It’s almost spring. There is more light now, some warmth, and less aversion to leaving the house. I’ve shed the leggings I habitually wear under my pants and stroll now through the neighbourhood with my legs feeling bare and free under my jeans. I skip hats and scarves and I squint, rodent-like, at the sun as the girls and I walk to school in the morning. When we walk home in the afternoon, we choose the sides of the street with more sun and sing back to the chickadees, “spring’s heeeere! spring’s heeeeere!” Hannah tries to scale the shrinking snowbank mountain ranges as she’s done all winter, and her legs sink knee-deep into the weakening snowpack.
I’m in the middle of a big project. One that another programmer had quoted and begun but could not complete, so it was offered to me as a medium sized project, but has turned out to be a huge sized project.
It is nearly demoralizingly huge. In January, I had sat down and analyzed my schedule and concluded that my ideal workweek needed to be limited to 25 hours a week in order to let me be a focused mom during after school hours. Any more than that and I am essentially working over time, struggling to program at the same time as helping with homework and fetching snacks and starting supper. I burn out, fight with my kids and feel miserable about my home life.
But then this project came along, pitched to me as a crisis. And I have a hero complex, and so I’ve been working an average of 32 hours a week on it. In addition to that, I have been maintaining other clients and doing the kind of admin that freelancers don’t recognize as real work. It comes to 40-50 hours a week plus 20 hours of caring for & fighting with my kids.
I am quite, quite burnt out.
It has been seven weeks of this. Working weekends to try to catch up. Some nights up until 5 in order to hit a deadline for the client of the client. Quite burnt out.
Did I tell you that last spring I had decided to quit freelance programming in favour of writing a book that has been on my mind forever to write? Well I did that. I spent the summer letting myself just read and ruminate and didn’t push myself to accomplish anything since I had three kids at home plus dance performances in July and still some clients’ projects to finish. And when September came, I started, in earnest, working on my book outline.
And so from September to December, I wrote outlines, I did world building, I composed tiny bits of prose to feel out the emotional parts. But for the last year, there’s been a lot of budget cuts at the University, where Ian works. And in December, the latest report on which departments should be cut and restructured was due out. And so, after some Christmas-time deep discussion about risks, we concluded that the smart thing for me to do is to return to freelancing and make sure we have a safety net built up in the event that his department does get cut.
So I have been working accordingly. My book has been back-burnered for three months now. It’s not too terrible a hardship since I do love programming too. And it’s good to have a trade that is in high demand right now.
While I need to do a better job of vetting my projects to prevent this problem of being stretched too thin and burning out and not setting reasonable limits, I am blessed in so many ways. Ian has been immeasurably supportive – cooking most of the meals for the kids, bringing food to me at my desk when I’m working through supper, and even doing content insertion for me after the kids are in bed. The kids have been, overall, very sweet. Friends have been very supportive. I have many, many lovely supports in my life.
Just that what I need right now is a goddamn holiday.