Saturday, July 3, 2010

What I Did For Work

(More re-posts from the blog tour!)

Long before I ever touched pen to paper to write fiction, I worked full-time from home. In fact, I still work full-time from home 12 years after beginning what, at the time, was a grand experiment. In 1998 I was the only person I knew who worked as a telecommuter to an out-of-state company. Today, the trend is much more common but no less challenging.

Here is the short story of how I ended up a telecommuter: Nearly 15 years ago, I returned to the United States with my husband, who was in the Navy, after living in Spain for three years. We brought home a three-month-old daughter and two dogs who’d joined the family in Spain. Relocating to the Washington, D.C. area for a three-year tour, I immediately began looking for a job. A month or so later, I was hired as the communications director by an Alexandria, VA-based national organization that today has 15,000 members. The only downside was my hellishly long commute—50 to 90 minutes each way, depending on the time of day. The only reason I could bear this horrible commute was because I knew that in three years my husband was due to move again.

Those three years passed in a blur. We added a son to the family a month before we were due to move to Jacksonville, FL. As I was packing up my office, my boss wandered into have a chat. What if, he said, you stayed on remotely? How could this possibly work? I wondered. But the more we talked about it, the more feasible it became, and we agreed to give it a whirl. So I moved to Jacksonville with a three-year-old who had spent all her days with daddy (who worked the night shift while we were in Maryland), a one-month-old who didn’t sleep through the night until he was 18 months old, two dogs, AND a full-time job at home. And did I mention that my husband was moving from an office job to an aircraft carrier? And did I mention that the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy was in a particularly strenuous deployment cycle during the three years he was stationed on board? Is it any wonder I call the Jacksonville years the “Calgon Take Me Away” portion of my life as a mother. To be honest, I barely remember the four years we lived there. It’s all a blur.

One spring, as my company prepared for its annual meeting, I was desperate to get in some hours in the office. I hired the neighborhood girl who often babysat for my kids and closed the door to my office. Well, that didn’t work at all. The kids knew I was in there and were literally clawing at the door crying for mommy. A week later, I hired her again only this time I’d gotten smart about it. I said, “Bye, guys! Mommy will be back in a little while. Have fun with Corrine.” Bye, bye they said, and all was well as I walked out my front door, around to the back of my house, and crawled into the office window I’d opened earlier. Success! Three hours later, I called the house from my office phone and asked Corrine to take them outside for a bit so I could take a potty break and grab a snack. That bought me a few more hours. We live, and we learn. As a work-at-home mother who relied very little on daycare, I can tell you down to the day how long it took me to get two kids into school full time: 10 years, 1 month and 23 days. That’s a long time to juggle kids and work!

Today, my kids are nearly 15 and 12. They have never known any other existence than a mom who works full time from home. Because I wasn’t already busy enough, I’ve added a book-writing gig to my docket, which has gotten quite busy since my first book, LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, was published in 2008. I think the greatest legacy of being a work-at-home mom is that it has made my kids very self-sufficient. They get their own snacks, they make their own fun, they know better than to interrupt a phone call for anything less than blood, and they get to see their mom working hard to provide a nice life for them. The downside is that something else, at least during the work hours, often has to take priority over them. Sure, their dad works all day, too, but they don’t see that. They know it, intellectually, but they don’t have to compete against it for his attention.

In the final analysis, I hope they’ll remember that I was here to greet them after school every day and to run them around in the afternoons to various activities. Now that my daughter is in high school, located two doors up the street from our house, I think she wishes I were a little less available after school. However, I’ve come to realize that being home with them now is far more critical than it was when they were babies and I was forced to crawl through windows to get some work time.


Kara said...

You are my hero!! I agree with you that the later years are the years you need to be home with them. I am discovering that with my 2 older ones.

That is so important...being a good role-model for your can talk till your blue in the face, but your actions are the things they remember the most.

Cecile said...

WOW..... Honey, you have me from the first line bowing to you.... Wow..... You are a true woman of my heart! It amazes me to see that us women take on so much and do so much... and we are considered the weaker link.
You have my heart of praise!!!

Mary G said...

Hi Marie
I absolutely love that story about you sneaking in your office window.
Mom's are smart!! I agree that they need us more when they are older or at least we need to know what they are up to.

Judy F said...

You are a rock star. I am glad you lived through it all and stayed sane.

Marie Force said...

I thought you guys would appreciate the crawl in the window story! Sometimes I truly wonder how I survived those years! It wasn't easy, that's for sure.

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