Hi, Ho. Hi Ho. It’s Not Off To Work I Go

I’ve been a lot of things, career-wise, in my life: a writer, a teacher, a singer, a gardener, a PR gal, a suit salesperson, and a liquor store clerk come to mind. In fact, I’ve worked since I was 13 years old, beginning with babysitting to earn enough money for my eighth-grade trip to Washington, DC.
Sometimes I knew the then-current job was only a means toward a monetary end (shoe sales, anyone?); other times I thought it would be a long term gig.
Not long ago, it seemed the stars finally aligned and I’d found a career I could love that would allow me to care for my family the way I felt I wanted to. So, in 2008, after teaching preschool for three years, I started grad school with the goal of becoming a classroom teacher. Like the plans of other mice and (wo)men, mine went awry. One of my professors described my inability to find a full-time position as a “perfect storm of my age, experience and the economic climate.” I was too old (52), too experienced (even without finishing my master’s degree), and Illinois was too broke (still is) for school districts to find me appealing. In two years, I had two interviews.
Enter Plan B.
Technically, there was no Plan B. I was uncharacteristically optimistic that I’d find a teaching gig and the continual rejection fed into my depressive tendencies. To fill the time left after filling out applications that I knew would ultimately be ignored, I began blogging, primarily to feel like less of a dinosaur, but also to see if I could still write clearly, concisely and creatively enough to go back to writing as a career.
My blog, Snide Reply, started with 40 readers, the typical mish-mash of family and friends who I badgered into reading. Most stayed because I apparently still had my writing chops. As my teaching prospects faded, my blog began to grow. At the same time, I started learning more about my diagnosis, hoping to manage the ups and downs that job-hunting triggered.
I eventually found a part-time teaching job that I truly love, teaching enrichment to gifted and high-achieving students whose parents want their children to be academic superstars. I try to make the classes fun and I must be pretty good at it because I’m one of the most popular teachers, requested by parents and students alike. Unfortunately, this will never be more than a part-time thing.
Meanwhile, my personal blog kept growing. Twice, WordPress included me among their Freshly Pressed bloggers.
Emboldened, I launched Crazy Good Parent last year to the encouragement of a number of influential bloggers. While it has nowhere near as many readers as Snide Reply, the readership grows slowly bit-by-bit.
My teaching job brings me a great deal of fulfillment. Crazy Good Parent makes me feel pretty good, too. Not only does it help a fair number of people in the same boat I am, but I feel like CGP is making my diagnosis give back some of what it’s taken away.
What neither of these jobs does is earn enough money that my husband can even think of retiring, something many people his age have already done.
So Plan B took on another dimension: adding freelance writing to the number of revenue streams. I landed a position as parenting columnist for the local Patch affiliate, another job I loved which paid very little. Not long ago, that position was eliminated. The offer to continue writing for the Patch as an unpaid blogger was, shall we say, far less than appealing.
Included in my revenue stream stew was a truly dreadful teaching position, so I was working three jobs at one time, bouncing from one to the other. Something had to give; unfortunately, it was my family. My daughter missed me miserably and my son found it all too easy to land in a world of trouble.
Since I had children, all of my career decisions have been made with them in mind. I quit the truly dreadful job, leaving the family budget and me where we remain today.
I’m at a crossroads, trying to balance my need for fulfilling work with my children’s need for an available and present parent and my husband’s need for relief from earning the bulk of the funds that fuel our existence. Forget the housework; I have, primarily because I have to.
I have no clear answer yet. Should I look for a full-time job in my former field and leave the teaching position that is rewarding, but takes me away from my kids when they are home—exactly the opposite of what I’d hoped teaching would require? Should I stick with Crazy Good Parent, attempting to build it into a moneymaking venture? Should I drop everything else in favor of pursuing a freelance writing career? Should I write a book, something my heart tells me I should? Should it be fiction? Non-fiction?
I’ve made one decision that I promise to keep. I am taking a break from everything but my family and home. Trying to think clearly, to choose between each of the options before me, is just too hard while my children are home everyday. They don’t take naps anymore. And even when I think I’ve got a block of uninterrupted time, I am continually interrupted.
So, next week—the last week my kids are home full-time—Crazy Good Parent is going on hiatus. August 25, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’ll be back.

3 responses to “Hi, Ho. Hi Ho. It’s Not Off To Work I Go

  1. With a few exceptions, I could have written this myself. As someone who used to earn a consistent paycheck teaching, I have struggled with how to contribute to our family financially ever since deciding to be a stay-at-home mom when my first was born. I have done small things here and there. And now that they are both in school, we really need me to start earning again. But I wrestle with going back to teaching, which would be a steady paycheck we can count on, to trying to make money doing what I truly, truly love: writing. That paycheck might not be as steady. And I feel at a loss trying to pursue writing jobs that would pay regularly when I have never really held a “job” as a writer.

    So basically, when you figure it out, let me know 🙂


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