“Mum, what are you doing?”
“What are you working?”
“‘On‘, darling. You mean ‘what am I working on?’. Sigh. “I’m writing, buddy.”
“What are you writing?”
Wriggle, huddle, knock, lean….
“Mum, why did you just write ‘f*cking cat’?”
“Don’t look. It’s for grown-ups.”
“Why do grown-ups want to read that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. But I hope they do.”
“I don’t think they will, Mum. It’s not very nice.”
This is what it’s like working from home with children.
Okay, your day job might not require profane prose, but for the last eight weeks, mine has. I’ve been writing a book, and I’ve been doing it at home.
“How lovely,” you say. “That must be relaxing,” you say. “Must be great to see more of the kids,” you say.
Well, look. Working from home has its perks. You don’t have to wear a bra, you don’t have to brush your hair and the fridge is comfortingly close. But the downside is, it’s where your children live.
Zoe Foster Blake knows all this. That’s why, yesterday, she posted this picture. To you, it looks like an empty room with a pleasing fireplace. To me, and any other parent who tries to work from underneath a mountain of muddy cuddles, it looks like nirvana:
Today I leased a nook to work from. A proper, dedicated work space. No more working from cafes! No more telling my son, “If mum can juuust get this bit of work done, we can play!” No more trying to make unsuitable areas of the house (dining table, daughter’s room, garden shed) into a work zone! I used to take pride in the fact I’ve written novels at rickety little tables I found on the side of the street, or at my kitchen bench, but I’m done with that narrative (as it were.) Also I am getting old and my back hurts and I need a proper desk and chair and probably some ugly ergonomic keyboard. Of course, working from home is a privilege and luxury. I know how lucky I am not to have to do the 7am-7pm, suit-n-commute. Working from home while my kids are so young and squishy is something I cherish. However, I now acknowledge that working from home means I do neither parenting, nor work, very well. Because as long as I’m being interrupted by adorable little people, I’ll allow it. They’ll be 14 one day and think I’m a loser: why would I knock back a cuddle when they think I’m wonderful? Alas, a productive day this doth not make. Trying to keep everything balanced is one thing; strapping on skates then throwing oil on the floor is quite another. And as an author on deadline, and someone trying to do Good Stuff with @gotoskincare, I need to treat my work with respect. To be a professional. To honour it, and give it my focus, just as I do with my family and my pet lizards, Knuckles and Biff. If you are fortunate enough to have a career you love, then I reckon you should probably take care of it, just like anything else you love. My goal is to leave behind the staccato, unfocused, half-arsed half-worker half-parent I currently am, and morph into a smug pig who elegantly compartmentalises work, family and writing appropriately. HAHAHAHHAHA! As if. I am totally just gonna lie here eating Redskins and reading Babysitters Club all day.
The very wise writer and entrepreneur Foster-Blake has rented a private space to work in. One that doesn’t have her two adorable little people. That’s because, over the course of her mum-and-boss-lady life, she has learned how to climb out of the Parent Trap. Not the one with Lindsay Lohan (who would ever want to leave that behind?), the one where you have talked yourself into staying out of the office.
It’s the trap that many, many new parents fall into. Faced with the ridiculous cost of childcare and the fact that they can no longer fit into their suits, they tell themselves a whole lot of lies. Lies like:
I WILL SAVE SO MUCH TIME BY NOT COMMUTING EVERY DAY.
I’LL JUST WORK WHILE THE BABY’S ASLEEP.
I GET SO MUCH MORE DONE WHEN I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO MEETINGS ALL DAY.
I’M A DISCIPLINED SELF-STARTER, I’LL BE FINE.
Does flexible work as well as it should? Some women don’t have another option, but does working from home put you at a disadvantage? The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss. Post continues after audio.
You won’t be fine. Depending on the age of the children who are in the house with you you will, in actual fact find yourself:
Wasting so much time on the school-run every day, which can easily turn into the coffee-run, the ‘I’ll just squeeze in the gym’ run and the ‘while I’m out I’ll nip into Woolies’ run.
Discovering that the day you need to get back home for a conference call will be the same day your 11-year-old develops separation anxiety for the first time, the teacher really needs to talk to you about Zebadee’s behaviour and they desperately need volunteers for the canteen (“You’re here! I bet you’d really enjoy it!”).
Remembering that babies don’t sleep in the day. It’s a myth. And if your baby does sleep in the day, the day you start working from home is the day they will stop.
Well, yes, meetings are a time-suck, but because you’re not in any of them (or you spend them banging your computer, trying to make Skype work) you have no idea what’s going on, and find that a paranoid sense of FOMO eats up five hours a day.
You are a disciplined self-starter but you are also only human, and a nagging sense of guilt over how long your kid has been on the iPad/not getting cuddles/been drawing JoJo bows across their homework book takes its toll on the most productive of us in the end.
There’s also the little matter of OH&S. This, for example, was my “standing desk” during the last eight weeks.
There’s no-one to sue here if I end up dented under a mountain of Fischer Price fun, is there?
So, a word to every parent who is working from home right now.
You are a legend. You are (mostly) resisting the urge to watch MAFS replays so you can keep play-time free. You are folding washing while brokering a deal on speaker. You are choosing to forgo listening to podcasts on your bus ride home so you can cook dinner for the smalls and then hammer out emails all night.
I salute you. From back in my office chair.
And your children will be just fine on the iPad for another 30 minutes.
Do you love working from home?