Archive for the ‘Working From Home’ Category

Into the Woods For Work and Play

Posted on: June 30th, 2011 by Cori

One of the benefits of working for yourself, from home is that you can, in theory, do it anywhere. One of the curses of working for yourself, from home, is that you can, in theory do it anywhere. So as a work from homer, it was hard to use a work related argument when my husband presented me with an interesting proposition. He was offered a consulting gig at a sleep away summer camp in Connecticut. Either we could spend the summer apart, something neither of us wanted, or Sara and I could decamp with him for the country, and a little rental house in the woods about a mile from the camp.

So last week we packed up the car, and headed to the woods. I knew that my schedule for the summer would be completely different than at home. For one thing, no full time sitter. Sara is in the “peanut program” which is the camp/sort of seems more like day care for kids of camp staff who are too young to be in the actual camp program. It will be great for Sara, and she already is loving the wide open spaces where she can run and play. But she’s only three, so chances are she won’t be doing a full day at camp every day, which means more time with mom. I envision the days going something like this: Gary leaves early for his 7:30 meeting, then Sara and I head to camp, eat breakfast, and she goes off with the peanuts. I have a few hours to come home and do work, then back to meet her for lunch and pretty much entertain her the rest of the day.

This scenario raises several issues.

First – how to prioritize work when I have only between 2-3 hours a day to do it. Here is my portable “office” of files and supplies that I brought up:

portable office

Not exactly the same set up as home, but then again, this is my new view from my new workspace, aka the kitchen table:

view from my office

I’ve got my files, I’ve got my new view,  now I just need to find a way to be super focused and disciplined about work time in order to get things accomplished.

The second issue, is how to let go of work, and not feel stressed that work time is so limited, in order to enjoy my time at camp with Sara. I can’t spend each afternoon thinking “I should be doing x or calling y or doing z.” I have to recognize that this summer is a gift. A chance to spent a lot of great quality time with my daughter engaged in activities some of which we can do at home easily (go to a park) and some of which we can’t (running on a soccer field, playing tennis, swimming).

In both cases, I have to really learn to live in the moment, to the fullest. When I am working, I need to WORK, to get the most accomplished in the littlest amount of time. And when I need to put it down, I need to PUT IT DOWN. And not think about it (well, maybe just a little …. ) and just relax and have fun. After all, that is what camp is for, right?

 

Other People’s Politics

Posted on: March 28th, 2011 by Cori

There are definitely some things I miss about working in an actual office, such as flesh and blood coworkers, free office supplies and a seemingly non-ending parade of cake for people’s birthdays. One thing I don’t miss, is office politics. They’re unavoidable and run the gamut from mild nuisance to total dysfunction affecting productivity. Seeing how dysfunction plays itself out at the office holiday party can be mildly amusing, but it’s almost worth being a solo entrepreneur and not having a party just to be able to forgo the politics the other 364 days of the year.

But having my own business and working from home certainly doesn’t mean I escape the politics. If anything, it’s a feat not to get drawn in more. Nearly all of my clients are companies. That means some type of office. And that means office politics. Alliances made behind coworkers backs? check. Right hand doesn’t know what left hand is doing because they don’t talk to one other? check. Raging office affairs? Well, haven’t seen that one yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.

As the outsider, typically only involved with a client for a temporary period of time, you would think people would not want to air their dirty laundry. You’d be wrong. Maybe it’s because I am a “stranger,” only around for a finite period, so it’s easy to talk, sort of like confessing things to your seat mate on a plane that you’d never share with your inner circle.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of times knowing the dirt and skeletons helps me maneuver and get my job done. I can feel like part Clinton (Hillary or Bill, take your pick) playing diplomat, part Dr Phil trying to solve the issues. It is an interesting reminder of how working from home means working differently. When I collaborate with people on a project, I’ve picked the people, and unless what they do is SO special and unique, if there is too much “noise”, I just don’t need to use them. There are plenty of other fish in the freelance/solo pool, fish with whom I’d be more simpatico. I get enough politics in the news, I’m happy I can usually do without them in my work.

 

 

 

Dressing the Part or What to Wear/What not to Wear

Posted on: March 1st, 2011 by Cori

Every woman I know (and most men) has experienced moments of looking in to her closet and declaring she has nothing to wear. It’s an exaggeration, of course, but sometimes there is a germ of truth lurking beneath the blanket statement; there is nothing to wear that is appropriate, or flattering, or wrinkle-free. When I open the closet doors every morning, I can see the quantity of clothes, but it is challenging to find ones that strike the right balance between I’m working from home and I’m working from home.

In theory, I love the luxury of being able to wear anything, from work out clothes (as if!) to a business suit, depending on what I’ve got planned. But I tend to take the easy way out most mornings, reach for the first thing in the closet, and end up feeling like a schlub. Today is a good example. Granted, Gary is away and Sara had school, so the morning was a bit chaotic, but I am wearing jeans and a black sweater. Not horrible, but nothing that wows me when I look in the mirror, or makes me feel great about myself as I sit here typing. Basically nothing that makes me feel professional.

For some reason, unless I have a meeting, I steer away from the black pants. Maybe because they were part of the “uniform” when I lived in the corporate world? And dresses or skirts with tights in the winter? Forgettaboutit, they tend to hang untouched. So out of habit, most mornings, I go for the jeans. Which in and of itself is not horrible – in this day and age jeans can be dressed up, down or sideways. But it is bad when I am just putting on clothes, any clothes, instead of finding something that – to paraphrase Tim Gunn – makes it work.

Some mornings, I put something on and think – yes! Good outfit! I feel put together, sort of stylish even, and that definitely affects my mind set going in to the day. And I am not the only one who notices; on those days, I frequently get asked by Gary, or the sitter, and increasingly even by Sara – where you going? do you have a meeting? So why aren’t I dressing like that every day? If something doesn’t meet that Yes! criteria, why is it even still part of my wardrobe?

They say “clothes make the man”, that you should “dress for success”, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Well I HAVE the job I want, but I DO need to work on the dressing part. A stylist would be great, to come and put together a “look book” of outfits that meet my feel good/work from home criteria. But short of that, not sure I have the stamina on my own to do a the type of radical closetectomy/outfit putting together that is required for consistent dressing wins each morning.

Any other work from home moms (or anyone really!) have this issue? Any great solutions?

What Did You Do Today Honey?

Posted on: February 1st, 2011 by Cori

Sara is asleep (or at least in bed, singing to herself on her way to dream land), toys are picked up, and Gary and I are just sitting down to dinner. “So what did you do today?” he asks. An innocent question, one that is asked of spouses and partners in thousands if not millions of homes around the world each and every night. I get it, it’s a totally normal thing to ask, and I ask it of Gary every day. But having to answer it myself, well sometimes that makes me cringe.

For one thing, I have never been too “sharey” about work. Unless I feel like I’ve done something really great, I tend to want to let the ins and outs of my day stay quiet. And I think working for myself, especially if I have had a day without client meetings or other outside contact, by the time dinner comes, I am ready to be OUT of my own head and to turn off work completely.

But there is another issue at play that is directly related to being a work from home mom. As I’ve mentioned before, my day is fragmented, and could include drop off/pick up at school, grocery shopping, dinner prep and of course, work. So tasks – especially work – get squeezed into short bursts of time before and after my other responsibilities.  This alone constitutes poor time management (and sometimes bad prioritizing!) but it gets worse. When I am in “work time” I frequently try to cram so much into a small period of time that a)I feel like I am getting nothing done and b)I am probably right!

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To Play Date or not to Play Date

Posted on: January 10th, 2011 by Cori

One of the things I’ve loved most about working from home, is that not only do I get to spend time with Sara, but I also get to spend time with her friends. She has her little posse she hangs with most days, and they are all so much fun.  All of their moms work outside the house, so it’s the sitters – Sara’s included – who make the plans and see other either at the park or at someone’s house, depending on the weather. At least once a week they are at our house, spending the morning and having lunch, so after putting in a few hours on the computer, I take my break to feed them and catch up on what is happening in the world of these toddlers! I’ve gotten to know all of their parents and several times a year everyone is together (birthday parties, holiday parties etc). Luckily, I’ve also connected with a couple of the moms on a more personal level, and we’ve developed friendships that go beyond just having kids who are friends.

Now that she is in preschool, Sara’s social circle is widening.  This is great, but also brings up a tricky issue for a work from home mom. Not surprisingly, some of the kids in school (and in various other activities Sara engages in) have stay at home parents. When they want to make play dates, it’s almost always during the week, since they are looking for things to do with their child, and weekends are more about family time.

So the question for me is  – to play date or not to play date? Do I put myself in the “working mom” bucket and only make dates on the weekends or have Sara’s sitter take her? This could work, but deprives me of the chance to get to know some of the moms better.  Because let’s be real, at this age the play dates are as much about the parents having the social interaction as the kids.

Or do I allow myself to make dates during the week? If so, does my sitter just sit at home while we are off playing? And does taking a couple of hours out of my day for a play date hurt my professional self? How can I take advantage of my arrangement and enjoy perks like play dates, without feeling guilty or like this means I don’t take my career seriously?

I WANT to do both – be the mom at play dates AND the mom with some semblance of a career. And I know I am lucky to be in this quandary – but that doesn’t make maneuvering through it any easier. Anyone else struggle with this and have any suggestions?

The Honey Do List

Posted on: December 3rd, 2010 by Cori

We’ve all heard the jokes and seen the bits on sitcoms about men and the “honey-do” lists that their wives give them. “Fix the roof” “Clean the garage” “Put gas in the car” etc. But lately I’ve noticed a shift towards women having a never ending list of tasks instead. And yes, I know, it’s not news that a lot of women complain that even though they have a full time job outside of the home, they still bear the brunt of mommy and household chores. In fact, in most two working parent homes it is the woman who returns home first at the end of the day, to take over primary care giving duties from the grandparent/nanny/daycare or school that assumed that role between nine and five (or eight and six, seven and seven …. )

In this day and age, I like to think most men are stepping up to the plate and partnering in a way they might not have say, ten or twenty years ago. My husband for instance, is an amazing partner and co-parent and does as much as he possibly can. But the fact still remains the fact: I physically am in our home during the day and so I have more to do. Laundry needs to get done? Even if he puts it in the machine before he leaves, I am the one who moves it along its journey back to our drawers. Make sure we have food for dinner? Me. Food for Sara? Me. Arrange for the AC guys to come and investigate that strange noise? Me. Snacks and diaper bag packed for the outing to the park? Me. Again, I am not trying to bash my sweetie in any way – he does a lot when he is here, and does what he can from his office. But my “honey do list” contains items that MUST happen, even if it is at the expense of my own work. Pressing deadlines aside, how do I balance an average work day with the demands of the house? Especially on the food front. It’s one thing for Gary and I to order take out if I don’t get a chance to get to the store, but for Sara it’s not so simple.

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