Never content with doing just one thing, I have three jobs. Mostly, they all take place at home. Working from home seemed like a brilliant idea: it’s flexible, you don’t need babysitters and you can take on as much or as little work as you are able to cope with. However, there are a few drawbacks.
Some of the issues with your home also being your office are universal: you can never switch off from work, because it is always around you; the housework suddenly becomes extremely urgent when you are within 24 hours of a deadline and you end up snacking non-stop, as the biscuit tin is never more than a few steps away and nobody bats an eyelid if you pop out to the shops to get a massive chocolate cake just for your own consumption (or is that just me…?). Oh yes, and then there is the self-assessment tax return. “Tax doesn’t have to be taxing”, my arse.
But I have found that having small children turns freelancing from a pleasant occupation with a few drawbacks into a farcical game of pinball – every time you manage to re-route a distraction it just comes back to you with more force from an unexpected angle.
Here are five things you need to consider before you decide working from home would be an excellent alternative to paying out for childcare:
1. In most jobs, people don’t mess with your desk.
Okay, maybe I have been known to rifle through the papers on someone’s desk to
steal borrow a spare form that I need urgently, or perhaps I might borrow a pair of scissors, but I do always return things. I would certainly never ever start incorporating their important paperwork into an elaborate craft project involving glitter and sequins, or decide it is just the right background for my latest painting of a whale. Never.
2. In most jobs, your colleagues don’t need your help to go to the toilet
One of the most refreshing things I have found about being back in the adult education classroom is that nobody needs me to wipe their bottom. When I am preparing lessons at home, however, it seems like my children are running a relay race to and from the toilet.
3. In most jobs, your colleagues don’t wee on the floor.
Or should some unfortunate soul have an accident, they wouldn’t come and tell you about it, and they certainly wouldn’t be expecting you to clean it up and provide them with clean clothing and then find enough other laundry to run the washing machine.
4. In most jobs, your colleagues don’t need you to sort out their arguments for them
I suppose if you are a manager then this is in fact part of your job. But in the average work place I have found that my colleagues are quite capable of dealing with their own conflicts without me needing to settle who is allowed to play with the pink unicorn now or who had the red car first. Even if they are incapable of resolving their differences, they are happy to delay bitching about each other until you are ready to listen to them and don’t come and interrupt you in the middle of a difficult sentence.
5. In most jobs, your colleagues don’t want to sit on your lap while you work
Nor, I assume, do they start operating your touch screen with their toes and adding extra paragraphs consisting entirely of the letters ‘f’ and ‘l’ while you are distracted by someone else.
In short, trying to work while your small children are at home means it takes you three hours to do 30 minutes’ worth of work. If you very reasonably ask them to wait with their questions and concerns until you have finished your paragraph, then the following will happen – this is a real-time transcript of what is actually going on right next to me while I am trying to finish this post:
“Mummy, I can’t find my other bit of Blu-tack. Mummy. Mummy, I can’t find my other bit of Blu-tack. Where is it? Is it in A’s hair? Is it all in A’s hair? Can you get some more out of the box? Shall I get the box to you so you can get it out? How many seconds until you have finished your work? Are you working in seconds or minutes Mummy? What is a paragraph, Mummy? There are thirty red parrots flying around the house.”
Finally, while my son is turning round and round in circles asking on repeat: “How many more minutes?”, my daughter comes to his rescue and does a poo in her underpants.
I guess I’d better go.