What it Means–and Doesn’t Mean–to be a Freelance Writer

Very few people from my real life know that I have a blog, hence the dismal lack of traffic here at That’s not Mustard. Most would be surprised to know that I enjoy writing at all. There are two main reasons I like to keep this important facet of my life private.

Firstly, I am of the opinion that being a mother IS enough. Society should not look down on women (or men, as the case may be) who choose to stay at home with their children rather than hold a traditional, paid job. Sure, there are some pretty cushy perks to being a full time mommy. I don’t have to get dressed in the mornings, brave the elements to drive to work, and fake a smile when coworkers get on my nerves. I get to set my own schedule every day, and whether I clean the house from top to bottom or barely manage to throw the laundry into the dryer, my daughter smiles and squeals and claps her hands for me as if I’m saving the world from the brink of nuclear disaster. In her eyes, I’m pretty much the most important person in the world, and that feels fantastic. Also, I could never put a price on the peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly how she spends her days. Yes, if I had my choice of any career in the entire world, I would choose this one, hands down. But having said that, I’ll also say being a stay-at-home mom isn’t quite as easy as most people tend to believe.

I am ‘on-call’ around the clock, and there is no end in sight. I don’t get to enjoy the serenity of a car ride to work, just listening to the radio, alone with my thoughts. I don’t have those favorite coworkers I used to chat with throughout the day and sit with at lunchtime. Some days I’m lucky to get even three sentences of adult conversation, and believe me, there is no sitting down for lunch. At my job, I was allowed to step away at any time, excuse myself to the restroom and do my business. Now, bathroom time is a family affair, and it’s only going to get worse as Baby E becomes a toddler. There is an unspoken expectation that all household duties–from cooking to cleaning, paying bills to caring for pets, and everything to do with childcare–is my forte. I can see the logic that leads my husband to believe this. In theory, it makes sense. As a matter of fact, I used to believe it myself, back when I had a full time job and thought I knew what hard work was. But in practice, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get everything done. Babies are supposed to nap, but mine doesn’t. We keep busy all day long. The hardest part of being a stay-at-home mom, though, is derived from the hardest part of being any kind of mom: guilt. Working moms feel guilty when they drop off their children at daycare. They ask themselves whether the evenings and weekends are enough quality time to spend with their children. Stay-at-home moms feel guilty when they’ve had quality-time-overload. This was especially difficult for me during the months when we co-slept. I would go weeks at a time in CONSTANT contact with my daughter. While I loved her every moment, I sadly cannot say that I loved every minute of that time. It was exhausting! In the daytime I was taking care of her, and in the nighttime I was still taking care of her. When she napped, it was in my arms, so I never had the opportunity to get anything accomplished. And yet, as frazzled as I became, I could not bring myself to ask for a break. After all, doesn’t every good mother want to spend every moment with her child? How could I look at her sweet little face and admit that I needed to take a shower alone? I could go on and on, but guilt is a topic for a whole other post.

My point is, when someone asks what I do, I don’t want to qualify the statement, “I stay at home with my baby, ” by adding, “and I’m also a freelance writer.” I don’t need to make myself sound ambitious to people who probably don’t work half as hard as I do. What I need to do is help them understand that, “I stay at home with my baby,” is a 100% acceptable, and even honorable, answer to that question. Motherhood is a job. It’s difficult, it’s rewarding, and it is important.

The second reason I don’t share my passion for writing with those around me is that people don’t understand what freelancing is. When someone hears that I go online and find random writing projects to complete for money, they interpret that to mean I am destitute and will do ANYTHING for money. I didn’t get into freelancing because we didn’t have enough money to pay our bills. That’s actually a horrible reason to become a writer. Elance is not the fastest, easiest place to make a buck. I love reading about peoples’ ideas and deciding which ones I’d like to be involved in. I love writing the proposals and waiting to see if I’ll be hired. I like writing, editing and proofreading. If I won the mega-million dollar jackpot, I would continue to do projects on Elance. As a matter of fact, I would be more active as a multi-millionaire than I am today, because I could pay other people to do my boring stuff like laundry and grocery shopping. I would just spend my days alternating between writing and playing with my baby girl. But here in the real world, I have been asked to do numerous administrative tasks as a freelancer. The trouble with these requests is two-fold. First, I don’t have a whole lot of downtime to write, and these tasks threaten to cut into the few free minutes I do have. But on the other hand, these opportunities tend to pay fairly well, so how can I turn them down? After all, I haven’t picked the winning numbers yet, and I’m living a world where an extra $50 here and there comes in very handy. I did a few of these jobs, and by the time the offers died out, I was convinced to keep my freelancing adventures to myself.

 

2 thoughts on “What it Means–and Doesn’t Mean–to be a Freelance Writer

  1. Fantastically put, Dijon!!
    This being a Mom thing is a 100% of the time life’s work, and even calling it a “job” is to diminish the epic breadth & depth of what we really do all day, every day, unceasingly. In fact, I do believe some refer to it as a “job” in veiled condescension. Like you wrote: That’s a topic for a whole other post! 😉
    You’re so right-on about the downtime we rarely get as Mommies, which are afforded with a fair frequently in regular 9-5 jobs. As I type this, my mini man is napping upon me, this serving as my time to catch-up on anything I need to on my iPhone. Similarly to you, he’s usually with me. Would I change that for anything? Nope. Realistically, do I need a moment or two here & there? Yep. Luckily, I have a hubby who tries his best to give me that; but, I still always feel rushed & on the schedule of he & mini man. All champagne problems, but not having one’s life be @ all catering to them is the very definition of “Mommy,” I’ve come to clearly recognize. I doubt it’s a “job description” anyone would ever fulfill, we’re it not for the outstanding baby benefits provided! =}

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