I’ve worked at home, from home, been home, for the better part of the last 12 years. I didn’t expect it to turn out that way. I figured I’d have my baby and be back teaching in a classroom within 4 months, tops.
But when I held my newborn baby girl in my arms, everything changed.
Ok, not entirely. But that’s a sweet story, right? And it’s mostly true. Hours after she was born, the school board voted not to approve my job-sharing proposal. That’s when everything changed.
The childcare plan I’d made — the diagram of days I drew, the help I enlisted — was all blown to hell with one phone call. I’d been assured the proposal would be accepted; I wasn’t planning on it not working out.
So, I quit. No, we couldn’t afford it. Yes, I was driven by rollercoaster hormones. Yes, I was in the midst of a thick post-partum haze. Still though, I’m happy with the decision. I mean, I dunno. Ask me again later when you’re retired and I’m not.
In the 12 years since leaving teaching, I’ve hustled various paid work-from-home gigs – as the coordinator for an after school program, as a nanny, a copywriter, a freelance writer. For a while, I made handbags out of placemats to sell at craft fairs. I even had a network marketing business – the kind of business that looks like the food pyramid, with me at the bottom, hungry and losing money.
What I love is to write and to tell jokes. So, as my kids have gotten older – they’re 8 and 12 – I’ve pursued these things, and attempted to monetize them. Slowly, but surely, I’ve built some momentum and a small audience of readers (OK WHATEVER that it’s made up of my in-laws, the postman, and two weird neighbors).
My goal for 2016 was to develop my freelance writing business and book 2-3 stand-up comedy gigs a month. So, when instead, I was offered the opportunity to write for this publication – to get consistently paid to do what I love – I found myself faced with the possibility of LEAVING THE HOUSE.
The flexibility of my schedule is the gear that drives how our family operates. Drop-offs, pick-ups, mornings, afternoons, weekends, school vacations, and summer all depend on my being available.
Accepting this new role significantly impacts that dynamic. It changes our family’s routines and shifts the balance of household responsibilities and chores.
There’s been a noticeable difference for each member of our family. Although, the cats probably continue not to give a shit. Whatever, kitties, good luck trying to feed yourselves that gross food you like WHEN NO ONE’S EVER HOME ANYMORE.
In the several months since I left my house to work a paying job in an office, I’ve learned a few things. I made a list of thoughts and tips about this transition.
1| People will congratulate you on “going back to work.” You will want to slap these people. These people should maybe actually get slapped because this whole world needs to snap out of the bullshit idea that the work of mothering — of parenting, of caregiving — isn’t work.
WORK. IT’S WORK.
That this particular type of work is undervalued and uncompensated doesn’t mean it’s not work.
My point is, try not to slap people.
2 | Have a family meeting. Sit everyone down and say: Look, kids, we’re gonna level with you. There’s a huge, scary change on the horizon and we might not make it.
Ok, don’t say that. But be honest. Say something like: our family is making a change, and we’re a team, so we’re gonna do this together!
Either way, let me know how your family meeting goes, because I forgot to have mine.
3| Dinner will still have to be made, lunches will have to be packed, breakfast is an important meal we’re all supposed to be eating. So, it’s time for the the kids to start cooking. They’ll definitely try to get out of this task by saying things like: But you said fire was dangerous! and C’mon, I thought dinner came from Amazon.
It’s ok, stay calm, they’ll figure it out. You might have to subsist on crackers and gummy vitamins for a while, but eventually you’ll be served undercooked mac & cheese at the end of a long day and you’ll be glad to have it.
Just cook the food, kids. Mommy’s busy making it rain.
4 | The kids have to do the laundry now. Be prepared for this to be a complete disaster because you forgot to teach the kids how to do the laundry.
Start with making them fold the laundry. Also, turns out they’re not geniuses who understand shapes or have depth perception.
UPDATE: you didn’t have gifted kids. You had average kids. Pressure’s off though, am I right?!
Understand you will walk into the room to find children holding up your undies and HAZING YOU. Additionally, you may find the cat in a corner wrestling with your bra that he’s somehow wearing. Yeah. LOOKIN GOOD, BOOBIE KITTY.
5 | Invite your kids to your new office so they can see where you are now that you’ve left the house. Expect that they will show up unannounced.
What I’m saying is your children, of whom you are so proud, will appear in your office wearing that gross stained shirt that smells like spit. They will be greasy-headed, dirty finger-nailed, eating pretzel bites from that place in the mall, and wiping their noses on their sleeves.
And you will not say one thing about any of this in front of your co-workers, or in front of anyone, ever. Because your kids actually look exactly the way they always do. Your kids are grubby and awesome little champions having a normal childhood.
They’re so happy to be included in the new gig you have. They’re proud of you! It’s just that everything looks different to you now that you’re out of the house and wearing actual pants.
Ok, listen. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME FOR? I know this list is absurd. I probably can’t help you with this transition at all. We have to do the best we can with what’s in front of us. Right? We know this already. The most useful tip for making the transition from working at home to working in an office is probably just to stay the hell away from lists. You’re already doing life the right way. I think you’re ok. In fact, I think you’re awesome.
See you at the office!