alas, problogger, we hardly knew ye


Creative Commons License photo credit: piccadillywilson

You may recall that I was going through a rapid-fire decision process related to my choice, for lack of a better word, of a job. I had a startup contact me, an offer of an officer position with a investment bank and a new contract position all come at me in the space of a day. The contract position was immediate and required an immediate decision.

Another option which I didn’t really discuss was tossing caution to the wind and turning down everything and continuing my problogging. What I discovered about problogging was this: you can’t do it at home with two small children…or at least I can’t. I am sure that many people have the ability to slam the door to their writing office shut, or head down to the local Starbucks or whatever they choose to do to remove the distraction of kids. I don’t. I have never figured out a way to block out the presence of my kids, or the necessary level of selfishness (for lack of a better word) to tell Bubelah to take care of everything while I work. My son drives me nuts (a lot), but he’s got my ear. If problogging were generating the largest portion of our income, I would have to lock the door for a few hours a day to get anything done. Alternatively, I would need to stay up til all hours or wake up early, but that’s easier said than done with two small kids. I’m already down to six hours of sleep per night, and that’s often interrupted once or twice. Since I hardly set the world on fire with my problogging – my productivity actually went down over the last month – I didn’t feel much incentive to continue doing it.

The contract position in the end was a no-brainer.
We bought a new car for cash, had a baby and neither of us worked for almost six weeks. We have part-time help for my wife, who’s recovering from her C-section, and in the end I wanted to go back to work before we had to touch our “real” savings. We had exhausted our go-to-hell funds (buying the car, paying for a lot of baby-related expenses, etc.) and soon we’d be going into our emergency funds. We have enough for a year or two (if we scaled back our fairly frugal lifestyle) but neither of us were anxious to divert money away from wealthbuilding that long.

So the contract position offered a good opportunity to start the income flowing in again without making any significant sacrifices in terms of my participation in our family life in the short run.
The commute is much shorter than my commute to my previous client, saving almost two hours per day. The work is interesting – I’m part of a team reengineering the finance process at a corporate level for one of the biggest corporations in the world, with a LOT of freedom to do it how we see fit after internal employees, frankly, couldn’t get it done. I am scared to say – because I know how these things go – that I am ever so vaguely interested in my work for the first time in a long time.

On the other hand, it was wrenching to stop “working at home” problogging
. I think when you work a 9-to-5 type job you can assume that life’s always harried. When you have a self-directed job like problogging, it’s amazing how easily things like doctor’s appointments can be accomplished. Most corporate employees and consultants know how wrenching it can be to schedule appointments around your work committments. You can direct your own time – with, of course, the huge caveat that if you have young kids at home THEY actually direct most of your time.

But in the end until I’ve built up my wealthstreams to a level where they cover our expenses and a little excess for investing, I don’t think I can give up consulting. So I’m back to The Collective, so to speak. Resistance was futile. I’m trudging up Wall Street every morning with thousands of other suit-and-tie people. I look around a see a lot of tired, out of shape (and this is New York, where everyone walks) and stressed looking people. Most of them, like me, aren’t ready to give up their income, for whatever reason: they don’t think it can be done, they actually like the stressful job or they are simply coasting along in entropy. But I’m back in with my teeth gritted and my determination to get far enough ahead by 2017 to get out. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m increasingly convinced it’s from sunny beaches and not from an oncoming freight train. That’s nice.

26 comments

  • Chad @ Sentient Money

    I’m really trying to put together a plan to get out of consulting and you’re jumping in. That’s disheartening, but it sounds like it’s necessary. If we just didn’t need money.

    • @Chad: Well, I hope it’s not disheartening. I like to think I’m jumping in from a position of strength. I make enough money doing my work that I’m financially free in the short term (1 year or so) to work or not work for months and months at a time. That’s a luxury 90% of Americans don’t have.

      I’m also doing contract work – I’m in for a few months, out for a couple. Keep at it – consulting is a great path for people like me who like to natter on and make money nattering, so if you find yourself in that category keep at it.

  • Welcome back! Do you think having your mind occupied on work now will get your mind going and give it more to write about?

    • @Writer’s Coin: Yeah, actually, being at work gives me more career-related stuff to write about. I don’t write a parenting blog, so a lot of the parenting-type observations that might have made good blog posts over the last month weren’t relevant to brip blap. I do find that inspiration is the trickiest thing about writing. I can write for a long, long time after I get some inspiration.

  • I love that last line so much I want to steal it! 🙂

    We’ll miss problogger Steve!

    I have a friend who worked from home for 3 months – his wife was a stay at home mom and they had 3 kids at the time – and he spent way more time tending to the kids than even his wife did. Without clear boundaries, the wife went out alone constantly leaving the kids with him when he was supposed to be working simply because it was convenient and he was there. The kids knew he was in his office so they constantly wanted him to do things and were interrupting. It didn’t take long for him to figure out working at home with kids in the house is very very hard and he went back to his consulting job as well.

    • @Emiliy: You loved “That’s nice.” ? Just kidding, I know want you meant. It’s yours, steal it, I release it. 🙂

      Yeah, your story describes it. I can’t get work done with my kids around because I find it hard to put work in front of them. And you have to – work pays the bills, provides for the family and maybe (for other people) provides and adult sense of satisfaction. But I can’t do it, so like your friend I probably need to keep staying out and about. It’s tough, though.

  • Good choice. The reality is that you make very good money from your regular job which is really hard to replace with another vocation. It’s a lot easier for someone making $40k to “go pro” than someone making $140k, especially if their partner makes half decent money. I think it’s better for a high income person to stick it out until they have enough saved to either retire or get by with a part time job (ie blogging). At that point they have a lot of options and get to choose!

    My new baby is a bit on the hi-maintenance side and like you my productivity has gone to hell. I have literally written 2 posts over the last month (I’m not working either). Why can’t my baby be like the ones on tv that lie quietly in the corner, gurgling contentedly (and quietly)? 🙂

    Mike

    • @Four Pillars: Mike, you’re completely right. If my job paid pennies I’d go for it. I’m in velvet chains, and that was exactly my point: my work is easy enough and pays enough that I feel like an idiot for refusing to go after it. Staying at home is tough. Bubelah is a trooper. One kid is a handful, two are a logistical nightmare. Our second is fairly well-natured but even the best-natured kids, when you take two, will overlap… one is calm and the other is fussy. The second calms down and the first fusses. Repeat until cuckoo…

  • Well its good you will be able to get back to saving. Hopefully you can start banking everything that you would have made problogging. Just keep working at it and soon enough you will be able to retire. Hopefully before 2017. Retiring doesn’t mean you have to sit on the porch all day. If I were retired I would probably be working on a million small projects (and fishing).

    • @David Carter: I am banking 100% of my blogging income and approximately 1/3rd of my consulting income. We are frugal folks… we always think that living within our means is a smart way to live but making more is even better…

  • I think we all know you made the right decision, even though it’s a bit sad for us to lose a problogger. I hope you can return to problogging before 2017.

  • Just make sure you keep in touch as an nonproblogger –halfproblogger? It is hard to make decisions like this, but at least now you have a perspective on the issue that keeps you sane. I agree wholeheartedly with you on the difficulty a “normal” job presents in making and keeping routine appointments. On top of the dental/hair/plumber appointments, there are all the kid things — award ceremonies, plays, graduations — that are so painful to miss.

    • @jabster: I like half-pro-blogger, but I’m not even that. If I’m making $500 per day consulting and $10 blogging, I’m no problogger in any sense of the word. But at the same time, that $10 is much more fun (if not easier) to generate, so what’s the better use of my time… had to say.

  • Sounds like a wise decision. You were an excellent blogger before you went pro, so I’m sure you’ll continue to be one. Good luck with the new position!

    • Thanks, Mrs. Micah: I will endeavor to exceed expectations (see, my corporate days aren’t entirely behind me!).

  • well you can become a low-blogger instead!

    what are you going to be doing for the Inv. Bank?

    • @LODPI: Sure, I’ll be a PTBlogger or something like that.

      The investment bank would be a control position related to real-estate write downs: retroactively figuring out where lending agents goofed. Fun stuff, annoying everyone. What I ended up doing in the contract position is a revision of the financial close process: mucj closer to my previous experience.

  • Hey Steve

    You know since you like writing, maybe you should also look into freelance writing commercially? You can use your blog here as part of your portfolio. When I get done with my trip along with Visalus I’m starting Elfwords back up.

    I love self-direct jobs. Perhaps tis why I have such a fascination with being a salesman.

    Your friend
    -Greg
    PS. I’ll be in the Bay Area the 7th! I’ll let yah know how the sunny beaches are! : )

  • Repeat until cuckoo…

    Lol – I think I’m past that point. 🙂

    Mike

  • Steve, at one point in my life I wanted to take a year or two off to see if I could make a go of it as a fiction writer. Due to my wife’s career ups and downs I wasn’t able to, and I gradually came to realize that working and all that came with it gave me valuable story ideas and insights about people that I never could have derived from sitting at home and exercising my imagination. There is a great deal of raw material out there that you can’t get any other way. So I continue to work for The Man (albeit from my home office), and immerse myself in my fictional worlds on the weekends.

    And my year is 2013, but then I’m older than you.

  • Steve, I hear ya on the kids and work thing. It’s terribly difficult to work from home with little ones. You’re constantly aware of how much effort they are and how tired your wife is from lack of sleep, recovery, etc.

    It’s so refreshing to “go back to work” so you can relax a little and still feel good about it because you’re contributing to your family’s well-being.

    Best of luck to you. I think you’ll beat that 2017 goal by a lot.

  • As far as being a pro-blogger with small kids, I think that what you experienced over the past couple of weeks is something similar to people who have their own business at home. Basically, in order to be productive, you should have a designated office room in your house, where you shouldn’t be disturbed during your normal “work” hours- let’s say 9 – 5. Even though you are working on your own pro-blogging business, you should still treat it seriously as if it were your job. Otherwise, you won;’t succeed problogging. Just ask many of the stay at home day-traders why they failed. This is one of the reasons why, not the market timing issues.

  • I worked as a freelance writer off & on while my son was growing up, and also wrote my dissertation after he was born. This was a kid who could be wakened from a deep sleep by the sound of a pen running across a page.

    Really, before he went to school the ONLY way to get any work done was to farm him out to babysitters for a few hours a day. Fortunately my husband earned enough to make that possible. We had two grandmotherly types in the neighborhood who were wonderful child caretakers, and they would watch him for four or five hours a day. Between them and Sesame Street, I managed to sustain my little business. But it wasn’t easy.

  • Welcome back to the 9-5 life. It’s funny, I try to get some blog stuff done at home and it just doesn’t happen. Maybe a few emails get addressed. I’ve finally made a couple of dollars at it so I can better justify it to my wife but I still can’t have her take care of the kids and the housework because I happened to make a couple of bucks blogging. Lunch for me is blogging time.

    9-5 is such a myth. Who’s productive all of that time? I’m more like a few good hours of productivity than 7 full hours (one for lunch). And weekends aren’t really for fun, they’re for doing errands! Ok, now I’m depressing myself!

    It sounds like you’re in a position that gives you a lot of career choices. That’s a lot better than many have with their jobs. You’re back to work but it will help your goal of getting out of work for good down the line. Until we find a better way then that’s how it goes.

  • All the best to you for making hard decisions. Way to go with being there for your family. As FFB said too, at least you’ve got choices. For me, right now, that’s part of what being financially free will be all about. May not make some decisions easier, though. I’ve enjoyed reading your creative and insightful posts.