Work Life Stories: Books and Babies

The first in my series of work life stories is representative of a relatively new piece of the economic puzzle – mothers who work from home, often at night or in the early mornings and make a decent financial contribution in the process.  It’s a hybrid approach – entrepreneurial, but with low costs of entry and minimal child care requirements.  A middle ground for some wanting/needing to parent full time but keep connected to their professional world and make a family income contribution.  These kinds of work life solutions are growing at an exponential rate in certain applicable vocations. 

Meet my dear friend, Amy Jameson.  She began her career in publishing in New York, working with renowned literary agent Lynn Nesbit. During her seven years at Janklow & Nesbit Associates, Amy had the privilege of working with acclaimed authors such as Michael Crichton, President Jimmy Carter, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion, Jeffrey Eugenides, and many others. She also sold audio and first serial rights for several years at J&N while building her own select client list. 

In 2004, she left Janklow and partnered with husband Brandon to form A+B Works. Amy has always had a passion for young adult and middle grade fiction. When Amy isn’t working with authors or caring for her small children, she enjoys gardening, cooking, singing, and reading really great books.  Amy recently gave birth to their third child.  We caught up a little while ago to talk about her career choices and how she makes it all work.

Amy was laid off when she was pregnant with her first child.   Thinking it unlikely she’d get hired for a new role at that stage and planning for more than one child in the long term, she decided an independent agency could fill the gap for income and professional connection.  As an aside, but an important issue relating to this kind of work approach, Amy’s husband was also freelancing, so health insurance was a problem.  They were able to use a freelancer’s association to secure coverage at such a critical time.

“I am grateful to have something other than the kids in my life.  Although I might be a saner person (maybe) if didn’t work.  Certainly there are things I miss out on. I am a very creative person and see other mothers around me who aren’t working (at least for money) sewing dresses and exercising their creativity in the home arts.  That’s something I’ve always loved but simply cannot get to.  Any discretionary time goes to my work.

“There is so little “me” time.  I work predominantly after the kids go to bed.  In order to sustain my marriage, my husband and I need time together too.   It’s hard to fit it all in because the business cannot take front seat right now, and yet I want and am obligated to give my clients my best.  So it is a discipline thing.  I have to pick and choose.  I have over a thousand email queries from potential authors and cannot answer them.

“I think there is always the guilt factor.  I can’t give 100% to everything.  So I decide to give 100% to the things that matter the most (my family and my clients).  The rest is just good enough and sometimes good enough is sufficient.

“I choose not to have a nanny during the day, so work is intermittent (during naps and such) and then focused at night.  But this way I believe I am giving my best to my kids and my best to clients.   Most of my clients are mothers and they are getting up at 5am to write.  So they do cut me a little slack on my schedule.

“My eldest is now in pre-K three days a week – it’s gone so quickly – I am happy I chose a path that has let me really enjoy this time that my children are young while it lasts.  I’ve learned how to be very efficient with the time that I have to work.  Then I can luxuriate in the time during the day with my kids because that’s what I want.  I am really able to both, full-time mother and part-time literary agent.

“Doing more than I am doing does not appeal right now.  Maybe in the future.   My business keeps my hand in, and it will be there later, when my kids are in school full-time.  In the meantime, it is a great financial cushion and I make a very real contribution to the household earnings.

“Things I didn’t expect – my business has taught me how to be really efficient.  I can get so much done in an hour – you realize how to be streamlined and not how to waste time on the little things.

“I do enjoy the intellectual connection this part of my life provides.  I can get too extreme and lost in my kids and so it’s good to have the business to keep me connected to the world.  My mother had no life other than her children and that’s not healthy.  Perhaps if she’d let go more and let us work things out it could have been better for the family and certainly better for my Mom.  She did an amazing job, but I imagine at times it was so hard for her.  Our mothers’ problems become ours and we have to work those out.

“I love my clients, and they have become good friends – good Mom friends and professional friends.  There is something wonderful about helping someone achieve a dream.  For a writer, their writing is their baby as much as any child.  My job is to get that baby born.  Oddly, motherhood has been good training for this job – part hand holder, shrink, friend.

“Work life balance?  I feel it works best when the time I spend with my kids isn’t “why don’t you guys go do something so I can get something done” and that my time at work is also focused and present.  Efficient and productive and not just wasting time …”

Photo used with permission by Brandon Jameson

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  • Christine Livingston

    Like I said before, I think it's wonderful to share real life stories of how people are making work and life work for them. Amy's story really portrays the inventiveness she has used to make things work for her.

    It's a real lesson to hear Amy say that she can't give 100% to everything, and that she chooses to give 100% to what matters to her: family and clients. I think part of my challenge is that I can be perfectionist and want everything to be just so. But trying to achieve that just runs me ragged – and I don't even have children! I would guess that iving up the addiction to perfection is a key thing for many of us?

    I also want to say how increasingly struck I am by the healthcare situation in the US. Here in the UK we have the choice between private medical treatment (which you can pay for yourself or use healthcare insurance), or the NHS system, which is free to all. So, in creating one's own lifestyle, we don't also have to think about whether we or our families will be able to get medical attention or not. You guys have it much tougher than us on this front…puts a totally different complexion on things.

  • Whitney Johnson

    Fun to get a glimpse of your life Amy! Glad that you are featuring these stories Chrysula!

  • Kami

    I love that you are doing this, Chrysula. People need to understand that there are options and that, as you articulated in your previous post, there is no one size fits all approach to this situation. By making the public aware of possibilities, people can go into the discussion with their bosses with a toolbox, and not empty-handed.

  • Tom Bailey

    I connected through another bloggger that is going to be guest blogging here. He is a blogger that has left EXCELLENT comments on my blog. My way of viewing work life balance is

    "make your vocation your vacation" – Mark Twain

    The key thing that I think is important is that we now have a world economy you are not just in competition for your job with the people in your country you are in competition for your job with people in other countries – How are you going to compete? What are you able to do they can not? It shortens the list. What are you willing to do that other places are unwilling to do?

    I think a person in the future might have to look at mixing family and business more to stay in competition or be able to find ways to use overseas labor.

    I like your blog.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Farmgirl Susan

    I just discovered your blog and am really enjoying this series. It's always interesting to hear how other 'real' people juggle – and, maybe more importantly, don't juggle – everything going on in their lives. Very inspiring! :)

  • Chrysula WORK. LIFE. BALANCE.

    Welcome to the blog Farmgirl Susan, thrilled to have you here and your thoughts. I couldn't agree more on the juggle/don't juggle point you make. I think we learn so much from sharing our stories and glad you are enjoying them.

  • Chrysula WORK. LIFE. BALANCE.

    Tom, thanks so much for your comments some time ago on the work life stories series I've been running on the blog. I've had some challenges with my comments system and it's finally all worked out so I am catching up! I love that quote from Mark Twain and you are so on the money with the fundamental shifts we are facing in the world of work. We have to completely shift the lens of how we view all this, as I talk about in my most recent post.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and leave your thoughts. Look forward to more of them!