Before I had my daughter I was living in New York City, working for top-notch ad firms, wining and dining and being wined and dined. I had been working full time in advertising in NY since I was 19.
I was a creative director.
I worked on national and international accounts. (How fun to turn on the TV and there is the commercial you did.)
I had a book agent.
I had a self-published book for sale ay my favorite independent book store, the one that launched Edward Gorey's career.
I was working on a screenplay and a children's book.
Then I had Penelope.
Then I moved to Florida. An ad agency flew me here to work for them and moved my stuff, too. it was all good and fine until 5pm. They hated that I left at 5pm. Not that this would have surprised them. I had told every single person I interviewed with I was leaving at 5pm before they hired me. I am a single mom and I need to get home by 6 to relieve my mom and take care of my two-year old daughter before she goes to bed at 8, I told them.
OK they said. We understand as long as you get your work done.
I'll get my work done.
I guess they thought I was joking?
I was supposed to know they were joking?
During the day I worked steadily and with focus. I was the only writer on an entire account and I worked on others. I volunteered for assignments. I completed everything, on time. No matter what they gave me, by 5, I was done with everything I needed to do that day. And it was done well. No complaints, my client liked me, other clients liked my work even though another creative claimed the credit for it, sometimes in front of me at meetings.
And, once I left the office, I always took phone calls, read my emails, and did more work as need be.
The agency came to the conclusion I was bad for morale. I proved it was possible to leave at 5. And many, many people could have left at 5. I was bad for morale because I didn’t spend my whole day on youtube and looking for music on itunes. They thought those people staying late were doing more. No, they just weren’t efficient. I’m sure clients would LOVE to know they’re paying for this kind of time.
An hour and a half to go out to lunch was indulgent I thought to myself as I brushed the crumbs from the keyboard.
I was also bad for morale because the other writer needed two weeks to write, or as he’d say, “craft” an email. In NYC if you took 4 days to “craft” a quarter page document announcing the opening of a hair salon in a hotel you’d be fired. My theory: it takes two weeks to write an email if you’re always out walking the small nervous, ill tempered dog, you take to the office everyday. “How’s my wittle baby” he’d say all day. “is my wittle baby OK”, “Does my wittle baby need walkies?” His wittle baby could have used a bath.
Can I bring my baby to work then I can stay late too? Nope, far worse to be a single mom who leaves on time and gets the work done on time. Among other things, I rebranded the whole agency and a new European hotel chain in the time I was there. The account executives liked my work. The account executives liked to work with me because I got the work done on time and done well and this meant they didn’t have to stay late either. The ad agency was overbilling for my time whether I was working or not.
Frankly, if it were up to me I’d only hire single moms and moms who need to work. For the most part, (I never say all), they take this responsibility seriously. They know they have a lot more riding on their paycheck than $10 martinis or the latest in 5" heels. They work while at work, not play, because they know they need to get home at a certain time. They can multitask. They work economically. They can be mentoring and nurturing. They’ll stay up after their children are asleep and work. It’s just that little sliver of opportunity between after school and sleep that needs to be tended to and valued. The one that's worth far more than any amount of money. Yeah I’m tired later at night but I feel more balanced too. Reading The Three Bears for the three hundredth time relaxes me. I write for a living and I think the balance makes me better.
They should be paying me for that time.
But there's a great upside to it all, the blessing in disguise, I do freelance writing now and I am fairly successful at it. I still work on the books. I write my blog. I help my sister with her successful college guidance counseling business. I save on the drycleaners. But best of all, I get an extra day with Penelope and I don't have to drive I-95. Plus, there's no small dog poop to get on my shoes. His "baby" was less housebroken then mine.