Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Motherhood: The Mother of Re-Invention?

If necessity is the mother of invention, could motherhood be the mother of re-invention? I hope so. As The Grape's first birthday approaches, I've started to think more about the working world. I've written before about feeling torn between my periodic desire to re-join the grown up realm and the urge to stay home because he's only little once. But I haven't, until very recently, given much thought to what I would do with myself if I were to start looking for (paying) work.

Naturally I have my dream scenario. I've been shopping a manuscript for a novel, one that would have been called "chick lit" before that term fell out of fashion. It's actually my second book; the first resides in a cluttered desk drawer awaiting massive revisions. While I've been fortunate, because more than one professional has encouraged me to keep submitting my work, and a couple have expressed real enthusiasm, my manuscript has yet to find a home. But I'm stubborn, and lacking a "real job," so I keep writing. I've penned a hundred pages of a third novel over the past couple of months. I tell myself that at least I'm prolific, while my finished manuscript floats along in publishing purgatory.

So that's my grand fantasy. I'm having a great time indulging it, even though many good friends, who have followed my writing exploits for more than a couple of years, have started smiling sympathetically when I explain that the book is still making the rounds, or it's almost revised, or Agent X said he loved the voice but wanted the plot tweaked in a way that necessitates changing every chapter.

Suffice to say, Aspiring Novelist is not the most lucrative career choice. Nor is Published Novelist, in most cases. Many days I think Aspiring Novelist is enough to fill the career void for me, and if it's meant to work out, it will. Although probably not on a timeline of my choosing. Some days I feel guilty sending The Grape off with his (wonderful, fantastic, amazing) sitter so I can indulge in a few consecutive hours of writing time.

Other days, I wonder, what if it's not meant to be? What then? Is being a stay at home mom enough?

I can answer with complete certainty, that it is. Until about noon or one o'clock each day. As the average afternoon wears on and I start looking at my watch to check if R. will be home soon, I kind of miss going to an office. But what kind of office?

I was a headhunter for years. Maybe I would do that again. I've heard urban legends about headhunters who do well working part time, but in my experience the phone rang all day, every day. And most of my clients were sort of peculiar, in that they wanted to talk to me when it was convenient for them. Not for me (or presumably for my kid).

People ask, why not the family business? It's a fair inquiry, especially since my brother works there. Short answer: my father and I cannot collaborate collegially on something as simple as selecting a Christmas gift for Mom, let alone running a major financial transaction. If I joined the firm, one of us would end up deceased and the other incarcerated. Not good for either family harmony or the bottom line.

In my distant past life, I worked as a lawyer. I'd love to do that again. That is, if I could work on human rights cases, or maybe be a staff attorney for an outfit like the ACLU or NOW. But that ship sailed long ago. My previous choices took me off the track for such jobs. Not that they would cover a full time nanny's salary anyway. And I suppose if I want a pie in the sky position, I've already got the whole aspiring novelist bit going.

So I go back to thinking about headhunting, and the skill set it requires. I suppose, if I didn't want to spend my days on the phone with unfulfilled lawyers, I could learn to sell something else. Real estate? The weekend hours cut too deeply into family time. Political candidates? I'm too old and jaded. Fundraising for a cause in which I believe? Perhaps. I don't know enough about it to say.

Right now, none of these options move me enough to make me want to leave The Grape with his sitter fifty-plus hours a week. But I'm not sure I'm cut out for 24/7 stay at home motherhood, either. I keep thinking that the answer will hit me one day as I'm steering the stroller around the city, watching the busy and important "real job" people dash to appointments to discuss intellectually demanding topics that have no bearing on whether The Grape will nap well, eat well or behave at music class.

Maybe I should stop worrying about it, enjoy my kid's toddler phase and finish my third novel. I can always reassess when he's pushing two. That said, I understand I am among a VERY, VERY LUCKY minority of women who have the good fortune to be able to choose.

So many women living paycheck to paycheck would no doubt love to stay home with their kids. If there's a job out there where I could work to make longer leaves available to more moms, I would love to find it.

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