On the last day of January this year, I received an e-mail. It was a note about a potential opening for a writer to help create a new blog for The Post. I didn’t know it, but it would alter my life and introduce me to the genius of Steve Jobs.
But the heavy cost of childcare was eating up most of my salary and I had a nagging guilt about missing too much of my girls’ childhoods, so I decided that I’d rather focus on them for a few years and give up the writing career.
My husband understood. He agreed to shoulder the financial burden alone for two or three years. We thought that by then, I would be able to find a job, any job, that would help pay the bills and, hopefully, offer some flexibility.
The first six months after I quit were almost euphoric. My girls were happy to have me; their schedules were open. It was summer, then a beautiful fall and my attitude was flooded with gratitude.
By winter my new life began to lose its sheen. Our savings had been depleted. I began feeling guilty for splurging on after-school hot chocolates, then a babysitter, then a haircut. My husband seemed, to me at least, to be contributing at home less and less . My girls were over my (increasingly dour, perhaps) presence. I began to feel as if I was in a time warp. Betty Draper’s anger, I was beginning to understand.
It was about this time I started losing sleep over that future job. What would it be? All I knew how to do, all I had ever done, was write news and essays. I had been a proud Luddite, reading hard copies of newspapers when everyone else I knew was scanning them online. I was the last of my friends and colleagues to own a cell phone, a laptop. I purposely avoided texting. Technology was to be used minimally, only if necessary, I had thought, lest it consume my limited time.
But now, at home, with a creaky out-of-date Dell and a limited-plan cell phone, I felt abandoned. My 20th century skills were practically useless. How was I going to compete with a constantly refreshing workforce of kids trained to do whatever job that I would try to con someone into giving me? I felt as if I’d trapped myself in a resentful dependency.
Then the e-mail. Might I be interested in writing? About parenting? From home? The woman who is now my editor had sent me an electronic lifeboat.
But I could only respond “hell, yes!” because of Mr. Jobs. The only way I could learn, in a matter of hours, how to text, blog and tweet, and, in the next few weeks, how to reconnect with the world of news and ideas and also be present in the lives of a toddler and preschooler, was because of the ease and brilliance of his modern technology.
The iPhone has become essential in allowing me to simultaneously tackle the only two jobs I can ever imagine wanting. The MacBook Air followed, and the iMac desktop too. A friend who peeked inside my living room recently said it looked like an Apple Store.
Thank you, Steve Jobs. You didn’t make my life easier. Or happier. Or less stressful. You didn’t make work-home dilemmas disappear. But you and your imagination created new choices for parents, or this parent, at least. That’s been a profound gift.