Friday, August 22, 2014

10 Surprising Facts about Working from Home

Here we are, exactly one week after I quit my corporate job.

Now I wanna preface by saying what follows is a list of legitimate surprises...according to me. Call me naive, call me out-of-touch, call me just plain stupid, these things completely knocked me on my ass this week. You may shake your head multiple times and think, "really, Jen?" Don't worry. I'm right there with you. We're in this together.

So here they are, dear readers, my 10 most surprising facts about working from home:

1. You don't get more time to do anything.
It's simple math. I spent two hours driving each day, and eight/nine hours at work each day, so that means I should have at least ten hours of time to fill with writing and spending time with my kids....right?

That's not happening. See, when I signed up for this stay-at-home gig, I agreed to do all the cleaning, cooking, and daytime child addition to my freelancing. Now, my freelancing isn't the problem. I control exactly how many hours I spend each day on my's the other stuff that trips me up.

I sat down Sunday night, the night before my first day as a stay-at-home woman, and I made a schedule. I scoured Pinterest for cleaning lists, dinner ideas, and basic home management schedules. After downloading 27 a few, I compiled my data, color coded each calender block (green = freelancing, pink = kids, purple = cleaning, blue = meals, bright blue = exercising, gray = social events), I set reminders at 30 and 5-minute increments, synced everything with my phone, and sat back, feeling accomplished. I had the good ol' husband look it over and tell me if I was missing anything. His eyes got a little wide, he slowly glanced over to me, and very carefully said, "looks like you've got EVERYthing covered."

He knew. He knew the whole time and wasn't about to be the one to tell me.

Those ten hours mean nothing when you're at home. Nothing. They fly by in a blink. I swear to you, I barely shower. I haven't done one craft. I haven't watched a single soap opera. I considered writing this post from the toilet. Multitasking, people. Multitasking is the only way I am alive right now.

2. Down time is pretty much guilt time.
The gaps in my calender are like little pressure-filled pockets of explosive material....if I don't use them wisely, carefully, and for the right purpose....KABLAMMO.

Should you shower? Maybe even try and shave an armpit? about finishing that pitch you started? Some promotional development for Concentrated Creativity, perhaps? No no wait, what about that clogged drain in the basement you've been pissed about for like six months? The dog sure needs his nails clipped. Oh look! The bird feeder is empty again...wait are those flowers wilting?? Is it that hot out? Maybe I should turn on the hose....but last time I did that I left it on and it woke me up and speaking of waking up....did I ever get around to changing the sheets?

People talk about "taking time for you," and "don't go overboard," but I'm telling you, that paragraph up there is a typical minute in my mind anytime I don't have something scheduled or in front of me. I'm not at the point where I can "wing it" yet and still feel like I've done a good job. So any down time I get immediately results in me thinking, "I could be doing A, B, C, or D right now...."

3. Weird stuff happens around the hood during the workday.
This place turns into the freaking Amazon jungle when everyone leaves for work. I see crazy amounts of birds and bugs swooping, swirling, smacking into my front room window. It's like nature on steroids. The only thing that tops the entertainment value of insects pepper spraying themselves at birds is catching glimpses of my fellow at-homers throughout the day.

I had no idea the dude across the street even existed. I knew a chick lived there, but a guy? With a huge round belly and an affinity for those little race cars? No clue. And the guy on the corner, he loves beer all day. Walks around with beer. All day. My other neighbor only works until maybe 1:30 or 2PM. He likes to yell, but not in the scary way. In the Italian way. His ringtone is the Godfather theme. Their dog's name is Fonzie. This is real life, dentist boy.

Twice now I've seen this old flatbed truck drive by with a gaggle of random people in the back, some old, some young, each wearing wide-brimmed hats and hanging their bare feet off like they just got done mushing grapes at Old McGowen's Farm. Yesterday I went for a walk with the little one (outside/walk time, pink, 2PM on M, W, F) and saw this chick standing in a driveway, struggling to get a cap off a Mountain Dew. I remember thinking it was weird because I'd walked past that house hundreds of times and never seen anyone in it or around it. My husband had a theory it was a vacation home. As I casually looked closer (thank gosh for sunglasses), I noticed this chick was accompanied by two other dudes, both of which were hidden in the shadows of a very crowded, junk-filled garage. They were cussing and throwing stuff and weeding through piles and piles of boxes, wrappers, garbage bags - it looked like a landfill, no joke. I just kept on staring, I didn't even care at this point, and that's when I noticed the van they somehow must've arrived in was filled with trash. When I say this late-90's, rusted teal Dodge Caravan was filled to the brim with stuff I literally mean stuff was coming out the sides and windows. They had the sliding side door open and I could make out an indentation in the pile where someone apparently sat. Totally weird.

4. Driving during the day can actually be worse than driving in rush hour traffic.
Minivans. Dear gosh in heaven the minivans. Or the Suburbans. These are the parents who never get a minute alone, who are driving to their fifth game or meet of the week, and are undoubtedly texting while driving, trying to capitalize on that multitasking I mentioned earlier. These are the drivers who brake hard because they just want to finish typing out this gosh dang sentence and leave you bumper-to-bumper, staring through the shaded rear window of their kid-mobile. You look past the gymnast silhouette with the name "Chloe" underneath it and two football helmets, one for Gabe, the other Ethan....someone is flailing around in there like they're getting bit and another small person is literally walking around, as if on a party bus. Someone's shoe smacks the back window and you almost pee your pants and before you know it, a granola bar is flying out the window, headed your way.

No where to go. No way out. You're going to have to take it, chocolate chips and all.

It's insane how many moms and dads I see texting, talking, messing with their phones with their kids in the car. It's bad enough when you're in traffic on the highway and you're surrounded with mean-muggin corporate types who want nothing more than to ram you out of the way. There are kids in there, man. Little people who have no choice but to trust their lives in the hands of their drivers. Don't even get me started on the smokers. If there's one group of people I would gladly run up to and punch right in the face, it's the parents who smoke with kids in their car.

But I digress. Daytime drivers also include construction machinery. Semis. And the worst of all worst....the landscapers. These guys are hauling lawnmowers and rakes that are haphazardly strewn across a flatbed trailer, ropes dangling, equipment clanging and mud flying off everywhere. It's a jungle out there. At least in rush hour traffic I'm expecting to drive assertively. I didn't think that would be the case for a 1PM library trip five miles down the road.

5. If you have kids they literally need to come with you for everything. 
I was all like, "Oh wow! No work schedule! I can go to any doctor's appointment, ever! Talk about open access! Regular business hours...lemmie at 'em!"

Except I forgot about one small kid. I turn around and *yep* she's still there. I have a small child I need to attend to. My dental office is an open bay of chairs. There's no babysitter. No "supervised play area." No cage.

I forgot how crazy it can be, having a toddler at doctor's appointments and needing to keep them busy while you do things like get your teeth cleaned and get your big kid's glasses fixed. Here I was thinking I was going to have all this opportunity to get my biz handled. Silly Jen.

6. Social media, social schmedia. 
When I was working I was totally into social media. I knew everything about my feeds...Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it. I was always one of the first people to "like" something or post that perfectly-captured cloud pic before everyone else could. Now I'm lucky if I can even find my phone. I don't need it as much, you see, because I'm not a personal assistant anymore. I can do things way better when I don't have my vacuum and change butts and stir tortellini. seriously I made tortellini. Where's my medal?

When I was at the office, my phone was right there. It had to be - it was my boss' primary form of commo. I was always connected. Now, not so much. I think I've been invited to participate in like 10 challenges. I'm always the last to see a pic or hear about some event I was invited to. As a matter of fact, I've gotten super pissed about not getting invited to something, just to find out I was invited, I just didn't check my stupid Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I still check it, but you would think working from home would mean more computer time and therefore, more social media. Not the case for me at all.

7. Garbage and mail people aren't up with the sun after all.
I always pictured the garbage man coming in the early morning, the hiss of his rig waking me a little, my mail waiting for me by lunchtime. I know this is, honestly, a ridiculous expectation. But in my mind, the Norman Rockwell garbage man arrives right after the milkman and paperboy and the mailman follows mid-morning tea.

I swear it was like 3:30 by the time my mailman came yesterday. And the garbage? Let's just say I went down to the end of the driveway to haul the cans back up because I thought there was no way in hell they weren't empty yet.

Think again, Jen! This world is all kinds of crazy!

8. Everybody wants something for nothing.
I'm a Girl Scout leader now! It's very exciting. I told my big girl and she giggled and laughed like an angel. She's missed her mama and I'm happy to be involved.

That being said, I can't even tell you how many volunteer opportunities I've been invited to since quitting my corporate job. Food co-op needs event planners. Library needs readers. School needs PTA members. School needs room moms. School needs artist of the month curators. School needs fundraiser helpers and book sale helpers and Market Day helpers and holiday helpers. Church needs corn pickers. Church needs childcare helpers and readers and ushers and communion givers.

Now I'm all about giving back to the community and doing nice things for others and the self-fulfillment you get in return from all that jive. But let's just call a spade a spade here, people. These groups want you to work for no money. Volunteering is hard work and is made up entirely of goodwill and time. I honestly cannot even wrap my head around how many things I could be doing for others, for no pay. I could spend 80 hours a week simply volunteering, if I wanted to. And it's not easy to choose which ones to do and which ones to decline. Right now I'm about one obligation away from a complete internal short-circuit, so I'm just gonna stick with Girl Scouts for a bit. Whew.

9. Banks still live in the 1950's.
Speaking of Girl Scouts, I went to the bank to get added on the troop account (glue sticks here I come!). The personal bank assistant lady asked me a few questions, my name, my birthdate, my social. Then she said, "Now, just because of the way our form is, I have to ask you, do you work outside of the home?" I smiled so big I thought my face was going to fall off and excitedly told her, "NOPE!"

But my smile quickly faded, because no sooner had I announced this huge accomplishment of mine, that she scribbled the word "HOMEMAKER" on the form she was filling out. On the line next to my name. The line that said, "Occupation."

I just sat there. No big deal, I thought. Who gives a shizza what this dumb bank thinks about me.

But then she said, "...and what was your employment prior to leaving the job industry?"

I remember biting back my words...oh I had so many I wanted to say.....tight-skirted secretary? Brunette bimbo with a clipboard? Coffee-bringer with a butt ready for pinchin'? No way was I going to tell this assumptive woman I was an administrative assistant. So I spoke up, told her I was still kinda working, for actual real-life dollars, as a freelance copywriter and virtual assistant. She nervously chuckled and said, "Oh, of course you are! That's so nice!" The "HOMEMAKER" remained.

I can't help but wonder....if a stay-at-home dad were to walk in there, would they write "HOMEMAKER" on his application? Vewwwwwy intewwwesting....and perhaps for another blog post. Let's move on to the last surprising fact about working from home.

10. You wait around .... a lot. 
You wait for the kids to wake up. You wait for breakfast time. You wait for your kid to get on the bus. You wait for naptime. You wait for laundry to get done. You wait for lunchtime. You wait for good weather. You wait for the garbage man...and mail man. You wait for your kid to get home from school. You wait for your partner to get home from work. It's a whole lotta waiting. I am not a huge fan of waiting. I'm a huge fan of getting it done, now, as quickly as possible. I don't hold on to my to-do lists very long. I am huge on reading all my emails right away so I don't have those stupid icons showing (11) new emails. Makes me nuts. I kinda feel like Samantha sometimes, my fellow SitC fans....when she throws sushi at Smith and screams, "I am not the kinda woman who sits home all day waiting for a man!"

Except I never actually throw the food I cook because seriously, that stuff's expensive.

So yes, I suppose I went into this situation with a pretty skewed perspective, which is interesting because I have done this before. Many years ago. Many many years ago. I feel like I found a picture of myself from school and want to go back in time and take that stupid crimper and throw it right out the window. Some things make so much sense until you're living and breathing the reality of your choices. Granted, I wouldn't change a thing because I get to stay home with my littles as they get not-so-little....but I've still had some major wake-up calls this week.

I'm really hoping it is all part of the learning curve and I'll eventually find my rhythm, but until then, I am dying to know....for any of you who work from home (work, as in, for money or for hugs) do you do it?? What are your tricks? Help a Jen out here.

And as always, thank you for reading :)


  1. One of my acquaintances who runs her accounting business from her home and has 4 kids tells me she has to schedule her work time. She builds a work schedule each week. During that time she goes into her office and closes the door. Her kids are not supposed to interrupt her. (I do know for a fact it doesn’t always work because she does my SIL’s taxes and my SIL said once when she visited it was total chaos; kids interrupting wanting sandwiches etc.) Sometimes I guess it is just hard.
    She also told me her extended family does not respect her work schedule either. They think because she is home she can take Grandma to her doctor’s appointments. I don’t know how she ended up handling it.
    I also know someone else who ended up renting an office to get out of the house. Her hours are pretty crazy. Many times she emails me at 11:00 p.m. from her office.

    I wish I had better advice, hopefully you find your groove over time.

    1. HAHA "gimmie a sammich" I can totally picture that scene in my head! I've had friends/family do the same thing with the working from home dynamic. I find myself getting very defensive, as if to say, "back off, this is me at work, so no, I can't hang out." I think part of it is ignorance on their part but also sensitivity on mine. I can be more flexible, but the self-righteous part of Jen says I shouldn't need to be. I've heard about people renting office spaces and I think maybe someday, when the kids are grown and can care for themselves, this might be an option. All valid pieces of advice Savvy! I always love hearing from you!!! :)

  2. Yeah, ipad is a godsend for toddlers at doctor appointments. I hate to tell you - but when I'm not at a sporting event and working from home, I work from 4:30am-6am. 12-2pm (naptime) and 7-9pm. It's HARD. I work out at 7:30 with my toddler and my planner goes everywhere with me. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Kristen! It's not the working part that I struggle with - my working hours are similar to yours, and very's the cleaning, cooking, dr. appts, school crap, volunteering. I don't know how people ever get it all done! I feel like a bat in sunshine! HAA

  3. Yup, so true! I write, and sometimes I get paid for it. It can be tough! That tortellini looks good.

    1. Thanks! Totally swiped off Pinterest - creamy spinach and tomato tortellini or something - super simple! :)

  4. It's all true, but Jen, aren't you just loving it?! I was home with my boys for 14 years. I just adored it!

    1. It gets better every day and I am totally on my way to loving it! Today I got my crap done an hour ahead of schedule and am finally able to sit down and read some blogs/respond to some comments! I think I'm gettin my groove ;)

  5. Downtime= guilt time. This is so true. Any time I'm not working on my freelance work or business, I feel bad about it. I was literally on the beach in Mexico for my last vacation, feverishly writing on my laptop.

    1. Right? That totally happens to me, too. It's hard to know when to shut it off....don't even get me started on when I finally try to complete my novel. The ideas come when they want to, not when I have time for them to! Writers curse, I think. Thanks for stopping by Stefanie! :)