Archive for August, 2007

A client e-mailed me the other day wondering about the status of a project I was managing. As I started to e-mail the client we were working with, I happened to glance at my Inbox. There was an e-mail from just that client – project completed. I had never followed up.

After a profuse apology to my client, I looked again at my list of messages. How had I missed that? The message was dated on Thursday. The day before a horrific level of stress descended on our heads.

Without going into details, I will simply say that it was the kind of stress that (however temporarily) shut our household down for the weekend while we tried to figure out how to manage it. On Saturday and most of Sunday, I left the computer off while we focused on our children and neglected housework and each other. On Monday I got back to work, but it was work (okay, fiction) that helped me relax at the same time that it needed to get done. Everything else? Completely out of my mind.

I’m sure that my client wasn’t too impressed with me. The fact is, though, that he has an office to escape to. I don’t.

If this type of thing happens again in the future, I hope I’ll retain the presence of mind to tell my clients that I’ll be away for a few days unexpectedly. Meanwhile, I think this remains an unfortunate byproduct of working at home. Since those who have offices may never understand the degree to which some stress can affect us at home, the best we can do – in my opinion – is give ourselves a break, understand our own limitations, and take care of ourselves and our families when the situation requires it.

Clients who won’t abide this will take their business elsewhere. Clients who understand (as much as they can) become your anchors. The old 80-20 rule – 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients – applies here. Which clients do you want when you have family, health, home, or other troubles? The ones who stick with you. Even if you annoy them sometimes, even if they annoy you sometimes, even if they don’t pay the most or pay you on time – the most important thing is how they respond to your emergencies.

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Honorable mention

I'm a Hall of Famer in the Answers.com writing challenge

I won this for the short story I posted last month. I’m a little bit bummed that I didn’t get a hefty Amazon.com gift certificate, but there were only 7 other Honorables. So this is happy news.

Answers.com is running another writing contest, but I think I’m going to sit this one out. I have a ton of new ideas sitting in the wings now that I’ve completed my novel revision, not the least of which is its sequel. I’d rather shore up my creativity!

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If I worked, I’d never have to worry about playing with my kids.

If I didn’t write, I could afford to be more creative about playing with my kids.

She manages to make it all work. Her kids are well-behaved, she writes, and her house is clean. What’s her secret?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve compared myself to other mothers, believing they had some secret to family bliss that I wasn’t privy to. Over time and with gentle guidance from dear friends, I’ve learned that every mother gives something up. Time with her children. Time for herself. (A clean house!)

I am fortunate that my bad habit brought me together with my friends. Unchecked, comparisons lead to paranoia that can only divide–and conquer, ourselves and our relationships. That’s what Gwendolen Gross explores in her new book, The Other Mother.

When Amanda moves into the home of Thea’s erstwhile best friend, both women hope they can forge a new friendship. But Amanda is a mother who works out of the home, and Thea is a stay-at-home mother. During Amanda’s emergency stay with her family in Thea’s home, each woman drops hints and reads into the other’s actions about her lifestyle–and each woman feels judged. Over time, those assumptions escalate into resentment and even fear.

Both Amanda and Thea are likeable and more importantly, easy to sympathize with. Their first awkward interactions show how much they want to be able to bond, but don’t feel able to trust each other–or themselves. Although their narratives are indistinct from one another, Gross does an expert job of getting into each woman’s head, and in doing so, shows us thoughts we all think at one time or another, no matter which side of the mother/work fence we’re on, or even if we straddle it.

Motherhood, much more than choices in politics, food, clothing, or even socioeconomics, makes us vulnerable to tiny judgments. Why, when we call ourselves “tolerant” of others, do we think all mothers should move in lockstep? Why do our differences in maternal inclination make us believe we have less in common than we actually do?

The Other Mother relies on external events to change Amanda and Thea, some of which I wasn’t sure were necessary; one in particular seemed a bit contrived for the sake of emotional impact. However, the fact that they do change their attitudes only after these events is not unrealistic. As people, we often find ourselves entrenched in our lives, believing we’re unable to change our ways, until something happens to make us think maybe enough bad stuff happens in the world; maybe we should work harder to spread the love around. The Other Mother likewise works to make us think about ourselves, our relationships, and most of all, our assumptions—and what we can do to maintain more pragmatic expectations, instead of making a fantasy our goal.

It’s contest time! Drop me a comment about the times you felt judged by another mother for the choices you made, and be eligible to win an advance reader copy of The Other Mother!

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