As a work-from-office mom for 12 years, I have often fantasized about working from home.
I’d trade itchy dresses for cozy leggings, high heels for running shoes, and water cooler small talk for dining room table solitude. I would get so much done!
When my place of business announced a temporary work-from-home plan for staff as part of our responsibility amid COVID-19, my heart was breaking over the pandemic crisis. But a tiny part of me was admittedly excited for a change of work pace.
And what a change it was.
In my fantasy, my plan had my children at school for at least seven of those ten working hours. And now I was not only going to be a homeschool mom (admittedly never one of my fantasies, although the Pioneer Woman does make it seem pretty fabulous) but also a work-from-home mom.
Of course, my work-from-home fantasy included a 2:40 p.m. stroll to the bus stop and listening to the tales of the day over some warm cookies that I would have had time to pop in the oven during a conference call. It included supervising quiet homework time over the clack of my own productive keyboard. It included being able to take my own kids and their friends to their after school sports and activities rather than paying a sitter or relying on others.
But, as we all know, fantasy is not reality. And stuff’s about to get real.
Reality #1: There is an endless supply of snacks.
Sure, I have a giant bag of Hippeas at my desk at work, but at home it’s a veritable sampler platter of culinary delights. There was a 10 a.m. snack of chips. Lunch was a hummus wrap with feta. Followed by some animal crackers. And a couple of cheese slices, a Diet Cherry Coke, a couple of remaining Girl Scout cookies, a bunch of sunflower seeds and a protein shake. I’m like the Very Hungry Caterpillar of working at home. Please stop the insanity!
Reality #2: Children see your physical presence as all-access availability.
Take a conference call, for example. With earbuds in, it appears to the casual observer that you are listening to some sweet jams. However, you are trying to conduct a very serious conference call about redirecting marketing campaigns. This matters to no one. They may have been working independently for the last 30 minutes, but the second you jump on the call, a full-on mutiny will occur.
Reality #3: You will not have 100% of of your typical work schedule hours to devote to work.
In a perfect world, there would time slots allocated to keeping your home running, helping your kids with their online school work and handling your own work, but it’s all just jumbled in there together.
Reality #4: You will be stretched beyond your comfort zone.
I am pretty darn good at my job. But when working from home there are other jobs that creep into the picture that may have traditionally been left to someone else. I am no technical support gangster but am now troubleshooting three different devices (mine and my kids’). This could get ugly.
Reality #5: You will miss your team.
Technology is wonderful and we can carry on with pretty much everything that we need to do. But some professions require more face-to-face collaboration, which you may miss – as well as some pretty hilarious facial expressions. And some meetings are just easier in person.
We’re all just trying to get by here, and there will be some challenging moments each day for us all. If we don’t laugh about them, we’re sure to cry.
But I’m trying to look at the positive, too. I feel blessed to be able to work from home during this time. I feel blessed to have work to do and kids to help. I feel blessed that my family is well.
Before COVID-19 hit, I was feeling ragged and frayed, overscheduled and under-rested. I was burning the candle at both ends from work to kids’ activities to social functions. This forced rest, despite the computer glitches and conference calls, may be a blessing for me because I don’t know how to say no or shut it down.
But in after the first week, I’m sleeping more. Taking more walks. Having more meaningful conversations with my little family pod. And when we all come out on the other side, hopefully we will look back on this time and smile, knowing that we did our part to help flatten the curve and keep our community healthy, and remembering what may be the only time in our lives that we have to be together in such a simplified way.