Moms, Make Time for Your Friends on BonBon Break

I’m so happy to share that my essay “Moms, Make Time for Your Friends” has been published in the wonderful online magazine BonBon Break. Head on over to check it out! Hope you enjoy, friends.

Many thanks to the lovely folks at BonBon Break for this awesome opportunity to collaborate.

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Don’t miss Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Do What You Love, But… Career Advice for Our Kids

I’m looking for a job. Actually, multiple jobs—freelance writing projects that I can complete when I’m not taking care of my two small daughters.

The other day I was scrolling through job listings on Indeed. Somehow I scrolled past a listing for a finance position. “$20,000 signing bonus,” it said.

I did a double-take. As a part-time freelance writer, I’m glad to earn $20,000 in an entire year.

Hmm…maybe I had picked the wrong profession.

I’ve always loved writing. I wrote my first poem, “Magic,” when I was 5 years old. Like most first poems, it was terrible—cheesy, full of clichés. I dreamed of becoming a writer, though, so I kept writing.

Then at age 9, I wrote a short story called “Boris Takes Over” for my local library’s annual fiction contest. To my surprise and delight, “Boris Takes Over” won first place in the third/fourth grade category. My blue-ribbon award was bragging rights, plus the privilege of having my story hardbound and added to the library’s permanent collection.

As I grew up, my friends spent their summers at sports camps. I, on the other hand, went to writing camp. (Yes, there really is such a thing!)

In college, I was named editor-in-chief of the campus-wide literary magazine. I began to feel some confidence, some affirmation that I really could have a career as a writer.

During the past 10 years, I’ve worked in writing positions for a magazine, nonprofit organization and marketing company, among other side gigs. I feel a jolt of childlike joy every time a publication accepts a piece I’ve submitted.

It’s “Boris Takes Over” all over again, every time.

I feel thankful I’ve been able to do something I’ve always loved. I’m also conscious, when I see notes about $20,000 signing bonuses for finance positions—as I’m trying to generate enough supplementary income to pay for my older daughter’s summer dance camps—that creative fields aren’t always lucrative.

Compare, for example, the annual salary range of an entry-level copywriter ($42,750 to $60,000) to an entry-level Web analytics specialist ($72,500 to $99,750) in the marketing industry (source: Robert Half). In terms of bigger-bucks paydays, numbers games often trump the arts.

After one of Grace’s dance classes recently, she pirouetted across the kitchen and announced, “Mom, when I grow up, I want to be a dance teacher just like Miss Phaedra.”

“That sounds great, honey,” I said. I meant it.

Dance teachers are similar to writers in that both work in creative fields. Through their work, creative professionals have the opportunity to inspire people. To recognize and encourage talents within them, as teachers do. To move them with words, as writers might.

Do What You Love, But...

Creative professions, of course, traditionally pay less than their more “practicum” counterparts—medicine, business, engineering. Grace is still years away from declaring a college major, but the thought crossed my mind in the kitchen that day: Should I really encourage her to do what she loves as a profession, when that profession may not pay the bills as handily as another one?

The answer, for me, is yes. For a couple of reasons.

First, you never know where life might take you. Amazing things can happen when you’re doing something you love. As a dancer, or a writer, or anything in between, you may find yourself someday just one step away from your big break—one step away from directing a world-renowned dance program, or from garnering a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Years of practice, dedication and, yes, a little bit of luck—energized by your love for what you do—may lead you to your dream come true.

Second, we don’t know how much time we have in this life. We should spend it, then, doing something we care about.

I’m a practical person, however. Money isn’t everything, but it is important. It allows you to live in a safe neighborhood, to eat nourishing food, to give your children experiences that will enrich their lives.

Money is important. For that practical reason, then, I’ll encourage my daughter to pursue her dance aspirations with an eye toward realism, as I’ve had to be realistic.

This will be my message to my daughter, and maybe it will be your message to your kids too: Do what you love, but if and when needed, do what you have to do too.

Didn’t make the cut for the Lyon Opera Ballet? Then work in arts administration, possibly, until you’re ready to try out again, or try out with another dance company.

Every experience will make your creative passion that much richer, that much more rewarding.

Every now and then, I pull up a document I’ve been writing and rewriting, on and off, for years. It’s a nonfiction story, untitled as of yet. I want this story to be part of the legacy I leave behind as a writer.

In the meantime, I have a family to help take care of. I need to be there physically for my daughters, preparing their meals and washing their clothes and doing the millions of other little things that children need done. I need to be there financially for them too, no explanation needed.

Consequently, I gladly apply for and gratefully accept freelance writing projects related to copywriting, corporate communications and Web content development—nothing to do with the writing aspirations I’ve had since “Magic.” I do all these things to earn money to help take care of my family, while constantly doing the writing I feel meant to do whenever I can.

Do what you love, but if and when needed, do what you have to do too. Your life and your legacy will both be richer for it.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.

Marissa Mayer’s Two-Week Maternity Leave: Why Do You Care?

This past week, I read that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO and reigning Silicon Valley fashionista, gave birth to twin girls. She plans to return to her high-powered job after a two-week maternity leave, according to news reports. She also took a two-week maternity leave following the birth of her first child in 2012.

Two-week maternity leave. Well, lots of people have lots to say about this. The opinions (and headlines) range from skeptical and NSFW (“Marissa Mayer’s Two-Week Maternity Leave Is Bullsh*t,” compliments of The Daily Beast) to supportive (TIME’s “Marissa Mayer Is Setting a Good Example With Two-Week Maternity Leave”).

Every woman is different, and every mom mothers differently. The decision to go back to work or take more time at home after having a baby usually comes with a measure of uncertainty, compromise and hope. Because all moms hope for the best for their children.

Marissa-Mayer-Yahoo

My older daughter was born in 2011. I took a three-month maternity leave and went back to my job. I loved my job, loved my colleagues, and also wished I could be with my new baby at the same time.

An impossible wish.

So I walked away from a wonderful job to become a stay-at-home mom/freelance writer.

Some friends of mine have made similar decisions, while others have continued building their careers while raising their children. I respect all of these women tremendously because I know, from personal experience, that all of these paths—working out of the home full-time, staying at home full-time, and blending both professional goals and caregiving—they’re all hard.

Being a mom is hard, however you do it.

So when I read about Marissa Mayer and her two-week maternity leave…initially, I raised my eyebrows. Wow, two weeks, I thought. That seemed short, to me.

I’m me, though. She’s her. And you’re you.

We need to take care of our own lives, and our own families, instead of speculating on those of others.

We don’t know the variables (and sleepless nights) that go into others’ decisions.

Sometimes we’re quick to judge others because we question our own, different decisions. And we seek reassurance that the sacrifices we’ve made, in terms of time and/or money, have been worth it.

For me, I’m glad I was there when my daughters were little. Glad, and grateful.

I also wonder if I’ve done enough to stay in the game professionally while primarily staying at home with my daughters these past four years. Because I’d love to work more and write more someday.

So I wonder. Have I taken on enough writing projects? Have I tried as hard as I could? Should I have said yes more, instead of passing on opportunities that could have made a difference to me personally, and to my family financially?

Have I made mistakes?

The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Maybe you have too. Because being a mom is hard, however you do it. And we’re all doing the best we can.

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.