Where have I been?
For starters, I have a client right now. (Have I mentioned lately that I occasionally work as a freelance technical editor?) Said client has assured me that it's fine if I only manage the five-hour minimum that I promised him each week, but deep down I know he needs me to produce more, so I've been grabbing my spare minutes whenever I can. Fifteen minutes here, thirty there. Yesterday afternoon Melissa invited us over so the boys could play with her children while I worked at her kitchen table, and we each kept one eye on Mary Jane --- that was wonderful; I managed nearly four hours of work in one stretch.
I enjoy editing, especially technical editing, particularly assisting writers whose first language is something other than English. It's not the most lucrative work, I guess, and I don't like to think about how the hourly wage works out after taxes (self-employment and all) --- but as home-based businesses go, it requires little capital, and I really can set my own hours. Right now, having no need to work, I gather clients by word-of-mouth, mostly through the few connections I still have through the chemical engineering department at the university where I did my PhD, and when one comes along I devote time to that client; I am not really seeking them.
I'm not sure whether I want to do so or not. I could, if I liked, really get serious about editing as a home-based business. Print up cards. Send letters to the few contacts I have, announcing that my doors are open. I know I have enough time that I could do this. Do I want to?
Hmm. I have gotten settled into this homemaker routine. There's something deliciously low-stress about devoting my time to my family, and the leftover time can be me time. It took me a few years, but I've managed to discard the need for a job to validate my personality.
And I've even developed a mental technique to deal with that tiny niggling feeling, leftover from the old high-achieving years, of shouldn't you be doing something with yourself? When that happens (less and less often these days) I turn my mind back to a memory of a warm, early-spring afternoon, probably a composite of many such afternoons, of sitting at Hannah's kitchen table with my thesis work spread out in front of me, empty teacups overturned onto the stacks to keep the pages from blowin away in the breeze. I am looking up and down at the papers and up again through the open sliding doors to the back yard, out past the shadow of the porch roof onto the sunlit grass. When I look up I see her little boy pushing a riding toy around on the lawn, and I see my little boy digging in the sandbox; Hannah is not visible, perhaps she is in the garden around the corner. In that memory I look down at the papers and up through the door, and then I put down my pencil and shove the last piece of paper under another teacup and leave my sandals under the table and take my still-hot cup of tea, and step outside into the sunshine where the children are playing. I find a dry sunny spot and sit down, put my tea carefully in the grass, bend over and roll up the cuffs of my jeans (my legs are fish-white in the sun!), lean back and close my eyes and feel the warmth on my face.
The memory stops there; that's all of it that I need. It's one of the more vivid memories stored in this dusty library in my head: I can feel under my feet the sticky kitchen floor, the smooth planks of the porch, the cool bricks under the shadow of the porch roof, the warm bricks under the sun, the soft grass (they had the nicest, thickest variety of grass in that yard). I can see the dull red glow of the sunlight through my closed eyelids.
But the part of the memory that I am trying to recapture by replaying it is an emotion: on that day (and on other similar days) I had the most wonderful feeling of playing hooky. I was supposed to be sitting inside doing work. I wasn't really enjoying it very much even though it was exactly the sort of work I had planned on doing for years and was what I was "supposed" to be doing. And yet I was discovering on that afternoon that there is tremendous luxury and freedom in the state of being home with children. Yes, there's work to be done. Yes, I really ought to be doing that laundry, I really ought to be preparing that schoolwork, yes, one can't exactly lie around all day.
But... one can lie around for some of the day.
And... the laundry can wait, when there is a gorgeous sunny day outside beckoning. One could, for example, weed the garden instead.
And... one can blow off the housework entirely and decide to take the children to the zoo.
Where am I going with this? Well, back to work, actually. I do have that client. Still, it's a lovely day outside, and we'll be going to a friend's house for a barbecue and a nine-year-old's birthday, later. Have a happy weekend.