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Piece of Work

The gig economy allows for more time with kiddos—as long as you can keep it all together.

Millennials are (finally) having kids. So what kind of parents will they become? These stories from our millennial parenting issue reflect six distinct experiences and reveal that generational divides aren’t always what they seem.

When I tell people I received my first commission from Saveur while in labor, reactions vary from being aghast that I was checking email to simply wondering what I did about it. To the former, I respond that I had contractions for 52 hours: I was bored, looking for something (anything!) to do. And to the latter, I say: Obviously, I wrote that piece. I wrote it at 3 a.m. while rocking a crying newborn. I wrote it sitting next to her as she was strapped to lights that treated her jaundice. I wrote it while my breasts leaked milk and my eyes leaked tears because my baby wouldn’t drink that milk.

The previous year, I had quit my job as a marketing manager to become a freelance writer, in part because of my plans to start a family. I knew neither my temperament nor my mortgage payments were cut out for me to be a stay-at-home-mom, so turning my side-gig into a full-time job seemed to be the answer. I figured it would be a perfect middle ground—plenty of time to see my child without giving up my career. But the freedom of working in the gig economy slices like a double-edged sword. Increased flexibility comes with less stability and no clear path to successfully managing schedules, workloads, or unpredictable income.

Naomi (right) and her family.

While my counterparts in the corporate world find tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon dangling increasingly progressive parental paid leave packages in front of them, no such thing exists for freelancers. I had planned to take six weeks off from work, but “time off” means something different in the gig economy. The baby slept in a Rock ’n Play next to me while I emailed editors. I wrote to the soundtrack of my mother reading Is Your Mama a Llama? to my daughter. “‘No, she is not,’ is how Rhonda responded,” floated through my head as I discussed the plight of tea pickers in Sri Lanka or how dive bars weather gentrification.

When I was growing up, both my parents labored long hours outside of home, and I have memories of lighting Hanukkah candles in the on-call room of the hospital where my dad worked. I know that my parents’ hard work paved the way for me to go to good schools and land great jobs, but that experience also left me with the nagging feeling that I wanted to spend more time with my kid. I had no idea that would mean transcribing interviews while cringing at the baby shrieking in the background of the recording, or attending a conference with her strapped to my back. That’s what parenting in the gig economy turns out to be: a strange, mysterious path.

But one I walk with my daughter close at hand.


Naomi Tomky lives in Seattle, and has written for Saveur, Fodor’s, and Lucky Peach. Email her at naomitomky@gmail.com.

Still life photography by Desiree Espada; courtesy of Naomi Tomky

Originally Published April 2017