I've written in the past about the challenges of working from home. There are a plethora of articles detailing the struggle to keep your work life and home life separate. There is also the added challenge of others thinking you aren't really "working" when you create things for a living. Can I get an amen?
I thought I was pretty awesome. I've worked from home many times in the past. I'm a rock star self-motivator. I've got a plan, goals, and a schedule for my writing. I make a predictable and totally respectable monthly income from my books. I had this handled.
I was wrong.
When push came to shove and my family needed someone to pick up the slack, I happily took on the extra work. For the last few months I've been CEO of my house. All things went through me from toilet cleaning to volunteer hours to grocery shopping. I knew it was temporary and, quite frankly, this is life. It has ups and downs. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made. I know what it takes to write a novel, market it, and take care of all the other administrative tasks. I genuinely thought I could easily wipe my hands after my husbands graduation and "walk back into the office" like I hadn't missed a beat.
But there were a few things I hadn't counted on. One being two tiny monsters who got used to mom being mom more often than she was Alexis Anne. My afternoon writing and marketing hours became snuggle time (because there was no other time for that all important decompression and skin to skin contact that is so important to young developing minds). It also became staging time for after school activities, an increasing homework load, and planning. Instead, my writing and work time was relegated to a few short hours in the morning, and it had to be all encompassing because there was no other time for it.
I was prepared for that. I accepted that when I agreed to work less. But the kids didn't get the memo that mom was back to work. They still expect me to be mom in the afternoons and weekends. In just a few months they'd completely forgotten that mom had a job that had set hours in the morning and afternoon.
My husband kind of forgot, too. He has the best of intentions, and it was his words that made me realize the problems I was facing: we were in an adjustment period. As badly as I wanted my work schedule to magically go back to the way it was (along with everyone being blissfully happy) it wasn't going to happen. It was going to take some time for everyone to get used to the new order of things.
And to make it work I needed to make my boundaries clear, just like I did when I first started writing. I also needed to understand that just because it wasn't happening as fast as I dreamed, it was still happening. One day at a time. So for those of you wondering about working-from-home boundaries, here is my list of the important ones:
- My work hours are clearly posted and I expect everyone to respect them. Just because I'm home at 4 pm doesn't mean I'm available to cut out paper stars or run to the grocery store. If I've listed 4-5pm as a work hour then you better be bleeding or on fire if you interrupt me (thank you Nora Roberts)
- We are a team, and as such we do all the chores together. This includes meal planning, grocery shopping, and keeping up with school events. I am not--nor do I want to be-- Super Mom.
- Work trips are not vacations. Period.
- My office is my office. It is not a play room, a storage room, or a hallway.
- I've respected your needs, please respect mine in return. This is my job and something I love.
Added to this three ring circus is the fact that summer break starts in a couple of weeks and we'll have yet another adjustment period. I'm hopeful that by then the kids will be used to having dad around again, and used to mom saying, "No, I'm working." There is time for snuggles and books when I'm done for the day. There's time for all of us. We just need some time to relearn the rules and respect each others needs.