Work From Home : Finding Method in Madness

Less than a year into motherhood, I realized that as much as I loved my little munchkin, I couldn’t center my life on diaper changes and formula food. My fingers itched to dance on a keyboard. I longed to write. At the same time, I didn’t have the heart to leave a 10-month-old baby in someone else’s care for 9 hours straight every day while I was out pursuing a career or keeping a job. Add to the mix the nomadic lifestyle by virtue of being a military spouse, and the odds were stacked against the prospect of landing and keeping a full-time job.

In a pre-baby life, I had dabbled in a few freelance writing assignments with a ‘keeping myself occupied until I return to the newsroom madness’ attitude, which helped me learn the ropes of digital content and the freelance writing market. And just like that, one restless evening it occurred to me – the only way to end this secret suffering was to turn on that laptop, and take the first step toward building a career in freelance writing. And yes, it meant saying goodbye to the returning-to-the-newsroom dream forever. At 30, it is easier to replace romantic idealism with realistic expectations. That was June 2015.

I thought I had found a way to strike the ultimate work-life balance. Hallelujah! I could work at my own convenience, be around to care for the bub and keep up with the pack-and-move way of life. The reality of a work-from-home career has turned out to be a lot different than what I had expected it to be.

For starters, you cannot separate your work and personal life. As opposed to a regular full-time job, where you have the liberty to disconnect from household responsibilities the moment you step foot in the office, there is no such concept of clearly defined lines and compartmentalization here. Just when you sit down to write, you’ll remember that there is a heap of laundry to be done, your little one will come beseeching you to ditch the laptop and indulge her in some pretend play, you’ll remember you’ve forgotten to feed the dog, or the maid will come asking for your inputs on the silliest of matters – like who cares to what size the onions are diced as long as there is a cooked meal on the table. You write, delete, rewrite, because there is just not enough uninterrupted time to organize your thoughts. In the midst of all this humdrum, managing to finish a 500-word piece can feel like a great achievement (I have taken three breaks while writing these 400-odd words and my day has only just begun!)

Add to that the ‘oh, you can work whenever you want. That’s so great!’ misnomer.

The truth be told, it is not so great when everyone expects you to put everything else ahead of your work, because you know, you can work whenever you want.

From people phoning you to have long conversations because it is not like you have fixed work hours, guest dropping by unannounced, snide remarks from friends and family about how you are always on the laptop and have no time for them, getting on with a regular work day can seem like quite a battle. And God forbid should your child take a tumble or get hurt, you are suddenly labeled as the ‘bad mother’, who is too busy making money to look after her child.

I mean it is all right if your child sustains an injury because you were slogging it out in the kitchen making aaloo paranthas, after all there is only so much a poor mother can handle.

But choosing work over your baby! Monster Mom Alert.

Not to mention the many ‘duties’ and ‘social responsibilities’ that are part of the military wife package. You are always expected to alter your schedule, take the day off to squeeze in a meet here or a party there, because hey, it’s not like you teach at the Army School. You just do something online, which you can do WHENEVER you want. Family reunions? Take a break, you can work WHENEVER you want. Husband’s got leave? Take a break, you can work WHENEVER you want. Some of my dearest people have even gone on to ask, ‘So, how much money did you lose out on today? We’ll compensate. Just take a break, you can work WHENEVER you want’.

My take away from the experience so far is that working out a home office is all about finding method in madness.

You can’t hold it against people who don’t know better. Once you’ve found your calling, you’ve got to put a set of blinders on and power through.

Me? I wouldn’t trade the comfort of working in my pajamas, the freedom to work WHENEVER I want, the luxury to choose my assignments, to widen my horizons – in the past 18 months, my body of work has been more versatile than 4 years of newspaper put together. I have proofread and edited manuscripts, written dreadfully boring web content at times and superbly interesting articles and blog posts at others – for even the most vibrant workplaces.


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