Today on Slate, my editor Dan Kois has a thoughtful, revealing and multifaceted piece that expands upon the veritable shit-storm of critique he faced when he admitted on air (during the legendary Mom and Dad Are Fighting podcast with Allison Benedikt, where I get all of my parenting advice) that he harbors a “secret disdain” for stay-at-home parents. Of course, his feelings were not as simple as that. (I’d recommend a full read of the piece, or you can just jump down into the comments and have a shit-fit like most Slate commenters do; that’d be fine too).
Anyway, my precious 38 years of passively observing the “mommy wars” are over. Simply by lugging this 9,000-pound fetus around for a few more months and then (all deities willing) shoving her out into the world, I will be a “mommy wars” soldier, and that shit’s going to be weird. Because first of all, where do I even fit on this spectrum? (And does this singular post now make me a “mommy blogger”?)
Once I finish my November columns at Slate I’m going on a reduced publication schedule, and I’ve been shedding dissertation clients since October. Beginning in about a week and a half, I will be on self-sanctioned, unpaid “maternity leave,” end unknown (I am, even as things dwindle, already going a tad stir-crazy. Today I cleaned my apartment unprovoked; I even spent 45 minutes outside raking leaves in my Delicate Condition.)
Since I am a full-time freelancer, I “get” to stop working whenever I want, for however long I want — provided that I can support myself financially, of course. But that’s just the thing. Since I’ve been living in St. Louis for nearing on the last two years, the staggering affordability of the area — and the fact that until I got pregnant, I worked three jobs — has enabled me to sock away some savings, for precisely the purpose of self-funding my “maternity leave.” That, combined with the incredibly fortuitous fortune (redundant!) of selling a book to a major publisher last week, means that so long as I continue to live my cheap lifestyle, I can support myself and half the baby for at least the first few months of her life.
Of course, I’ve also got a book to finish now (and it is, indeed, Book Tunnel Vision City around here until she comes), so even if I keep publishing columns at a reduced frequency and don’t go back to dissertation coaching, fairly soon after the baby arrives I will be going back to work. It’s just that I won’t be going anywhere when I do.
I will, provided that fortune continues to smile upon me amidst all of my failures, work largely from home for the rest of my working days. The disadvantages of this are many: If my husband ever leaves his current job, we will have to pay for our own health insurance, which for a family of three will be pretty substantial; I have to pay quarterly taxes and I NEVER get the amount right because I am an IDIOT, but I’m scared to hire an accountant, though now that I’ve sold this book I probably should — anyone know a good accountant? I also get no sick days and no vacation; every single day I miss of work with my clients is a day I either have to discount them for or make up; this “maternity leave” is the first time off I have had in over a year — I did not even take Christmas off last year; I spent it writing this book review for Slate, and on and on and on.
But the advantages outweigh the perils considerably: My work is flexible and it can be done in spurts — if all I’ve got is two hours between 11 and 1 a.m., that’s when the writing gets done; I have no boss; I can sexually harass my “officemate” as much as I please; I can wear whatever I want to the “office”; I can take naps or clean the house between appointments (as I have done this week); I get to claim our second bedroom as my workspace on our taxes (though that will change once the little fucker is here). I love working from home — in fact, I’d even go so far as to say that once you start working from home, it’s PRETTY TOUGH to go back to any other way — especially if, like me, you don’t really like being around peers, which I don’t. My mom keeps asking me disapprovingly if I’ve made any friends at prenatal yoga yet, as part of her long-game harping on me for being a loner, and I answer her EVERY TIME that no, I am a loner, and very much prefer it that way, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy hanging around with my own kid because people generally do, but I have absolutely no need or desire to take up with some sort of St. Louis mommy group (also, am I even allowed to? See below).
Which brings me back to my original point: How can I even know what sort of “mommy group” will have me if I don’t even know what the fuck kind of “mommy” will I be? I’m taking a few months off from all work but the book manuscript, and I will be our daughter’s primary caregiver while my husband continues teaching. So, since I’ll be at home, parenting, I’m a SAHM, am I not? And yet, I am a professional writer who is, and will continue to be, remunerated for the writing that I file to the various outlets that publish me; I support myself fully with this money, and writing is work — so I’m a WM, am I not? What do I get? Secret disdain from my beloved Dan Kois, or open disdain from the SAHMs who run the “hip mamas” St. Louis Meetup, which is openly unwelcoming to parents who work? Whose ire am I supposed to be provoking, and what cause should be the recipient of my pitchfork? SOMEONE TELL ME PLS.
I DON’T KNOW WHICH SIDE OF THIS WAR I’M SUPPOSED TO BE ON GUYS.