02.28.14 Parenting

Working From Home: A Double-Edged Sword

Working From Home: A Double-Edged Sword

BY Aadip Desai

While pregnant, my wife and I were under the illusion that working from home full-time would be a tenable, if not ideal arrangement for when our daughter arrived. We chose to remain in jobs outside our chosen fields for the sake of flexibility and the opportunity to help my family out during a time of great difficulty. We are thankful to be spared brutal commutes, constant dry cleaning bills, and irksome meetings, while also feeling fortunate to spend oodles of quality time together during Ruby’s formidable early years. Even though I want to EARN that #1 Dad mug, I still have a strong desire to get back to full-time employment in the entertainment business. Laura, who has always been a superstar employee, is itching to work outside the home, where she can make a greater financial contribution, make more friends (LA is a lonely town if you don’t have a job in an office or aren’t hooked up in an artistic community/scene), and work in Human Resources. What’ll happen if we both get jobs outside the house? I guess we’ll figure that out when and if that happens.

Working from home has been a double-edged sword in our case. What they (who is they anyway?) don’t tell you about working from home is that it’s only as plausible as the temperament of your child, your living space, and other commitments. From day one, Ruby has had extreme separation anxiety, a buffet-style attitude toward breast feeding, chronic colds/ear infections/throat blisters, demonic teething, severe sleep resistance, and a visceral aversion to daddy’s face during 4:30 a.m. wakeups (despite all my mindfulness and self-talk about “being enough”). Ruby requires mom (and her boobs) and there’s no way around that. Laura says, “When I’m with Ruby, I feel like I should be working and when I’m working I feel like I should be with Ruby.” Even having childcare when you work from home is an exercise in feeling guilty because someone else is taking a care of your baby in the next room, which in our apartment is five feet away from our desks. If Ruby knows Laura is home, she wants her nap routine with mom, not with dad or the nanny.

On the 24/7 cycle that is our life, we squeeze our work in between scarce naps, when Ruby goes to bed until late at night, when the nanny is here, and on weekends. We work lots of weekends.  In an attempt to be better parents and employees, we struggle to balance the basic needs of our life: sleep, exercise, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, caring for our two dogs, relaxation, convincing the bank that we need $100 in quarters for laundry, date nights, time apart, classes, and in my case, writing and performing. The stay-at-home parents who don’t work probably have all the same issues, sans employer accountability, but higher societal expectations regarding child rearing. No matter what arrangement you find yourself in as a parent, it’s never ideal, it often feels unworkable, it is terribly exhausting, but it is always worth it…just kidding…sometimes it sucks.

Aadip Desai is a Los Angeles based new dad, sideburns enthusiast, comedy writer, producer/co-host of the On The Page screenwriting podcast, and drummer for The Spanglers, a comedy musical act. His work has appeared in City Arts Magazine, Geekweek, Los Angeles Or Bust, and at aadip.com. His produced work includes an award-winning romantic short, a Get Out The South Asian Vote PSA, and a math rock music video. He has performed at The Improv, The Comedy Store, Upright Citizens Brigade, Steve Allen Theater, and the SF Sketchfest. Aadip lives in Los Angeles with his universally adored wife, his sassy newborn daughter, and two reactive Malteses. He melts when animals who are natural enemies become friends, enjoys a good TV slap fight, and marvels at the plethora of items that can be stuffed into a pizza crust. You can follow him on twitter @aadip.

Comments

  • roxanna

    I’ve been a freelancer working from home now for nine years. Until my kids were about two years old, it was completely exhausting and total hell. Now that they’re older, it’s wonderful! I enjoy the freedom of being able to go on their field trips, volunteer in their classrooms, or care for them when they have to stay home sick from school–without having to negotiate with an employer. And not having to hunt down temporary childcare for holiday breaks is nice, too. (In fact, I sometimes have extra kids at my house during breaks because friends working in offices couldn’t find care for their kids.)

    Freelancing and working at home isn’t for everyone, though. You need to be able to manage your time, be self-motivated (no one is going to recognize you at a meeting or give you the Employee of the Year award), work to maintain your social network (working at home can be very isolating), and the pay is generally significantly less. You also end up working weekends and evening hours (often very late evening hours) to “pay” for the daytime flexibility with your kids. And you’ll find that some people have the very mistaken impression that because you work at home you aren’t truly working and so have an endless amount of time to do things because you don’t have a “real” job.

  • Fascinating to see the same story from a Dad, as everything you’ve described is familiar although I had an au pair and did go back to work in an office … before anyone had thought about working at home.

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