Working in the House, Not Housework

The other day I met a friend for lunch who also works at home. She was dressed up for our informal date so I asked why.  She explained that she has to get “dressed for work” or she accomplishes nothing during the day and is too tempted to clean the house, go grocery shopping, watch TV, etc. As I sat there in my yoga pants that have never darkened a yoga studio, I was amazed at the completely different approach she had to working from home. I’m on the other end of the spectrum: I’m a powerhouse of work accomplishment in my house but I’m a total disaster when it comes to housework.

Every week I have exactly 38 hours to complete my design work. Before I had children I lounged a lot on the job – puttered around on the web, emailed and IM’d friends, took long leisurely lunches – you get the picture. I was never in a rush. I had no restrictions on my time and frankly, I had no idea how lucky I was. It’s inconceivable to me now that at one point in my life I was doing the same amount of work and going to the gym 4 days a week.

Now I have two kids, am trying to manage a household, and am running a full-time business from my house. Every moment in my day is scripted to the last second. Lunch is eaten at my desk in a 15-minute lull where I allow myself free web time. That’s it. I can’t lollygag because every day it’s my responsibility to pick up the kids before 5:30, and one day a week I have to leave even earlier to take them to swim class. Every moment counts. This is why even though I work from home, dirty dishes are often in the sink, the cat litter goes unscooped, I forget to shower, and laundry piles up. I may work from home, but I don’t do housework during my job. I just don’t have the time and I’m extremely disciplined about managing my clients. (Alas, I’m not so disciplined in the personal grooming department since I often forget until lunch time that I haven’t brushed my teeth and am still wearing aforementioned “yoga” pants.)

Sometimes when it’s 9pm and I look at the massive piles of toys on the ground, I have to remind myself that I’m lucky I work from home because I save 10 hours a week commuting, which is 10 additional hours I get to have with my kids. My husband can tell you what misery commuting is, but I’ll admit I fantasize about 10 hours alone to read books. It’s not always quality time with the kids – there are a lot of baths, dinners, and yes, TV – but at least I have this flexibility and for that I do indeed feel privileged.

This Friday I’m supposed to have lunch with a different work-from-home friend. But in an effort to remember that there are more important things than being glued to the computer for 8 hours a day, this time I’ll shed the yoga pants and brush my teeth. You’re welcome, Kate.