Every new mother must, at some point, realize that her (pre-baby) idea of what life after baby will be like is actually very different from her initial expectations. In my case, this situation has been reinforced routinely over the past 7 months. Here's my take on it, at various times:
B.B. (Before Baby)
I led a dual career…my days were spent tending my freelance writing business. I was very active in networking groups and the local chamber of commerce. I had an eagle eye out for clients who might have a use for my copywriting services. I spent the days in my home office working on marketing projects to further my business or writing drafts for assignments already in progress.
My evenings, at least a few times a week, were often dedicated to playing gigs (for those of you who don't know, I play saxophone—mostly jazz music). One afternoon a week I taught lessons at a local music store.
(A.B.) After Baby
What did I expect would happen after having M? Well, I figured I'd cut back on gigs a bit. I have done this—somewhat by choice (I'm a bit more selective about which gigs I take) but also because of various situations out of my control, as the jazz scene is not exactly prospering in Central Illinois (a steady Friday night gig was cancelled and a semi-steady seasonal summer gig got cut back). I do still teach lessons once a week. So I suppose the music portion of my life has remained primarily unchanged (with the exception that I'm pretty sure I won't be able to practice again for the next 18 years).
My "day job," however, is the real shocker. One of the reasons I decided to launch my writing biz was because I wanted a career in which I could work from home, for the sole purpose of when we had kids I'd be able to be home with them. What I didn't know is how little work actually can be done with a baby around. It really is difficult to check and respond to email when you have to keep jumping up to make sure Juniorette isn't sticking her hand in a light socket or something. And it's nearly impossible to embark on work that actually entails thinking…I, at least, need time to get into a groove, and the 15 minutes up for grabs during M's naps just aren't conducive to the process.
So, I've already dropped one of my networking memberships. I'm considering dropping my chamber of commerce membership because the events I need to attend are not at convenient times. Besides that fact, I don't know where I'd find the time to nurture new relationships right now if I did meet prospective clients. So for now, I'm relying on a few existing clients who continue to send me work (thanks, guys). And the work I do have, I conduct at night after M is in bed. I can steal a few hours this way, anyway.
How do I feel about this? I'm not sure. Some days I'm kind of bummed about it. I feel like I worked so hard to build up a client base and now it's merely being tossed to the wind. I feel that maybe I could maintain some of these relationships if I only worked a little harder…but by the end of the day I'm so exhausted that I don't have the energy to put the time and effort towards finding new business. And I'm afraid that, if new business started to come to me, I'd not be able to find the time to meet my obligations. I certainly don't want to make a commitment and not be able to follow through.
Other days—most days, actually—I'm thrilled to be the primary caregiver of M. I'm with her everyday and I enjoy watching her explore and learn. She doesn't have to spend her hours in daycare with a bunch of other kids, seeing Mommy only in the morning for a bit and at night for an hour or two. It's just that every now and then I get so tired…being a mom is hard work, harder than I ever imagined. The 24-7 parenting thing is a very real thing.
I know my situation is far from unique. But it's new to me, and I'm still figuring out how to adjust. Maybe in January I'll look into having someone come to the house a couple of afternoons during the week to look after M while I devote more time to my biz. For now, though, I need to make peace with the fact that I've gone from gung-ho businesswoman to homebound matriarch. I've decided that the matriarchal position can be a self-esteem booster, though. I have a family to take care of now, not so much by bringing in money, but by meeting everyone's needs in a variety of ways: physically (hugs, kisses), emotionally (encouragement, reassurance) and by doing things women have been responsible for for years (putting dinner on the table, keeping everyone's clothes clean, etc.). I resisted this role for quite a while, but now it seems like I have a reason to take pride in these tasks which once seemed so mundane. I've got my own family…not just the family I grew up in, with my own mother and father and sister, but a family I've helped to create. And that's something to be very proud of.