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.
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.