Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Working From Home

"How would you like to take a break from that fine lead-based paint... and learn about Dodgeball?"

When I finally completed work for my bachelor's degree in May '11, I already knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to stay home with my kids and freelance as a writer. This was the perfect solution for us, assuming I could make it work, for many reasons (which are discussed below).

Fortunately I'm a girl who has a lot of really great people in her corner, and the work has been steady yet never overwhelming. I rarely work more than fifteen hours a month, but what I bring in covers my student loan payments and my tumbling fees, with some left over. I genuinely love what I do, I regularly work with fantastic people, and I get PAID for it. Does it get any better than that?

On the other end of my job, I take care of our home. I know that there is a mentality that homekeeping is not a "job" because it doesn't earn a paycheck, but I disagree. I think that it's just as valid as any office job. The point of a job, after all, is to ensure that we have a place to live, food, clothing, and other essentials. Part of my job is maintaining that home, buying, cooking, and serving that food, and buying and maintaining those clothes. I don't think homemakers should martyr themselves (I see it a lot and it's annoying), but I also don't think we should accept the attitude that what we do is somehow "less" than those who report to a boss.

The point of this post is not to get into a debate about staying home or not. I just felt that the above point was valid and I was compelled to state it. Moving on.

My job has many perks and many downsides, just like any other job. I view it the same way, too. I require neither sympathy or pats on the back, because like everyone else, I'm just doing my job. Well, okay, I do require validation from my husband, but that's different. Anyway.

Here are some of the "perks" of my job:

1.) We don't have to pay for childcare
2.) We save on commuting costs and wardrobe necessities for an office job
3.)  I get to set my own hours and be my own boss, working as much or as little as I chose to depending on the needs of our family.
4.) I don't have a "boss," which means that if my dishes don't get done for any reason (too busy, sick kids, just don't friggin' feel like it), no one rides my ass about it.
5.) I have the option of not doing things because I just don't friggin' feel like it.
6.) If there's an overwhelming day and the chores suffer, Husband can (and does!) help pick up the slack. He's not above loading a dishwasher because it's "not his job."
7.) I can snuggle a baby anytime I want.
8.) I can sit quietly and have a sweet, bright girl read to me or braid my hair.
9.) Most of the time, our days are ours to plan as we wish.
10.) For my homekeeping work, I get paid entirely in these perks. For my writing work, I get paid in money.

And here's the trade-off:

1.) There is no day off. Even when Husband is off and helping out, diapers still have to be changed, laundry still has to be washed, etc.
2.) Getting sick at the same time as the kids. Enough said.
3.) Running errands can be extremely challenging, to the point of not being worth it much of the time. Even though months of practice at getting out of the house with two kids has allowed me to streamline my system as much as possible, it's still not fun and I often prefer to stay home.
4.) The boredom. OH, the boredom. Thank heavens for Facebook and my DVR. And Bear. It's nice to have her to talk to, even if the conversation is somewhat edited from that I might have with my friends.
5.) The flipside of our days "being ours" is that sometimes it's hard to find time for the things that HAVE to be done, like writing for deadlines and whatnot. Not that I've ever missed one, but sometimes it's tight and I'm coming in under the wire because Bug has been particularly clingy and Bear is having a meltdown because I told her to brush her teeth and the phone is ringing somewhere in the house but I can't find it because the dog is barking so loudly at the UPS guy who is delivering a package that appears to be some sort of gift but has no return address on it anywhere and OMFG where is my Calgon/wine/tranquilizer gun?
6.) Cleaning. When cleaning all the things is part of your job, you have to do it at least most of the time, and that sucks because cleaning sucks.
7.) The lack of interesting conversational offerings. When someone asks me what I did with my day, I almost feel sorry for them. Dude, I changed diapers and folded towels and tried to teach my baby how to blow kisses. And while all that might be beautiful and fulfilling to me (um...), I can see your eyes glazing over from across the room. And I don't blame you.
8.) Dealing with the view that staying home and taking care of a family and home is somehow lesser and isn't really a job. I disagree, because as I said above, isn't the point of a job to help create and maintain a home?

There are more perks and more downsides, and those change and evolve as we do. But in a nutshell, that's my job and I enjoy it most of the time. I think that if you can say that, you get to call it a win.


  1. Not being a parent to anything other than a wiener dog, here's my two cents : I think in the long run, you'll be extremely happy that you worked from home. You're sharing time with your children that most parents who have jobs that take them to an office daily, or onto a plane weekly, etc., will never have, nor get back.

    I also think your work ethic is stronger, because if you don't work, you don't get paid. You have to constantly kick yourself in the ass to make sure things work. People who are guaranteed a check don't have that same motivation, necessarily.

    I've long wanted to move into programming so that I can work from home. I'd love to spend the day on the couch working with Oscar curled up next to me. I think you have a lot of what many people would love to have. I completely get the "downside" to it all, but at some point, I think you'll be happy that you had that time with your kids.

  2. I agree. I think that if you can look twenty years down the road and believe you'll be satisfied with your choices then you're on the right path. That's part of the reason I went back to school, actually. I didn't want to ever feel that regret and I knew that I would.

  3. I love a very similar scenario, though it would not kill me to try to pick up more actual paying writing work instead of plodding slowly along trying to finish an ebook and doing what amounts to 2.5 hours a weekish of pretty boring paid blog work. I admire you for your gumption. Young lady? It felt like that sentence needed a "young lady" at the end.

    Anyway, I absolutely indulge in the luxury of freaking FREEDOM. I'm totally spoilt for it, between staying at home without a 9-to-5 and doing homeschooling with the kids. It's to the point where I'm loathe to commit to anything smacking of regularity. Don't be trying to get all up in our lazy-days-of-summer-all-year-long mentality, summer camp planners and the more organized homeschool peeps. We have a great thing going here. I'm mostly kidding because do wind up enjoying scheduled things, too, but wow, the freedom is something I completely embrace and appreciate. And it's a great accompaniment for Kurt's wacky and sometimes incredibly too much work schedule. If he has a crap week and is working 90 hours, it's so easy to let them stay up really late and sleep in the next morning so they can hang with dad at 10 at night. Who cares?

    It would be very, very hard to imagine a scenario where I'd be willing to give this up. I've got nothing against anybody who does their thing differently, of course, and I feel a little guilty because not everybody is lucky enough to do things they way they'd most like to do them. But I know I've got it good and I so appreciate that fact!