I troll journalismjobs.com maybe once a week just to see what’s out there. I used to fancy myself a prize-winning newspaper reporter who worked his way up to fame, fortune and a book contract. (Never mind the reality of the journalism industry – this is my fantasy.)
Then I became a wire service copy editor and realized editing came much easier to me. Need someone to grout your tub or rebuild your back steps? Don’t call me. But for help with correct usage of which or that (hint: is it setting off an essential or nonessential clause?), I’m your man. There’s no glory in spending your days separating other people’s compound sentences with a comma and a conjunction, however.
Really – do you know any famous editors?
Then I became an at-home dad and started freelance writing for magazines. Maybe this is it, I thought. I get lots more time on a story than in newspaper. And bonus I work from my guest room wearing blue jeans while other ink-stained wretches have to wear a necktie and go to an office. But the current article I’m writing for a magazine in Baltimore is making me nuts. I’ve interviewed a dozen people for the piece, but I just don’t have a sense of what the story really is.
So while procrastinating today, I found the International Herald Tribune needs a copy editor. In Paris!
I forwarded the listing to my Lovely Bride, who’s on day three of a five-day business trip. Hmmm, she says. She’s a fundraiser, and her employer has a Europe-based position she probably could get. So I fired off a resume, and as if I already had the job, my mind started racing.
When would we move? After the kids finish school?
Would we sell the house or try to rent it?
Would I go over first and look for a place to live, while Lovely Bride deals with house and kids and joins me later?
How on earth would I find a place to live? That would fit all our junk? In a kid-friendly neighborhood?
A year after a wrenching change of churches, how would we find a new one?
What would we do with our cars?
Would we buy bunches of adapters for our stereo and coffee pot and lamps and alarm clocks?
How long would it take to actually make friends?
How would we keep up with our old ones?
How would we find schools for our children?
How does quarantining work for bringing our pets? Would I foist our 18-year-old cat off on my parents but bring the dog in a pet version of Sophie’s Choice?
Would we even come back to Baltimore?
Is it selfish to want this?
Is my French so rusty that I can barely order lunch?
Am I really ready to end my time as an at-home dad?
You would think I had never set foot on French soil. Or moved to a new city. Or changed jobs. Or done anything that was actually hard. Like potty training two children in a house with no ground-floor bathroom. Or tried to teach manners to a 7-year-old. (Still working on that one.)
I first went to France in 1988 for a couple weeks with a sister-city exchange program in Frejus, then again in 1993 to Toulon for a semester in college. In 1996, Lovely Bride and I went for a week to Paris and came back engaged. Then in 2002, we went for the last time before having children. We rented a house in a fabulous Mediterranean town called Antibes and took turns as tour leader to my friends and family for a week and then to hers. I managed, en francais, to help my father buy a new camera after his shorted out the minute he plugged it in. I even took a train to Paris and back when I finagled an interview for a reporter job in my American employer’s Paris bureau. (Didn’t get the job.)
By lunch today, I had worked out a number of things. Cars were easiest: sell our 2007 Prius, but garage the 2003 station wagon at my parents. It’s not worth much, but might be good to have when we come back.
Job timing was next. They call me and set up an interview in February in their Washington office. They love me; I love them. They fly me to Paris to interview in early March. I get the job by April and start in May. Then we divide and conquer: I work by day and apartment hunt by night. My wife deals with movers and packing up the house in Baltimore. Family comes in June or July?
Then I started thinking – should my Lovely Bride even work while we’re there? Our son’s almost 8 – try plunking him down in a country where he has no friends and doesn’t speak the language. Gotta expect some problems. Our daughter would be easier – we could tell her Fancy Nancy only dreams of moving to Paris. (This book character swears anything in French such as mousse or chandelier is better than hair gel or light fixture.) I found myself wanting to be there for the children to ease the transition for them. Oh, but I’ll be the one at the office.
I had an office job once.
A really hard part would be saying goodbye to our friends in the neighborhood. One neighbor slept on our sofa to mind our son when I took my wife to the hospital in labor with our daughter at 2 a.m. I took another to the emergency room when he wiped out going down his back steps. A half-dozen families banded together for rotating pot-lucks so we wouldn’t go crazy during the Twin Blizzards of February 2010. Just this afternoon, I had six kids in my basement for hot chocolate while the parents and I kibitzed in the kitchen.
And I’d especially miss my at-home dad friends. These are the people who spared me from insanity when I had two children in diapers with divergent napping schedules. And who taught me how to get my daughter to go pee-pee alfresco without getting it all over herself or me.
Oh gee, and I forgot how my wife gets quivery at the mere sight of a moving box. Her dad worked for the Federal Reserve bank when she was growing up, and they moved six times before she started high school. Oof.
The mental wheels kept turning: maybe I’m not done with my children yet. Maybe I should do better with the time I have with them. Keep working with my second-grader on his handwriting (they just don’t teach that in first grade any more) and interrogating him after book time to help with reading retention. Volunteer in his school more. Have more tea parties with my daughter instead of making up excuses why today doesn’t suit. Quit whining about my freelance article and just bang the darn thing out. Finish some house projects.
Alrighty, time to stop navel-gazing and go clean up the kitchen.
You know, all I did was send in a resume. I didn’t sign anything, and I haven’t even gotten an interview yet.