Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Tightrope Act of Working from Home

I'm grateful for the freelance writing jobs I've been able to pick up in the past few years. I love writing. It's a job that enables me to work from home. But, as the years have gone on, I find that aspect, while it looks good on paper, actually skates somewhere between a blessing and a curse.

Sure, there are perks to working from home. I can drop what I'm doing to pick a sick child up from school. I can make dinner during the day. I can run errands if I want. My schedule is mine to organize.

The hard part, though, is trying to juggle parenting while working from home. My youngest isn't in full-time school yet. Sometimes, I have to work on the weekends. It can be really, really hard to sit down and focus when the kids are fighting or otherwise just being kids. Sometimes, I get going on a train of thought, only have to get up and get a snack, find a toy or find the band-aides. On days when I have a lot to do, I rely too much on TV for entertainment. 

It can be a race against the clock. How much can I get done before I need to make dinner?

It can be a tightrope act. How much TV can I let them watch before I need to take a break and get them outside?

It can be an exercise in frustration. How much of a mess am I going to have to deal with tomorrow if I press on and finish my work today?

Sometimes, I envy the moms and dads who go to work in an office. They can work uninterrupted for hours without getting called down to the bathroom to wipe someone's hiney. They don't have to clean up the floor when milk gets spilled. They don't have to let the dog out when they're in the  middle of answering e-mail.

For those of us that work from home, there's no definitive line between work and home. It's all there. All the time. 

Ultimately, I'm glad I have the ability to work from home. I know this is the right solution for our family right now. I don't have to drive in rush hour traffic, which I couldn't imagine doing after making sure the kids get on the bus and doing the preschool run.

Whenever I see on-line debates about who's right and who's wrong in the stay-at-home mom vs. work-out-of-the-home mom game, I have to laugh. The idea of working at home is often presented as an idyllic dream. While I'm usually happy with where I am for work right now, I'm often frustrated with having to deal with the ins and outs of parenting WHILE working. There are days, like today, when it's not easy.

Today, I wished I could pack up my laptop and head to the library. It's quiet there. However, this, of course, isn't an option when my husband is working out of the house, like he was today. But, I could have really used some quiet time.

Any time management advice I've read doesn't really seem to have the answers for how to make working from home with children a smoother task. These articles have to be written by people who've never actually done it! Ridiculous solutions are offered, like working late at night after the kids are asleep. That might work for some, but not everyone's a night owl. Likewise, those of us that are morning people often have kids that are morning people, too, so morning productivity is out. I try to squeeze work in between breakfast and activities, between lunch and after school time, between dinner and bedtime. Sometimes it works. And, sometimes it's a colossal failure.

Right now, I don't have to work everyday. That's the thing that keeps my life chugging along in a manageable way. But, an absence of work also means an absence of income. You can't have one without the other.  

Today, was one of those days where it mostly worked. The only downside - the house is trashed. It's always a trade off. It can never be perfect. We do the best we can. And, hey, on the bright side, my work is done. I'll clean up the mess tomorrow.

Please check out my writing at Holidays Central. They've been good to me and I want to be good to them by sending them readers!

14 comments:

  1. As a retired person who lives alone, I can only imagine the difficulties of being a work at home mom. I have a feeling you speak for a lot of parents with what you write about in this blog. Enjoyed reading it.

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  2. The combination of mothering and writing I think inspires your writing and posts such as this. Thanks for leveling with us.

    Life always seems to be a balancing act, doesn't it! As a semi-retired person I write a lot, but didn't while I was an English teacher. The more I can handle the clutter in my life, the more I can do other things.

    Mothers may not always have time to mother, however. Glad your boys enjoyed themselves on Saturday and you got work done. Mess will always be there, it seems.

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    1. I agree, Carol. Cutting down on the clutter definitely helps. I'm making my way through The House that Cleans Itself, by the way. I started with the bathroom and am ready to move on to the next step.

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    2. Good for you. My den, my second area, will take a LONG time, but at least the pool table is cleared off now so hubby can play pool instead of watch TV.

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  3. I worked from home as a consultant for a bit and HATED it. It was like everywhere you looked, there was work: computer, laundry, kids, memos, calendar, dishes....

    I'm not a good multi-tasker. Hats off on the freelance work, that's great! You're a better juggler than I!

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    1. That's the challenge, Marianne. It's everywhere,staring me in the face all day. Whether it's the computer, the dishes, the laundry...

      It's definitely a juggling act!

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  4. Well It really works for home and I liked it.

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    1. I know this is spam, but it makes me laugh, so I'm keeping it. Besides, it makes it look like I have more comments - lol.

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  5. I loved this blog. I also write a daily blog about home and warm and fuzzy. But I also write about other things, gardening, organizing, goals, our legacy, and I do stories on interesting people. In todays blog I posted the interview I did with Hanna The Hoarder for A&E's Hoarder's TV show....my goodness was that woman a mess....but SO misunderstood...I have a pic and video if you'd like to take a look...Love this blog...I'll be back :-)
    http://www.birdseyeviewoftheworldofthekatydid.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing the link to your blog! I really enjoyed reading Hanna's story. I'm glad things are looking up for her!

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  6. I can only imagine the difficulties you're going through. I used to be a freelancer, myself, for quite a while but I decided to take a job in the office. Even though I live alone, there were still too many distractions. There were days I didn't write anything. Although, I know for a fact that overcoming difficulties makes you a better writer and a better person. Even though it's sometimes frustrating, don't forget why are you doing what you do. It's a perpetual war - sometimes you will win, sometimes you will but the war against time continues. I think this is something most of us struggle with.
    Oh, and nice post, by the way. Keep up the good work. :)

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  7. Thanks, Star! That's very encouraging!

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  8. I guess it comes down to your a priori responsibilities. If you have to look after your kids, then I guess working from home sounds reasonable. However, if you are just beginning your career and still have no family responsibilities at all, working from home sounds like being too lazy to find a full-time job.

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Thanks!