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May 22, 2010 / allyo

Work/life integration

With Jamie starting school this fall, I’ve been thinking about this summer for almost a year now. MD is starting a new job that is year round next week and while that’s a YAY for money and his sanity, it would have been all nice and neat if he had had this summer off. I want to give Jamie a break from 5 days a week daycare and until about 2 months ago that was going to mean MD being home with him while on summer break. However, with my current work situation it still seemed possible.

I’m in the office at one job 3 partial days a week and currently working from home for the other 2 days a week, plus the odd afternoons and evenings as is necessary. The office-based job will increase in hours in august but my hope is that I’ll still be able to cover it in three days. So, would Jamie want to be at home with me for two days while I was working? The short answer is yes, yes he would and he’s been wanting to stay home those days for a few weeks. A couple of his friends at school are already part time, one with a work at home parent and now that he’s fully grasped that that’s what I’m doing those two days that I don’t dress up, he wants the same perks.

It took me awhile to wrap my head around this. I’ve always been a big believer in keeping your work at work, and even though my work now in part takes place at home I’ve still kept a firm separation between working hours and family hours. But that’s kind of silly if you think about it. One of the benefits of working from home is that you can get your work done when it suits you. I have meetings I have to attend for the work at home job but overall, my work gets done when I decide it gets done.

There are a few things at play here. One, my old job was so stressful that it consumed me more and more during non-work hours. I didn’t TALK about it, but it colored my interactions here at home. It sucked the energy out of me so that I didn’t have any left to spend meaningful time with Jamie or MD. I’d disappear on the computer when we were all home more often than not because I was so emotionally and mentally fried. I’ve come back from that for the most part thank goodness, and I’m kind of horrified at how bad things had gotten.  Whenever I get a little bitter about my career and how it was taken away from me I remember the price I and my family were paying. And in fact, if I thought I had a choice before, this is what I would have chosen for the most part. I’ve got my office job with the steady albeit small paycheck where I do my work and leave when I’m done and then I have the job that feeds my passion and that I’ll happily work at 10 pm if necessary. There’s more risk involved as the paychecks for that job always do come in the end but sometimes it’s more sporadic than I’d like. However, as work goes, it’s a nice balance.

It’s occurred to me when I’ve been thinking about our summer and what it might look like that the whole idea of work/life balance is flawed. I mean, I think we all know that but I think what I want to strive for is work/life integration. And part of that is not hustling Jamie to daycare on the days when he could be here with me while I get my work done. I have friends that homeschool and I think about their lives and how their kids are with them 24/7. Or my friends who are at home with their kids in the summertime, and I realize in some ways I’ve been duped. At some point the daycare/work mindset stopped being a necessity for me and became THE WAY IT IS. Don’t get me wrong, it works for some folks and that’s fine. No judging here. I don’t judge my friends or their choices. All I’m saying is, I’ve never been happy with me at work full time and Jamie at daycare full time but at some point it became a part of our family DNA and I’ve had to retrain myself to think about things differently, just like I’ve had to retrain myself to not sit in front of the computer from 9-5 whether I’m being productive or not.

So I took the plunge this week and Jamie’s going to daycare 3 days a week starting in July. Of course once I got it all figured out it turns out that my work at home job is finally getting some office space so I’m going to have to figure out a way to be there one day a week. But more on that later, this is long enough!

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2 Comments

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  1. Dawn / May 22 2010 12:23 pm

    It’s high time that the old “wife at home with kids/husband at work” paradigm quit dominating how work looks because it’s not true for most families anymore. Many of us want to have a life AND a job. I tell you, this is so hard in many ways but I don’t want to give up what I don’t want to give up so I let go of some things (Oh financial stability! How I long for you!) because I don’t want to compromise on others. But man, it is HARD.

  2. Kelly / May 24 2010 8:51 am

    I am so Old School. I like my work/life balance how many toddlers like their food — not touching. 🙂 I will happily take a phone call or answer an email on my days home, but other than that, I want work on the work side and family on the family side. Sure, the edges get blured a bit, but I can’t handle mish-mash. Stresses me out.

    Good on you folks who can truly blend your lives!

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