I make things up for a living – in Ugg boots. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Living the writer’s dream – to be your own boss, float from book tour to launch party with the flexibility to schedule work around family commitments…
And that’s where things come unstuck: the ‘work-around’ and ‘family’ bit.
Like the time I did a live radio interview while holding a cold-pack to my three-year-old’s blood nose as his siblings spear-tackled on the couch. (It provided laughs, at least). In a conventional workplace, it’s rare that people bleed, or projectile vomit, use your mobile to text ‘poo’ to your recent call list or shoot squeezy yoghurt on your morning’s work. Think circus: scribble on the walls, crusts in the blue-ray and no continuity of thought.
Working from home is a broad term, including the stationwagon, park bench, school-pickup line. Author Kate Grenville once shared her experience: when her mother arrived to babysit, she’d drive to the park to escape her kids, and write in the back seat of her car – leaning on a boogie board. Living the writer’s dream!
I did have a ‘real job’ once. They aren’t picnics. Days can be long and dreary, weekends tainted by housework (or what you think is housework before you live with mess-machines). But at least you have the luxury of an environment conducive to work. I used to snigger in my mind when people in my team (parents) asked to ‘work from home’ on pupil free days. It’s an oxymoron, really. (The concept, not the parents).
But I didn’t appreciate the perks of office based work until I was granted the freedom to fumble about in my ‘home-office’, three kids in tow. Like the fact that as a ‘normal’ office worker, you get to leave work (not to mention, pee on your own). You’ get to drink your tea hot, are paid by the hour – even if you’re cruising the internet or talking with workmates about Friday-arvo drinks. You have Friday-arvo drinks. (And workmates, for that matter). You get a quiet, air-conditioned office without someone simultaneously skating over your foot, practicing the recorder while demanding waffles. You don’t need to break up spirited-argy-bargy in the midst of cutting-and-pasting a paragraph, or commit to tuckshop (because you can, right?). You’re provided with continuity of thought, regular feedback, reward schemes, printer-un-jammers, and the biggie: sick leave.
Working from home also means suffering the perennial feeling that you ‘could just finish…’, because you’re at work. All the time. Your laptop is just there, heckling. The potential for work exists, hence so does the guilt. When you pause to hang washing, you’re bludging from work. When hard at work, you’re neglecting the house/kids/fur-babies. There is no ‘done’.
I shouldn’t complain. Of course, working from home has fringe benefits. No commute next to sweaty-thighed-hairy-man. No matching shoes required. Wear what you like – the same thing two days running, nobody cares! You’re available for orthodontist appointments, viola recitals, Easter hat parades. No one steals your lunch. There are no meetings-that-should-have-been-an-email when you are your own boss (and I’m a pretty good one). And then there’s the thing where you get to do what you love. (There is that…)
Working around family (with ABC Kids chirping in the background) has its challenges, but it’s amazing how efficient you can be with the unpredictability children throw in the mix: when your deadline’s in an hour and the teething-two-year-old could wake any second. Time-poor parents are superheros of productivity – after all, when you’re only ever a custard-cup away from a loaded nappy, every moment is precious.
By Kylie Kaden
First published in She Brisbane – for all women, by Brisbane women.
T : @KylieKadenAU
Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net