I live just steps away from Washington, D.C. – a city where people are as likely to ask, “What do you do?” as they are to say, “Hi! What’s your name?”
So … what do I do? It took me a while to figure that one out.
I left my job as a features writer for the Baltimore Sun to stay home with my new baby ten years ago. As a reporter, I covered all sorts of compelling stories, from the accidental death of one police officer at the hands of a fellow officer to a glorious, sun-soaked Opening Day at the new Camden Yards baseball stadium. I adored my job, but the commute to Baltimore, combined with the travel required, made my decision an easy one – well, at least on the easier spectrum of the wrenching decision so many women face when they weigh how to best balance work and family.
So I stayed home, free-lanced a bit here and there, and then, within two years, had another gorgeous baby boy.
Life, as it tends to do, got more complicated. Our family moved to a new house (actually, a very old, fixer-upper of a house) and we began to renovate the kitchen, meaning we had no water on the main level for weeks – so every night, I scrubbed sippy cups and bottles in our bathtub and tried to dream up dinners I could cook in a microwave. Then my husband caught pneumonia and simultaneously started a new job, requiring him to work longer hours. The cherry on top? Our brand-new refrigerator exploded one night when we were all (oh, thankyouthankyouthankyou) out of the house. We arrived home just in time to summon the fire department to save the house – but our home was, once again, a fixer-upper. The new carpet, the new paint, the new kitchen… all ruined. Oh, and so was our computer – and with it the first few chapters of the novel I was trying to write.
We moved to a hotel for a few months and the two kids and I slept on the fold-out couch so my husband, who’d cracked a rib from all his coughing, could sleep in the lone bedroom and try to recover.
And it isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say that around that time, I quietly lost my mind. Well, as much as any Mom can lose her mind – because we’re usually the ones who hold the family together, right? I didn’t have time for a breakdown. I didn’t even have time to blow-dry my hair. Which was probably no great loss, since I rarely had time to wash it, either.
And for the first time in my life, I didn’t have time to write.
Being a stay at home Mom was wonderful – and alternately exhausting, frustrating, funny and joyful. But I ached for writing. I missed it like you’d miss a beloved old friend you’d lost. Then one September, my youngest son began preschool. And I began to type. I could’ve gone to the gym and tried to lose those last few pounds of baby weight (fine, ten!) or gone grocery shopping alone for the first time in years, but my keyboard was calling me. I was scared at first. Would I be rusty? Did I know what I was doing? And was I crazy to even try? Because I hadn’t written much fiction since elementary school. I wasn’t sure I could put together an entire novel.
But fiction was what worked within the new parameters of my life. I couldn’t chase after stories anymore, but I could dream them up in the spare moments when my children were occupied. So the pages piled up, slowly and steadily. In the mornings I was a writer again, and in the afternoons, I was all Mom – wiping noses and cutting the crusts off sandwiches and teaching my kids how to learn fractions from a gradually disappearing pizza. I’d finally found the perfect balance.
Now I have another baby boy to snuggle – my third! – and every day, I have a few free hours to write. The two best jobs I’ve ever had – writing and motherhood – are finally in sync. This is what I do. And it makes me so happy.