Taking Another Look at ‘Good Housekeeping’

I used to think of Good Housekeeping magazine as the kind of publication you read when you’d given up on being a sexy woman and resigned yourself to a life of picture-perfect recipes and mom jeans.

I remember going to the grocery store as an angst-ridden preteen with my mom and, as we unloaded our items onto the checkout belt and waited for the cashier to give us the final tab, I’d watch her pick up a copy of GH from the newsstand and casually thumb through the pages. I rolled my eyes. Good Housekeeping seemed so, well, Good Housekeeping. Headlines screamed, “10 Easy Recipes for Summer” and “How to Balance Work and Life!” How boring. The preteen couldn’t be bothered with anything so practical.

A budding quasi-feminist-yet-curious-Lolita type, I got my kicks from equal parts Ms. magazine and Cosmopolitan. I was deeply curious about fashion and sex, yet entrenched in feminist politics. In college, things didn’t change much, except that I grew deeper into my feminist side (and started reading Bitch). After college, my interest in pizza and keg parties waned, while health started to find a way back into my life — so Self and Women’s Health became my books of choice (soon to be followed by Runner’s World). Those, plus Newsweek and TIME, which I grew up with, completed my magazine subscription collection.

That media mix was a happy one … for a while. Then, I had my first son. And suddenly I couldn’t wait to read articles like “Ways to Prevent SIDS” and “10 Post-Natal Exercises,” while checking out the cute $10 beauty fixes in the front of the book (because Parents editors are smart enough to know I don’t have more than $10 to spend on a beauty item unless it’s my highlights). What’s a little troubling, however, is my lack of interest in magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, even Women’s Health (my once-favorite).

It’s not that I have no libido (I do!), or an interest in fashion (that, too!). It’s just that my priorities have shifted tremendously. What I need more of is time, and advice on how to maximize it. What I need less of is a magazine telling me why I need $65 beauty serums before I turn 40 (ahem, Women’s Health). I also have less disposable income: Clothes are bought, but they must really, really be necessary. A $200 pair of sandals or jeans? Not really necessary, even though a good argument could be made for the jeans as a push present for baby #2. A good $8 brow pencil and a good, but not too pricy, pair of running shoes so I can stay in shape with the 20 minutes I have today to exercise? Totally necessary!!

On Monday, when I was looking for “great gifts under $10” I cam across an article with exactly that headline — and the link took me to Good Housekeeping’s website. I was delighted at the piece and the clever ideas! How was it that I didn’t notice how great this magazine is, all those years before?

Then, there’s the food thing. As in, I have zero time to make it. But I cannot handle the stress of Martha Stewart-level recipes. Again, Good Housekeeping hears me, loud and clear.

While I’m not sure if I’ll give up my subscription to Women’s Health this year, it’s interesting that I haven’t found the time to pay my annual $18 tab. I forget to read it when it comes every month, only glancing at it for a second or two, so I forget that I am a subscriber.

But I’m still holding on to the “sexy woman” image in my head, rather than the “overworked mom” one. So maybe I need hang onto Women’s Health to remind myself that I am sexy before I am momish. Then again, I have no idea what to cook for dinner and it’s already 2 p.m. What I wouldn’t give for the latest GH issue!

 

Going Freelance Again … with Two Kids in Tow!

When I first moved to New York in 2005, I became a freelance writer and (later) a guitar teacher by default. There weren’t any magazine jobs, but I had a lot of b-to-b writing skills — so friends of mine who knew I needed money just started sending my name to editors. I got assignments. And more assignments. And soon, I had so many assignments that I didn’t have time to look for a job. Sometimes I didn’t even have time to take a shower.

I did manage to find time to volunteer for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls as a vocal/guitar teacher. So when an opportunity to teach guitar to kids came up on the Rock Camp listserv, I applied on a whim. The job — teaching students with the Brooklyn Guitar School — was mine a week later. A part-time freelancer’s position.

So the e-mail tagline changed with my identity: I became Marisa, a freelance writer and guitar teacher.

Then, the economy tanked in 2009, taking most of my high-paying media outlets with it. After months of trying to get new contract work, I humbly applied for a full-time job, tail between my legs. When I was hired, I felt like such a huge sellout, going corporate after years of being free. But numbers, like hips, don’t lie: I could barely afford more than rent, subway fare, and groceries. At the time, my then-fiance was a student teacher. We decided to move to Stamford, Conn., from Brooklyn, and I would need a car. And more money for things like gas and car insurance. There was no way around it: I had to get a job.

It’s been five years since I moved to Connecticut and returned to the corporate-job world. And now, I am leaving it again, only this time around, the circumstances are VERY different. Unlike before, I am not just working for myself. So I can’t just get up at 7 a.m. and plow through an assignment until noon. Rather, I can get up at 6 a.m., and plow through some work until 7, but then I’ll need to take a break to eat waffles with my toddler, and nurse my infant. I’ll need to make sure that bottles are washed and both little men are dressed and changed. In other words, there is only so much I will be able to work. Instead of working up to 80 hours a week, I’ll have to make sure my workload ends up being no more than 40 hours a week. I’ll have to have hard limits.

Of course, there’s the usual sadness about not having paid sick days (when you’re a freelancer, you don’t get paid when you’re sick!). And I’ll miss having colleagues — one of the nicest things about working in the corporate world. I’ll also miss the income that comes with working 50-60 hours per week. The idea of giving up money to put toward little luxuries like weekend getaways or new clothes is crazy scary.

But in return I’m getting something better: More time with my sons, big dude and baby dude. At the end of the day, I didn’t want to give up having waffles with my older boy, or nursing my little one because I’m on a business trip. I want to be there at the beginning of the day, instead of in a car on the way to a job. I want to be there for them at the end of the day. I want to cook dinner for them — and learn to use a food processor.

As much as I love work, family comes first. So here’s to “living the dream” as my friend Miriam called it. I truly am a lucky girl.