Whenever I’m at work I wish I were home with the kids, and whenever I’m home with the kids, I wish I were at work…
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that phrasing, most recently in a TIME Magazine review of “My Hollywood” by Mona Simpson.
I have to admit, I… don’t get it.
Now, to be fair, I don’t have a “normal” job. After years of working in television production (E! Entertainment, ABC Daytime, ABC Sports, TNT, ESPN, NBC, Procter & Gamble Productions), I chucked the traveling (after I’d spent two weeks traveling back and forth every three days to yet another figure skating TV special venue, my then 18 month old son refused to so much as acknowledge my presence), and even the more stable 9-5 (doable with two kids, I discovered, not so doable with two kids and morning sickness), for a flexible – though less lucrative – freelance career.
I work at home, on a laptop three feet from my bed. (In a New York City apartment, everything is always about three feet from your bed.)
But I do work. I work a lot. (With free-lancing, you’re never done, there is always something more you could be working on.) I work so much that my fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders and back were in constant, cramping pain. I went to my brother, a certified personal trainer, hoping he could give me some exercises to help relieve the spasms.
He said, “Raise your chair about three inches higher.”
It got the job done. I highly recommend it to everyone. (Who knew?)
I also have three kids. One going into sixth grade (the formerly sulky eighteen month old), one boy going into first grade, and a girl in pre-school (the cause of the job quitting morning-sickness). I love my kids, and I love what I do. But, unlike the mother in “My Hollywood” and pretty much every parenting magazine I’ve ever read, I have the opposite problem when it comes to juggling the two. When I’m home playing with my kids, I want to stay, reading “The Wizard of Oz” to them forever. And when I’m at work, whipping up imaginary universes and stirring up imaginary lives, I never want to leave.
I wonder sometimes if the moms who constantly wish they were someplace else don’t really like either of their choices all that much, and are stuck in a case of the grass always being greener.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those mothers who believes it is always a blissful, fulfilling and mystical experience to raise children. Arguing over what to eat for lunch, what sweater must be worn and how much is too much screen time (I had to change it to “screen time” once iPads, Hulu and Tomagachi superseded boring, old TV) is not my idea of a fabulous time. I get as bored as anyone telling the same old bedtime story over and over again (oh, how I rue the day when I invented a series about an adventurous sock that sneaks out of its drawer at nap-time to explore the word; oh, how I long to have it run over by a car or eaten by a stray cat).
But, on the other hand, no matter how annoying they may get, dealing with my children is still easier than dealing with editors and bosses. Editors and bosses cannot be put into time out. Or bribed with a cookie. Or simply informed, “Feel free to argue with me as much as you like. I have no intention of arguing with you.” (Though, full disclosure: I’ve never tried the above on a professional superior. Maybe it actually would work…)
Conversely, my fictional characters don’t argue with me. (Tolstoy did say that he pleaded with Anna Karenina not to throw herself under a train, but she did it anyway. Fortunately, I am not Tolstoy.) They do what I say when I say it, and when they don’t, I hit the Delete key and start all over again. (Maybe if Tolstoy had a delete key…)
My fictional characters give me a level of control that real life simply doesn’t offer. (Having worked for the soap operas “As The World Turns,” “Guiding Light” and “Another World,” I can even bring people back from the dead! Maybe if Tolstoy had written a soap opera…)
So, with all due apologies to the apparently myriads of women whose torn quotes I read in books and magazines, I still… don’t get it.
My problem isn’t not liking where I am. My problem is liking it. Too much.
Alina Adams has written two books of non-fiction, four romance novels, five figure skating mysteries, three soap opera tie-ins, and is currently writing the weekly continuation of “Another World” at http://www.AnotherWorldToday.com and the daily continuation of “Guiding Light” at http://twitter.com/melindasuelewis. Her website is http://www.AlinaAdams.com. She is also the NY Frugal Family Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/x-4993-NY-Frugal-Family-Examiner) and the NY Gifted Education Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/gifted-education-in-new-york/alina-adams).