Recently I was involved in a discussion about professionalism with respect to writers. Writing mothers to be precise.
A copywriter needed to attend a meeting with a client. The client knew she was a write at home mom and offered to let her bring her daughter (under 2) with her.
Several people said that it was fine. Afterall, the client said it was ok. Several people said it was not fine, as it was unprofessional. (Those were men, and I shared an immediate eye-roll with the copywriter... these were not writing fathers to the best of my knowledge.)
However, after I stopped rolling my eyes (and before the wind changed and they stayed that way), I realized that my first instinct was that it was inappropriate and unprofessional. I know, you're thinking, aren't you a writing mother?
Yes, I am.
I started thinking about why I felt it was inappropriate. I am generally either writing or parenting. I'm not one who can do both jobs concurrently and do well. I do a lot of writing during naps, after bed time, when the kids are distracted. Perhaps my mind can only run on one track, but I have a hard time juggling the two.
Being a writing mother is about doing what works for you. Writing, mothering, getting by. Leaving the dishes in the sink or cleaning the kitchen before you write. Writing with baby nursing (which I've done) or writing at nap time (which I do now).
Perhaps for this writer and her client, it works. Perhaps this mother CAN be present enough to be professional while at the meeting. I could not.
Professionalism is many things. This is what it is to me:
Being present in mind, body and spirit with a client. Listening with attentiveness. Keeping eye contact and demonstrating good listening skills. Treating everyone around me (including peers) with respect. Being responsible for my actions, with my advice and for my client's time.
I could not look my client in the eye and say that I was doing a great job if I were constantly distracted by my child(ren). He does not need to know that I completed his project by writing until midnight and doing interviews during nap times.
Perhaps, I am not open to being that open with my clients. My children are my private life. I'm a scattered writer, my office is not clean. Perhaps I'm just not comfortable with a client seeing me in my true creative state.
Perhaps I'd rather put on my fancy clothes with my grown-up shoes and meet the client while at my best. While I look like I have everything under control.
Because I can assure you, that's not what it looks like at the home office!