Monday, September 27, 2010
I've been ("Evelyyyyn!") working at ("Evelyyyyn!") home for the past ("Evelyyyyn!") seven months, and ("Evelyyyyn!") I have to say, I couldn't be ("Evelyyyyn!") happier about it.
"Michael, if you need to talk to Evelyn, go upstairs and talk to her instead of screaming from my room."
"But she might not be upstairs, and I don't want to be up there alone. Evelyyyyn!")
Did I say I couldn't be happier I'm a work at home mom? Huh. When did I say that? During the shouting? Aha.
For the record, I'd like to say I am very happy I have the opportunity work from home. For the other record, I'd like to say that if God meant for us to do everything from our houses, he'd have attached them to our backs like turtle shells.
What I've learned over past 7 months is that there are pros and cons to every work situation. While I don't miss my 40 minute commute or the corporate politics that were waiting every day at the end of it, there are things I miss about my old job. For instance, having to wear a company shirt to work meant never having to think about what to wear. Also, it meant I was forced to get dressed every day, and when you have comfy Betty Boop pajamas like mine, you kind of have to be forced. (It's one of the reasons I'm glad I'm in school. Once I graduate next spring, I'm in big trouble.)
Working outside the home also meant I could leave the household duties behind while I focused on what I was doing for eight hours a day. When I had a job, I knew the laundry at home needed to be done, but as there was nothing I could do about that at work, it didn't really bother me that much. At home? Yeah...I've thought about laundry approximately every 2.5 seconds since beginning this column. I mean, it's right there.
The good news is that working from home means having a flexible schedule which allows me to decide which work I do when and schedule my work around my school and mom responsibilities. Translation: Working from home means being able to put off most of my work until the weekend, at which point I work like a crazy person in order to meet my deadlines.
Not having to leave the house for work means having more time to get work done. Translation: Saving an hour of drive time each day means I think I can schedule five more hours of work. It's the fuzzy math of the work at home world. It's like being at an all you can eat buffet and forgetting my stomach is the size of my fist. I can force an insane amount of food into it, but it's not a great idea.
Working from home means being here when the kids leave for school and being here when they get home. It also means jumping up from my desk 5 times each morning to encourage the slow pokes to get a move on only to have them late for school anyway. (At this writing, the school bell just rang, and 4 of 4 grade school kids are upstairs eating cake for breakfast and shouting at each other over their lateness.) And it means my afternoon work is interspersed with cries of, "Moooooooooooommmmmmmmm!" and requests for snacks, homework help, and conflict resolution.
I've read up on ways to make the work at home experience more manageable. I've learned many a useful tip from various online articles. Here are a few of my favorites:
*Create a designated space for work. That would be the desk in the little office alcove of my master bedroom. Hi, desk. I miss you. I'm going to clean the top of you really soon, and then we can work together again. I'll do it during that hour today when I'm supposed to get 5 hours worth of work done.
*Put a sign on your office door to signal to children when you can't be disturbed. I've made such a sign. There's a happy face on one side and a stop sign on the other. The happy face is supposed to convey that while I'm working and shouldn't be disturbed too much, I can stop for questions and hugs and small needs. The stop sign is supposed to warn my kids not to bother me unless it's an emergency. My kids have decided the happy face means they have free rein of my office, and the stop sign is mom's little attempt at comedy. (Also, that "She kicked me," constitutes an emergency situation of the highest priority.)
*Set aside designated work hours and stick to them. The problem with this is that once people know you work from home, they know you can leave work any time you want to and will request that you do so...a lot. Also, you are people.
*Hire a mother's helper to wrangle the kids while you're working. If I could afford this, I wouldn't be working at all. I would hire one of my older children to do this for me, but they're they ones most often implicated in the "She kicked me" situations, and I think giving money for that type of thing is probably not a good idea.
*Dress professionally to work professionally. Betty Boop is a professional, right?
I really do enjoy working from home and have no plans to go back out into the more traditional working world anytime soon. I've just learned that working from home is still very much work, and it comes with its own set of daily challenges. I'm okay with that, really. I'd just like to tell the person who told me working from home was a fantasy land full of rainbows and unicorns exactly what I think of her. Since that person was me, I'll probably have to pencil it into the schedule.
I'll do it right after I clean my desk.