How to survive working from home with a family

Ithought less time commuting would translate to more time with my family, and everything would be perfect. I spent four years wanting it and in February the wait ended. I achieved the corporate dream of telecommuting!

Then summer hit and everything changed. School ended for my son and my wife. My office tripled in population! My dream turned into interruptions broken only by the dim light of the bathroom linen closet: My only remaining safe and quiet workspace.

My phone chimes a text from her: “Do you want to go get coffee?” No, I’m working.

My son calls: “Want to watch a cartoon with me?” No, I can’t, I’m working, remember?

She remarks with implied question: “It’s so nice. Perfect weather for a walk!”

The arrangement needed tending.

Apparently, if someone is home, they’re home. So if I’m home, I’m not working. That presented a challenge. But I wasn’t about to dream something for four years only to scrap everything. So I started training my family to understand what it means to telecommute, while training myself on the art of compromise.

I struck a deal with her: I’ll come out of the office from time to time. I’ll break for lunch. But until I’m done for the day, I’m working.

And a separate arrangement with him: “How about you just act like I’m not home? Act like mom is the only one here unless you want me to give you a hug. Deal?”

“Deal!” he shouted before heading back downstairs, only to return in less than five minutes with a question.

So the deal didn’t exactly work. I had to give up my spot in the kitchen, a concession that saved my waistline and my work, but I gained a door. Half master bedroom, half office, the space became mine from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The door shut, I could work in what sort of resembled peace.

It is a work in progress. The guidelines are somewhat more back-of-the-mind than I’d like, but they’re there. Don’t scare me while I’m working, don’t walk in without knocking, and if you see the phone to my ear you can assume I’m talking to someone.

I can’t play, walk, watch, discuss, run, or partake in any verb other than work.

I maintain my part by breaking for lunch and opening the door from time to time because it reduces interruptions. Or, that’s the intention.

But nothing is foolproof – not with a family.

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