Friday, 19 November 2010

I should be so lucky...

Allison, from Life In a Pink Fibro, has graciously agreed to guest post for me today. Allison's blog, and indeed her writing, constantly inspire me. She is generous with her time and her advice. She is Qui-Gon Jinn, Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi all rolled into one. (In mentor abilities - she is much more gorgeous to look at than all three!)

When I tell people I’m a work at home mum, I generally get one response: “Lucky you!”. I am lucky. I’ve worked around my boys since Mr6 was three months old, when I wrote my first post-birth story – about the birth. Prior to starting preschool at three, neither of them went to childcare. I am available to drop them at 9am, and pick them up at 3pm, without having to explain to anyone why I’m leaving early or run the gauntlet of disapproving looks.
I’m lucky.

But every once in a while, I have to share one simple fact: it’s not easy. I have juggled essentially two jobs for seven years. My days have begun at 7am (or earlier), with the boys, and rarely end before midnight, with the work. Even when the boys were waking all night, the work needed to be done.

Not going to an office is both a blessing and a curse. It’s true that I do not need to juggle getting myself ready to face the professional world with getting the boys out the door to school. I throw on what’s handy, do the run, and then escape home to my coffee machine.

There were many days, however – particularly when they were younger – where I longed for the peace and quiet of an office. Of set business hours. Of not having to squeeze in interviews when I thought ‘the baby’ (whichever one it happened to be) would be asleep. There are times when that clear division between work and home is all I long for.

One thing that has surprised me about working around my kids is how incredibly accommodating the world can be. I have conducted interviews with a two-year-old on my lap, crunching on Wiggles biscuits, having to ask for things explained twice or more – and people always tell me they understand. There has been many an occasion that I’ve had to reschedule interviews at the last minute due to a ‘non-sleeping’ child, and it’s never been a problem. People genuinely do seem willing to entertain flexibility – which is a fantastic sign, given the new flexible hours legislation (the Right to Request) that was introduced in January 2010.

I have always tried to be with the boys when it was their time. To focus on them. I would work when they were asleep. That was always my mantra. As Mr3 gets older, however, this gets harder. He doesn’t sleep during the day anymore. There are times when the only thing that gets me through is a Toy Story DVD. I don’t feel good about it.

Now that I have two clear days at home to myself, things are easier. But there’s still never enough time. I still work until midnight most nights (with random breaks to converse on Twitter) and spend my life with that ‘I have homework’ feeling that you might remember from school or university.

If there’s been one major benefit of my constant juggle, it’s my ability to focus. When you have two hours in the middle of the day to write a story while a child sleeps, you get it done. No procrastinating. No mucking around.

I got the hang of that very early on. I’m lucky.


  1. There is never a perfect situation, is there? I remember being very jealous of you in the early days as I dropped the junior burgers off at daycare and headed out to work. I thought "I wish I had a career like Al's that I could just bring home with me". But then, I realised just how difficult it actually is. Because you have the availability of flexible hours, you feel like you have to work them, even though you are essentially a full-time SAHM with a full-time job!!

    You'll be glad you put all those exhausting hours in when both the boys are in school and your days are a little easier. But right now I imagine that sometimes you think "STOP!" ... sometimes... x

  2. I've had these experiences too, though my oldest is now 16! It isn't as easy as it sounds it is tiring and sometimes overwhelming. In the end however it is v satisfying.

  3. I have a job, in administration, which I do from home and it's great to have the flexibility (especially with sick kids). But it's quite insular and I miss adult contact.

    But I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to work from home despite the I have homework feeling.

  4. I admire you and your ability to focus. I've always worked at an office & reckon it's way easy to walk out and think about myself for 8 hours of a day than it would be to stay home.

    I have been doing some paid writing over the last year and also bookkeeping for two clients that take up a fair bit of my night time. So far, it's all good but I do wonder if there is burnout point?

    You are an inspiration A xxx

  5. I agree, Allison. Working at home is so good in so many ways - but before I recently put Miss 2 into childcare two days a week, I was on the verge of insanity.

    I also heard a writer speak recently and could so relate when he told a story about working from home. He recalled a time when his kids were little and his son asked him to do something with him. This man couldn't do it; he had to get some work done, and when his son had a grizzle about it, he said to his son, 'Hey, you've got it pretty good. I'm home all the time.' And his son said, 'No you're not. You're at work all the time.'

    That really hit home - it's so important to create those lines and to give kids your full attention without work (so hard sometimes when you're playing trains AGAIN and you know you've got a work deadline!).

  6. I understand this completely. I look back at the days when I worked full time with 2 small children and in some ways that was easier than working from home like I do now. But the trade off is that I get to be there for many of the things with the kids that I might otherwise miss out on. So getting up early or staying up late to meet a deadline is totally worth it.
    You however, take dedication and discipline to a whole new level. Great post.

  7. Hi Al,
    Agree. Working from home can be a blessing and a curse...a blessing today because I am still in my pjs (yes, I dropped kids at station in my flannies) and am now sitting in bed with a cup of tea and cat beside me. Bliss. I do realise however, that there'll probably be a knock at the door any minute and I'll be caught out and mortified beyond belief!

  8. Thanks Ali (and Lucy) for that insight into working from home. Its a decision I have to come to (after Xmas I've decided and after my Mr 5 has started school) and its good to get the less glossy perspective. Swings and roundabouts with everything, I guess.
    Yay for when all kids are at school :)

  9. Catherine FleayNovember 19, 2010

    There are so many positives in working from home .... and so many challenges too. The thing I find the hardest with working from home is having the home requirements, like cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming, encroach on what should be work time. You can't walk out the door and drive off, but you do have to learn to either get up and do it or ignore it and work. Still learning .....

    Lucy, you've been tagged too!

  10. I have dabbled in the work at home thing and I can tell you that it never worked for me! Hats off to you. I get the flexibility thing but as a person who has studied most of her life, I absolutely love the feeling of not having 'homework' anymore. Having said that, once the kids are all at school I reckon I could dig it :)

  11. life in a pink fibroNovember 19, 2010

    Thanks for your comments everyone. I don't think there's ever a perfect way to balance work and home life, but we all just keep trucking on, don't we, and doing the best we can.

  12. I admire you .... Im about to start working from home but I know Im lucky because mine are both in school... Im not sure I could do it if they where at home with me all day

  13. Wow, you're amazing. That is all. :)

  14. Great post! Just goes to show that life is always a balancing act, no matter what the circumstances are.


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