When Your Kids Know What You Do for Work
They tossed their backpacks and lunch bags on the floor mats before tumbling into the mini-van in a flurry of sneakers, skinned knees, and gangly limbs.
“So did you finish it yet?” my son Noah asked as he slammed the door shut. It was a question I’d come to expect at pick-up time from one or the other of my two boys. Each day, Noah or Rowan asked me if I’d finished writing the book I’d been working on for months. Each day I looked at their expectant faces in the rearview mirror and answered the same way: “Nope. Close, but not yet.”
“What number are you on?” Noah asked. I was writing a compilation of biographical profiles entitled 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, and the boys liked to keep tabs on my progress. My editor didn’t have to worry that I would miss my deadline. Two micromanaging task-masters lived under my own roof.
Three days before Memorial Day, I gave the boys the answer they wanted to hear. We celebrated the completion of the fiftieth woman at supper time. “That was the most difficult project I’ve ever completed,” I told my kids solemnly over hamburgers and curly fries. “But it was worth it in the end. It feels good to know I didn’t quit, even when I wanted to.”
I worked part-time in an office for ten years before I resigned last year to pursue writing full-time. In all those years, my boys rarely asked about my job. They knew where I worked and vaguely what I did, but my job was largely out-of-sight-out-of-mind for them.
Now, though, I work from home. My laptop sits on a desk in a corner of the sunroom, next to the wicker basket full of Nerf guns and Jenga blocks. I write while the boys play Super Mario Bros. on the Wii. I write while they climb the magnolia tree outside the sunroom windows. I write as they burst through the back door, flicking off flip-flops on their way to the fridge. The boys see me work. They hear me answer “I can’t right now…I’m writing” to their requests to play Uno or Battleship. My job is woven in to their everyday lives.
Five days before the 50 Women manuscript was due, I typed up the Table of Contents. I counted the long list of names on my computer screen one last time. Then I counted again. And a third time. I stared hard at the list, tapping my index finger on each name as I tallied. No matter how many times I recounted, I came up with the same number: 49. I was one woman short.
“Guess what?” I announced to the boys as they climbed into the mini-van after school. “I made a mistake. I didn’t finish the book yet. I’ve only written 49 women.” They stared at me from the backseat, their bodies still. Noah raised his eyebrows and sighed.
“What’s going to happen?” Rowan asked, his voice shrill. “Will you still get paid? Will your book still get in Barnes and Noble?” I laughed. When I reassured the boys that I still had time to research and write the last profile, their shoulders relaxed in relief. “Don’t worry, Mommy,” Rowan said, sliding the mini-van door quietly closed. “You’ve come this far…you’ll get it done.”
Image and post by Michelle DeRusha, author of the forthcoming books Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith (WaterBrook Multnomah, Spring 2014) and 50 Women Every Christian Should Know (Baker Books, Fall 2014).