Today’s post by author Sonya Cobb | @CobbSonya
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.
* * *
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?