Well, since the preschool transition conference was cancelled, I really don’t have any updates on that front. You guys will just have to wait until next week to hear more about that drama.
So, I decided that it was about time for me to share how I became a work-at-home mom. I’m pretty sure most of you can guess how I became a mom, so I’ll spare you those details and focus on the “work-at-home” part.
Anyone who knows me IRL knows most (or all) of the events that led to my current employment situation. But I’m hoping that, for those to which this condition applies, this post will also provide you with a little additional insight into the motivation and emotions that influenced the decisions I have made to get here.
I’ll give you a hint…laziness and fear factor in much more than I’m sure most people realize.
A month after I graduated from art school, I was hired as the Online Designer for a national special-interest magazine. The pay was pretty good, just about all of the other employees were awesome people, I had benefits and a 401K and I learned how to use the coffee maker. It was a pretty alright gig.
I worked hard, and tried to impress my bosses. I volunteered to do things that were above what they had asked for, and if they asked for something I didn’t know how to do, I went home and stayed up half the night figuring out how to do it.
During this time, I also started doing freelance graphic and web design work for friends of friends. I did a medical website and business cards for a motivational speaker (note to self – tell the story about the jar of beans sometime). It brought in a little extra cash every now and then, and it was never really stressful, so I enjoyed it alright.
A few months after I started this job, Kyla moved to the city where I had been living and working, and we got an apartment together. Several months later, we were engaged, and planned to get married the following May. We were excited about where our life was going, and doing pretty well for ourselves.
Then, one day, I went in to work, and saw a bunch of people talking in the kitchen. One of our coworkers, an assistant editor, was being let go.
Just like that.
She went in to work one day and found out that she no longer had a job. This was in 2006, before the bottom fell out of the economy, but the publishing world was already taking a huge hit. This absolutely terrified me.
I didn’t want to lose my job. I thought my position was too important for me to be laid off, but I had also assumed that about her position. I would much rather quit than be fired/laid off/whatever…I wanted it to be my decision. I did not want to keep working my butt off and then have someone else tell me that it wasn’t good enough.
It’s not that I thought that she had “failed,” or not done her job. I know it was because a bunch of higher-up-someones spent too much money on shit they didn’t need and it trickled down through company politics until the decision was made to “downsize” someone, and she was chosen.
But if I was “downsized,” in my mind, it would mean that I had failed. It would mean that I was not good enough. And that was a possibility that I was unwilling to face.
So, Kyla and I had already talked about moving back to our home state at some point (not our hometown, because I needed a Target and varying retail options since I had lived in bigger cities for the past few years), and I pushed for “some point” to be “now.”
Then, I had this great idea. I was going to not get a job and stay at home, and be a freelance web designer. I really wanted to work at home, and had decided that the 9 to 5 desk job life really wasn’t my thing. I had a few good freelance clients, and had the potential to get more, so I decided that I would not look for a job.
Yes, I know…I say that I’m terrified of failure, yet I decide that I’m going to be self-employed, which moves personal and financial failure out of the “possible” category and into the “highly likely” category. Doesn’t seem to make much sense, but here’s the thing…it totally does.
I did the math, and had decided that his income would be enough to get us by alright until I could make some money. This seemed way easier, in my mind, than trying to find a job doing what I wanted that didn’t require me to be at work during regular business hours every single weekday in business casual clothes in a town that had little to no market for my skills anyway.
On top of that, I just didn’t want to have a job anymore. I would much rather sleep late and hang out in my pajamas in front of my computer all day. So that’s what I decided to do.
Kyla and I discussed it, and he agreed to go along with my plan. Because he’s the best husband ever.
I gave my notice, Kyla asked for a transfer, and we prepared for our wedding. Less than three months later, we were newly married, living in a new city, with a new mortgage, and only one real job between us.
For real. I just decided not to get a job. That’s how I started working-from-home.
Now, here is the part where I got lucky, because several of the great people I worked with changed jobs more often than some people change their air filters. Since I had made such a big impression on them, they called me from their new jobs, and asked if I’d give them an estimate on this project they were working on. And then I would get the job.
Then they told people that I was cheap and awesome (web design, people, web design), and those people contacted me for estimates, and then I got those jobs. Then, every year or two, these people needed their sites redesigned, or went to work somewhere else, and so on.
Sometimes, no one calls. No one emails. And those times suck a lot if they last for more than a few weeks. But those times also give me a little bit of a vacation, and if I save money when I am making it, and put it back for the times when I’m not, it usually works out. Generally, I’ve been able to get enough work to keep me busy solely through word-of-mouth referrals.
Now, I’m the only person I have to answer to if I’m not good enough. The money that I bring in is almost always directly proportional to how hard I work. And I’m able to be at home, with my girls, every single day.
It’s never EASY. There are nights that I know my children are falling asleep to the sound of me chicken-pecking out some code, and days when I’m already checking my email before they’ve even had breakfast. I constantly wonder if my girls will remember the silhouette of my head back-lit against the computer screen more than they remember me smiling and playing with them.
But it is WONDERFUL. I know that I am doing the best that I can for them. I’m able to be with them, to teach them, to play with them, to cuddle in bed at 9:30 on a Tuesday morning with them. I’m here for therapies and meetings and evaluations and doctor appointments. I am here to change their diapers and feed them and love them and watch them grow. And I’m still able to contribute to our family’s financial stability.
I think I have worked hard enough to deserve to have this arrangement, but I also realize that I am extremely lucky and blessed to be able to continue to have it. I’ve had so much support from my friends, my family, my awesome in-laws and my amazing parents, and most of all, my fantastic husband. And anytime I feel scared of failing or like my motivation is slipping, I have my two wonderful little girls, who give me a reason every day to pick myself up and “just do it.”
Now, once I can teach these little girls some coding, we’ll be all set.