My mom just retired from her career in state government. (Congrats, ma!) Both of my parents have worked for as long as I can remember, and I’m super grateful for that. As a dual-income household, my family has always been able to afford a home in a nice school district, music lessons, school supplies, technology, and lots of traveling. And my parents dutifully showed up for all of our recitals, theater productions, and sporting events (of varying degrees of mediocrity). But their participation in school events was mostly limited to buying some obligatory fundraising magazines and showing up at conferences (which IS a big deal, don’t get me wrong). It was always other kids’ moms who showed up to help at classroom parties or book fairs.
I always kind of knew that I wanted my own parenting experience to be different.
When I was younger, I imagined that I would be a full-time stay-at-home mom. I did that for the first year of motherhood and, honestly? I didn’t love it. Between breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and falling out of the structured routine of classroom teaching, I was exhausted AND mind-numbingly bored at the same time. It was a strange, not super pleasant feeling.
Starting my freelance career was primarily a way of getting my sanity back. I needed meaningful work that didn’t wear me out and that I could do while being primary parent, commisary officer, and cruise director. Freelancing provides me with creative fulfillment and job flexibility in a way classroom teaching probably never could. (Anyone who says teaching is “sooooo family friendly” clearly never had small children or taught in a post-NCLB world.)
This month I have been in my kiddo’s classroom several times. I have really enjoyed watching him play and learn with other kids. (I also enjoy being able to go home and write by myself afterward!) A week or two ago I was feeling frustrated by some project delays when my son’s teacher e-mailed me to ask if I could come help with the hayride. (A 2.5:1 kid to adult ratio is NOT overkill when combining two-year-olds and large farm equipment, trust me.) Being able to say yes reminded me of why I chose a flexible freelance career in the first place.
Will I freelance forever? Probably not. Even with the flexibility and freedom of freelancing, I’m restless enough to crave new challenges every few years. (If I can ever regrow all the brain tissue I lost during pregnancy.) A career in genetic counseling or health education has been simmering on the back burner of my brain since at least 2013. I haven’t entirely ruled out a return to classroom teaching either. But for now, I’m happy being a preschool mom. Sign me up for the book fair!