There’s a reason guidance counselors caution kids against a career in show business – you’re dooming yourself to life as a glorified freelancer. Unless you’re working at The Phantom of the Opera (still going strong after 21 years!), sooner or later the show you’re working at will close and it’s time to find a new gig. If you’re not lucky enough to jump straight to new show, you spend a few weeks (or a few months) covering vacations at other shows, or helping new shows to prepare for their opening nights.
That’s what’s happening at our house right now – The Husband’s job ended in January, and we’ve been taking turns jobbing in here and there. Aside from being a little stressful budget-wise (since the work comes in week-to-week, we’re never sure when we’ll miss a paycheck), it’s stressful to schedule. Only one of us can work at any given time – we work a lot of evenings and weekends, so dropoff childcare isn’t an option and we don’t have family nearby if we get a last-minute call. Accepting work involves a careful comparing of calendars and train schedules. We might work fourteen days in a row on one day’s notice, or we might have five days off in a row. Some work days are fifteen hours long, some are only four hours.
My carefully scheduled days? My detailed laundry rotation? My meal planning? Torpedoed. It’s impossible to plan more than a day ahead on any front at the moment. And it’s making me a little
crazy tense anxious. Okay, so not actually crazy. It took me a few weeks to adapt, but we’re now remembering that we’re good at this – the last time we freelanced like this, we ended up doing it for eight months, and we had our non-routine down to a science. Once we stop fighting the chaos, it gets easier to find the joy.
I still meal plan – sort of. Grab-and-go foods are popular at our house right now – homemade granola bars, trail mix, and sandwiches are at the top of the list. We’re working our way through all the soups we froze in January, and I include a few crock pot recipes every week so that if one of us gets called in to work at the last minute, dinner is taken care of. Fresh fruit and veggies are a little harder to manage when we’re not sure how many people are eating at home, so we aim for portable produce – baby carrots, raw broccoli florets, apples, oranges, bananas and grapes are easy to carry and snack on at work.
Laundry gets done when it gets done. Dishes get done when they get done. No one has gone to work naked yet, and we haven’t broken out the paper plates, so I guess it’s working out. Vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, all that jazz – it all happens, five minutes here, ten minutes there.
Did I mention that my husband is a serious bad-ass when it comes to keeping the house together? He is. But he keeps house in a completely different way than I do, and part of my chaos journey was re-learning to give him the space to do his thing. We have a dry-erase board that is a lifesaver for us – we can quickly scribble notes and questions to each other, keep track of medications for the kids, and also keep up an esoteric set of running jokes without having to waste text messages.
Did I mention he’s amazing? I admire him so much, I really do. I love that he’s just as comfortable as a stay-at-home dad as he is being the breadwinner, and that he takes as much joy in my victories at work as I do in his. He’s pretty cool, I should marry him or something. Oh wait – I did! Yay me!
The kids are actually big fans of the freelance schedule – more time with Daddy, and more grilled cheese sandwiches, what’s not to love? We try to keep them updated on who will be home when, so that Scooter doesn’t get up at six to ask us if we have to go to work early. Yeah, she does. Not my favorite thing. But when we do both have a day off, we try to make it fun – now that the weather is getting better, we can visit the park and the zoo more often.
In spite of it all, though, we’re enjoying the challenge. It’s shaken us out of our routine in a good way – we’re grateful for the work, but also more aware of how much we enjoy our together time. I get to appreciate my kiddos when I come home from work, and I get to admire The Husband’s ability to keep it all together while I’m gone. He gets to enjoy more time with the kids, and be reminded what I do all day – he’s always appreciated it, but I think he appreciates it more now. Now if I can just figure out which drawer he put the vegetable peeler in…