Four months ago, I left my full-time job to be a freelance writer. Outside of never smoking crack cocaine, marrying the man of 99% of my dreams (he’s a picky eater), and paying people I barely know to cut me open horizontally so that over the next 18 years I can spend an average of $245,000 on what emerged from my womb (twice), going freelance was the best decision I have ever made in my life. The reasons leading up to that decision had been piling up like my 12-year old’s clean, unfolded laundry. But there was one underlying reason that has recently made itself known, sort of like that dust that builds up in between the creases of the couch that you know is probably there but you ignore until you are looking for the lost TV remote control and to your horror, you find it deeply embedded in that disgusting pile of dust. That pile up of dust was the catalyst for my change in employment status – the real reason why I became a hybrid mom. The ugly truth is that I’d been under-parenting my kids because I was too focused on my full-time employment.
To give you a static visual, I’m not one of those super mommy’s often showcased on the cover of working mother magazines, donning a sophisticated business suit and perfectly curated hair and nails, running out the door with a carefree smile and attache’ in hand with her kiddos playfully yet obediently in tow. Nope, that was never me. I was more the always-running-late working mom whose hair looked presentable in the bathroom mirror after a shower and a dry but would later succumb to uncontrollable frizz by late morning. I was the working mom with the Chai tea stain on the crotch of my 15-year old Banana Republic suit pants that happened just as I scrambled out of the house saddled like a mule with my purse, laptop, Medela breast pump backpack, and baby, screaming at my oldest kid to get the &*#! in the car while tripping over the bag of cat poop I stashed on the porch the night before because I was too lazy to take it to the trash and for some reason thought that for the first time in 40 years of my life I would be bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning.
It wasn’t pretty.
Over the years, it got easier as my youngest became more self-sufficient. But it didn’t really get any prettier. Just a different kind of ugly.
Now that I am my own boss and can pick the type of projects I want to work on, I have the time and where-with-all to really learn how to “mom.”
Oh no. There I go, intentionally butchering the English language by turning a noun into a verb when I could have expressed the same exact sentiment with an existing verb. Good thing nobody reads our blog.
Learning to “mom” has been a process unto itself. A process that escaped me when I worked full-time. Let me give you an example. Seldom did I volunteer to help in my kids’ classrooms because either I had too many meetings scheduled or the chances that someone might schedule a meeting during that timeframe was simply too high. The rare time that I did volunteer during the day was not time spent wisely. Rather than focusing on the classroom activities I was engaged in, I spent the time worrying that my boss or a colleague would need to contact me and I wouldn’t be available or I’d be stressing over how many emails would overwhelm me when I checked my inbox. I was not fully present and therefore it defeated the purpose, which was to be a part of my child’s learning experience at school. I was a volunteer failure. By the way, since going hybrid, I’ve learned that it’s OK to fail now. In fact, Goodreads lists 24 great books on the topic with this preface: “Most books focus on success. But success is a poor teacher. These books focus on how things went wrong and what we can learn from failure.” Big phew. I’m even reading a book called The Gift of Failure. Which is a relief because I also failed at home. Often, my thoughts would be on work even when I wasn’t working. Or I would want to “escape” the stress of work (especially when I was in management and had the unfortunate experience at one organization to report to a person who was almost as narcissistic as Trump and definitely as infuriating) by checking the news, social media, personal emails…anything that would distract me from thinking about work. And the thing is – kids are smart. They know when you are present and when you are just faking it. (Kids would definitely have not found Meg Ryan to be believable in that famous restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally had it been appropriate for them to watch it.) And I am a bad faker. So they always knew when I was not focused on them.
Now that I am doing what I love to do and have much more control over my own work schedule, I finally have the time to reflect on all the ways I have failed my kids as a mom. And I’m so excited to rise up from my failure status! With my newfound commitment to learning how to “mom,” my girls and I are finding ourselves in unchartered territory. Particularly Margaret, my 12-year old, who had a hard time years ago when I went back to my career when she was almost 5 despite the fact that I was a deficit on her balance sheet as a stay-at-home mom. I think she has secretly wanted me to become a hybrid mom for the past 7 years and now that it’s happening, she’s not quite sure what to make of it.
Bottom line is that I am growing as a parent. I am realizing that Margaret’s transition into adolescence is requiring me to learn a new set of skills so that I can be the mom she needs me to be. And though it’s been a somewhat challenging transition managing my own clients while remaining focused on my kids, every time I want to run away from the yucky, stressful moments and hurl myself back into the full-time rat race, I remember how much I hated it when I realized I was a bad mom and I know I made the right decision. Because even though Margaret is advanced parenting, I want her to know that I won’t ever quit her, no matter how many times I fail in my ability to “mom” her.
So yes, I’m learning to be a hybrid mom – reduced emissions (I cuss less!), better for the environment (I don’t stress my family out as much!), and utilitarian (I can work on a project AND be a good mom!).