The Highs and Lows of Working at Home

It’s all fun and games until your “co-worker” maniacally smashes crackers into the carpet.

Sometimes, working from home feels like the best of both worlds. There’s an opportunity to think about something other than my children all day, every day. I can avoid the steep costs of daycare, and, of course, make some money.
Other days, it seems like the worst of both. I have to squeeze in my working hours on top of taking care of my children full-time. In the middle of the winter, I can go days without leaving the house. I don’t have co-workers to stop by for a quick chat, and so I end up talking my husband’s ear off the second he comes home.
I work from home, freelance writing and working on small projects for my former employer, for about five to ten hours a week. As soon as I had told my former boss that I would be happy to help them out, my oldest son promptly stopped napping. That change pushed my work hours into the evenings, during those precious “they are finally asleep and I all I want is to sink into a long, hot bath” hours.  
I’ve tried other schedules, but to no avail. Occasionally I’ll set up activities from listicles with titles like “27 Screen-free Activities for Toddlers,” hoping to check a few tasks off my to-do list before my sons get wise to the fact that I am not giving them my undivided attention. Those activities last exactly as long as it takes for me to boot up my computer.
In fact, just a few moments ago, I tried to let my son play quietly beside me while I took a work call. Within thirty seconds, he had unscrewed a tub of Vapo-rub and jammed it into my nose. Luckily, my boss is also a mom and didn’t mind the interruption, but now every breath feels like I’m standing in Siberia.
The siren call of working from home has bewitched mothers for decades, promising women the ability to have it all. You can have a career, earn an income, all without having to sacrifice a precious second of your kid’s childhood. The sidebars on every website I visit scream offers: $21 an hour to type! $35 to transcribe! $18 to answer the telephone! All promising I can remain in the comfort of my own home.
And my home is comfortable. There is no fighting over the office thermostat. No one giving me the side eye if I’m wearing the same yoga pants for the last three days. No need to eat my lunch from the office vending machine.
But my co-workers are a different story.
They are cute, sweet, and darling, but they are also busy, loud, and constantly underfoot. They cannot resist the temptation of attacking a keyboard that I am using, climbing onto my lap when I have a phone call, or asking me a litany of questions whenever I sit down at my desk.
“What are you doing?”
“Why are you working?”
“Why do you have to work?”
“When will you be done working?”
“Can I play with the computer?”
“Why can’t I play with the computer?”
“Please, can I play with the computer?”
“But I said please!”
Let’s just say I’ve decided to only work when the kids are awake if my husband is home, or if I’m under a deadline.
There’s plenty of stay-at-home moms with a side hustle. According to a survey from Redbook, 62% of stay-at-home moms say that they contribute financially to their household. About one-third of the women surveyed said they work regularly.
A good portion of this work exists outside of the traditional economy. Stay-at-home moms help pad their family’s finances watching a friend’s kid a few days a week, making jewelry for an Etsy store, or buying and selling goods on E-bay. Of course, there are also the modern Avon ladies, selling everything from high-end, non-toxic makeup to flashy leggings.
What many of these women have realized, is that when your home is your office, you get to have a foot in both the working and the home world. I know that hammering out a few articles a week on my keyboard in the evenings isn’t the same as holding down a full-time gig.
My financial contributions to the family budget may be fairly modest, but without a massive daycare check to write each month, I can bring home comparable pay in far fewer hours. Mostly, however, I enjoy thinking about something other than enriching pre-literacy activities and vegetable recipes my kids might actually eat.
But I miss the office.
My husband thinks I’m crazy when I say that, because a good chunk of the forty plus hours he is in the office he wishes he could be at home with us, wearing sweatpants. If I had to do it all day, every day, I’m sure my tune would change. Nevertheless, I find myself missing putting on real clothes and talking to real adults.
For now, working at home a few hours a week has helped create a better balance for me as a mom. My evenings might involve less Netflix binging than I would like, but sacrificing a bit of free time for pursuing something I love to do is worth not knowing what happened in the last season of House of Cards.
If you’re a mom, you’re working. No matter if you are in the office, taking care of children, or at a computer – we are continually pursuing a better life for our children and our family. So whether your officemates are your colleagues, or are knee high and begging you for crackers, here’s to finding a balance that works for you.

Reluctant KonMari: What I Gained From Losing My Books

If the only purpose the dusty top shelf books serve is to make me look smart, perhaps I need to focus elsewhere.

The purge started last year, after reading Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I bought a digital copy, but if I’d purchased it in print, it would have been the first item dropped into the recycling bin.

If you’re one of the two people left on earth who haven’t read the book, I recommend reading only this summary of eight key takeaways.

Kondo’s prose wasn’t fun to read, but the message was perfect for someone sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a baby and all of his accoutrements.

The clothes that didn’t “spark joy” were easy to tackle. Goodbye to maternity clothes, threadbare because I’d refused to buy more than the absolute minimum. The same went for nursing tops, sweaters destroyed by the first year of spit-up and blowouts, and, much to my delight, all the clothes in my first post-baby size.

With the books, the choice was just as simple. It was either them or the daily allergy meds required to share the same air as dust. So I stockpiled loratadine. I hesitated to part with my library, built on childhood favorites, augmented with my first babysitting dollars, and sustained through three degrees in English.

But Kondo nagged each time I walked past the wall of extra-high shelves I had built to house my collection. Did the books spark joy? If not, what purpose did they serve?

As I looked at Chinese philosophy texts from my undergraduate years, outdated dictionaries in languages I don’t speak, and pedagogical texts whose approach I would never follow in a classroom, I began to view my collection differently.

The books weren’t there to spark joy. They were there to make me look smart to whomever happened see them. It was time to bid at least some of these tomes goodbye.

Although Kondo’s suggestion to thank items for their service seemed ridiculous when sifting through my clothes, it offered me days of reflection with my books. As I leafed through them, collecting bookmarks, post-its, and loose papers stuck between pages, I thought about who I was when I purchased those books and who they helped me become.

Days later, when I looked at my pared-down library, I felt at once lighter and fuller, because what remains speak to who I am now.

Clearing out my bookshelves has helped me view the rest of my possessions differently. So many of the items in our home – The New Yorker subscription, the academic journals, provocative coffee table books – are there, at least in part, because I like to look and feel smart.

Meanwhile, my diplomas have remained carefully preserved in leather folders and poster tubes from the moment right after I received them at each graduation. Hanging them on the wall has always felt stuffy.

Gabrielle Stanley Blair, whose wonderful book Design Mom survived my purge, inspired me to use my diplomas in a new way. After moving into the home she and her family had designed, she painted over a blueprint. The artwork serves as a reminder to the family that “WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

I wasn’t quite ready to paint over my diplomas. Vellum provided a less permanent solution. My upcycled diplomas are still a physical display of my “smarts,” but unlike my company-facing book collection before them, they’re tucked into a corner of the office that visitors don’t often see.

In this new space, every time I sit down to write, they remind me to be proud of what I’ve done. And to be focused on what I’m doing next.

12 Business World Phrases Repurposed for Life with Kids

Now that I stay home full time with my kids, I sometimes miss the business jargon I used at work. So I’ve found ways to keep it part of my vernacular.

Now that I stay home full time with my kids, I sometimes miss the business jargon I used at work. I didn’t realize how much I relied on it to communicate until I didn’t need it anymore. So to keep my mind entertained while tending to some of the more mundane tasks of child rearing (i.e. cleaning, more cleaning, and laundry), I re-purposed some of the phrases I said and heard often at work for my life at home with kids.

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Expression:  SWOT Analysis

Definition at work: 
A study of an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Example:  We completed a SWOT analysis to help identify key priorities for the upcoming year.

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Definition at home: 
A discussion with my daughter to understand why she hit her brother.

Example:  Whoa, whoa, whoa. Did you just hit him? It’s time for a SWOT analysis.

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Expression:  Gross

Definition at work: 
The total amount before anything is deducted.

Example:  What was our gross revenue last quarter?

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Definition at home: 
Disgusting

Example:  Don’t eat that M&M off the ground; that’s gross.

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Expression:  Run water through the pipes

Definition at work: 
Go through some hypothetical situation to test a new idea.

Example:  Let’s run water through the pipes to see if this new workflow solves the problem.

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Definition at home: 
A necessary plumbing repair after a small toy is accidentally flushed down the toilet.

Example:  The plumber ran water through the pipes, and it cost me $250.

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Expression:  Close the loop

Definition at work: 
Follow-up on a question or issue that’s pending.

Example:  I wanted to close the loop on your question regarding rebates.

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Definition at home: 
Tying my kids’ shoelaces.

Example:  Come here; we have to close the loop on your left shoe.

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Expression:  Create spin

Definition at work: 
When a simple issue is turned into a complicated one due to confusion and chaos.

Example:  Her last email created so much spin because she didn’t read my original response back to the client.

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Definition at home: 
When one of my children riles up the other one.

Example:  He created so much spin with his jumping and climbing that both kids started running and screaming through the airport.

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Expression:  Strategic planning

Definition at work: 
The process of setting priorities and focusing resources on common goals.

Example:  The strategic planning process is integral to our company’s long term success.

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Definition at home: 
The necessity to plan ahead to complete even the most mundane of tasks.

Example:  It took intense strategic planning today to figure out how to go grocery shopping, take Mary to ballet, and let the baby take two naps in his crib.

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Expression:  Take offline

Definition at work: 
Discuss a question or issue separately, after a group meeting is over.

Example:  Can you guys take that discussion offline, since it only impacts your team?

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Definition at home: 
Quickly remove a misbehaving toddler from a public setting.

Example:  Let’s take this tantrum offline before we disturb the entire restaurant.

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Expression:  Low hanging fruit

Definition at work: 
An easy-to-fix problem that can be solved quickly.

Example:  Our audit of your department’s processes found some low hanging fruit that will result in noticeable improvements.

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Definition at home: 
Items within my children’s reach that they shouldn’t touch, but are too tempting to ignore.

Example: Are you really surprised they broke those Christmas ornaments? They were low hanging fruit dangling at the bottom of the tree.

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Expression:  Lots of moving parts

Definition at work: 
A complex situation or problem that requires careful analysis and input before choosing a course of action

Example:  Because this project has lots of moving parts, we’ll have weekly meetings with the entire team to keep everyone up-to-date.

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Definition at home: 
Every single one of my children’s toys.

Example:  I don’t know where your Shopkins went. There are lots of moving parts, and if you don’t keep track of them, they disappear.

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Expression:  Let’s connect

Definition at work: 
Setting up a conference call or meeting to discuss a pending issue or discuss general business

Example:  Let’s connect when I get back from vacation.

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Definition at home: 
Setting up a playdate

Example:  Let’s connect when the kids are over their colds.

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Expression:  Buy-in

Definition at work: 
Secure agreement on a course of action.

Example:  We got the boss’s buy-in on our recommendation, so we can move forward.

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Definition at home: 
Successfully convincing my toddler to do something.

Example:  After a lengthy negotiation, I finally got her buy-in to wear shoes.

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Expression:  Hard stop

Definition at work: 
Must leave a meeting by a certain time no matter what discussion is happening.

Example:  I’ve got a hard stop at 4:00, so can we get this meeting started?

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Definition at home: 
Immediately putting an end to a dangerous activity.

Example:  I walked into the room as he was trying to hang from the chandelier, so I put a hard stop to that.