Written by Kara Anderson
I was laid off from my job as a newspaper editor the day I turned nine months pregnant with my first child.
I remember trying to carry my box of desk-junk and pilfered Swingline stapler out to my car. What the heck am I going to do now, I wondered.
Months before, I had worked out a sweet deal with my boss for a 12-week maternity leave, followed by working from home, then going back just a day or two a week.
But our company was purchased and I was let go, told I was welcome to submit a resume again after my baby was born.
(I like to think that that’s why I took the stapler.)
I freaked out a little, but when my son was born I realized just how lucky I was. I had an opportunity to reinvent myself.
I started to consider freelancing. I applied a few places and got some writing work.
I’ve been working in some form or fashion ever since (taking a short break when my daughter was born three years later).
Freelance writing was a great fit for a mom of littles. I would get a job, followed by a month or so of silence. Just when I was convinced my phone would never ring again, I’d get another assignment.
It was very manageable. Until last year.
Last year, things began to shift. I found myself head-under-water, trying to figure out how parents manage to work and homeschool.
You see, a lot of little work seeds I had been planting for years started blooming into big rose bushes, twisting into each other, climbing the walls, desperate for pruning and attention. Companies that had previously offered me work once or twice a year started calling me monthly or even more often.
It became normal for my phone to ring mid-lesson, and for my kids to groan.
I started to hate that stupid phone, constantly interrupting what I wanted most — my time with my kids.
After all, weren’t they the reason I was doing this?
If I didn’t want to homeschool I could go work at a desk like a normal person, instead of in my yoga pants, hair piled at the back of my head, glasses askew, gulping too much tea.
It wasn’t hard for me to identify the root problem: an attitude of scarcity had permeated our home during a difficult financial season.
Even though the immediate crisis was past, we hadn’t been able to shake the feeling. So I found myself saying yes to assignments, when frequently I wanted to say “no thank you.”
I felt like I was working constantly, while homeschooling slipped more and more out of my grasp. My kids’ screen time was growing out of control and one day, my sweet son said,
“Mom, I love homeschooling, but honestly, if you have to work this much, it’s probably a better environment for us in school.”
I choked back tears as I typed out an email, saying no to a potential assignment that had been sitting in my inbox, causing me a lot of anxiety.
It was a lucrative piece. I could have done it. The money would have no doubt helped.
But at what cost?
Maybe you know my wonderful friend Jamie, and that she has a gift for words.
She said something wonderful to me recently. I wrote it down and have been carrying it around in my bullet journal ever since:
“Sometimes we have to walk away from what we know isn’t US and leave an empty vacuum – trusting in faith that God can fill it, and reminding ourselves that it’s kind of His deal anyway to provide for us and our family.”
Every time I re-read it, I get chills.
Because that’s exactly what has been happening.
As I have slowly started pulling away from freelance writing, other work that IS me, that DOES feel right, that allows me to put my family first, has begun filling in the empty spots left open when I started saying no.
At one point, I sat down and looked at my schedule and thought about what would really work for my family.
I realized that if I could get just five more hours of steady work each week, I would be able to completely replace the average monthly income I made from freelancing last year.
I wondered if I should put some feelers out. Should I make some calls, send some emails, hit-up some contacts?
Instead, I slept on it.
The next day, I wondered again how to make those five hours appear. But instead of doing anything, I waited.
The next day, I kid you not, I had an email in my inbox from a wonderful blogger wondering if I was interested in contracting five hours a week with her.
Um … YES!!!
It wasn’t easy for me last year, trying to work and homeschool. I felt like I was drowning all the time, and I wasn’t fulfilling any of my roles particularly well.
I considered giving up.
I had bitten off too much, and only when I realized that it was okay to let some of it go, did things start falling into place.
I am so excited about this coming homeschool year.
I know that there will be time, one day, to work seriously as a freelancer again.
But I will never again have a chance to spend these days learning with my kids.
So I am grateful for last year. I am grateful for the struggles that made things clear.
And mostly I am grateful for another year to try again; a chance to do a little better now that I know a little more.
Are you a working homeschool parent too? What ways have you found to balance your roles and make things work?
This post is part of our Hardest Part of my Homeschool Year series.