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Shannon Bradley-Colleary Headshot

I Want And Don't Want To Be A Working Mom

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I need to get a job because we need the cash flow. My girls are 8 and 10 and I've had freelance writing jobs throughout their lives, but nothing that dominated my schedule in any meaningful way. I was also able to budget my time the way I saw fit. The job I'm chasing now will be an intense commitment if I land it. It would also be a creatively challenging, grab-you-by-the-balls roller coaster ride.

(No, I'm not planning on becoming a real-life dominatrix, I've seen enough feces in my child-rearing, pet-owning life. Read Whipsmart by Mellisa Febos, a former dominatrix, and you'll see what I mean. It's no 50 Shades of Gray.)

This job I'm hoping to win is in the writing arena, but I don't want to say what it is in case I jinx it. I'm also worried I'm jinxing it just by being afraid it will ruin my relationship with my daughters.

My husband said he'd stay home with the girls if I ever got a big job. We'd have that luxury, but the very idea of having a job that takes priority makes me nauseous. It's a visceral reaction. As I've written many times about my exceedingly patient mother, when I was 9, her second marriage ended and with it so did her sanity for a time. I moved in with my dad and went from seeing my mom every day to seeing her summers and holidays for the remainder of my childhood.

My mom was my first great love and my first great loss, which makes me a guilt-stricken mother. When the girls were little, I felt guilty if I went to a yoga class or out to drinks with girlfriends. That guilt is gone, but how can I go from taking them to school in the mornings, picking them up most days, cooking them dinners most nights and reading with them at bedtime to the nebulous, I-don't-have-control-of-my-own-schedule future?

I never want them to experience the sense of devastating loss I felt during that time in my life. And I know I'm over-compensating, but my internal nervous system simply isn't practical.

There's also the not small fact that I will miss them. My flesh calls to theirs. I need to rub my cheeks against their cheeks. Sniff their hair. Spoon and cuddle at will while they're still willing. What if I don't have enough time to enjoy those languorous moments and important conversations about life, death and sex that always seem to happen at unexpected moments?

Also, puberty lies in wait and with it, the greater influence of peers. I've had the good fortune to know most of my children's friends and their families. If I work, will I still be able to know what is going on in their day-to-day lives the way I do now?

The ultimate fear, of course, is that they fall into the wrong crowd, become drug addicts and die hideously. Oh yes, my mind went there. Ground zero. Apocalypse Now. I see the headlines on my AOL home page. I can't escape seeing how many children have had every horrible imaginable thing happen to them every day. (Thank you, 24-hour news cycle.)

So here's what I want to know: How are you doing it? How do you stay close? Do you feel guilty and if so, how do you deal with it? Because just in case that book The Secret isn't just a load of kick-the-victim-while-they're-down horse manure, I want to think positively about getting this job. I want the opportunity to stretch, grow and provide, but really need to get a bead on my worst-case scenario thinking.