Having grown up in a small tourist town in Northern Michigan, Memorial Day weekend has always been a different experience for me and mine. Tawasians don’t leave town for three-day weekends. Not only are we already in the kind of place most of the country is escaping to, but often, we work on Memorial Day. A town can’t close down when half the state is visiting. Plus, there’s invariably some parade of indiscernible tone happening that you have to be in or organize or attend.
If you pay tax estimates, you know it’s currently the worst time of year. While everyone else is planning to blow their tax return on a Memorial Day excursion, we have just paid our tax bill for last year and our first quarterly estimate in April, and for some infuriating reason, the second quarter is about to be due in June. So if you made more money last year than the year before–which is everyone’s goal–three huge tax bills are due in a two month span. Hey, IRS, that’s not how you divide 12 into four.
Story ideas: They are the hardest part of writing for me, with no close contender for second place. I wish this was due to that mystical concept that inspiration is elusive, requiring a muse or divine intervention or some such nonsense. No, I confess, in my experience ideas abound when you work hard for them. They escape you when you’re being lazy.
Well, I had a kid. And here I am, back behind my desk, working on the new challenge of keeping a tiny person fed, clothed and housed with the same old task of typing thoughts into the internet. We could segue into the miracle of childbirth here, but everyone has heard that before. Plus, I personally found the experience less miraculous and more a sciencey. Very cool, life-changing, intense science, but it definitely fit more into the scientific marvel than mystic miracle category for me. Not sure why that matters, but there it is.
To me, the real mystic happening is how parenthood changes this, the state of being a freelancer. I am doing, or getting back to doing at least, the same thing I was doing six weeks ago. Filtering my inbox, reaching out to sources, setting up interviews, researching and crafting stories from the results. But my motivations, methods and philosophy around all of it have shifted. Not drastically, but still dramatically; the way a silver of sunlight in the corner of window changes the lighting in an entire house. Here’s how.
It’s almost time: I’m about to “go on maternity leave.” Except I’m not “going” anywhere. I’m not “leaving” anything. My work, rather, is leaving me, at my own request. Essentially, I am becoming voluntarily unemployed for several weeks, hoping that when I’m ready, the work will return, like a boomerang I’ve never thrown before. It’s supposed to return. There’s no reason to suspect it won’t. But that’s assuming I executed the throw correctly. On my first try.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting an increasing number of the same type of comment/question, to the point that it’s now happening on a daily basis: “Are you absolutely miserable?”
“I bet you want that kid out of there!”
“Are you hanging in there?”
Guys. I’m fine. Yes, I’m 38 weeks pregnant. I’m carrying significant evidence of that fact around with me between my hips and my ribcage. But I don’t know how to credibly explain to anyone that other than the fact that cartwheels aren’t on my agenda, I feel remarkably normal.
Brigid Schule’s book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time just blew my effing mind. From the fact that constant stress and overwhelm causes our brains to physically shrink (something of which I am already in constant fear) to the revelation that women have been virtually conditioned away from leisure for all of human history, it’s overflowing with information that is both so personal and logical you feel like you’ve known it all along and so revolutionary you are apt to want to change everything about the way to do everything. It’s a good book. You should read it. It contains things important for every employee, employer, woman, spouse and parent should know to be better at being any of those things.
A major takeaway for me as a freelancer, however, was the concept of the ideal worker that permeates American work culture, and the startling realization that we freelancers, who have every reason to not ascribe to it, self-impose it all the same.