The truth about working from home

by MIHIRI UDABAGE

I was going to have it all! At last!

My own little business, working from home, attending playdates midweek, in between meetings in the city and 2pm haircuts. Dressing in the morning in smart casual gear for my long saunter down the hallway to sit at my computer to fire off emails while watching the children play happily in the garden. It was positively perfect.

So how is it, that just two weeks in, when my accounts are still pretty tidy, and I haven't even finished off half a ream of Reflex, the reality is so very different?

I now know that working from home (when you're a mother with small children), means staying at home, and working at night. Until midnight. Most nights. Because that's the only time I can get any peace. That's the only time I can turn my back to do the books and not expect the room behind me to be trashed when I turn back. That's the only time it doesn't take 45 minutes to formulate an email because I've got a screaming toddler on my knee trying to escape his big sister's attempts to dress him like a fairy princess barbie butterfly.

What am I doing wrong, I ask myself? How come we don't look like the families on A Current Affair, where the mums are making millions working from home? How come my kids aren't sitting quietly on the playmat close by and studiously completing puzzles? Can't those kids on the TV see how tantalising is the keyboard that snuggles next to the mouse that is linked to the proposal document that's been worked on for two days? Don't they know how to press, press, press until buttons fall off and computer screens go blue then blank?

And my children are good. They have lovely manners and great dispositions. They are smart and kind. Problem is, they are 2 and 4 and just want to be around me all the time. Problem is, they are cute and fun, and I quite like to hang around with them. Working from home is a bit like being in your office and having your hands tied behind your back all day while you watch things slowly pile up on your desk.

I've learnt to divide my day into three parts - after breakfast but before lunch, during naptime, and late at night. These are the times I can leave the house, make phone calls, and do my paperwork respectively. My children have learnt the meaning of my desperate gesticulations for be quiet, I'm on the phone!!, and together we have decided that them watching Playschool in the mornings and afternoons is really a very good thing indeed. But all this leads me to question - have I made the right decision ... and what happened to my dream?

Well I've decided it all comes down to perspective, as do most things.

I remember actor Will Smith said in an interview once, and I quote, (probably wrongly) "when it's all too hard, just break it down into something really simple, baby".

So here are the results of the question and answer session between myself and I, done at 10.56pm when I had the chance to have a few uninterrupted thoughts:

Q. Did I really think that I could automatically overcome the working mum vs stay-at-home mum dilemma just because I'd combined the two?

A. Regrettably, no.

Q. Will the children be permanently damaged because I can only do ½ hour up and down the street instead of 2 hours in the park?

A. Probably not.

Q. Did I marry a Neanderthal who still expects the house to be clean, his shirts ironed and dinner cooked, even though I am working from home?

A. No

Q. Can I get my haircut on Saturday mornings like everybody else?

A. Yes

Q. Aren't I grateful to be available to pick up my daughter early from pre-school when they ring to say it looks like she's got hand, foot and mouth disease?

A. Yes (but what on earth is hand, foot and mouth disease??)

Q. Would I rather be sitting stiffly at a breakfast meeting in a city skycraper or hiding under the desk trying to have a respectable phone conversation?

A. Hmmmm, tough one..........

Q. Aren't I fortunate to be in a position to at least give it a go?

A. Yes!

So I apologise to the couriers who come to the house, and aren't greeted by the desperate housewife of their dreams, but a dishevelled, pyjama clad mad woman with a mobile in one hand and a broom in the other.

And I apologise to my patient callers that I can't get to the phone, because I'm changing a nappy, or I'm on another call to my husband asking him to come home a little early because I've slipped on Thomas the Tank Engine and hurt my ankle and I think it might be broken.

So the picture perfect scenario hasn't panned out for me. But somehow the dream has.

Mihiri Udabage established www.generationwonder.com an Australian on-line store for organic cotton clothing for children, fair trade toys and dolls, bags and stationery made out of recycled materials, and lots more ethically and beautifully produced goods for children, from people working their way out of poverty

 
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