Lipreading Mom’s confession: I didn’t think I could ever be a stay-at-home mom. The office environment suited me well. I was working for a not-for-profit and writing for its magazine. There were weekly planning meetings, phone interviews and research projects to occupy five days a week.
In fact, I knew very few women who didn’t work outside of the home. Two-income families were a vivid reality within my circle of co-workers and friends. And I knew that being confined to a home-based job would be very boring and, at times, stressful. I mean, who do you run to talk to when deadlines are mounting and you’re feeling frazzled?
Then it happened. My son’s birth. Maternity leave. Ten weeks of staying at home. A strange thing happened during this time. As I held this beautiful little boy with strawberry blonde hair and eyes shaped like his Daddy’s, I started to envision being with him. All the time.
Then I started doing the math. With my income and my husband’s, we were living comfortably at the time. Subtract from this combined income the cost of full-time daycare, and finances would be tight. There was no way we could survive on one salary alone if I decided not to go back to work.
My head was telling me, ‘You have to go back to work. How are you going to pay the bills?’ My heart was saying, ‘Look at this little boy in your arms. Surely you can find a way to stay home with him.’
I called two of the only friends I knew who were stay-at-home moms. One friend suggested I read a book called So You Want to be a Stay-at-Home Mom? by Cheryl Gochnauer. After reading it, I became inspired to find ways to trim living expenses and how to live frugally. My other friend said she would start praying that I would be able to stay at home.
After maternity leave, I went back to work. Not because I wanted to, but for financial purposes. As I sat at my desk at work each morning, I thought about my son. I wondered what new things he was doing and if he was saying a new word or smiling for the first time. I plastered my desk with pictures of him. And I called my daycare provider at least once a day to see what he was up to.
One day I dropped my son off at daycare. While driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic to work, the radio announced that a plane had struck into one of the World Trade Center buildings.
When I got to the office, our small staff was gathered in the conference room. A grainy television showed another plane hitting the second WTC building. For the next hour, we all glared at the TV set. We skipped lunch—none of us was hungry—and watched Building Two topple down. One of our supervisors began to cry.
The day before, our staff had been immersed in making final arrangements for our annual conference—the company’s biggest revenue-maker for each year. We had passports and plane tickets for our destination: Montreal, Quebec. People from all over the world attended our conferences. I had arranged for my mother-in-law to take the week off from her job in a different state to take care of my baby son while I traveled. My job required all staff to attend the conference, and I was no exception.
By the time WTC Building One crumpled, our phones rang. One conference cancellation came in after another. By the end of the work day, our staff was rattled. I asked my supervisor if I could leave early to pick up my son.
Those terrorist planes hit more than just buildings; they’d struck me in the gut. How could I be away from my baby for an hour, let alone a week for out-of-the-country work travel?
No. No. No.
On the way to the daycare, I got stuck in heavy traffic. I panicked because the day care closed at six o’clock and the traffic was moving very slow.
Finally after making it through the bumper-to-bumper cars, I got to the daycare right at six. He was the only child that hadn’t been picked up, and it was almost dark outside.
Where had the day gone? I would only have two hours with my son before he went to sleep that night.
That was the final straw. I would find a way to stay home with my child by his first birthday.
I looked into various work-at-home options. I looked into selling products from my home and concluded that selling isn’t my strong point.
Then I thought, ‘Wait a minute … how about writing from home?’ I had heard of freelance writers who write for magazines, newspapers and other businesses, and who had been quite successful.
That’s what I would do.
First, I invested in a new home computer and dedicated my cell phone as a business line. I began subscribing to writing e-newsletters and discovered some interesting freelance work opportunities. I typed query letters and made photocopies of my writing samples. Then I started submitting letters and samples to probably a dozen different publications.
Within a couple of months, I heard from a major local newspaper. Surprisingly, they were short on freelance writers at that time and desperately needed new writing talent. I got my first assignment from that newspaper within a month. After seeing my name in print, I experienced a self-confidence boost. I got the courage to contact a magazine I had worked for before that began giving me assignments. Slowly but surely, I was making the freelancing thing come to life.
One year and three months after my son’s birth, I finally got to stay home with him. I would watch him during the day, make business calls during nap times, and work on writing assignments at night and on the weekends.
Working from home is a constant juggling of time, but I wouldn’t change it. It’s the fact that I get to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with my kids (we’ve added two more since I began working from home). I get to watch them play outside in our backyard on a warm, spring afternoon. Most importantly, I am more a part of their lives. The bonus part is I get to continue doing what I love — writing — while my kids sleep or play nearby with Barbie and Thomas the train.
After I’ve written something, I’ll tiptoe into my kids’ rooms. As I watch each child sleeping or playing happily, I am convinced that the 2001 terrorist acts didn’t just take away without giving something back: my determination to be with my children.
Oh, and I decided not to fly to that work conference in Montreal, Quebec, right after 9/11. I was one of the only staff members to remain home.
Readers—How Did 9/11 Change You?