For 9 years I did my job in an office. It was great. I had all these incredible friendships around the lunch table; I had black and white publicity shots from old TV stars on my cubicle walls, inside jokes with folks in the hallways, etc. I had a blast. I had a 45 minute commute, sometimes on buses and trains, sometimes by car, too. Then I had JB and EB was on her way, and work was still fine, but I found that I was working more to get home than before.
When I got the opportunity to begin to work at home instead of in an office a few weeks before EB arrived, I was thrilled. How perfect! I had my exact same job and duties, just at a different desk. JB Sr. was still officially a stay at home Dad, so I wasn’t trying to take over his duties in addition to my paid work, but I had a 10 stride hallway commute at the end of the work day instead of a 45 minute drive. Win!
I have been at home now for 3 years and I’ve moved the home office from the big city to my Midwestern hometown, only pausing for the cable and internet to be hooked up after the trek cross country. Recently, my sister did the exact same thing, leaving her office on the East Coast, moving here to our old stomping ground, and hooking up technology to keep her same career as well. I imagine this is going to become more and more common in our modern age.
As a seasoned veteran of working from home, there are a few vital things I have learned about it, and rules I’ve created for myself as a result.
Get Dressed Every Day: This sounds silly and obvious, but my first months of working at home I was 9 months pregnant and then I was in c-section recovery hell for 2 months. So I was in the habit of wearing robes and jammies and nursing gowns most of the time for the first several months. Nobody saw me, I don’t Skype, I conference call, so it was like, roll out of bed, hit the desk. After a few months of that I was like, whoa, this is too depressing. I felt so blah. So now, the rule is, get up, and put on something different every day. I’m not talking about fancy outfits, but a different tee and sweats/shorts/jeans every day.
Somebody else is in charge of the kids. For me, this is crucial. It was a very easy transition for JB Sr. and me because he’d been home alone all day with JB since JB was 6 weeks old. They had their routines, their system, and they were doing great. So it was simple for me to shut the door to my office area and say, “Mom’s going to work.” When EB was born, she did spend a lot of time in my office sleeping in her swing or pack and play, and since I nursed her something like every 90 minutes for a good 9 months, she was handy to have around. But as soon as she was mobile and into things, she was out in the rest of the home with JB and Daddy 90% of the time. Work time has to be sacred—I owe it to my employers who trust me and my co-workers who all work in the office. I’m very strict about this. When we moved to Kansas and JB Sr. started working his new job, we immediately hired nannies to care for the kids during the time that he and I overlapped our work days. We got some excellent girls who work for us and 49 days out of 50 I’d say I don’t see hide nor hair of nannies or kids during that time.
Maintain a Social Life This is the hardest. Office settings have natural social dynamics. You might not love everybody, but you chit chat, you make eye contact, you hear about people’s weekends and vacations, wedding plans, etc. I miss that most of all. As I said before, I worked with some friends who were more than co-workers and we were tight. When we still lived near my old office, I made a point to still see those friends and when we moved, I have tried to make sure I have social outlets in my life. I go out to lunch a couple times a month with friends; I joined a service club and got involved, I am on committees at church. It’s a must. I do speak to my colleagues and boss on the phone and email people during the work day, but it is crucial to have face time with friends outside the walls of our house.
Overall, I’d say that this has been the best thing for me and our family that I work at home. We have formed very tight bonds with each other—even though I don’t welcome a lot of interruption, I still get to remain in communication with JB Sr. and the kids. I know everything that is going on, the time I don’t spend commuting in traffic is replaced with quality time. JB doesn’t remember when Mommy didn’t work at home, and I am glad that I have always been just behind the door and accessible in a pinch.
Your protégé and beneficiary of modern technology,