DIARY

The Mom Who Just “Up And Leaves”

Witness the work-from-home mother in the wild.

She parents! And makes a living! AT THE SAME TIME.

Alriiiiight, it happened. A troll made me mad. I know I said a few weeks ago that troll comments rarely get to me anymore – and really only do when they feel like they contain a little nugget of truth – but the other day someone asked who was watching my kids while I was in New York City shooting a pilot for a show, and I got all riled up.

work from home mom WAHM guilt

(I included Beffgus’ response because I liked it. And also because please, obviously I asked Roxie and Wesley to watch them. Roxie and Wesley are my parents’ cats, but they’re very responsible cats.)

The comment didn’t make me angry because of the “nugget of truth” thing, like oh jeez, maybe I am neglecting my children while I attend to my career. It made me angry because for six years now I’ve tried to do everything, all at the same time, which means I’ve spent six years feeling like I’m not doing any of it (parenting, working, being an interesting/loving/sexy partner, keeping my house in a normal state, et cetera) as well as I wish I were. Except if I take a second to get out of my own head and look at the situation objectively, the reality is that I – like so many other mothers out there – am, on any given day, doing the work of three normal human beings. Like a goddamn superhero.

It made me angry because I had just been discussing the delegitimization of work-from-home mothers with a colleague who has three kids and a company that she runs from her dining room table. Each morning she sweeps crumbs off of her keyboard and pushes aside sippy cups to make room for expense spreadsheets and sketchpads and fabric swatches, and then each afternoon she packs away all the evidence of her professional life, her office space disappearing as if it had never even existed at all. She fits everything from her schedule to her workspace around her family like bubble wrap, making sure to keep what’s really important safe while her own dreams make do with whatever room is left.

It made me angry because this particular comment came while I was on a business trip with my children, which is not exactly a normal thing to do (and sorry to have to pull the gender card here, but please try to picture a man doing this and having it not end in utter disaster), but it had to happen because they’re on Spring Break and I couldn’t find sufficient childcare, and I figured whatever, I’ll make it work. So at the precise time that this comment popped up on my dashboard I was actually, physically, simultaneously working and parenting all day, every day before stuffing myself into my childhood twin bed with two jet lagged children who thought midnight was a solid time to go to sleep, and then waking up at 5:30am to make my way to set, and pecking out posts and returning emails and such during every break I got. And it was hard and a little miserable, but also cool because my kids got to see that I do something besides sit at a computer all day, and mostly it was awesome because I did it.

It made me angry because no one has ever asked Kendrick “Who’s watching the kids?” when he goes on a business trip. Or ever.

Read: A letter to my worst critic.

Every mother – stay-at-home, work-from-home, work-in-an-office – deals with some version or another of this feeling: that no matter what you do, it’s not even close to enough. You’re dragging your kids through a soul-crushing series of errands that now take ten thousand times longer than they should because if you’re not personally pulling in an income, you feel like you don’t deserve help with childcare. You’re spending too much time sitting at your computer, and letting the kids watch too much TV. You’re spreading peanut butter onto slices of bread while your inbox is over there pinging and pinging and pinging with emails from people who don’t care about the fact that your three-year-old is collapsed on the floor because you used the wrong plate; they want a response now. Your achievements? Come on, those are just your responsibilities.

And if you’re a mother who works out of the house – which, really, is an awesome thing, the chance to be with your children for much of the day and also have a career – there’s the little problem of the fact that, despite all evidence to the contrary, nobody seems to think you actually work. It’s not, like, real work. …Right? Can’t you just get it done while the kids are napping?

So because I know first-hand just how much a mother’s work – whether that’s taking care of her kids, or running a business, or hustling and hustling in search of a way to do it all – is marginalized and underappreciated and misunderstood, let me say to those of you who do this: What you do is real work. It is hard work. And most of all: It is important work, not just because it is for your family – because it is for you.

P.S. The proper answer to “Who actually looks after your kids when you up and leave them?” is “None of your fucking business.”

  • Elena DaSilva Feroe

    Seriously none of their fucking business!!! We are all doing the best we can the way that works best for us. Why do people judge and feel the need to share their judgements? Keep your crappy comments to yourself!

  • Stephanie

    Although, the question could be appropriate if followed by “because I travel a lot for work and I’d like to figure out how to bring my kids with me and still do my job.”

    And yes please make a post on that. Maybe less relevant in NYC while staying with your family but still helpful.

    • jordanreid

      Yes, someone else did ask a question more like that – like “I was wondering how you are handling the kids when you’re actually on set” -which is, of course, totally legit. If you look at the original post here you can see my response 🙂 http://www.ramshackleglam.com/2018/03/27/travel-capsule/

      • Stephanie

        Thanks! I don’t usually go back and read comments because of the trolls 🙂

  • CLAP CLAP CLAP!!!

    So much of all of this. I have worked from home as a paid professional for 8+ years, often logging 60+ hour weeks. Sometimes I travel. Every time I do i feel terrible guilt about the extra load this puts on my husband and other caregivers who help out, and every.single.time someone in the course of my travels asks “who’s watching the kids?” I try to offer as much vitriol in my response as possible.

    Further, I find it insulting that so many people assume that working from home automatically means I have my kids here all day. Nope. They go to school and daycare and camps. The flexibility I do have is no different than many many other white collar jobs. I can start work earlier to make sure I can jump out to meet the school bus at 4. I can work in an evening or weekend if I need to tend to a sick kid or doctors appointment.

    Ok. I suppose it also means that I can throw in a load of laundry while stuffing leftovers in my mouth and managing the mute button on a conference call, but is that really a goal for any adult?? The fact that I can do that makes me feel guilty if I only focus on work all day, and the idea of taking a lunch hour or spending time out of the house in any way is just scandalous sounding.

    I’ll bet I’ve gone out to lunch 12 times in more than 8 years.

    • jordanreid

      TOTALLY. Every single second that my kids are at school I’m in front of the computer – there is literally no “taking a lunch break.” I don’t go to the gym, or shop online, or any of the things I hear people occasionally take breaks to do. There are a lot of advantages of being self-employed, but chillaxing at home all day is not one of them – I don’t ever feel relaxed at home, in fact, because I always feel like I *should* be working.

      • Olivia

        Agree – this is so true. SO TRUE. I even work on vacations. I LOVE work, but this is a side-issue of working from home. There is a WHOLE new generation of women working from home (for a myriad of reason) and no one, no one, is talking about this.

        • jordanreid

          Isn’t it crazy? It feels like a total movement – all these smart, successful women deciding to start their own businesses and make rules that work for them and let them be parents and businesspeople…and then, over and over, they’re discovering that there are all kinds of antiquated societal assumptions and expectations that knock them down. I know a big part of this is what I put on myself, but when my kids have field trips or sick days or parent/teacher meetings or whatever, I am absolutely the default parent who skips work, regardless of what I have on my plate that day. I have had SO much trouble outsourcing anything at all about my work (which is partially due to my own neuroses about penny-pinching and such, which stem from decades of freelancing and the anxiety over never knowing where your next paycheck comes from), but I so wish mothers – myself included – would start feeling more empowered about saying “Yes OBVIOUSLY I need help,” and not feeling guilty about it. It takes a village, and so many of us have moved away from ours; there’s no shame in allocating resources towards your own sanity.

  • Heather

    Hey if you don’t mind I’d love to hear your suggestions for something a little less direct than “none of your f*cking business” that I could employ when people ask me this… I would love to sort of, point out the gendered assumptions without causing A Whole Thing?

    • Beffgus

      “You know, it’s funny, I get asked that a lot and recently mentioned it to my partner/friend/brother/whatever. He said he’d literally never been asked that question. Isn’t that crazy???” Or something along those lines maybe?

    • jordanreid

      That’s a good question. I think it depends on who’s asking and their intentions, and also on whether you want to engage in a conversation, “rise above” (or whatever), or be a little snarky (in which case no judgment; snark is necessary sometimes to keep us all sane). In the latter case, “I don’t know; I’d have to ask my husband” would get the point across, I think.

  • Katie Letsos

    So Much YES!!

  • Tara Wilkins

    All the praise hands emojis!

  • Beffgus

    1. I’m INTERNET FAMOUS! 🙂
    2. You joke, but Roxie and Wesley have a 5 star rating on Care.com
    3. I think you do an incredible job balancing a very full life and I appreciate your honesty about the fact that balancing is REALLY HARD.

    • jordanreid

      lolllllll

  • 100% ! you go Jordan, and thank you 🙂

  • Beasliee

    I really like that you call these idiots out.
    Not that they deserve the attention or they are worthy of a response, but you putting them back in their little shallow box is an invigorating read!

    • jordanreid

      lol, thank you.

  • Molly

    Jordan, per your Instagram, you just spent a weekday morning releasing ladybugs in your garden and watching your kids build playgrounds for them. I know it’s “none of my fucking business”, but I can’t help but be confused as to how you have the time to do this given how much you complain about constantly being SO BUSY with work and all of your unreturned emails and such. No work from home parents I know can spend a weekday morning playing with their kids.

    • jordanreid

      They’re both on Spring Break and I have zero childcare this week, and I just handed in an edit of my next book, so I’ve been trying to chill out and spend some quality time with them for these last couple of days before they go back to school. That’s another thing, Molly – I’ve noticed that every time I post about a leisure moment, with or without my kids, I get these “GET A REAL JOB” comments. I have a job that affords me flexibility, which is nice, but which also does not make me just “kinda” employed. I am also interested in freeing up my schedule occasionally to do special things with my kids, and I’m grateful to have a job that lets me move things around so that I can do that.

      • Molly

        So your kids were on spring break this week and also last week when you were in NY?

        Just thought that this post where you whine about how busy you are doing the job of three people coming on the same day that you post an IG about spending the morning playing in your garden with your kids was a little eye-roll inducing.

        But whatever. I get it, you are a goddamn superhero. Very busy, much important.

        • Shannon

          I think you missed the point where she was on a plane that may have crashed the day before? Regardless of my job, after that I would be taking a little more time to play with lady bugs in my garden.

        • Courntey

          Playing in the garden isn’t rainbows and daisy lady. I could take a damn pitcture of my kids on the counter helping me make pancakes and it look like we are having the best Saturday morning ever no stress. Doesn’t mean I havent been up since 6 taking care of a sick kid, catching up on laundry, and trying to catch up on schoolwork. What pictures don’t show is the never ending chaos. So in order to have 5 minutes of kids playing nicely in a garden with ladybugs you have to deal with kids throwing mud at each other, picking your flowers, scaring each other with the ladybugs, a tantrum and dirt being tracked thru the house, clothes stripped off and left on the floor and everyone screaming cause they are hungry. So back the hell of and realize for every 5 minutes of beautiful peacefulness with children comes at the price of hours of exhaustive parenting.

          • jordanreid

            this.

      • Angie Yorgason Allen

        Where is the LOVE button? That comment just reinforces your point. It still amazes me that we judge each other so harshly over everything.
        We are all doing our best. Why can’t there be any support for that?

    • Sarah

      My husband owns an extremely successful law firm and works from home most days if he doesn’t have a client or court. Guess what, he sometimes takes a break to go to the park with us, or help give the kids lunch, or go to the gym. This might mean that he is answering an email at 8:00 after they have gone to bed, but I would rather have that and him be able to go to the park with us. A LOT of work from home parents are super busy, successful, and still manage Little breaks in the day for their kids. Just because it’s not possible in your world doesn’t mean that it’s impossible or that someone else isn’t as busy. It’s just that they work a different cycle than a 9-5. Damn!

  • Dana

    I think you’ve made some really, really valid points here, Jordan. I’ll be honest that I disagree with you on a lot of things, but I 100% give you your due on this, especially on the issue of no one EVER asking this question of Kendrick. (Also, sidenote: when it comes to delegitimizing work, how about how people ask mothers on maternity leave when they’re going “back” to work? Child, have you ever *had* a newborn? I *am* working. And it’s just unpaid. The idea that paid labor is the only labor is one of the most messed up lies women have ever been forced to believe.)

    I do think there’s something to the idea, though, that this kind of is readers’ business because it is literally your business. You earn your living sharing your life with readers. So readers have questions about how you make that life work. The implicit suggestion of every post is, “I did this thing, and so can you.” I made peepshi, and so can you. Here’s how. I look nice in Skechers, so can you. Here’s how. So if you spend a lot of time away from your kids, including for work, it seems reasonable for people at some point to say, how do you do that?

    I think the long answer is one no one wants to hear but that every mom can relate to: it’s a balance, one I almost never get right; I both hate and love the time away from my kids; I have a lot of (financial, logistical, etc.) support that is crucial; and I’ve gotten really smart at figuring out how to do this because I effing *have to* because two humans are expensive and believe it or not, my having a vagina doesn’t make taking care of them the only thing I ever want to do in my life. I think there is 100000% a good measure of mommy policing (and by extension, woman policing) in the comment(s) you got. And I think the way the troll asked was obnoxious, shaming, and cruel. But I do think that entertaining these questions (when civilly posed) is a worthwhile endeavor.

    • jordanreid

      I totally agree re: the details of my life – and certainly my work/parent balance, which is a big part of this site – being something readers should feel comfortable asking about. But I think there’s a big difference between asking an actual question – like “how do you make this work?” and sort of implicitly shaming; the point of this comment wasn’t to actually find out anything, it was to suggest that I’m a negligent parent.

      I’m always, always, always OK with people asking questions about…honestly, more or less anything. When I say “none of your fucking business” in this context, my goal is to speak to a larger societal issue (like I said, no one EVER asking kendrick this), not to suggest that I’m disinterested in communicating about the specifics of my situation. (Although childcare specifics, tbh, is one of those arenas where I do pull back slightly, because I don’t love sharing the details of my children’s daily whereabouts, you know?)

      • jordanreid

        Oh, and to answer your question “How do you do that?” – on this trip I brought them, as I explained in above and in this post (http://www.ramshackleglam.com/2018/03/27/travel-capsule/), but more generally speaking: it’s a nightmare. Before my daughter was in preschool we had a part-time nanny, so we would just increase her hours when I had to travel (which I did a TON while shooting that pilot in St. Louis), but now that we don’t have her anymore it’s this logistically crazy mix of begging friends for playdates, taking advantage of afterschool programs when available, and having kendrick work from home when he can. We actually recently decided that if my travel schedule continues to be busy we’re going to have to find a more stable solution, so I’ve started interviewing people who are interested in being on-call for occasional childcare (I know that sounds like “um, a babysitter?” but since they’d need to come early in the morning to get the kids to school and then again after school it’s a little more complicated of an arrangement).

  • Anon

    So So So True. Virtually no man, ever gets asked this question. Its 2018 people. Get with it. On a side note, I watched Baby Cobra after you posted about it, and I cant help but smile thinking of when she said we women should really have just stayed at home and let the men work:) And even then, if asked then what we do all day, the response would effectively be the same ‘none of your fucking business’

    • jordanreid

      I LOVE that part, especially since she’s so obviously a total badass who loves what she does so much that she does it while fifteen months pregnant.

  • Jackie

    I stay at home with my babe, and I’m pregnant with our second.

    Last night, my fiancé asked me what I wanted to get done this weekend, and I said, “Honestly, I’d really just like to spend some time in the bath, shave my legs, and paint my nails.” He laughed a little and said, “That’s it? That’s totally doable.” And I got a little annoyed. I said, “Yes, for you. Because you get to shower daily at whatever pace you want and swing by the gym on your way home, all while complaining about having to work at a job you don’t like. I’m tired. I’m pregnant. I’m judged for not working (and would be if I did as well) and some weeks, I am literally trying to decide if it’s more important for me to shave my legs or get some exercise. Both of which really feel like they’re basic human functions for me.”

    My fiancé is great, don’t get me wrong, and my hormones were clearly getting the better of me, but damn.

    • Jackie

      PS- You’re doing a fucking great job.

      • jordanreid

        <3 <3 <3 (you too.)

    • jordanreid

      I hear you. The showering thing gets me, too. Kendrick wakes up and showers. Every day. Like a human being. I usually don’t even get dressed until after school drop-off, because between getting the kids ready and the cats fed and the dogs walked and whatever else there’s literally not a single second to even look in the mirror (I do make sure to take the time to make myself coffee, because that’s nonnegotiable). I usually just take a bath at night after the kids are asleep so I don’t start attracting flies.

      And like you said, it’s not *his* fault – it’s that we’re coming at the family routine from completely different perspectives. If I just decided to pop into the shower one morning and left everything else to him it just…I mean, that wouldn’t happen. And it’s not his fault, exactly – it’s the way we’ve set up our lives. And the way it seems like every married couple with kids (at least the ones I know) sets up their lives. Something is wrong here.

  • m

    Hi Jordan! a little off topic but I’m a daily reader, and I have noticed a change on you post schedules. You dont own us daily post and obviously you are super busy with a million things, but I’m curious to know if the daily post are going away. Ramshackleglam is my morning ritual, and I would like to hear your future plans for the site.

    • jordanreid

      Thank you for asking this! For years and years I had a post going up every single morning by 9AM EST, and then once I moved by 9AM PST, and over the past couple of months I think I’ve just burned out a bit – it was the ectopic pregnancy, and all the travel, and my kids needing me more, and I just decided to not beat myself up if I put up a post at noon instead of at 9, or even skipped a day once in awhile (which, as you might have noticed – my mom certainly did, haha – I did yesterday). When I was younger (I can’t believe I just said that) I would stay up late editing photos just to make that morning post, and move earth and sea to maintain consistency when I was traveling, and I’m just feeling sort of…tired. Like if I need to sleep, I should do that.

      But I don’t like doing that. I am so, so, SO grateful for the fact that anyone might consider reading my site a part of their morning, and I’d like to go back to that…which brings me to: I finally hired a second-in-command, about seven years after I should have. And she is AMAZING – hi, Olivia!! – and is making my life ten thousand times easier in ways I never expected, and her help with the work that pulls my time away from actually writing – graphic design, scheduling, product sourcing, all sorts of stuff – is completely invaluable. So right now, the answer is daily posting, per usual – so if you see me miss a day, it’s going to be an anomaly. Again, thank you so much for asking, and for being so supportive; it’s comments like this that help me remember what I’m doing here 🙂 🙂

      • m

        oh yay! this is great news!
        congrats Olivia for this great new gig!

  • Andrea

    ALL of this. I’m 43, mother of 4, work from home architect. I have taken 6 day old twins to city hall and council meetings, I have drawn apartment buildings while breastfeeding, I have traveled, for work, with a 3 month old. I have had a nanny, and my mom, then just a nanny, then just my mom, and now it’s just me. My husband works his ass off for us and for 4 years he traveled for work Monday to Friday. Every week. For 4 years. Currently I am between projects, for the first time ever. I’m a little bored. I have time to workout. The kids are at school all day, until one is sick, then the other, then the field trip, then the virus comes around again. I can’t work for anyone else because I would be the worst employee ever, and because adding an 8 hour day to my day would make me an idiot. I have spent 13 years justifying my choices to everyone, including my mom and my husband. And to be honest, to myself.

    Back when I had a 2 year old and 2 month old twins and a nanny, I complained to my husband that it had been a hard day, and he got really defensive, saying, “I pay for help, how can you be having a hard day?” I was really sleep deprived so it took awhile to come up with an answer, but here is the answer: nobody does their work alone. They go to offices and meetings and conferences and some days are hard and some days are better. But saying to a mom that she has no right to complain about a hard day because she ‘gets’ to be at home, or ‘gets’ to work from home, or ‘gets’ to have help is just ridiculous. Some days are hard and some days are better. Some days you get a great photo of a great moment and you just want to share it, not even so much with the world but with your future self. Thank-you for sharing your moments with us.

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