The Stress-MAKING Diaries, Day Four
March 19, 2020
AND ALSO, TOO, IN THE MIDDLE OF EVERYTHING ELSE:
So I've been looking for a job. Like, a real job. A proper full-time, non-freelance job. My timing, as always, is beyond impeccable.
I quit my last full-time office job when Noah was six months old. At the time, I hoped I could cobble a few writing gigs together for a few years, maybe until he started kindergarten.
That was 14 full years ago, this month.
Instead, I rode the mommyblogging boom and the display advertising bust. I wrote about parenting and blogs and blogs about parenting for whatever site that would have me and pay me. After a few years, I pivoted to corporate copywriting and marketing. I wrote proposals, email campaigns, website copy, user documentation, case studies, you name it. I taught myself code and data analytics and website accessibility and content management and probably talked my way into a few gigs that I technically wasn't qualified for but hey, that's just good hustle. I always came "highly recommended" by a friend of a friend of an old coworker with a boss who read my blog. I charged $100 an hour.
Sometimes I had so much work I had to work evenings and weekends to get it all done. And sometimes I didn't. Week to week and month by month, it was a never-ending roller coaster of feast vs. famine, of hoping I'd luck out and line up a new project, a new client, or be able to bill a few more hours at Company B while things were slow at Company A and I had an uneasy feeling about the financials at Company C. I loved working for some clients while others were sent straight from hell to work my every last goddamn nerve.
In 14 years, I've never had a paid day off or been able to go on a vacation without my laptop. (Granted, most of our family vacations only happened because I'd agreed to blog about them in the first place.) I have a retirement account I've contributed to, but only sporadically, since some months there just isn't quite enough left over and I always prioritize the kids' college accounts and oh look, it's time for YET ANOTHER estimated tax payment, motherfucker. If Jason ever lost his job, we'd lose our health insurance.
Last summer, a reliable, long-term corporate client hired a marketing agency and eliminated all 1099 positions, including mine. That's okay, I thought, another client will probably be thrilled to hear I can offer them more hours. I'll write extra Alpha Mom columns and hit up a couple people I haven't talked to in awhile. I'll cut my hourly rate again and pretend to not be anxious as all fuck and teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown because I'm not managing things the way I used to and I'm not sure why.
Then last month, I learned why.
Not long after that, my hours at yet another reliable, long-term corporate client dwindled down to zero. Budgets were cut, a bunch of big projects were cancelled, and all the work I'd been repeatedly promised was "right around the corner" probably wasn't going to happen.
Jason and I looked at the remaining numbers and realized it wasn't enough, not unless some magical new client appeared out of nowhere asking for 20 hours a week. But honestly, that still wouldn't be enough, because once those 20 hours a week went away (and they always go away, eventually), I'd be right back where I started, stuck on the same freelance roller coaster for the millionth stomach-churning time.
And I realized how tired I was. And that it was time to call it quits.
I felt like a colossal fucking failure, if I'm being honest.
Jason (god bless him) quickly yanked me out of that particular shame spiral. There were years I made more money than he did. There were years when Noah needed someone to drive him to speech therapy, occupational therapy, to evaluations and specialists and back and forth to two different preschools every day. There were years when we got to take them to Jamaica and Aruba and to meet George Washington Live And In Person. There were years -- so many years! -- when I could close my laptop as soon as the afternoon bus rolled around and greet my children at the door with a hug and a snack.
There were FOURTEEN of those years, after I thought I'd be lucky if I made it to five.
And then there's just been this year. Which...is already very much not like any other year I've ever lived through.
A few weeks ago I bought a suit and went on my first formal job interview since 2001. (Not much has changed, except now you get to skip the handshakes.) I signed and submitted my offer letter paperwork this morning. I'll be starting work as a technical writer in a few weeks (provided the federal government stays opens and continues to issue badges to new employees at a somewhat normal pace). I'm actually pretty excited about it.
This blog isn't going away, and my Alpha Mom columns aren't either. (Isabel is and has always been my most reliable, long-term client, but "client" isn't really the right word. She's more like my rock, and I love writing for that site too much to ever stop.) So while this feels very much like the end of an era, I'll really be doing all of the same stuff I've been doing for years. But with like, my very own dental insurance and 401(k)!
Oh, and I'll have to put on proper pants. Dang.
I left the freelance world for a full time job in 2008, and while the money hasn't been as good, the stability had been completely worth it. You've got this! You'll do awesome.
I've also enjoyed being around people again (something cemented after a couple of work from home years 2011-14) and dressing mostly like An Actual Adult. Mostly. Now I'm wfh again because of this virus and it's driving me slightly up the wall.
Posted by: Sarah C | March 19, 2020 at 03:56 PM
Congratulations! I was just thinking about you today and wondering how you were. <3
Posted by: Joanna Moore | March 19, 2020 at 04:01 PM
Congratulations! Be glad you found something before this craziness!
Posted by: jodi | March 19, 2020 at 04:07 PM
congrats! sometimes a change is a relief. I'm happy for you.
Posted by: Julia | March 19, 2020 at 04:09 PM
Congratulations! Also, look into Liverpool pants... elastic waists that LOOK fancy but feel comfy.
Posted by: Ashley | March 19, 2020 at 04:13 PM
Congratulations (I think) and I wish you a happy transition to full time employment. It'll be a change for everyone and while I know you don't think the blog will change, I wouldn't be surprised if it does.
You can now look forward to retirement and begin counting down the days!
Posted by: Leslie | March 19, 2020 at 04:17 PM
Posted by: Audrey | March 19, 2020 at 04:34 PM
Posted by: Alison C | March 19, 2020 at 05:15 PM
It sounds like a wise decision.
in our family I'm the one with the stable income and whenever work feels restricting or annoying or there is no wriggle room with hours and I miss important things I try to remember that what I'm really bringing in to the family is the sense of stability. And it's priceless, at least for me.
Btw I so admire the American entrepreneurial spirit (I'm from Sweden) , how you guys dare to go freelance when jobs and insurance often go together, it seems very brave to me.
Posted by: Alice | March 19, 2020 at 05:19 PM
Posted by: EmilyG | March 19, 2020 at 05:29 PM
Congrats!! I am also a tech writer. I'm a teeny cog in a giant machine and you know what, it's perfect for me. Great benefits and good work-life balance. Obviously, there's pros and cons to every job but I've found that stability is worth most to me.
Posted by: Nicole | March 19, 2020 at 05:38 PM
Wow - Congratulations!!!!!! You deserve ALL the good things. ALL OF THEM. So happy for you.
Posted by: Lorrian Ippoliti | March 19, 2020 at 05:58 PM
man, then i've been reading your page for 14 years this month. lol i was only like 2 years older than noah then. congrats!
Posted by: kate | March 19, 2020 at 06:04 PM
Wonderful news. I am so happy for you:).
Posted by: Lisa | March 19, 2020 at 06:29 PM
Congratulations! Also Betabrand dress pant yoga pants. So dressy! But also jammies!
Posted by: Moira | March 19, 2020 at 07:33 PM
I'm a federal employee and on boarding in this mess will be annoying, but our agency, at least, is still committed to getting our new hires settled. And you might still get to work from home (although this administration has tried to limit it)! God willing, soon it will be the new administration :)
Posted by: Jenny | March 19, 2020 at 07:34 PM
Congratulations! I’m impressed that you have made freelancing work so well for so long. But please promise me that you will prioritize saving for retirement over your children’s college funds. You can borrow for college, but you can’t borrow for retirement.
Posted by: MJ | March 19, 2020 at 07:59 PM
I've been reading Amalah since I became pregnant with my now 11 year old daughter. After she was born I started consulting as well. I was in salary negotiations for a full time job LAST WEEK and now I don't know wtf is going to happen. [Hopefully not die is the answer. I don't have time for a zombie apocalypse.] Congratulations!
Posted by: LP | March 19, 2020 at 10:06 PM
Congrats on literally putting on your big girl pants. Don't forget us now that you're making all the big bucks!
Posted by: Rachel A Beto | March 19, 2020 at 11:30 PM
Posted by: Sue W. | March 20, 2020 at 03:24 AM
Congratulations, Amy! I'm thrilled for you and your family.
Posted by: Lisa | March 20, 2020 at 09:16 AM
Congratulations and so happy for you. Sorry about the pants, of course, but heh.....life is always about the balance.
Posted by: Stacy | March 20, 2020 at 10:18 AM
Congratulations! So glad some anxiety will be off your shoulders.
Posted by: Lori | March 20, 2020 at 11:28 AM
Posted by: Dori P | March 20, 2020 at 12:08 PM
Congrats Amy! I'm hoping a steady job will help your sense of stability and also help the ADHD. Go get 'em girl!
Posted by: Katie H. | March 20, 2020 at 02:12 PM
I thought you were sharing the start of your journey, and you are, but also your SUCCESS?! Congrats!!!! I find job interviews excruciating and I’m so glad you SHONE in yours. Super congrats.
Posted by: Elizabeth_K | March 20, 2020 at 02:13 PM
14 years is hugely successful! Think of how many small businesses don't get that far!
Congrats on the wearing pants and all :)
And thank you for mentioning AlphaMom! I read your blog through a feed reader and a couple of years ago it looked like you stopped publishing the Advice Smackdown - figured you were just busy. Turns out I was going to the wrong link!!
Posted by: Holly W | March 20, 2020 at 02:46 PM
Congratulations, Amy! They are lucky to have you!
Posted by: Mary | March 20, 2020 at 03:05 PM
Posted by: Janine | March 20, 2020 at 03:37 PM
Congrats! Uh, I hope you can work from home.
Posted by: Christine | March 20, 2020 at 06:42 PM
Posted by: Liz | March 20, 2020 at 11:22 PM
Woohoo! That’s great news!
Posted by: Brandi | March 21, 2020 at 04:31 PM
Did you see Amazon's Q&A section on Ike's weighted blanket?
Question: Do these make you hot?
Answer: Using it for several nights will make you more attractive. And only slightly warm.
Posted by: Natalie L Hill | March 22, 2020 at 03:44 AM
I almost never comment - but I have been reading every post since mid - 04 — found you through Jason’s blog, strangely enough. And my Isaac is only a few months older than yours.
This is fantastic. Not just a full time job - but the FT government job that will be impossible to lose. That’s one of those things that makes say this crisis more bearable - that my family is pretty lucky and stable because of that.
I always found that stability and structure for *me* have been the best framework for my mental health- drugs are critical, therapy - but the daily structure allows me to not get too lost in my own self (which was always one of my issues). I hope it is similar for you.
Congrats so much!!
Posted by: KM | March 22, 2020 at 01:50 PM
Don't EVER discount your ability to make income, whether outside the home, or freelance. I was in various agency and corporate positions - all for good amount of years but then, alas, "downsizing" eventually hit, 3x. The last time it did so, I was 58 and thought "screw this, I'm a copywriter, I can get some clients as a freelancer." I did and have been doing for 2+ years now. Granted, the income is NO WHERE NEAR what I was pulling in. No more 401k contributions (in fact, the nice robust one I built OVER 30 YEARS... OMG, I WON'T EVEN LOOK), no more office shenanigans (that's good and bad). Welcome to yeah, paying quarterly estimated taxes, clients that EXPECT you to work evening and weekend hours to compensate for their lack of planning. But all in all, it's good. I was often in touch w/friends from previous gigs and I had a 12-year-old lovable rescue dog to keep me company. Month ago had to put the dog to sleep. Couple weeks ago the shit hit the fan. I'm certain, like 100%, I don't have the cajones (sp?) to look for FT work now. Not maybe ever again. But I'm sick about just everything else going on. My son and his (since HS) girlfriend live in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment, both in education, he's going for his masters. More than anything my heart breaks for them. SHEESH.. GET A GRIP WOMAN. I JUST DUMPED ALL OVER YOUR PAGE! Um, sorry - congrats, go get'em
Posted by: martha | March 22, 2020 at 02:29 PM
Posted by: Amie | March 22, 2020 at 08:13 PM
Congrats! I've been a freelancer for my entire post-college life (15? years now? It's been as long as I've been reading your blog...), and I was only diagnosed with ADHD last year when I was pregnant. I've also never had a paid sick day off and have worked from my laptop at Thanksgiving dinner (for Canadians. I mean working for Canadians) more years than I can count. I am exhausted by it, too, even though it's brought so many good things into my life. I've longed for a stable job, even though I think it would also kill me and also I would probably never get one, because shame spiral and liberal arts degrees and hatred of commuting and, oh, now I also have a baby. Ha. Which is why I hadn't read for a few months and your entry about your diagnosis hit me hard in the seeing-myself-so-much-it-physically-hurt button and I would have commented there but, ah well. Congrats again!
Posted by: mjt | March 23, 2020 at 02:29 AM
This has got to be the weirdest time in history to be starting a new job. Congrats! I hope everything goes seamlessly, and you're able to settle into your new normal as full-time office person without incident.
Posted by: Delora | March 23, 2020 at 04:13 AM
As a fellow tech writer, I can't think of a better job to have in this crazy COVID world we're living in. I've been working from home for 12 years and it is a sweet gig. Hopefully, they'll offer that flexibility when you need it. Good luck with it!
Posted by: Gail | March 23, 2020 at 10:52 AM
I wish you all the best as you move forward into this chapter. Freelance work scares the crap out of me; I look up to you with respect and awe. You gave yourself and your family 14 years of being available and there....and gave us 14 years of a window into your world. Your boys are fantastic humans, thanks to you. I only have one who is on the spectrum (4 kiddos total). To have all three with different needs and to figure out how to parent them....wow. Great job.
Looking forward to the workplace stories!
Posted by: Patt Schneider | March 23, 2020 at 01:04 PM
I have been reading since the first little Storch bootie was in cloth diapers. Motherfucking hats off to you for managing freelancing and managing the kids and the house and ongoing Tire Gate. You are far from a failure. Welcome to the federal workforce - the stability is incredibly calming and will suit you well. Promise.
Posted by: Sara | March 23, 2020 at 09:02 PM
Yay! Congrats! You've inspired me ever since I was pregnant with my 7 year old, and again and again with my 3 and 1 year olds. Love your column and your family!
Also, Athleta Wander pants are THE BEST. Elastic waistbands for the win!
Posted by: alanalinette | March 24, 2020 at 01:40 PM
So very, very happy (and excited) for you.
Posted by: Kristen | March 24, 2020 at 02:27 PM
Raising my invisible glass to you! I know they will be thrilled with your work and your presence. I hope the position is just a little bit of a soft lob with some cool challenges for you here and there. Congratulations, working woman!
Posted by: Jenine | March 25, 2020 at 11:08 AM