In Which Jim Whines

Two weeks ago, I took time off of the day job so I could be with my wife during a surgical procedure and the first part of her recovery. Everything went smoothly, and I brought her home on day two.

For the next week and a half, I played stay-at-home Dad. I got up with the kids, fed them breakfast, and got them off to school. I took care of dishes, meals, laundry, lawn-mowing, pets, shopping, and so on. I refereed bedtime and got the kids tucked in.

Yesterday was my first day back at the “real” job. It only took a few hours for me to hate it.

Before I go any further, let me emphasize that I’m grateful to have a decent job, a steady paycheck, and benefits (despite ongoing erosion of the latter two). Given the economy in Michigan and the various health issues my family shares, I know how fortunate I am to be able to support us.

But for the past week and a half, in addition to all the housework, I was able to write for 2-4 hours every day. I added 20,000 words to the current draft of Libriomancer, more than double what I would have normally been able to do. I slept in until 7:00 every morning. I had time to use the exercise bike more than once a week.

I want that life. I want to be able to write in the mornings, and to jump up when the iPhone buzzes to let me know it’s time to walk down and meet my son at the bus stop. It was nonstop busy, but it was a busy that I loved.

If last week were my normal routine, I could pretty much write two books a year. Assuming a proportional increase in my writing income, we could probably live on that … if not for the lack of health benefits.

I’ve ranted about this before, I know. It’s the health benefits that trap me. My diabetes is the least of it. My daughter is the only truly healthy one in the family. Thankfully, my son’s asthma is under better control these days. But we need a full-time wage-earner with benefits, and unless something huge changes, that’s me for the foreseeable future.

I’m okay with that. I would love to work one job instead of two, but I’ve accepted that this ain’t gonna happen. For the most part, I love my life, and I know how fortunate I am. But these past two weeks have been a taste of what could have been, and while I’ve enjoyed it immensely, it feels almost cruel to have to go back to the old routine.

I’ll get over it. I’ve done writing + day job for more than a decade now. I don’t regret the choices I’ve made, and I’m not asking for advice or sympathy.

But I decided to give myself permission to wallow for one day. To envy all of my friends who have gone full-time as freelancers, either because they don’t have the ongoing health costs or because they have a spouse who is able to cover that. To mourn the lost time with my family, as well as the books and stories I could have written.

And now that the wallowing is over, I’ve got work to do. I hope this post wasn’t too much of a downer, but just in case, have a picture of Flit hanging out in the desk.