Work-at-home mom: I don’t know how I did it!

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I read the book I Don’t Know How she Does it, by Allison Pearson, when it was released in 2002. It will soon be out in DVD, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan. I can’t wait to see it, although it doesn’t seem to have enjoyed much success in movie theaters. In many ways, I can relate to Kate Reddy, the multi-tasking working mom who is the protagonist.

When I first read the book, I was the working mom of a one-year-old and was planning on having baby number two. Granted, as a life-long freelancer, I never suffered corporate pressures, cut-throat colleagues or the constraints of a 9-5 schedule. But, working from home can be equally challenging when you have kids.

Sometimes you have to choose between getting your work done or cleaning the toilets or deal with a tantrum when you need to take an important call. In terms of cleaning, you learn to overlook the mess in favor of excelling at your career, so please just don’t show up at my place unannounced!

I consider myself to be an efficient multi-tasker, but on looking back at some of the things I’ve managed to pull off, I wonder exactly how I did it. Here are a few:

  • Worked on a translation with a tight deadline, tapping away at the keyboard while breastfeeding my baby. I will never forget the feeling of her head bobbing up and down, while I tried to concentrate and be calm all at once. I do not recommend this!
  • Wrote a book about having fun with one’s kids, while my baby crawled at my feet and my three year-old played ball inside the house. I made my deadline, by the way.
  • Did a gig as a language interpreter with my six-month old baby in tow. I had no babysitter, I needed the gig, and so I acted as though it were normal to show up at work with a baby strapped to my back, and I did my job. Incidentally, I got hired again after that.
  • Took my kids to a live interview on TV. The little one, who was 2 or 3 years old, started crying, so both my daughters ended up sitting next to me, throwing cheerios at the cameraman while I was interviewed.

Those are just a few instances of many, when I’ve felt I had no choice but to combine work and motherhood in the most literal sense, without giving it a second thought.

Now that my kids are a bit older (the eldest is ten), they’re more than used to having me work round the clock, in pockets of time, intertwining my profession with child-rearing in such a way that I almost can’t conceive of one without the other. I can do an interview on the phone while my kids do their homework and then write up the article at bedtime, while they read. They know what I’m doing and they’re proud of it. I also get involved in their school projects, so it feels natural for us to work side by side often.

It’s also a bit easier, since I’m divorced, and their dad and I share our time with them, so now we both juggle work and parenthood. Somehow, I’ve found, there is an upside to divorce.

Would I have it any other way? Not really. The other day I overheard my youngest, seven, telling her elder sister: “Mommy is a writer, so she can spend more time with us. Aren’t we lucky?”

What are your “I don’t know how I did it” anecdotes as a working mom?

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