SL 748

What do you think of the guy who hates his job, but can’t quit, because he’s locked into his $1.2 million lifestyle?

Would you vote for Klobuchar knowing that she’s the evil boss from hell? The Devil Wears Sensible Loafers.

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Paperwork Hell

On one side of my desk, I have a list of writing projects. On the other side, I have paperwork for Ian.

The writing jobs lead to paychecks and pats on the back. They lead to other opportunities to make more money and more rewards.  I like that I can call attention to topics that I think are important. I get to meet interesting people and think about things.

The list of chores for Ian is just horrible, frustrating, isolating, and depressing. So, yesterday, I had a bit of a meltdown over the Ian side of the desk. Continue reading

The Persistence of Parenting

When I first starting blogging 15 years ago, I had two really little kids, a brand new PhD, a hubby with a temp job on Wall Street, and $70K in student loan debt. I blogged a lot about parenting at the time and the difficulties of combining it with a career. We couldn’t afford much childcare, so that complicated matters enormously.

Fast forward to today, I spent the morning fact checking an article that is almost done, waiting for another one to pub, and developing three proposals for articles. I’m combining all that with mom jobs, like processing some paperwork for Ian and buying plane tickets to visit the in-laws in April.

And all work will cease when Ian walks in the door at 3:30.  I’ll tidy up the kitchen, and take him to an autistic teenager social function at the bowling alley.

This patchwork life of paid and unpaid work is working for me. I have no regrets about how things turned out.

But I wasn’t the only one that was semi-obsessed with work-family balance 15 years ago. It was a front page topic on The Atlantic and the New York Times Magazine. Feminist blogs agonized over the choice to stay home. I don’t see people talking about it much anymore, even though the number of SAHM has stayed constant for decades. The hot topics in parenting lately have been universal childcare and whether helicopter parenting works.

It’s funny how the chattering class chews up topics for months and then the topics get stale and boring and they move on. Right now, I think Donald Trump is steering the conversation too much. We shouldn’t be responding to craziness, but making craziness respond to us.

What should we be talking about more?

It’s when I’m on twitter, reading the comments of other education writers who are all twenty years younger than I am, that it brings back all the drama of those early years. Stitches and stomach bugs. TV time. First steps. Even though we’re not talking about parenting struggles in the press much anymore, those little tweets remind me that raising babies never changes.

Here’s what I looked like back then. Sigh. 15 years took its toll on my face. IMG_0453.jpg

Recovery Week

On Monday, I dreamed that I was sitting at a round table at a wedding reception with editors from various magazines and newspapers. I kept passing them pitches that I had jotted down on the back of cocktail napkin pitches.

That’s how I knew that I was burned out.

So, I took the week off. Two big projects are off my desk. I have to answer some e-mails and poke one last guy that isn’t responding to my requests for an interview. But I’m working on 1/10 capacity at the moment. And it FEELS fabulous.

Sorry if I haven’t responded to e-mail or blogged this week. I really needed some recovery time.

The article that I wrote about a 2020 presidential candidate was republished and was seen by more people. The New York Times linked to my articles, when they did a run-down of the candidate’s policy positions on education. (Yes, I’m vague blogging. I don’t want anybody to stumble across this blog, while googling key words. I enjoy my underground status.)

I think I’m going to do more political writing this year, but we’ll see. I’m still too tired to think about my next move.

For the rest of the day, I have nothing but house-wifey chores on my list. I have to hunt down some after school activities for Ian. I need to hire someone to clean our foul bathrooms. I have to fill out some disability paperwork from the state for Ian. I have to get to the gym.

Being a freelancer sucks in many ways — always hustling, no health plan, low pay — but one of the good things is that I can just declare a vacation week and not have to check with anyone.

I’ll be back later this afternoon.

Retirement Plans

So forget everything that I wrote in my last blog post about loving work. I’ve been working my ass off for the past week on two projects, and now I’m reaching burn out levels of exhaustion. Twelve hour days in front of a computer are taking their toll.

So, let’s talk about fun stuff.

For most of our married life, Steve and I have responded to various crises – a crappy academic market, young kids, school loans, house purchases, job changes, college decisions, teenagers with teenager problems, autism — as they’ve come up. Life happened to us, and we dealt with it.

For the first time ever, we are on a steady course. Careers are developing, kids are growing, bill are being paid. We have stability for the first time in twenty years. And we’re looking around us asking, “is this my beautiful house? Is this my beautiful wife? How did I get here?”

With apologizes to the Talking Heads, we’re trying to figure out whether we actually like the status quo, and whether we should make some big changes.

If money was no object, where you like to live and what would you like to do with your time?

Workaholics

It’s Sunday.

I’ve already edited Essay #1 and gone to church. The Broadway play that I saw last week has me thinking about an essay that I want to write about journalism. Do here or do it elsewhere? Mmmmm. Thinking, thinking. I have to plan the chore chart for the week, but still must print out the weekly after school calendar for the fridge. Essay #2 is done and needs to shopped around to editors. I checked in on my mom who has a sinus infection. Ian needs to be walked around outside and needs his Kumon worksheets checked. Must call Jonah to see if he’s working or hungover. Weekend cleaning has to happen. I have a name of a housecleaner, but haven’t had enough time to interview and hire someone, so our bathrooms are seriously toxic.

It sounds like a lot, but it’s just life. Much of it shouldn’t really be categorized as work, like the kid and parent and house stuff. Even the writing stuff isn’t like a traditional job, because I love it and I’m not getting paid much.  I could quit and get a proper job that has regular on and off times and pays proper money, but I keep going because this lifestyle is working for me and my family at the moment.

I think about writing and ideas all day, every day. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about I could fix the eighth paragraph in a project.  If the document is on google docs, sometimes I will do the edits in the middle of the night on the iPad that is always on my night table. Once, when I logged into make edits during one of my bouts with insomnia and compulsive editing, I found my editor there looking at my document. Together, we edited an article at 2am. I was in bed the whole time.

Of course, I’m not working every single moment. Being a freelancer means that I can go to the gym for an hour and half whenever I like. I can take breaks from writing to play really dumb video games. I’m also doing laundry, driving Ian places, food shopping, making dinner, cleaning up after breakfast. Some days, I get so overwhelmed that I have to just read a romance novel for an afternoon. All that is work, but it’s not a job-work.

And then there’s social media. Pushing articles through twitter is just a part of the job of being a writer these days.

Ann Helen Peterson had a viral article in BuzzFeed a couple of weeks ago about how millennials became the burnout generation. Her article spawned a whole slew of copycat articles and more think pieces. Here’s one in the NYT.

Peterson writes,

Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done? Because I’m burned out. Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time. Why have I internalized that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it — explicitly and implicitly — since I was young. Life has always been hard, but many millennials are unequipped to deal with the particular ways in which it’s become hard for us.

Read the whole article. It’s a fun read.

But I don’t think this is just a millennial thing. I don’t even think it’s a modern writer thing.  Overworking is a way of life in certain industries in certain parts of the country.

My husband is in the investment banking industry, and he’s probably border line burnt out. With his 90 minute commute, he’s gone from the house for about 12 hours a day. He’s dealing with work e-mails on the weekend. It’s always on his mind. My brother the journalist, my brother in law the architect, my sister in law the teacher, my cousin the lawyer — everyone is working much crazier hours than their parents and everyone is tired. Those with kids are putting in much longer hours parenting than their parents ever did.

Now, some of this is by choice. There are certainly jobs that pay very well that have much more normal hours. I could get a job as a medical technician with a two year college degree and make a bazillion times more than I do now.  College administrators never look like they’re plagued with editing insomnia. We choose the burnout jobs for a variety of reason — prestige, excitement, big money, whatever.

The problem is when there are no alternatives. If people choose a crazy way of life, then that’s fine. But if crazy jobs are the only meal on the menu, then that’s not cool. Not everybody can take my hypothetical sane jobs in college administration or in a hospital. Are there enough options out there for people who want a steady salary with regular hours? I’m not sure.

The real problem with workaholism isn’t just that we’re too tired to do the more mundane chores on our lists. Rather, it’s that we don’t have enough time to live. We don’t have enough time to spend with our loved ones and make huge meals and to hike around a forest crunching ice, because breaking ice is super fun (that’s what Steve and Ian are doing right now). We don’ t have time to experiment with genealogy websites like I did yesterday and found that I’m related to half of Iowa and Bari, Italy. We don’t have the brain space to make new friends at the gym or read silly books. We live in our heads too much and not enough with our bodies.

So, on that note, I’m walking away from the computer for a couple of hours.