The ‘mental problems’ category

The Daily Travails of Being a Work-at-Home Mom

May 31st, 2018

   

Yesterday I had a call with a brand new client I was obviously hoping to impress. I have client calls a lot, often your basic videoconference sessions. As long as I look alert and perky, and remember to brush my hair, I don’t really have to be actually present mentally.

But this was the other type of call — the old-fashioned kind where it was just me and one guy on the line, and I was in charge of leading the call. My task was to interview him about a subject I know nothing about — a technical subject outside the scope of what I usually dabble in —and write an article by today. I needed to be paying attention, big time. I prepped for the call for an hour.

My kids don’t really care about my job. At about minute 10, Eliza burst in demanding that I help her poop. We have a relatively new nanny on Wednesdays, and she’s wonderful, but she hasn’t achieved poop-wipe status, according to my kids. We discovered this a few weeks ago when Phoebe had one of her only #2 accidents ever. At first I thought she was just too busy building trains to bother going to the bathroom, but later I figured out that she actually was too shy to ask the nanny for help.

“If you have to go poopy,” I told them both, “just come get me.”

Joslyn!

So that’s why Eliza burst in yesterday, needing help with the pooping. Right behind her, Phoebe, who doesn’t like to be left out of a good bathroom bonding sesh. And on her heels, the poor nanny, doing her best to wrangle them back downstairs.

I was hot and heavy in the note-taking part of this call, trying to simultaneously insert probing, intelligent-sounding questions and also write down every single thing this guy said in case the recording failed. Sidebar on that — I had just downloaded a new recording app and it was my test run.

I followed Eliza into the bathroom, with one finger on the mute button so I could periodically press it to interject a word here or there during an opportune moment. Eliza, er, ate a lot of grapes that morning. So that was the first problem. The bathroom thing became kind of a scene.  I finally gave her a good swipe and said, “I’m sorry Lize, but mama has to finish this call.” Then I tried to send her off.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if that actually worked?

I bet you guys have met a three-year old, so by now you know that it didn’t. Instead, she became very clingy and whiny and begged me to stay in the bathroom with her. The guy I was interviewing was elaborating dramatically on an idea he had for the article, which was good. But I was panicky that he would run out of things to say, and I’d be forced to unmute the line.

So I ran downstairs, with both of my kids hot on my heels, like tiny little White Walkers — not super fast but relentless and menacing — at least one of them yelling “I STILL NEED TO POOOOOOOOOOOOOOPY MORE!” I paced the house looking for a quite corner to talk, cursing the fact that I hadn’t grabbed my laptop on the way down. Now, I couldn’t take notes at all.

At this point, I just wanted to get through the call without this guy thinking I was a total amateur. So I ran outside, and down the hill in front of our house. Surely, I can outrun a three-year old? Turning around, I realized I had two toddlers and the nanny in hot pursuit, zombie-movie style. As a last resort, I ran back inside, grabbed my keys, jumped in the car, and drove away, as my nanny tried to restrain my screaming, inconsolable child.

Luckily, he was still talking. And thankfully, the recording worked. When I listened back to it later (adding another hour to my already overbooked day), I flinched at my poorly interjected “go ons” and”mmhmms” that really made no sense in the flow of conversation. And the annoying sound of the wind as I ran through the yard barefoot at mock ten, forgetting to keep the phone on mute. And the neighbor’s cat, mewing in excitement that I was outside, obviously to pet her. Yet another creature needing me RIGHT NOW.

But most importantly, I flinched at the vision of myself running away from my kids at full speed, and what that must have looked like (and felt like) to them. These are the travails of working at home. On the one hand, I am here for my daughters when they need a mom. On the other hand, I am always here for my daughters when I need to work. It’s not so much a balancing act as a free-for-all in which you just hope it all works out in the end, and that you don’t get fired by each client.

 

 

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