The Return: After 15 Years at Home, a Mother Goes Back to Work

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By Mary DiPalermo

After having three kidsand a sporadic (but mostly quiet) freelance existence at home for fifteenyears, I went back to work last fall. Back to the grind. Up and at it. Fortyhours a week.

I didn't plan to return tooffice life but we really needed the health insurance. And like most of mymajor life decisions, I stumbled into this one. It was a three-week writing gigthat kept up. I'm reviewing children's books-a nice fit for a mom who's beenbuying them for nearly seventeen years-and the job is now consideredsemi-permanent (just like my hair color).

My most frequently usedphrase these days is:the balls aredropping. Curiously, all the work balls seem to be airborne-it's the homeballs that are crashing down. Maybecrashingis too strong of a word. Perhapsploppingis better.

Permission slips aren'tgetting signed. Backpacks aren't getting checked. My youngest son had a recordnumber of tardys on his latest report card. And the house looks worn-dustbunnies are gathering at a rapid pace and the clutter is multiplying. And thoselittle things that need to be done? Read: laundry, laundry and laundry-aren'tgetting done either.

My kids greet me at thedoor every night like a pack of crazed wolf pups-each one more hungry than the lastfor fresh bits of undivided attention. And with my eyes crossed from hours ofcomputer gazing and wordsmith-ing, I'm not always undivided.

I have a recurring wakefulnightmare where Dr. Phil or Oprah steps out of my disastrous front hall closetand urges me to live my best life. "Pay attention!" "When you know better, youdo better!" "Your child is speaking to you, stop thinking about your dang FreshDirect order!"

Having three kids is likehaving three pans of risotto cooking on the stove simultaneously. You've got tokeep your eye on each one-stirring and tending-while watching them as a whole.Returning to work at this stage of the game has turned up the heat on everyburner.

To read the full column at New York Family magazine click here.

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