Tuesdays at The Variegated Life: a look at how I’m making this working-at-home-while-mothering thing work. Or how I’m trying to make it work, anyway …
Maybe I don’t really believe in grand resolutions, but the start of a new year is a good time to reflect on life as a work-at-home mother. What are my goals? Upon what deeper purposes is my work founded?
Four percent of my earnings from work delivered in 2010 came from teaching. Eventually, I want all of my earnings to come from teaching or the sort of writing that I do for this blog. I like to say that I have a “five-year plan” for effecting this change, although actually there is no plan, and the transformation may take longer than five years. I’m not worried. This bit of wisdom from Christina Katz is like a mantra to me: “The accumulation of short-term goals leads to the achievement of long-term goals.” As long as I’m making my way steadily toward my long-term goal, I don’t think there’s any need for me to have any sort of grand plan.
So, my short-term goals are as follows:
- I want 8% of my earnings from work delivered in 2011 to come from teaching. Since I taught two terms last year and hope (can expect?) to teach four this year, I should be able to meet this goal, assuming that my overall income remains about the same and enrollment in my classes is steady.
- I want to ship one new article per month. Frankly, though, this goal scares me: I’m looking at a very busy January (three freelance gigs plus teaching), and so if I don’t find the time to ship an article this month, will I give up on the entire year? So, I’ll start even smaller and send out just one article before the spring equinox.
For years, I’ve lived in homes that haven’t felt like home to me. Everywhere I looked, I saw clutter: the residue of old karma, my many sins of omission. My barely acknowledged goal for 2010 was to take care of the old karma, and Beckett and I did accomplish a lot. However, there is much more left to do.
- The living room, the kitchen, and the Critter’s bedroom are mostly tidy most of the time, but Beckett’s and my bedroom, including my workspace, is mostly a disaster. We need to deal with it. (The bathroom needs to be better organized too, but that’s not such a big deal — the work of an hour or two.)
- Our files and the stuff we keep on open shelving in the living room are not only an unsightly mess but, when we can’t find what we’re looking for, a time sink.
- We need some sort of regular cleaning routine. I’m tired of seeing the cat’s fur drift down the hallway in clumps like tumbleweed.
- Wouldn’t it be nice to have some more pictures hanging on our walls?
As a work-at-home mother who is also a poet and an artist’s wife (egads!), maybe I shouldn’t care so much about the messy state of our home. I certainly appreciate Louise Erdrich’s advice to herself (e.g, “Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator”). But Erdrich also says to “pursue the authentic.” Having a clean, comfortable, and well-organized home does matter to me, and so though I’ll never be one to fuss over it, homemaking is for me an authentic pursuit. Also, the better organized our home, the easier my working-at-home life.
Balance, balance, balance: if you’ve found it, do tell me how and where. As for me, I have my to-do lists and my schedule, and I said “no” to many jobs last year, even to some that tempted me, but my work still felt like (and, truthfully, was) too much. The result: a much too distracted Mommy. It’s a stupid habit. I might think that I’m getting something done by having my mind on my work while I’m presumably taking care of the Critter, but in reality, with my mind so distracted I’m actually taking care of nothing at all — neither the work nor the Critter.
Though I certainly ought to do whatever I can to keep my working life reasonable, I have to expect that there will be times when I’m busy busy busy and the Critter needs me needs me needs me. My sense of balance cannot be contingent upon conditions. And so I remind myself again of the metaphor of Indra’s net: in taking care of just one thing (or Critter), I am taking care of the entire catastrophe. As I wrote yesterday of Rachel’s resolution, this practice is the work of a lifetime, not just one year.