Writing Through Chaos: The REAL Truth About Working from Home

bunny slippers

Last week New Jersey schools closed in order for teachers and other educators to attend the NJEA convention. Mind you, this conference is only two days, but because parents usually take their kids out of school for the entire week anyway, the schools shut down for the entire week this year. Clearly, we have our priorities in order. My son is one of the handful of kids who usually attends school if it’s open during this time. He sits forlornly on the near-empty school bus and the sound of his footsteps echo as he walks down the quiet hallway to join the other classmates whose parents can’t afford a trip to Cozumel. By the way, they call the first week of November “New Jersey week” at Disney for this very reason. Now, I don’t understand why the teachers can’t have their convention in the summer when it won’t interrupt a child’s education, but that’s neither here nor there. There was no school last week and all of my son’s friends had traveling plans. I was prepared for a week of art projects and Phineas and Ferb marathons so I could get stuff done.

I needn’t have worried because …

…my son caught a virus compounded by a horrible cough and sinus infection and that kept both of us well occupied. Well, that is until halfway through the illness when boredom set in for The Boy who was bouncing off the walls. And the couch. And the Dog.

You might be thinking how fortunate I am to be a work at home mom so I can care for my family during their time of need.

The truth is, when a seven year old realizes a little whining will get him ginger ale and jello, Mom isn’t getting anything done. I spent most of last week fetching buckets, dispensing antibiotics and reading the entire collective works of Frog and Toad, over and over and over again.

You must be thinking I’m happy last week is over so I can get back to working in peace.

Did I mention Mr. Ng’s unemployment? My husband was laid off at the end of July. This means he’s been home every day since August 1st. That’s every day, people. Every. Day. Now I love my husband, but the 24/7 thing can wear thin. Whoever made up all that “til death do us part” stuff, never spent all day, every day with a spouse. He has decided to use this time wisely and renovate. During the day. Every day. When I’m home trying to work. Power tools, hammers, and cursing are now the soundtrack of my life.

After reading this you will probably suggest I take my show on the road.

Let me tell you about the quiet WiFi hotspots in my area…

Starbucks and the library are becoming a way of life. Except there are people around …always. So my option is to to work at home amid the sound of Dremels and drills or to go to the local Starbucks where five small tables are squeezed in between the counter and the wall to make a very narrow aisle where folks push by, knocking my elbows off the table on their way to ordering double triple mocha soy lattes with a twist. Since most of my neighbors stop by the coffee shop on their way to work or home from the supermarket, they all have to stop by my table to say hello. And they won’t leave.

Then there’s the library…

This isn’t your father’s library. There are no shushing librarians or quiet signs reminding us people are trying to read, work or study. This is the new library where patrons are encouraged to talk and share ideas. There’s a quiet section but there aren’t any power cords or tables, only bean bag chairs and these stuffed cube things that are suppose to pass for chairs. I’m 45. The last time I sunk myself into a bean bag chair, three people had to pull me out for fear I’d never be heard from again.

So I sit at the table with the plug for my power cord, which, by the way, is just outside of the room where “Mommy and Me” or “Music to Move By” classes are being held. “Hi Mrs. Ng!” My neighbors kids call out as they enter and leave the room. I wave back. “Oh good, you’re here. Now I have some one to talk to while I wait for story hour to end,” their moms tell me as they sit down next to me and fill me in on the day’s gossip.

Power tools and fetching the bucket for an influenza afflicted seven year old look mighty attractive after a day of silence at the coffee shop or library.

Oh yes, I’m so fortunate to be living the dream and working at home where I can spend all this quality time with my family. After all, that’s what it’s all about.


  1. says

    YES!!! YES!! YES!!!! I homeschool..so kids at home is just a fact. I don’t have hours..I work from when I get up to when I go to sleep..sometimes I am writing, sometimes I am cooking, sometimes I am reading stories or checking algebra…
    Hello? Just because I am online does not mean I have an hour to chat with you on facebook. Asking me to do such and such or babysit because I am home all the time? Uh..no thanks…
    You know..Someone could probably make a mint if they opened a WIFI shop…sold coffee and tea and had private booths..Enforced minimal talking and did not allow children.

    • Joseph Rooks says

      Look up “coworking.” Not as in co-workers, it’s something different – people are opening workspaces for freelancers based on the concept. The video on this page features one of the founders of the movement talking about it in better detail than I can give you: http://hatfactory.net/about

  2. says

    Kids didn’t take the whole week off for the teachers convention when I was in school.

    And I completely understand the whole 24/7 thing with a spouse–been doing that here too since moving back to the states. It’s not fun.

  3. says

    Maybe you should find some other writers and group rent an office. My day is hectic now, but I know when I move back into my house when my husband gets back from his deployment it will be better. I’m still considering an office: I can’t balance housework and business.

  4. says

    This is me too! And if you work from home there’s no eight hour day either, there’s a school run, 4hrs of work, another school run, 1 hr of work, another school run, homework tea, baths, stories, bed (was poked in ribs last night – ‘stop snoring!’) dinner (very fortunate hub does the cooking), and then another 4 hrs of work! But have to say I love it. House is a wreck by the way, don’t have cleaning in my schedule!

  5. says

    How true. I also homeschool, so my kids are always here, too.

    In my previous life I was a pharmacist. Since pharmacies can’t be open unless a pharmacist is there, a sick kid meant I had to call a co-worker and beg them to give up their day off so I could stay home. Good times.

    So while working at home is not always as idyllic as people think it is, I always remind myself that it used to be worse.

    • says

      Adam, there is one area in which I will never complain and that is the amount of time Mr. Ng spends with and cares for our son. He’s always there for him and I never have any problems with him helping out.

  6. says


    Just think, now you can relate to all of those jokes about women’s husbands retiring and what they have to go through because he’s home with nothing to do, bored out of his mind and is there every single hour of every single day. And then finds, no…creates, projects! lol You poor thing.

    I think you should tape a sign to your back that says: “Working – Do Not Disturb” when you’re in the library and just don’t look up at ALL when moms try to catch your eye. Also, tape the same sign to the top/back of your laptop so when they sit down opposite you, they’ll see it. :) Hey, you have to do what you have to do.

    Great post. Oh, and when your husband decides to begin his job search and needs help, you can send him my way. I’ll get him out of the house (pounding the pavement) for a few hours for you. lol Hang in there!

  7. says

    amazing… just read this to DH, who garumphed and asked “is this me???” um… yes… but the big upside is that he’s able to take over a lot of the homeschooling for our son (he’s in a homeschool resource 2 days/week, at home 3). Of course, sometimes we go in opposite directions with me carting DD and he driving DS… and clients sending little “will we be hearing from you soon?” emails…


  8. says

    They really should make a TV show about the glamorous life of the freelancer!

    You want to hear about my recent chaos?

    Try October for me. I am pregnant, and I was still regularly sick as the month unfolded. I had several major deadlines for longterm projects looming, and then suddenly got several new projects (money=good, but time crunch=not so good). Then my husband got a severe case of H1N1 which developed into pneumonia. Then my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we were all scrambling around to figure out who could be with her to go back and forth to pre-surgery appointments and then surgery. My FIL was also undergoing some medical issues at the same time. People kept moving up deadlines on me–argh! And did I mention that I was pregnant, huge and tired with a three-year-old boy to chase around?

    Thank God for November.

  9. says

    I love you! Thank you! THANK YOU! My husband was in a car accident at the end of August and was able to go back to work just shy of 6 weeks home… ALL DAY. EVERY DAY. Then 3 weeks ago, he reinjured himself falling down our frosted over deck stairs. I had just gotten excited about things getting back to normal when… Crap. They were back to Not Normal. It was so hard having him around because he’d want me to do be doing anything other than working, and this last time he was off he got no short term disabilty at all so it was all my income we relied on. Can I just tell you how behind we are right now?

    Oh and did I mention the 3yr old and the dog I already spend my day with until the other 3 kids get home from school.

    Your post totally hit the nail on the head for me.

  10. Robin says

    Great post–My fiance just returned to work after a 10-month hiatus– forget the money, I’m celebrating just having him out of the house!

  11. says

    My husband quit his teaching job 2 years ago when I was earning enough to support us. He hated teaching and he wanted to do music full time. So he was going to come home, watch the boys during the day for me and work weekend nights. HA!

    I love my man. I love that he spends so much time with our children, but seriously, a man and woman should NOT be in the same house 24/7. ANd our house is just two bedrooms and a kitchen/living room, so there is no hiding out possible.

    My kids and I were sick for nearly two weeks and I’m so behind on everything now. I totally get what you mean about buckets and antibiotics. I had six different medicines to dole out at various times just for the kids and two more for myself! And as much as we’d like Papa to help sometimes, I know my kids just want their mama when they’re sick.

  12. says

    I can relate to this very-funny but true-to-life post in many ways, as well as many of the comments.

    It’s nice to know that there are some people out there that life “my” life.

    I totally get what you are saying about the library and coffee shop and how everyone wants to chat and nothing gets done.

    When I’m home working on my freelance projects, my husband doesn’t understand why the house doesn’t get cleaned.

    My other problem is that I work full-time too as well as writing freelance part-time. So people think when I’m off from my “regular” job that I should be free to do whatever. But I still have deadlines to meet and generally work into the wee hours of the night to get it all done.


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