The first time I worked from home, way back in the early 90’s when the only people who worked from home were piano teachers and marijuana growers, my neighbor confessed, “I couldn’t do that. I’d be out playing golf every day.”
Now nearly 20 years later, lots of people work from home, and not all of them dash out to play golf in the middle of the day.
Over the years, I watched the collective mind-shift over working from home as cute novelty to modern necessity, supported by great advances in technology. (In 1993, a client actually asked me if I could receive packages at my home office. Yes, even back then, UPS delivered to condos.)
For me, working from home has never been without its hazards, like the three-year-old neighbor who would escape from his condo during what was supposed to be naptime to repeatedly ring my doorbell, because Mrs. Singer was always home. And nice. And paaaaatient.
But on TV commercials, working from home is often portrayed as a blissful juxtaposition of work with happy children playing in the pool 10 feet from Daddy’s office, which is, of course, marked as such with a construction paper sign festooned with hearts and butterflies in crayon. That’s where Daddy — and it’s usually Daddy — can take a conference call while sipping coffee and waving to the children, who never seem to run around on his wood floors while dripping with water and dirt or pop each other in the head right when the big client calls in.
As much as I love to work from home, blending work with children under one roof is rarely that seamless. Or clean. Take this Friday, for instance, when my husband, who normally works in a cubicle, was working from home, and I was trying to catch up on work before the holiday weekend started in earnest.
My children were home from school and playing rather nicely in the backyard, but 20 feet from my desk. I sipped my tea and waved to them out my window in a scene not unlike the aforementioned TV commercials. Moments later, my 13-year-old appeared at my door with a dilemma:
He has just one pair of eyeglasses, and he is too nearsighted to go without them. My husband works for someone else, so he can’t just cut out in the middle of the morning to bring our son and what’s left of his glasses to the optician, and so, I shut everything in my office down, including any hopes of catching up with work, and took care of it.
While we waited for the optician to make him a new pair (fixing the old ones will take a week, and he obviously needs a backup), I got a text from the mother of my son’s friend asking if he’d like to come over. So I texted my husband who replied with a simple “Y,” because he’s busy working, you see.
So I texted the mom back with a “Yes, he’d love to come over,” while walking around the supermarket to get a few things we need. Then my younger son called asking if he can have his friend over at our house instead, yada, yada, yada, back and forth, the glasses aren’t ready yet, here’s a slice of pizza while you wait, yes I’m “in the office” today, how about you call your friend yourself? do we need milk?…
See, Daddy’s workin’. Mommy? Not so much. Not today anyhow.
Two hours later, my son returned to the backyard to continue playing while I got changed and dashed off to a business lunch, where nobody knocked on the window and to hold up two halves of a pair of eyeglasses in the best ever metaphor of what it’s like to work at home with the kids around.
Today, the kids are at school and my husband is at work.
Share, share, that’s fair: Tell us the worst and best parts about working from home.
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