In the game of “My job sucks more than yours” I NEVER win. Because my job doesn’t suck. Not a lot, not a little, not even a smidgen. At least not according to anyone I’ve ever met. That’s because I’ve managed to do what a lot of people want to do but can’t – I work at home (writing no less – ah glorious writing) and actually make a living at it.
However, right now know where I am? I’m outside, on the porch, in 30 degree weather typing away as my fingers turn an ever so pretty shade of blue because it’s the only semi-peaceful place in the house. Oh so glorious right?
It’s winter break – which serves to remind me that my job choice is far from perfect. My son goes to a cool school but they close up shop for three long weeks in the winter so he’s home. My boyfriend’s daughters are also out of school and so they’re here hanging out as well. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as jolly as a flipping elf to see everyone but with just three bedrooms, five people, and no dedicated office space for me – well you do the math. Yup I’m working in the middle of chaos. Well, technically I’m not working because of said chaos, but you get the picture.
Currently we’ve got my office space in the living room, which is fine when my boyfriend is at work and my son is at school, but add in three not in school kids + one Wii + impending holiday excitement and I’ve got a less than ideal work situation.
Long story short I’m going to go insane, not to mention I’m not getting anything done. This is just the tip of the iceberg though. If you work at home successfully there are trade-offs which trust me, no one but you will see.
YES MY JOB CAN SUCK EGGS AT TIMES:
There’s no luxury of getting off work for good for the day. If I quit working my work space is still hanging around looking at me as if to say, “Um, how come you’re not over here working – can’t you see I’m all alone!” Stupid laptop.
The coffee shop idea, while nice in theory, is a pipe dream. If I am forced to hear, “Wow, I can’t believe you stay home. If I worked at home, I’d go to a different spot each and everyday” one more time I will pull my own ears off. If I do pack it up, head to a coffee shop, or library, or wherever, it’s time consuming. Driving, looking for parking, getting out of the car, ordering coffee, finding a seat, and then dealing with people asking me, “What’s up?” is all very time consuming. I can easily kill off two solid work hours with traveling shenanigans. Here’s the truth – if you work at home (and make a living), you’ll most likely stay put because any extra movement is time you don’t have.
Kids are always a distraction. Even the good ones. My son and my boyfriend’s kids are all awesome, but they are totally distracting. Just because you have kids who are older it does not mean that they will fend for themselves either. In fact, if you’ve got a baby yay because at least that baby sleeps. Last night at 1am all the kids at my place were still wide awake. Sure during the day I could take my laptop into another room, but those crafty kids have one, learned to knock on my door, and two I can still hear them perfectly from the other room. When kids are hollering you don’t know if it’s because of the Wii or because someone caught on fire so of course you’re going to go check. If it’s a holiday break good luck getting work done at any time that’s not between 1-4am.
Other adults don’t get it. I get that kids are loud, active, and need attention. However, it’s the other adults I know who really irk me. Most non-work-at-home adults don’t seem to feel that I have a real job, one I get paid for, one with deadlines and editors who make me do stuff, and yes, real work to complete. It’s not uncommon for people to call me up (during a workday) with nonsense about me taking time off since I “don’t work for real anyhow.”
I am always the one who gets shafted. ALWAYS. Here’s what I mean by shafted: I work at home, thus people think my schedule is far more flexible and less important then their schedule. If my son’s school has a snow day, guess who gets him? It’s not his dad because he has a “real job” with a “real schedule”. Since it’s winter break, the kids want to be up late, which yeah, I get, but right now nighttime is currently the only somewhat quiet time I get. That said, if I want everyone quiet by a certain time guess who gets labeled as the big meanie scrooge in the situation? Here’s a hint, it’s not the kids. Because people perceive working at home as setting your own schedule at all times (which is not true) my needs are always shafted before other people’s needs.
The workspace is not always your own. I need it hyper organized to concentrate. If it’s messy I work slower, because I’ll stare at the mess. If you work at home and don’t live utterly alone, other people’s messes will become your own and for a neat freak like me that means less productivity. Legos on the floor around my desk, stuff all over the table, dishes, and so on all distract me, but unless I can force everyone around me to be tidy naturally (I can’t) I’m screwed. Other work-at-home folks I know get slack from others because their house is not spotless, because in theory, since they’re home all day they should have time to clean. Annoying.
All of this and… I don’t get health insurance through work, paid holidays, or a 401K! Yipee! Working at home sure is fun.
Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time I know I’m damn lucky to get paid to write, at home, and I honestly love my job. It may even be that my job does not suck more than yours, but the truth is that working at home is not for the faint hearted. It can be very hard. When holiday breaks, sick kids, and other distractions pop up, it makes my job about 90% harder and way more time consuming.
Luckily there are some ways to improve the situation. You don’t have to put up with all of the above. Later this week we’ll look at some ways to make working at home easier. But for now, I’m out of time, so you tell me… what are the biggest problems you have with working at home? Is winter break busting your chops too?