Most mornings this summer, my 18-year-old son will peel his body out of bed slightly before noon and make his way to my bedroom/office and ask me the following question: “What are you doing today?”
By yesterday, I had had enough. “I’m working,” I shouted at him. “I work every day. I have a boss and a job and a paycheck that I’m supposed to earn.”
He stood there blinking at me and suggested I relax, but really, I had reached my limit.
I know it’s probably confusing for my kids. There I am most days sitting at my desk alongside the bed in my room, generally in sweats or workout clothes. A lot of times I have Facebook or Twitter up on my laptop screen and by all appearances, I am simply frittering my day away, when I could be servicing them in one way or another (making a sandwich, perhaps, or taking them shopping).
One of the many challenges I have faced since I started working from home full time in December is convincing my children that I actually have a job that often requires my full attention. And they don’t like that. They like to think that they have my undivided attention at all times, which is my own fault because for many years, I gladly gave it to them.
But now I have deadlines and phone calls to fill the time that generally used to be filled by laundry and All My Children, but to the kids, nothing has changed. I’m still in our house, dressed casually, whiling my day away.
There are many upsides to working at home. First and foremost, it’s the flexibility that it affords me that drew me to the job in the first place. As the single mother of four kids, I cannot be chained to a desk from 9 to 5. There are volleyball games after school and field days and Halloween parades that I need, and frankly want, to get to.
Most mornings I wake up super early and plug into my job and work for a few hours so then I can sneak to the gym later guilt free. And because of the nature of what I do, I can get my hair done or a pedicure while working on my laptop and once, I listened into a big, company-wide conference call while getting a bikini wax (sorry, Arianna).
But when I first started, I found my job bled into my life 24/7 when working from home. I’m often making dinner with my laptop on a counter nearby so I can check and recheck my emails. It also doesn’t help that I set my office up in my bedroom, so while when I’m in an organized phase, it’s all aesthetically pleasing, when I enter my more Grey Garden periods, I’m sleeping next to piles of meeting agendas and press releases.
When I first started, it always seemed that I would be on an important phone call or in the middle of writing an article just as the kids walked though the door from school. They’d come in my room and I’d wave them away or put my finger up to my lips and they’d turn away in disgust.
I’ve learned that I need to take a break for a while after school and give them my full attention. Believe me, they’re not looking for a big conversation. I think they just like to know that they rate somewhere higher than a school budget story or interviewing a local author. And they do.
I often fantasize about what it would be like to get dressed up every day and go to an office and socialize with colleagues and have a set beginning and end to my work day.
But then I think about how much I’ve loved watching my kids performing as seeds in Arbor Day plays and dressing in brown paper pilgrim costumes for Thanksgiving and can’t imagine not being a part of those experiences. I also have a 2 o’clock pedicure and you know it’s all about the maintenance.