Working From Home Isn’t All PJs and Cream

There are distractions, delays and do-it-yourself details. Still, it does beat a day at the office.

I work from home. People are either telling me I have the best of both worlds or making jokes about my short commute from bed to desk and the luxury of holding conference calls in my pajamas.

Working from home has its advantages. I am free to run over to the school to drop off forgotten lunches. On a stressful day, I can walk outside and pull weeds for an hour. If a child is sick, there is no panic over who will stay home.

Of course, there is a flip side. Some days, I do participate in a conference call while in my pajamas. This is not because I have had a relaxing, leisurely morning but because we overslept, the bus was late, my daughter couldn’t find her left sneaker, and I haven’t had a chance to take a shower or brush my teeth, much less get dressed.

At 9:05 a.m., I can be found on the phone looking like death warmed over while sipping a lukewarm cup of coffee that I poured at 7:30 and reheated in the microwave at 8:59. As you can guess, I am vehemently opposed to video phones.

When you work from home, people assume you will be available 24/7. One client asked for my house phone number in case he needed to reach me in an emergency. I didn’t realize that with him everything was an emergency.

He called our house so often that our kids began to refer to him as “Uncle Phil.” Each conversation began with, “I tried to reach you on the business line, but I realized it was dinnertime, so I called your home number.” Then he would ask my opinion on what font size to use for his pending PowerPoint presentation.

On the rare occasions when I travel, I get to go to great places: Puerto Rico, San Francisco, Naples. To minimize my time away from family, I fly out as late as possible and return as early as possible, so my knowledge of these locations is limited to the airport and the inside of a hotel.

Preparing for the first shuttle launch was probably less complicated then preparing to go away. I draft lengthy documents detailing the kids’ activities (where to find the snacks, color of homework folders, location of pediatrician), which my husband glances at and then uses to wipe milk off the table.

I recently saw pictures from the kids’ first day of school. My daughter went off wearing flowered pants and a plaid shirt. As my husband wryly commented, I should just be grateful he captured the Kodak moment.

The kids understand what I do, but they are kids and sometimes lose sight of important concepts like: If Mommy is on the phone talking to a client, that would be a poor time to interrupt her with the news that the cat threw up on the bed. I am quite sure my husband never terminated a briefing call to rescue a 5-year-old from a tree, faxed back a contract with stick figures drawn all over it, or sent an incomplete e-mail because the cat sat on the keyboard.

Some days, I wonder what it would be like to sit uninterrupted and finish a report without stopping to fix snacks, capture an escaped lizard, or find a treasured one-armed Barbie. However, despite the glue stick stuck to my desk and the reams of drawings littering my floor, I wouldn’t trade any of it.

Not even for a shower or a steaming cup of coffee.

Mary Beth Swindells writes from Moorestown.
The Philadelphia Enquirer

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