Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working my booty off trying to get my websites to the next level. I am up to my eyeballs with hundreds of posts to reformat thanks to a website migration, which is exactly as fun as it sounds. Because I’m turning my moderately successful blog into my primary source of income, I put an invisible and impossible-to-meet deadline on all these various projects and was really feeling the pressure.Recently, after hitting “publish” on yet another page I thought I had finally finished editing only to find it was a garbled mess of words, poorly sized pictures, and mismatched captions, I blinked back tears. Yes, I was ready to cry over a website. Was I stressed out? Um… Maybe just a tad.
My son, who was playing on the carpet in my office, popped up like a gopher and looked at me with big blue eyes.
He asked sweetly, “Mom, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing buddy, I’m just having website problems.”
Then started asking a million rapid fire questions… You know, like only small children can do. What happened? Can you fix it? Are you going to have to work a long time to fix it? How long is it going to take to fix? Is it because my computer was broken? What’s the internet, anyway? Can I have a snack? Are you almost done?
“I don’t know! Stop asking me questions and find something to do!” I snapped at him.
He looked at his feet, then at me.
“Oh, Ok. Sorry Mama,” he said quietly as he slid back down to his toys. “I’ll leave you alone. I’m sorry.”
Kids have an amazing gift in being able to turn you from being so frustrated you’re ready to run down the street screaming to feeling pretty much the most evil monster in the entire universe. The sense of guilt drifting through the air was palpable. The war to keep from crying my eyes out was officially lost.
I closed my laptop lid, got up from my desk, sat down with my little guy, and apologized to him for losing my patience over something that really was just him showing concern in his crazy four-year-old way. Yeah, I know… Every parent on the planet has snapped at their kid for really dumb things. It’s pretty much a parenting right-of-passage (I hope at least… If not, I’m in big trouble). But it really tore me up to see him look so hurt.
Wasn’t working from home supposed to prevent this kind of unreasonable behavior? Wasn’t the whole point to this to spend more time with the family, be less stressed out, more involved, more independent, have more control over my time? Working from home is the holy grail of parenting, right? So how could I possibly be screwing this up? What was going on here?
One of the pitfalls of working from home that nobody seems to warn you about is that, yes, you’re always at home… But you’re also always at work. You’re basically living in your office. When your commute is however long it takes you to get from the couch to your office, it’s so easy to tackle “just one quick thing.” Or maybe you’re like me and you cut out your commute entirely by actually relocating your laptop to the couch so as to allow for the amazing multitasking that is writing and binge watching “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” Then it becomes super easy to vanish behind the glowing screen of online productivity, highlighted by the sounds of frantic typing and drunken rich women screaming about unimportant things (oh Vicki, will you ever learn?).
At some point you realize you’ve spent the last 10 hours on the computer and your family is wondering if you’ll ever leave the office (or get the TV back for that matter).
In what was supposed to be my carefree release into a less restrictive working environment by being my own boss and setting my own hours, somehow I’d unintentionally developed the work ethic of Don Draper… Without the alcohol, of course.
So that day, I opted to “call out sick” to myself and I spent the rest of the day doing things with my family. We went for a walk, watched a movie, had a living room camp out and my son went to bed with a smile from ear-to-ear.
The next morning I sat down at my desk and my son took his spot on the carpet with his pile of Transformers and Star Wars toys. As a heavy battle raged between the evil forces of Darth Vader and Megatron against Bumblebee and Jedi Knights of Cybertron (man my son has an imagination), I shoved aside my to do list and I drafted a schedule. I blocked out time for work, for family, and committed to stick with it. I made five promises:
- No more eating at my desk. For some reason, my family likes me to eat with them.
- Take regular breaks, spend them reminding my family that I exist
- I must work in my office. Bye bye Hulu binges.
- Lid down on the laptop for work stuff after 5pm, except for social media promotions at 8pm
- Wednesday I am done work by 10am (because it’s the husband’s day off)
I have to say, this is exactly what I needed, and I think my family too. I guess I just needed that reminder that, while it’s important to work, it’s just as important to remember what, why, and who you’re working for, and why I’m working from home in the first place. Money is great and all, but something about money buying happiness and on your death bed you don’t count dollars, you count friends… I don’t know, something like that.
Now my life is a whirlwind of coding, long walks, editing pictures, wild lightsaber battles, gardening, writing, website work, naps with my son, baseball practice, and simply taking the time to enjoy the world outside of my computer.
A world that, for my son, apparently involves a lot of “Star Wars.”