They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Sometimes a picture is actually worth a lot more than that.
Thirteen years ago this month, I quit a good job to stay home with my two-year-old son, Vincent.
We had moved from California to North Carolina—not for my husband’s job as most people assume when they hear we relocated cross-country, but for mine.
My husband agreed to temporarily leave work and do the stay-at-home dad thing while I brought home the bacon as a training manager for a technology company. I was pretty good at it (at first), and with my bonuses I was on target to earn about $100,000 that year. Well, I would have earned that much… had I lasted more than 9 months there.
But I didn’t.
Because in the fall of 2001, my sweet little Vincent came home from preschool with his first school pictures and everything changed.
I took one look at my beautiful little boy, who had clearly been dressed for school picture day by his father, and I died a little inside.
“WHY DOES HIS HAIR LOOK LIKE THAT? What did you do—lick it? And what the hell is he wearing? An old ringer tee with a flannel shirt? Dude. Really? Was it Grunge Day?”
In hindsight, I may have overreacted. But that’s how I felt. My perfectionism reared its ugly head and I snapped.
I couldn’t bear the thought of a lifetime of school pictures testifying to the world that I was not around to do basic things like dress and care for my son while I was out there chasing the almighty dollar.
Truth be told, I was afraid. I was afraid I was failing at motherhood.
That school picture was my wake up call.
Most days back then I was gone before Vince woke up and home after he was already in bed. I was under an enormous amount of pressure at work to put in even more time and effort, and an equal amount of pressure at home to work less and be more present. My boss and my husband were constantly disappointed in me. I missed my little boy. And I felt like I was drowning.
It took me a few more months and two lines on a pregnancy test to summon the courage, but I quit that job in March of 2002. I’ve been at home with my three kids, my very artistic dog, and a sexually dysfunctional leopard gecko ever since.
I’m technically a work-at-home mom now, because my blogging hobby has blossomed and I currently spend the majority of my days managing an online women’s humor community, In the Powder Room. If I’m lucky, I might earn about $6,000 this year on ad revenue and freelance gigs. No, that’s not a typo. There’s no zero missing. That’s just the best I can do so far. And a big chunk of that gets funneled back into hosting/operating/promoting the website, so it’s kind of a wash.
“Oh good, let’s talk about money.” – Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
(Sorry Dowager Countess. Tacky, I know. But I feel like it’s relevant here.)
This past year since acquiring In the Powder Room has been pretty challenging. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity and experience, but I don’t really have much time anymore to do what I used to enjoy the most: writing. (As you know, since I haven’t posted here in months.) The demands of owning my own small business are all-consuming, and I feel like I’m sucking at everything again, both professionally and personally.
Earlier this week I called Bucket Head’s teacher in a panic because I forgot to pack his lunch on field trip day.
Vince went hungry at school on Tuesday because his lunch money account was empty.
I just found a stack of papers in the kitchen which included a variety of missed PTA deadlines. Jesus, it’s no wonder we were “accidentally” left off the school directory this year.
I’m no better at this mothering gig today than I was 13 years ago. And I don’t even have a decent salary to justify it.
Something’s got to give again.
I’ve been doing a lot of praying for guidance this week. Please God, give me a sign. I don’t know what to do. I am failing at so many things.
And then it happened.
Yesterday I pulled Bucket Head’s spring school pictures (2nd grade) out of his little Batman backpack. (He’s my youngest child, and Vincent’s little brother. I know they look a lot alike, but this is not the same kid as that first picture above.)
Tears immediately sprang to my eyes.
I am blowing this again… for $6000 and an ulcer.
How could I have forgotten about picture day? He even had that sticker on his shirt the day before to remind me. (Which has probably gone through the wash and is now baked onto the shirt forever.)
GAH! Why didn’t I get him a haircut?
How could I have forgotten to lay out a nicer shirt?
What’s with the jungle backdrop? Another thing I’m sure I messed up by not pre-ordering.
“Why are you crying, Mom?”
“Oh honey. These are happy tears,” I lied. “Look how handsome you are. You took a great picture!”
But I knew I had just gotten my sign. God was talking to me through Lifetouch.
And for only $43, I could purchase all 4 portrait sheets and a FREE laminate of luggage tags, key rings, bookmarks, and a door hanger as a souvenir of the year I tried to run my own business and sent my kid to school looking like a hobo.
I am missing out on my life again, and as my husband says, “You don’t make enough money to be this miserable.” He’s right, and my family deserves better.
So with that, I am going to be making some changes. I’m not sure what they are yet, but they’re coming. Maybe I’ll finally get some help running ITPR. Maybe I’ll just slow it down so I can catch my breath. Maybe it’s time to try something completely different. I don’t know what it will be, but something good is coming. I have faith.
Lost wages for leaving my corporate job 13 years ago: $1.3 million
Lifetouch package of 4 portrait sheets + FREE laminate souvenir: $43
The peace of knowing my family’s life is about to change again for the better: priceless.