. Because if she was, I couldn’t get ANY work done.

Rachel
Rachel
10 years ago

I have met people who claim to have found a perfectly flawless setup.

Their children are invariably poorly socialized, horrendously behaved, ill groomed and with rotting teeth because the setup is: not doing anything that the child doesn’t want to do.

I shudder to think how that is going to work when the kid is 10…15…30 years old.

All the rest of us acknowledge that everything is a sacrifice and you have to try your best with what you’ve got and what you can work towards for your future.

melissa
10 years ago

As much as I love my girls and I know how blessed I am to be able to work from home and keep them here with me…I cannot wait for #2 to start school (in 2 more years). I cannot even fathom how much work I’ll get done without constantly filling juice cups and playing referee. I’m not freelancing, I’m on salary for a 40 hour work week (web developer) and I do get it done, but sometimes I understand what day care is for and why I loved it for the short time we used it. The TV is pretty much my best friend. The only real question is how long can I last each day before polly pocket play turns violent and they cannot get along and I turn on the TV and say GO. WATCH. I can usually make it until 3pm, but not always.

Also ‘above the fold (or jump)’ and randomly bolded words…those practices are directly from the devil.

Jennifer
Jennifer
10 years ago

So what’s the deal with “the jump”? Why do they do that? Is there some logical reason for it? Is it beneficial to someone, somewhere? Hate it!

Carrie
Carrie
10 years ago

Oh, and I’m with Jennifer. I hate the jump.

And, can you tell my children are watching EXTRA tv today, as I make my third comment in a few hours? BEST PARENT EVER = ME.

Faith
Faith
10 years ago

There have been a couple of really good points here. I loved that NY Times article another commenter linked to, and I totally agree with Amy. I feel guilty for not spending enough time playing with my one-year-old, but let’s face it, even when I AM playing with her, I’m basically just sitting on the floor with her while she does her own thing. She does watch a LOT more baby einstein than I would like, but it’s necessary for me to get my work done, and when I’m finished, I can be with her instead of picking her up from the daycare. Perfect is definitely a myth.. we’re all just trying to get as close to it as we can, and some of us are breaking down in the process. I think perfection lies in the acceptance of ourselves doing the best we can and hoping it works out in the end. Good luck!

Jessica
10 years ago

Yeah, like everyone has been saying, I don’t think there’s a perfect set up. I’m staying at home with my 4 month old and tried getting a part time night job but that lasted ONE day. Not only was I tired and grumpy the next morning when my LO rised and shined at 6am, but I had to be personally escorted by the boss over to a private office where I could pump my milk when I was on the job. Now we’re struggling financially…I don’t think us moms can win unless we’re filthy rich.

Jen
Jen
10 years ago

No perfect solution, no. I’ve given up on trying to get anything done with both girls at home. I can answer an email or two throughout the day (thank you, smart phone!) but that’s about it. I just cannot concentrate long enough to do anything worthwhile when my 9 month old is eating shoes and my 4 year old needs her butt wiped, AGAIN. (HOW MANY TIMES A DAY CAN YOU POOP, MY GOD, KID??!)

Shawna
Shawna
10 years ago

My mom stayed home. She’s fond of saying, “You were great kids. I NEVER saw you!”

What she means is, she gardened and cooked and did some farm-type stuff, and my sister and I did whatever we did (read, played, fished for minnows in the nearby creek, looked for eggs the chickens had hidden, etc.). The concept of a mother having to occupy children and interact with them all day was pretty much unheard of back then.

I’m not sure when or how the expectations changed and parents started to have to spend every moment doing things with their kids, and cannot let kids out of our sight for one second for fear that something BAD will happen…

Erin@MommyontheSpot
10 years ago

Guilt can suck it. ARen’t we all doing the best that we can. I think moms need to be kinder to themselves. Myself included!

Amy
Amy
10 years ago

Thanks for putting into words my daily frustration – and allowing me to recognize that this has been a mom’s balance battle from the beginning of time. I too work from home – mostly phone counseling and hushing 3 little ladies has become a regular challenge. It’s nice to not feel so alone as a distracted mom who ‘wants it all’ – from driving car pool to feeling relevant in the professional world.

EB
EB
10 years ago

Can you hire a neighborhood kid (like teenager, or pre-teen) that can hang out with them for a few hours? They won’t cost much, you’ll be there to make sure nothing really bad happens, and you’ll give a kid a part time job. And they’ll have someone to play with.

Melissa
Melissa
10 years ago

I hear you. I’ve finally started some freelancing in the last six months and it is very time consuming. I’m using the tv and doing a lot of shushing myself. I’m only able to churn out 1 or 2 a week. Three articles a day…damn girl….I give you a lot of credit.

Taube
Taube
10 years ago

It’s totally ok to let your kids watch tv! SO many shows are educational these days! My kids have learned SO much from tv! And how else am I supposed to get chores done? I totally don’t feel bad about it at all, and I don’t know any mothers who don’t use tv as a babysitter, especially come 5 pm, aka Crazy Time!