The Double Life Of Work-At-Home Parents

Sometimes I find the hardest thing about being a freelancer is that I seem to be living a double life. On one hand, I am sort of like the women whose full-time job is mothering. I can do some of the things they can do. I can pick up my kids, volunteer at school, take a short walk in the middle of the day.

But I am also the worker-bee, tethered to my phone and thinking anxiously about the messages piling up on my computer.

I can sit on the preschool playground for a precious half-hour after I pick up my daughter and let her play. I can chat with the moms in their tennis outfits and talk about the special at Whole Foods this week. Scallops! I can even mention the recipe that I was eyeing online.

I can mention it, but I won’t have time to make it. That’s because I also have a lot in common with the odd father or career woman moonlighting on the playground. They have half an eye on the phone and half an eye on their children. If someone takes a header into the playground equipment they are caught off guard because they were looking at their screens or had that weird vacant look in their eyes that signifies worry about something going on at work.

Sometimes I am just like them, too.

I work mostly because my family needs the income. I would like to play tennis on weekday mornings,  and not worry about Groupon’s IPO or the number of middle class jobs in New York City, but I can’t.

Freelancing has enabled me to spend more time with my kids and still make enough money to afford the house in the Alexandria suburbs. I pick items from both columns: stay-at-home mom and worker-bee. I keep an eye on the phone and the clock and remember my deadlines and that people in offices are counting on me. I also bask in the playground sunshine at pickup times, and I try not to be so worried about my e-mail that I miss seeing the way Quinn’s hair looks as red as as the leaves on the fall maple trees.

That is my double life.

Honestly, I would probably mess up the scallops, anyway.

- Elizabeth MacBride

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4 comments


  1. admin

    Elaine and I had a laugh on Monday morning because we were both up at the crack of dawn working while so many other people we knew were taking a long President’s Day weekend. Of course, the kids were off school — which meant getting the work done before they needed us.

  2. I feel the same way — a lot. It’s hard. Being able to steal those moments also means that I am sitting here writing at 11:36 p.m. instead of watching The Colbert Report or going to sleep. It’s worth it, though.

    Love the blog! I’ll be back!

  3. admin

    Hi Lynn,

    I know what you mean by setting an example. When I went back to work full-time in an office (this was before I quit to freelance) after my first daughter was born, the mother of a teenager told me how proud her daughter was that her mom had a great career. Different trade-offs, at different times of life.

    Thanks — and I’ll check out Hourly.com!

    Elizabeth

  4. Elizabeth – Stumbled across this article and could have written it myself. I too feel the pangs of leading a double life, but then consider the strong example that I am setting for my two girls, and hoping through Hourly.com that I can help other mothers find work. Hang in there!