Dream Jobs. Inaugural post, stay-at-home edition.

This is the first of a series of posts that I’m calling ‘dream jobs’, but could just as easily be called ‘how’d she do that?’. A quick series of questions for women who took a hobby, passion or quirky idea and made it into a business, way of life or just a little egg money. If you (or someone you know) is rolling in it from your Etsy shop, quit your job as a bank teller to join a rock-n-roll band or achieved the nirvana of owning a goat, let me know! I want to know how you did that! Extra credit for previous, mainstream careers-left-behind, but those who followed their passion from an early age and never dipped a toe into the mindless corporate drone arena will be grudgingly admitted and resented for such clarity of mind.

And with that, we’ll visit our first ‘how’d she do that’, ME! My story is boring, and is the story of the year (laid off, stayed at home, figured out my way around a sewing machine), but over the past two and a half years of being a stay-at-home hound mom, I’ve found a lot of people are jealous, a lot of previous stay-at-homers say don’t go back to the office world and a lot of in the officers can’t understand how I am not completely bored (I know, right?) so it seems somewhat pertinent. Plus, I am very accessible…
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[Our backyard garden. A 2010 project]

Tell us about what you do…

I joke that I’m a stay-at-home hound mom. Dan and I don’t have kids and I guess I feel like I need to emphasize that I do something home all day! Although, since Lucy sleeps pretty much all the time, my experience is not in any way the same as those at home with kids! But seriously folks, I bop around the house, work on projects, go through fits of cooking (and fits of ordering out for dinner), try to keep the house clean, read, garden, sew, blog and a bunch of other things.

Tell us what you did before…

I worked for years, mostly in financial services, mostly as an administrative assistant, eventually ending up in marketing communications and design.

How’d you end up in your current gig?

A very sad, very common story these days! I was laid off in June of 2008. My now-husband and I had just bought our first house in April of that year. Thankfully, we were prudent and bought a ‘one-income’ house, so although the layoff certainly reduced our household income, it wasn’t the emergency it could have been!

kitchen

[The kitchen remodel. A 2009 project]

Did your previous experience (training, career, hobby) help you in your current gig?

Ha! certainly! My love of working on projects, listening to audiobooks and general solitude makes me very suited to staying at home!

What’s a typical day in the life…

well, Lucy usually wakes me up for breakfast around 5 or 6. Then we go outside. Most days we crawl back into bed until Dan gets up for the day. Then I get up, make coffee, chat with Dan and then Lucy and I wave goodby from our windowseat.

I usually drink more coffee, do some ‘computering’ (blogs, news, etc.) then I do morning chores (daily tidy, dust and vacuum. our dog is very hairy). Then I’ll start on the day’s project – lately sewing, but in the last few years I (well, we) also completely gutted and remodeled our kitchen, redecorated the house, constructed a ‘girl-nook’ (an office, basically) in the basement, built new flowerbeds (home of over 40 rosebushes, lots of herbs and bunch of perennials), tiled the hallway (never. again.), planned a backyard wedding and made a slow start on a novel.

I try to do errands during the day so I can hang out with Dan in the evenings. I wrap things up by 6 or 6:30 in the evening when Dan comes home, usually the three of us head out for a nightly walk/run (Dan runs six or seven miles, Lucy and I walk 2.5. It takes the same amount of time). We come home, make dinner then hang out in the evening where I try to have projects that I can work on in the living room so Dan and I can hang out (handsewing, knitting, reading, computering.) Sleep, restart.

what’s your favorite part?

It’s been very rewarding to have this time to really focus on what I like and don’t like and get  into the rhythm of life, more-or-less. Prior to 2008, I’d pretty much worked and/or gone to school since I was 14 or 15. Having so much unstructured time has provided me with a chance to reset and live based on what I want to do, rather than rushing to someone else’s schedule. Oddly, I’ve ended up MORE focused than while I was working. And I’ve finally conquered a lifetime problem with insomnia, finding that I can’t wait to get up in the morning and get started. This has slowly made me into a (somewhat) early to be bed, early to rise type! Last weekend while Dan, Lucy and I stayed at a lovely B&B, I loved that Lucy and I got up at 6 and had some quiet time with coffee before we went to wake Dan up at 9! The old (working girl) me was a sleep-till noon whenever I could sort!

Other than that, it’s pure pleasure to decide to do nothing other than, say, hand-tailor my Lady Grey for an entire day! And it’s been fun getting to know the neighbors!

How do you make it work?

It’s been important to stick to a schedule. I have other out-of-work friends and it’s easy to slide into drifting-through lifestyle – stay out late, sleep in, pj’s all day. I did that myself for the first few months. Now I get up early and follow the same coffee, blog, morning chores routine most days. The days I don’t, I feel odd. Like my shoes are on the wrong feet.
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[Thrifted and painted table, antique pear and mirror, garage sale and self-sewn slipcovered chair. Living room redecorate. A 2010 project]

Is this your sole support?

Obviously, not! Dan and I are very blessed and we live pretty simply. Both cars paid for, Dan has no debt and our mortgage payment is on the low end. That being said, the idyllic time will come to an end (see below) I have debt that needs some payin’!

Any advice for those who want to do what you’re doing?

Structure! Moving from a eight-hour-a-day job to total freedom can be a little crazy! I feel best when I make lists and feel like I’m checking stuff off the list. Most people do, I’m just very, very lucky that right now my list items are pretty fun! (Sew! Pet lucy!) Also, more apples in the house, less apple pie.

What’s next?

Like I said above, I’ve started looking for work OUTSIDE the house! We’ll see what’s out there.

Final thoughts?

I’ve found the reaction from other women to be all over the charts when I tell them I don’t work. A lot of women assume I’m bored, which amuses me to no end – I could double the hours in the day and STILL not be bored! There’s a somewhat-pervading idea out there that women must work (for pay, outside the home, you know the drill) in order to have worth. There are women who are uncomfortable with my perceived ‘reliance’ on Dan. It’s really a hot-button issue that has made me think a lot. It’s also made me perversely respond to the question “what do you do” with a  usual “nothing.” I enjoy watching the questioner strain for a response. And it’s made me very, very adverse to asking the same question. I’m more interested in what people are, not in what they do for a paycheck, and I don’t want diminish others by just putting them in that work-box!

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12 Comments
  • jessica
    November 18, 2010

    I'm looking forward to reading this whole series (I'm going in order). I love your insights into structuring a day, and as a fellow chronic insomniac (who wishes she could say she is a "former" insomniac) this post gives me hope that as I move towards better alignment with what I really like to do, it will help with the sleeping problems. Also, I find it so interesting how people find greater focus when they have more control … it's almost like not being focused at work is a slightly passive-aggressive response to being chained to our desks for 8 hours/day! [That's always how I felt, anyways.]

  • Tasia
    October 25, 2010

    Interesting post – how unfortunate to be laid off but you have such a positive, inspiring outlook! Best of luck in whatever you decide to do next. I also find it annoying when the first question people ask is 'what do you do?' That's hardly the most interesting thing about most people!

    I would be absolutely delighted to have nothing on my to-do list but sew all day! Ah, a girl can dream…

  • Joy
    October 16, 2010

    Nice ponder-full post!
    Instead of the "what do you do?" question, I like to ask people "do you have any hobbies?". [Maybe that's because they're less likely to ask me what I do. Although, it is fun to say I watch TV and eat chocolate.] Anyway, sadly, most people give me silence and a blank look. Hobbies? I guess they're the ones who'd be bored at home…

  • tanitisis
    October 15, 2010

    I have a huge envy of the stay-at-home I have to quash hard. It's funny. My mom stayed home, and while she was always busy—lots of projects, volunteer work, etc.—I think she would have been a happier person with a career. She now works part-time at an antique shop and does some contract work for the city cataloguing old houses and buildings, which has to be pretty much perfect for her… short of excavating a pioneer cemetery and then researching all the people therein, I guess.

    I think (oddly) I'd rather stay home now than when my kids were little… having no one to talk to tall day but a baby is not particularly fun. However since I'm the one allegedly on the dream-career track, I doubt that'll happen. Maybe one day I'll be able to support my house-husband in the style to which he's been accustomed (or maybe I'll end up just another over-qualified, unemployed PhD grad ;) ), but I definitely would have no problem filling my days staying home.

    Even if I DIDN'T just spend all day reading blogs.

  • [patty the snug bug]
    October 15, 2010

    Hey guys! Thanks for such nice comments!

    Carolyn…. I hear what you're saying about the 'what do you do' question, and I still ask it myself sometimes… but it's interesting to get a conversation started without relying on that question too! An observation, compliment, or story of my own are also good openers! Although I might start trying what are you (emphasis on the 'are', of course:-)

    OK, time to do a blog post!

  • Carolyn
    October 15, 2010

    This is a great post!
    Enjoy your time off from the office and make the most of it. It sounds to me like you are making extremely constructive use of your time that is of great benefit to your household. Renovating a house is huge! "Stay at home" doesn't necessarily mean "not doing anything" naturally, and you are proving that. btw, I cringed a bit when I read how you hate people who ask "what do you do?" :) I often use it when chatting to a new person, and for me it's really just a conversation starter, to get the ball rolling and to get to know someone better. I never mean it as an intrusive or aggressive demand that someone be an income earner or some such, hardly, since I am not a wage earner myself. It just seems like an easy and harmless opener. I would feel that asking someone "what are you?" to be more intrusive and difficult to answer :)
    Thankyou for visiting my blog!

  • The 4 Bushel Farmgal
    October 15, 2010

    Wonderful post! And thanks for being so inspirational :) I'd love to be able to work from home (work for myself) but the mortgage, etc prevents it. However, I could possibly supplement my income with a part-time home-based business? Hmmm.

    Your home projects all look beautiful, and the garden is divine!

  • Karen in VA
    October 14, 2010

    Love it…I'm actually jealous. I've been working at high stress jobs (plus going to school for 2 degrees) for years. I would love to take a year off to just decompress and have time for my hobbies. But, I'm a single woman with a mortgage, so that is just not going to happen. I say keep on enjoying your time off, the break will serve you well when you go back to a "normal" schedule…

  • Debi
    October 14, 2010

    LOVE it! Your idea for the regular posts is great…and it's great to have a sneak peak into your daily routine! :-) I think we don't often give credit enough to doing what we want! It's amazing how of my many colleagues, most don't have hobbies and how many people don't have identities and interests out of work (hence the 'what do you do' question as the way to get to know each other at parties!) It's so fantastic to spend some time on what you love and living the life you want to lead!!

  • Tilly
    October 14, 2010

    Great post! And great idea for a series. I LOVE reading other people's daily routines… although every one I read (particularly in a free women's mag you get on the London tube) says they get up at 6am, which makes me feel very lazy!

    So lovely that you've found a routine that you enjoy and that works for you.

  • K.Line
    October 14, 2010

    I love this post. I work a day job, but I tell people all the time that if I were financially set, I could EASILY stay home and work on my own life projects and never get bored, ever.

    I need my income so I am very grateful to have it. And I do enjoy my work. I'm just saying that your current system has so many great things going for it :-)

    Hope you find the new work you are looking for soon… K

  • Sewtropolis
    October 14, 2010

    LOVE it!!! I stayed home and did 'nothing' the year before I opened my store and it amazed me that I was more busy 'not' working then I was when I was working.
    By the way, the house looks amazing! Great job.

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