Week 1: Working from home… (Photo credit: Mish Mish)
School holidays upset the natural order in our house.
For working women, school holidays are akin to waxing your own bikini line with fabric strips – (those who have done it will know what I mean).
As if working ‘around’ children isn’t hard enough, mothers also have to ‘manage’ them during school holidays, whilst trying to maintain a level of professionalism at work at the same time.
And let me assure you, holiday-anxiety gets far worse when kids become teenagers. You see, you can’t shove them into childcare then, in the knowledge that at least they’ll be safe for the day – you have to leave them to prowl the streets looking for things not to do whilst you try to earn a dollar, engulfed by guilt.
School holidays probably sit at number 3 on the list of Working Mother’s Guilt, just below ‘sending your kids to school when you know they are sick’ and ‘picking them up late from childcare’.
Luckily, my teenagers do sleep through half of the day, so if I can bribe them with wads of cash, take-out food or movies on Foxtel during the afternoon, I might just find a small window to earn a living.
But things don’t always work to plan.
My job means that I work from home for approximately half of my paid hours.
The problem with working from home is that no-one in the family actually believes you are working.
Nevertheless, on paper my job sounds like the dream job for any working woman. It gives me that precious commodity of flexibility for all those unforeseen events that can send normal healthy working women to their GP begging for a Valium script at the very mention of head lice, school carnivals and orthodontist appointments.
But where this working-from-home nirvana comes horribly unstuck is when I attempt to maintain some professional dignity during the school holidays.
It is fair to say that I might have been guilty of exaggerating my home working facilities as a ‘separate home office’, during the interview for my job. Yes, I do own a desk and computer – they just happen to be located in the war zone between the kitchen and the television. This area is a high traffic area for teenagers, (and their teenage hanger-on friends), whose main purpose of existence seems to be eating or doing nothing.
If you listen really carefully, a loud and very distinguishable communal sigh of relief reverberates around the city suburbs from working mums on the day the public schools re-open after the holidays. Frankly I’m surprised we don’t all set up tents in front of the school gates the night before, like fans do for Wimbledon.
I had an interesting experience of working woman school holiday hell just yesterday.
I might have mentioned that Kurt can be quite hyperactive euphoric in the mornings, and particularly during the school holidays – this symptom of ADHD is often labelled as ‘morning mania’. His anxiety is lessened by no train times to meet and no assignments to (suddenly) remember as he is walking out the door and his excitement for life (one that is infinitely much less complicated in holiday time) is magnified about three times. His euphoria, which is generally demonstrated by uncontrollable noise, lasts for the first hour of each day, until ‘holiday boredom’ sets in.
On Friday morning, I was in the middle of a very important preliminary call with a new client in Japan. I had assumed that Kurt would remain in bed until at least 10.30am – GROWING – as a result of that three packets of chocolate biscuits that he stole in the middle of the night.
The telephone call with my client would have been delicate at the best of times as his English is not what you would describe as ‘fluent’ and it doesn’t help that I have this awful habit of barking into the phone during international calls, as though I can somehow compensate for the distance by increasing the volume of my voice.
Anyway, at the point where I was trying to decipher some important information pertaining to my client’s visa, Kurt suddenly descended upon my work space (aka the kitchen), blaring out (with a volume to challenge the PA system at the Enmore) ‘Because I got High’ by Afroman. In fairness to Kurt, he couldn’t see that I was on the phone initially, not until he moved directly above me in all his naked glory and promptly went into his ‘I’ve got a big penis’ song; even more loudly.
Obviously, I stood up immediately to try and grab his attention, waving my arms frantically like some military traffic controller on Speed, in a bleak attempt to get him to shut the f*ck up; unfortunately, he mistook my signals for encouragement.
The silence from Japan was deafening.
Eventually my client spoke and asked me politely if I was too busy to talk at the moment, (which roughly translated meant sort your domestic shit out).
I was relating this to a friend later, (who is also trying to balance work with school holidays and failing miserably), and she questioned when exactly we women become so ‘bitter and twisted’.
I don’t think it has anything to do with the inadequacies of men (well, not much), or even menopause, and it’s not because we are trying to ‘have it all’ either.
It’s because we have to do it all.
Never work with animals and children.
Ask LH: How Can I Stop My Family From Disturbing Me When I Work At Home? (lifehacker.com.au)