Friday, December 07, 2007

Working hard for the money

So, I've got a dilemna I'm trying to resolve about going back to full-time work.

I'm not sure I ever really posted about my decision to stay at home after the babies were born. Prior to the infertility, I had spent four years working as a freelance computer programmer, but I'd gotten burned out even before adding the infertility upheaval into the mix, and I took a full-time job a couple months after I started blogging.

I stayed with that company throughout my pregnancy, and sometimes wish I could have continued. I really liked the job, especially in the first few months, loved what I was doing and the people I was working with. Later, the new VP of Operations brought a different atmosphere, but not really a bad one, just more corporate and less free-wheeling. This is pretty common for tech companies moving out of the small startup stage, but it's a bummer if you *like* the startup approach to life, which I mostly do.

The most notable change was that the programmers, who had previously been free to work from home or in-house as they chose, were now required to work mostly in the office. Initially, this didn't affect me that much, because I actually liked going into the office, and getting dressed up and interacting with people, after years of barely leaving my house. Ironically, it was not long after that point when my doctor strongly encouraged me to begin working from home, due to the uterine irritability issues. I worked from home the rest of the pregnancy, and if I could have continued to work mostly from home, I would probably have stayed with the company after the babies were born.

However, that wasn't an option, and for me, going back to an office job wasn't an option either. I was nursing, and I was very hesitant about leaving my tiny babies with a non-family caregiver, and frankly I just didn't want to leave them. So I turned in my notice, didn't work at all for a couple of months, and then went back to freelancing on a very part-time basis. I meant to work just a couple hours a week, in the evenings and while the babies napped, enough to bring me in a little bit of extra cash while allowing me to basically be a SAHM.

This worked well throughout the winter, when the babies slept a lot. It got harder in the spring, as they became more awake and demanding, and by the start of the summer, I hired a college student to babysit in-house for three afternoons a week. When she left in August, I found a high-school student, who comes (theoretically) every afternoon for three hours. In a lot of ways, this is ideal, and I'd recommend something like this to any mother of twins, even if you're not working from home. It's really nice to have a few hours to go to the grocery store, or to pay the bills and run errands, or to go and get your hair cut, without hauling a toddler or two around all the time. The babies also go to Mother's Morning Out twice a week, and I take my laptop to a coffee shop and work while they're there.

However, my work situation has gotten more and more demanding. My old clients keep handing me more work, and my business partner's gotten us involved in some new projects which require some very specialized skills -- I literally don't know of anyone else in town who's capable of doing the work. I worked nearly full-time in the weeks after my knee surgery, when I had a babysitter there anyway, and I think that also encouraged everyone to pile work on me.

The upshot of it all is that I have enough work to keep me busy for at least two months, realistically more like three, if I bill as much as I reasonably can with my current child-care arrangements. And it's not like I'll finish that and be done, either -- I expect more work to come in while I'm taking care of this stuff. The nature of the freelance business is to have ups and downs, but for the foreseeable future, there's as much work available to me as I feel like doing. On top of this, I have some school commitments necessary to complete my master's degree this spring.

I have enjoyed being a SAHM. I like spending time with my children and doing motherly things, even the not-very-exciting ones like laundry and baths. I like the freedom of being a SAHM, the ability to go hang out with my mom friends and their kids, to go have lunch with Daddy any day we like, to go to the park because it's a beautiful day and there's nothing else I have to do.

The part-time work was the optimal situation, because it's a little bit of intellectual stimulation and some extra cash, but it wouldn't interfere with my lifestyle too much. At least, that was the theory. I'd still have every morning and two afternoons a week to spend with the babies... or, every morning... or, now, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. They nap from roughly 12 to 2, the babysitter's here from 2:30 to 5:30 or so, and then it's pretty much time for supper, baths, and bed. I've essentially turned into a full-time working mother without quite realizing it. I'm still pretending I'm a SAHM and can do SAHM-type things, but underneath the denial I know that's not really the case.

Part-time isn't working any more. I knew this would probably eventually happen, because that's the nature of the freelance industry -- work tends to expand to fill all available time. So, I've got to decide whether I'm going to go back to full-time freelancing, with an in-house full-time nanny, or to hang it all up and be a SAHM. My mother's found a potential nanny, and I've been chewing the idea over for weeks. I think I've more or less made a decision, although I can't say I really like it, but I don't see what else I can do.

So, gentle readers, what do you think that decision is?

----------------- to be continued -----------------


Eva said...

Well, from the tone of your post, it sounds like you're going back to full time. Do tell either way!

Stacey said...

I'm gonna miss you...

Cass said...

It's so hard to find that balance, isn't it? I've been in a similar part-time-from-home situation, except that mine has tended toward the other direction -- I don't get nearly enough done to really feel like I'm accomplishing anything. So I'm curious to see how this works for you, whichever direction you're going.

Suz said...

Sounds like full does have it's drawbacks but the full time in-home nanny works well for us.