Working And Mothering From Home: A Horror Story

Today’s post by author Sonya Cobb | @CobbSonya

Sonya Cobb

Sonya Cobb

I was hiding behind the shower curtain, hand clamped over my mouth, phone jammed against my ear, sweat pouring into my eyes.  In the next room, my daughter’s screams were ratcheting from anxiety to desperation to mindless panic.

There was no man with a knife silhouetted against the shower curtain.  There was, however, an important client on the phone, and he wanted to know what I thought about the change in strategy we were considering.  I didn’t know we were considering a change of strategy.  I didn’t even know what the original strategy was, because the document was sitting on my desk in the room where my baby was screaming her head off.  Cue Psycho music.

I learned an important lesson that day:  if you try to work and parent at the same time, you will end up doing a half-assed job of both.

Later on I would ask myself why I didn’t politely excuse myself from that phone call and arrange to have the conversation another time.  I wondered why I hadn’t trained my daughter to soothe herself back to sleep after her usual ten-minute micronap.  But in both roles – freelancer and mother – I was tentative, inexperienced, and desperate to succeed.

We needed two incomes, but I avoided getting a full-time job because I wasn’t ready to put my daughter into full-time daycare.  I figured I’d stuff some freelance work into the cracks and crevices of my day, scheduling conference calls during my daughter’s naps, working on assignments after my husband got home.  The rest of the time, I’d nurse my baby, provide lots of meaningful eye contact, and watch her personality unfold.

But the work was slow to come, leaving me in no position to dictate my clients’ conference call schedules.  I became well acquainted with my phone’s mute button as I perfected the art of multitasking:  working while nursing.  Working while changing diapers.  Working while frantically dabbing spit-up off my keyboard.

It wasn’t working.  After the bathtub debacle I finally hired a babysitter, even though the math was all wrong.  My hourly rate was higher than the sitter’s, but I had to pay her whether I was working or not.  That led to some strange afternoons spent shopping for clothes I couldn’t afford, just because I felt weird sitting at home reading magazines while the sitter played with my baby.

Eventually the work began to flow more regularly, and I got better at budgeting the needs of my baby, clients and childcare provider.  But it took a long time, and when I look back, I consider it one of the most exhausting and conflicted periods of my life.  When I think about women whose hourly wage is lower than the cost of childcare, who struggle every day just to provide food for their kids (never mind meaningful eye contact), I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  But I never look at a new mom juggling the demands of work and motherhood – no matter her socioeconomic circumstances – without sympathy, respect, and the sound of Psycho music echoing in my head.

* * *

The Objects of Her Affection - coverHer Heists Paid the Bills.
Her Family Paid the Price.

Sophie Porter is the last person in the world you’d expect to be stealing Renaissance masterpieces—and that’s exactly why she’s so good at it. Slipping objects out of her husband’s office at the Philadelphia Museum of Art satisfies something deep inside, during a time in her life when satisfactions are few and far between.

Selling the treasures also happens to keep their house out of foreclosure — a house that means everything to Sophie. But the FBI is sniffing around, and Sophie is close to destroying the very life she’s working so hard to build. She knows she should give up her thieving ways. But she may no longer be in control. The Objects of Her Affection is a riveting story about the realities of motherhood, the perils of secrecy, and the art of appraising the real treasures in our lives.

“This thrilling, emotional, and tautly paced novel will appeal to fans of The Book Thief…[Cobb's] brilliant first novel is the story of a woman with nothing and everything to lose.”—Booklist, starred review

Question: have you ever worked from home while caring for young children? How’d it go?

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

5 Responses to Working And Mothering From Home: A Horror Story

  1. Willow Feller August 11, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Funny you should ask–I just blogged about this topic today: http://wp.me/p2RTmS-i4 . Working from home with a toddler in the house was one of the craziest times of my life. Looking back, I would say the jury is still out as to whether or not I’d recommend it. I love Sandra’s mental insertion of the Psycho music. That would have been the perfect soundtrack to some of my mischievous toddler’s antics while I tried to run an office from my home. I can’t wait to read Sandra’s book!

  2. Willow Feller August 11, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Oops, I meant Sonya, not Sandra. Silly me.

  3. Laurie I August 12, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Nope, I never did. In fact, I had to work outside of the home when my daughter was little; or at least I thought I did. Then an incident occurred with her babysitter and I was distraught about it. I went to work, told one of my managers about it and started to cry. Shortly thereafter I talked to my husband about our budget and we decided I could stop working. I did until she was a teenager, even then it was only part-time, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

  4. Davida Chazan August 16, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I went back to work as quickly as I could after my kids were born. And only many years later did I ever work from home. By the way, I loved this book and my review is here:
    http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-sparkle-and-its-tarnish/

  5. Otto September 8, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice,
    keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road.

    Cheers

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