If someone had stopped by my house two days ago at around three o’clock in the afternoon, it would have been easy for them to make a few unsavory judgments about me.
I was still in my pajamas, the sink behind me was full of dirty dishes, and I had a towel slung over my arm because I was just heading into the bathroom to take my shower.
Again, this was at three in the afternoon.
Here are some of the things that could have gone through their mind:
“Lucky stay-at-home moms.”
“Gee, I wonder when she finally rolled out of bed…”
“I wish I didn’t have a job and responsibilities to show up for every day.”
“Doesn’t she want to do anything with her life?”
They would have had quite a bit of evidence at their disposal for making those kinds of judgments too, but they’d still be lacking one important thing: Perspective.
Two days ago, come three in the afternoon, I was overjoyed with all I had accomplished. I’d been on a consistent diet of 5:30 wake-ups for awhile, but that particular morning saw me up at 5:00. I had a hefty list of edits to make on my middle grade novel and a plan to get the story polished for literary agents. Long before the sun came up in the sky, I was at my kitchen table giving all I had in the form of a Word document. I worked until the kids woke up at 8:00 and paused long enough to get them ready for the day and fed. When they went off to play, I hit my edits even harder until it was time for the kids and I to get busy with their homeschool work. I cleared my computer and my mountains of notes off of the table, and we pulled out their papers and books. Letters, math, reading, and endless questions – we made a time of it, and soon we were clearing the table off again. I whipped together some grub for lunch, we ate, I cleared the table again, and, when the kids were settled in front of a movie, I got back to my novel. I worked until three o’clock, seven hours at my keyboard spent fixing, figuring, writing, and rewriting.
The kid’s movie was over and they were hungry for snack. Half in a daze, I got them food and told them how proud I was that they had been so good for me and let me get so much accomplished. Then I told them that I required a shower if I was going to be able to get my mind straight and have fun with them for the rest of the day. I took a shower, beaming and blushing with how close I was to my goal of querying agents, and got dressed.
Then it hit me: it was 3:30 before I’d gotten dressed.
Wouldn’t it be so easy for someone to assume I’d done little to nothing with my day had they only seen pieces of evidence with none of the perspective?
I’m a writer and a mom. Work for people like me looks a bit… odd. Productivity is difficult, when even possible, to measure.
As a writer, I can announce that I wrote 5,000 words in a single day, but only my fellow writers are going to see that number for what it’s worth. And there are many more days when I go backwards in word count, editing the heck out of my manuscript, yet those days are often just as productive and necessary.
As a mom, there are days when just keeping the kids fed and attended to is all I can manage. You moms with your teething babies know what I’m talking about. And if I take a much needed day to clean, organize, and revamp the basement, it might look amazing down there come 5:30, but the rest of the house is going to be in shambles and dinner is going to be a frozen pizza. And the neighbor will likely stop by and think I did nothing but scroll Facebook.
A farmer can bale X acres of hay, a teacher can go through so many lessons with so many kids, an IT guy can get his eight hours, and a mason can lay block for a whole basement.
But not all forms of work lend themselves to being measured this easily. And not all forms of work require pants.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, pajamas can be perfectly acceptable work attire.
Oh, and judging productivity accurately requires perspective.