The work-from-home jug­gle

Maryland Independent - - Classified -

Once upon a time, “work­ing from home” sounded like a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want to tackle daily tasks in their pa­ja­mas, “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica” play­ing softly in the back­ground? No one to no­tice the slight ketchup stain on your slacks or hastily-done makeup. No one to silently ques­tion your sec­ond (third?) break­fast bis­cuit of the morn­ing. In fact: full ac­cess to your fridge and pantry, home to all your tasti­est snacks! Less time spent pack­ing lunches, more time ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing them.

What I never took into ac­count was how work­ing from home means you are . . . work­ing. From home. Home, which is strewn with your tod­dler son’s be­long- ings, cre­at­ing ob­sta­cles at ev­ery turn. Home, with its mounds of laun­dry and dirty dishes (more of which you’re cre­at­ing) and sales fly­ers in stacks on ev­ery sur­face.

When you’re work­ing in the mess, there’s no es­cap­ing the mess. In fact, it be­comes glar­ingly ob­vi­ous in a way you can typ­i­cally ig­nore when you’re all to­gether for just a few hours in the evening — be­fore you have to get up and do it all again.

There’s also no clear de­linea- tion of work/per­sonal time, so my nor­mal eight-hour work day be­gins at 7 a.m. and doesn’t “end” un­til I’m get­ting ready for bed. My lap­top is al­ways open; email is al­ways wait­ing to be read and an­swered. I don’t “clock out,” so tasks stack up un­til they’re all I no­tice.

I’m new at this, you see. You’d think I’d be bet­ter at it, given I have two ex­cel­lent folks in my im­me­di­ate cir­cle to share their wis­dom: my dad, a long­time sports­writer and free­lancer, and my sis­ter, a tal­ented videogra- pher who also co-owns a compa- ny with Dad. Both set their own hours and find their own projects, which sounds great in the­ory . . . but also means they’re never not work­ing, which I’ve al­ways seen first­hand.

I’ve been spoiled by my 9-to-5. I en­joy the of­fice life. The “wa­ter cooler” chat­ter, my per­sonal desk with all its de­light­ful clut­ter, the aroma of cof­fee per­me­at­ing the news­room. I look for­ward to grab­bing break­fast, rid­ing the el­e­va­tor, greet­ing col­leagues. Just my rou­tine. A com­fort­ing one.

And I’m still liv­ing the of­fice life, of course, but I’ve spent the week work­ing from home — with a tod­dler, no less. With my son’s reg­u­lar day­care provider on va­ca­tion, Oliver has been home with me while I try to stay or­ga­nized and fo­cused.

I’ve had help. Be­cause of those same flex­i­ble hours, my sis­ter has been an in­valu­able sec­ond set of hands. But there were still times I had to go it alone.

I haven’t spent this much time alone with Ol­lie since he was a few months old. It took me back to my hazy, bleary-eyed days as a new mom watch­ing day­time tele­vi­sion (and night­time tele­vi­sion, and bor­ing 3 a.m. tele­vi­sion) with a baby, just the two of us se­ques- tered in the house.

It’s much colder now than it was that May, so I ac­tu­ally feel less claus­tro­pho­bic; no one wants to be out in this weather, any­way. But it’s been strange just . . . stay- ing in.

Yes, friends, “work­ing from home” re­quires dif­fer­ent skills. Like the abil­ity to truly mul­ti­task. It’s noth­ing for me to have 10 tabs open in my web browser at the of- fice: email in­boxes, re­search for sto­ries, work­ing doc­u­ments for ar­ti­cles. And, well, Facebook and Twit­ter. For of­fi­cial pur­poses, of course. (Of course.)

But at home? “Mul­ti­task­ing” ex­tends far be­yond a com­puter screen. I have a tod­dler want- ing snacks and drinks, climb­ing into my lap, reach­ing for my cell phone, “help­ing” by tap­ping out a rhythm on the key­board. He is al- ways my pri­or­ity, but I have other com­mit­ments as well. Dead­lines. And it’s stress­ful, all the jug­gling.

At the end of the day, I know just hav­ing the op­tion to work from home — and jug­gle at all — is a priv­i­lege. But many needs pulling you in so many di­rec­tions can still be tough to bal­ance, and I can only hope I’m bal­anc­ing it well.

Rather than see­ing this week as a strug­gle, I’ve tried to fo­cus on this un­ex­pected bonus time with my son — and just be­fore Christ­mas, too. Even when I be­gan snif­fling and cough­ing Mon­day and pulled a back mus­cle on Wed­nes­day (!), likely from all the ad­di­tional baby-lift­ing I’ve been do­ing, I tried to fo­cus on the pos­i­tive: hav­ing my son here, healthy and (rea­son­ably) happy. A job that re­quires and en­cour­ages my cre­ativ­ity: a job I’m proud to give my all. Fam­ily nearby to help when I, um, man­age to in­ca­pac­i­tate my­self. A hus­band who works hard to do lots of jug­gling him­self.

Have I writ­ten a Hall­mark card? Maybe. But I’m tr ying to fo­cus on the suc­cesses, not the hard­ships.

The bal­anc­ing is an art form. Not one I’ve mas­tered, not at all — but one I’m study­ing. Al­ways work­ing on.

I’ll get there. Es­pe­cially more cof­fee. And Tylenol. with

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.