Every woman desires freedom to make the choices she needs to balance her life. We harness many responsibilities as mothers, sisters, friends, lovers, breadwinners, community volunteers, and caregivers. It’s a balancing act.
About 18 months ago, I decided to give up my office in downtown Montreal, for the freedom to work from home.
It started as a pilot, a trial of sorts. Would my productivity be affected? Would I go stir crazy with cabin fever? Would it be too difficult for me to focus, surrounded by the never-ending pile of housework that needs to be done?
With freedom, also comes responsibility.
Working from home provides a great deal of flexibility, but it also distinctly blurs the lines between work and home life. In fact, I am not sure the line even exists for me anymore.
I wake by 6:00 am to answer some work emails, prepare breakfast for the kids, do last minute homework assignments, send them off to school, clean the house, and prepare for my upcoming meetings in the day. All by 7:30 am. Seriously.
My day is filled with work meetings, Skype calls, writing of documents, putting out fires…intermixed with laundry, cooking meals, making playdates for the kids, running to the arena for hockey practices and games, going to school functions, doctor’s appointments, etc…sound familiar??
The only difference with my new work arrangement is not the amount of work that gets done in the day, but rather the hours of the day when things get done.
The separation that was once the “work day”, and my “home life” has all but merged into one 18-hour day. One long 18-hour marathon, in which all of my work gets done. My office work, house work, and family work. I often fold laundry during lunch, and also work at night. Actually, every night.
I am supposed to work 7.5 hours in a day. In reality, it is closer to 9 or 10 hours per day. It’s a trade-off, for the freedom that I have to choose my work hours. A trade-off that I except willingly, but not with blinders. I work more hours because I feel the need to prove to my organization that it can work. I feel the need to payoff the gratitude I feel for not having to drive downtown everyday, pay a crazy $18 per day parking, battle traffic, feel disconnected from my family, miss school events, and come home every day with tremendous anxiety about all that is awaiting for me at home.
As a woman, we don’t have the luxury to come home from a long day of work and put our feet on the couch. We are still expected to prepare dinner, do homework with the kids, bathe them, take care of the household chores, pay the bills, etc…and so it is much relief for me to synchronize my work day to allow for me to attack all of these things, in the moment they need attention.
Since starting to work from home, I am surprised at the frequent comments and judgements from folks that I spend the day in my pyjamas, lounging around, eating all day (although the refrigerator is a constant struggle!!)
People either don’t understand the truth, or are envious that they do not have the same freedom. The truth is that I work all the time.
And yes, sometimes in my pink fuzzy slippers…does that make it any less productive work? If I was working every day in a formal suit, would my work be more valuable? It comes down to perceptions of what “work” really is, and how you define it for yourself. There are time that formality is required, and others when you are at best, in a more relaxed mode. I swear I am at my best in my gym clothes…relaxed, comfortable, and curled up on my couch with a comfy blanket and my laptop. I have done some of my best work on that couch 🙂
As for the nay-sayers that think working from home is not really work, I say you have to try it before you can pass judgement. Be ready to work endless hours, be hyper-organized with your time, tackle many (many!) things at the same time, and generally feel tired, and yet satisfied in the same moment. Working from home is full of sacrifices and rewards. But it’s not for everyone.