Friday, May 9, 2008

The Virtual Economy’s Gift to Mothers

Mother’s Day isn’t usually my thing. . .

But this year I got thinking about all the ways the virtual work place has meant that I could be a mother (don’t use that tired phrase “mom” with me, please) and keep up my professional credentials.

Hey, more than that . . .Make a decent living and be there for Julia, now 14.

It was way back in the early 1980s that I started to realize juggling motherhood and journalism was going to be a really tough route. I watched female colleagues struggling into work with bags under their eyes and frantically trying to arrange childcare for sick children while they rushed on deadline to meet the demands of the job. I couldn’t figure out how they managed.

And, basically, I decided in my early 30s -- as my proverbial biological time-clock started to tick -- that I couldn’t bear living that way. Nor could I imagine being a stay-at-home mother who didn’t work in some way. No offense to those who love that role – and it’s a tough one when you add on more than one child – but domesticity isn’t my thing. I’m better at exposing global corruption, trends in e-commerce, the virtual economy and fuel consumption . . .stuff like that . . . When I do housework, it’s usually around 11 p.m. as a relief from the stress of the work day.

By the mid-1980s with the arrival of cheap PCs and fax machines I started to get an inkling that, with enough hustle, I could quit my daily news job and run my own show. The freedom from daily deadlines, if not all deadlines, would mean I could live that old cliché: have my cake and eat it too as a working mother from home.

And, with fits and starts, ups and downs, and all the usual struggles of parenting and building a business, it’s worked. Julia was conceived in the spring of 1993 and arrived only hours after I finished the last chapter of my first business book – ISO 9000 Made Easy. Ten books later and countless school plays, dance recitals, choral concerts and too many tantrums to ponder, Julia and A – Z International keep growing together.

In fact, I had this wondrous experience in New York City just a few weeks ago that I wrote about in the last entry. I was able, finally, to introduce my “little” girl to my children’s book editor.

“Here’s my muse,” I told Steve, as a beautiful, dignified (at that moment) Julia reached out her hand in greeting.

Yes, tears did well up in my eyes. Because having Julia may have meant there were projects I turned down and major entities who turned me down because I couldn’t hop on a plane at a moment’s notice. But never once have I regretted having her. As I often say, you can’t cuddle up to your book jacket and reviews, tuck them in and sing a good night song (horribly off-key, by the by . . .)

Without Julia there would have been no beloved Perwinkle, our now deceased parakeet who I intend to immortalize on YouTube come summer. There would be no debates over skirt lengths or avid discussions over why the producers of “Sex and the City” made Carrie Bradshaw look so tacky. Who would have played the sitcom game in the car and made up horrible plot lines, or helped me write my children’s books?

And for all that I feared Julia would slow me down – and she did for many years – she also made me smarter, more aware, and even recently taught me how to text message. She makes me feel old some days, yet keeps me young at heart.

I’m proud to say on this mother’s day that because I learned to brand and market myself so I could earn our keep, I could be home to nurse Julia on the days she was with me (as, alas, her father and I divorced long ago). I’ve never missed a rehearsal or a major event because I had to stay late at the office. The office is right here and accessible at all hours.

So, ladies whose biological clock is ticking, know that today’s technology will let you have work and motherhood. Will it be easy? The answer is an unequivocal NO. You have to be able to create a product or service that people want and will spend good money to have. You have to be tech savvy and be good at marketing and keep going some days beyond endurance. Besides, which, if you breast feed get used to talking to clients as your baby suckles.

But you’ll never have a boss telling you that you can’t make that dance recital, baseball game or soccer match. Hey, you’re the boss, right?

Happy Mother"s Day

1 comment:

Justin said...

A time well-managed between earning to feed the family and being there for our children is indeed priceless, Amy. I can see that you've been strong in giving your daughter the life she deserves. In effect, you're reaping the rewards.

I work full-time, yet I've also starter to venture into something called Gigats. Feedbacks about this virtual marketplace show that a lot of opportunities are present there. I'm sure it will enable me to support my family stronger.

All the best, Amy!