Today’s guest blogger is Janene Mascarella, writer extraordinaire. This essay originally appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of WHY magazine, an online publication I ran a few years back. Tomorrow, the domain for WHY is set to expire, but, in a weird twist of fate, I was contacted today by a prospective buyer who might be interested in resurrecting my baby (older sibling to Baby Grand). Funny how things turn out… In any case, in salute to WHY, and to Janene, and to fate, here’s today’s guest post on the life and times of the freelance writer.
Ah, the work-from-home-as-a-freelance-writer brochure: On the cover, there’s photos of perky, fresh-faced mothers living and working in a perpetual dress-down day, depicted in various scenarios while wearing sensible shoes: playing board games with the kids, a shot of a laptop perched on a picnic table beside a bowl of mandatory Bon-Bons. The sink sparkling. Here’s the inside copy of this (totally imagined) brochure:
Welcome to the Work-From-Home Life, Freelance Writer Mom Edition! You shall have all the time in the world. You’re the boss now, lady, so prepare to put the “free” in freelancer. Friends may drop their kids off at your house any time, really, because you don’t have a big, bad boss to answer to like the other moms. Being home-based, you’re up for any silly errand or favor and can drop anything at a moment’s notice. You can write fashion etiquette tip articles while wearing mismatched socks and sweats with spit-up stains. You can work on whims and whims alone, take frequent breaks, lunch with friends, and compose emails to magazine executives with cheese doodle-ed orange fingers. Kiss that briefcase goodbye… you are home free, baby!
All right, so there is no brochure. My early delusions of striking the perfect balance between June Cleaver and Murphy Brown were just downright laughable. Reality check: There are days where there’s so much commotion and craziness, I just can’t rub two words together or come up with a decent idea to save my life. I’m ten tasks away from even showering. I’ve got dinner boiling over, an expert source (who flaked on an interview hours earlier) who decides to call me back at the exact same moment my toddler did a major “oh-oh” in her diaper. And as I’m asking a world renowned dermatologist about the “top ten sneaky summer bummers for your skin,” something’s growling and biting my leg underneath the table. Please note: we do not have any pets! Did I mention my deadline is tomorrow, but I’m due at Chuck E. Cheese in T-20 minutes and have to make a pig costume for my son’s Fairy Tale Ball that night? I run about the house like a frazzled martyr crying, “But the brochure said I’d have all the time in the world working from home…”
When I first tell people I work from home as a fulltime mom AND freelance journalist, the response is usually a mixed bag. Most give me that perplexed, quick tilt of the head — the same one your dog gives when you ask if he wants to go to the park: half intrigued/half baffled. I often hear words like “neat,” “cute” and fun” and find myself answering the same questions. My stock responses:
1. Why yes, I do work in my PJs sometimes long past breakfast time. It’s how I roll.
2. Nope, I do not have a trust fund or collect lottery installments.
3. Yes, I get paid.
4. No nanny – my husband helps me with the kids when I’m on deadline.
5. Oh yeah, I get contracts when I’m assigned articles.
6. Um, no. I don’t make up the information. It’s heavily reported, thoroughly fact-checked.
7. Okay, sure. I guess it is somewhat “cute” getting an essay published in Self magazine. (Thanks, mom!)
8. No, I did not get laid off from my real job… doing this was always my dream.
One very important thing the brochure failed to point out: Despite insane moments, I’d get to make a career out of my burning curiosities. I’d get to set challenges for myself no boss could ever divvy. I’d get to choose my life before my living. That’s right, I don’t have to… I get to. So what if that brochure was a bit off base. I’m at liberty to rewrite it as I go. Maybe that’s the true meaning of being home free, after all.
Janene Mascarella (MrsWrite on Twitter!) is a New York-based freelance writer. Her work can be seen in The Washington Post, CNN Money, Self, Working Mother, Health, Glamour, Cooking Light, Women’s Health, Woman’s Day, Baby Talk, Parenting, Parents, Family Circle, AARP Bulletin, Arthritis Today, American Baby, American Way, iVillage, AOL Travel News, Currency, Kaboose.com, Everyday Health and many others.