The Life-Changing Magic of Having a Second Place to Go
The walls were closing in, the Zoom had lost its charm. After a year as a working parent, all I needed was a room of my own.
We’re creeping toward a strange anniversary, the day in March when our governor was the first in the country to close schools, and I felt my blood pressure swelling to a pound at the back of my skull. I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve been patchworking contracts and gigs since my daughter’s birth nearly eight years ago.
Back when she was two months old, I was ready to end the maternity leave I’d given myself and discovered my planned regular writing assignment had evaporated when my editor was laid off. Once I did start landing new gigs, it felt like self-imposed chaos, interviewing sources over the phone while breastfeeding, writing when the baby slept, which was mostly at night or after lunch when my own mind was a fog. We couldn’t afford daycare for two kids, so I’d get the time I wanted with my baby while I worked, while I carved out a new career path for myself.
I was Having It All. I was gripped with a gnawing fear that with any misstep, the work would vanish, and I would disappear into motherhood.
Years later, as the global plague rattled the U.S. over those first weeks, that same, old fear shot through my body. I was concerned about any of us contracting Covid-19, of course. But more, I thought of the stories I wouldn’t get to write. The gaps that would grow between my work. So, because we were among the first to face shutdown, I pitched a series on mothering in lockdown to every editor I knew. No one bit. Other states were following fast. There was nothing special about my experience. So I downloaded enrichment materials, wore myself out in those early weeks grading the plentiful worksheets sent from school, to keep up the illusion (one I clung to) that we were living through a mere blip. My husband, bless him, once his healthcare job became remote, moved himself to work in the dining room between our two kids through the end of last school year.
He even hung a blanket over the open doorway to my home office. Still our kids would come to me instead of asking him — mere feet away from them — their questions. Our daughter…