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Threadwatch Support Group for Work-at-Homeaholics  

:: Monday, October 31, 2005 ::

I was about to participate in an interesting thread at Threadwatch, when I realized that most of the people who did were men. The other thing I realized is that none of them do the laundry while they're working.

If you want to gain insight into the lives of folks in the search engine marketing industry (and its cousins), Nick posted about his personal experience working from home in Working @ Home. There was a great response to that theme.

Started Out Slowly

Working from home isn't for everybody. I've been doing it full-time since May 2001, when I was laid off from Verticalnet. There was little ramp up for me because I'd been freelancing at night and on weekends in SEO for a few years.

Back in 1996, despite being in charge of 13 web sites for the company I was with at that time, I didn't make enough to support a home and two kids by myself as a single mom. So, I freelanced in SEO. I worked so hard, for so many hours, that I finally ended up being treated for complete exhaustion and stress induced depression. I had become a walking zombie. But, that was in the 1990's. A life-time ago.

I was also extremely unusual for a divorced mother. I had refused alimony and child support, which meant I was responsible for my life and my kids when I had them. It was a "no fault" divorce, and in my mind, that meant nobody deserved to be punished. Instead, their Dad and I continued to raise and support our kids together (this fair treatment of each other provided a very stable environment for the kids, though we had two separate houses) and I was forced to support myself, even though I'd been a stay at home mother for 3 years and been out of the work force. I'm not sure, but it could be that the discipline of my self-imposed work or die theme helped me to adjust to working from home.

Lessons

Today, I choose to work from a home office. In fact, when I was house hunting, I purposely looked for a house where I could have a larger office. I also now have another husband, who commutes, and another child who lives here part-time, in addition to my own two kids. Life was easy before the addition of a husband, trust me. As a single mom, if I didn't want to do laundry, wash dishes, or make dinner, I could get away with it. As a wife, those freedoms are not only gone, but there's more laundry, more dishes and more people to feed.

I work from home, and run a business. I also work from home and run the home. It's no different than when I commuted. The expectations are the same and then some. The biggest differences is that I don't drive to work, but because I'm home, and accessible, I became the primary parent because it was easier on everybody. That means when the kids get sick, I get them from school, not their Dad. I'm the one who runs them to the doctor, dentist, most of the clothes shopping, (Dad will handle sports equipment, heh) and to and from their friends' houses. I'm on call for the whole neighborhood and THEIR kids.

The work day is interrupted and not on a real schedule because I learned some big lessons. My son was so upset that when he came home and I barely noticed his arrival that he began to act up in school. That led to discovering just how vital our kids need us when we're home. My daughter, who insists she's old enough to not need me, had me fooled until I was able to figure out I'm supposed to think that. Now, I drop whatever I'm doing when she gets home at 2:30, so I can check in with her, get the latest gossip and learn the name of the boyfriend of the week.

My husband swears he doesn't care if there's no dinner, but whenever I make it, they act like its Christmas. Granted, because of the kids sports schedules, we eat on the run often. I still have to stop working to make sure everyone has eaten real food and not ice cream.

There are some rules that keep me from going nuts. Like, everyone does their own laundry. Even my husband. If I'm slow and not too busy, I might fold someone's stuff, but other than that, forget it. I'm also the Maid. The only reason the place looks clean is because I'm forced to look at more than everybody else. I also have gardens to tend to, pets to run to the vet, school functions, food shopping, the dog to let outside to do this thing, and I'm the house accountant, so I manage all the bill paying.

Though my kids spend two nights a week with their Dad, their school is by my house, so they're here every day and during the summers every day. I feed them more and am the one who is more involved with their homework, communications with teachers and filling out forms (if you're a parent, you know about forms) and I'm taxi-mom.

What do men do when they work from home?

So, I thought it was interesting to read the Threadwatch thread. Kids were mentioned, but not in any detail, as if they're present, but not really a responsibility to factor into the daily activities of a work at home situation. They talked about watching TV and exercising. I have three pieces of exercise equipment just outside my office, and I'll be damned if I have time to get on any of it.

There was discussion about chairs. This is actually a serious issue. My back has suffered since I started working from home full-time. My husband bought me an adjustable chair, which helps. When I worked outside the house, we'd get breaks. There were meetings. There were gab sessions at someone's cube. There were 2 hour lunches. There was lunch, period.

My husband also bought a used motorhome last Spring because working from home has wrecked my head. I'm losing my social skills. I've become a recluse. The only time I see other adults is at my kids' sports functions. A trip to the gas station is thrilling. His answer was to get me physically out of the house and going somewhere. We ended up bringing the kids, their friends, the dog...but yes, these trips did lift my spirits. I learned to leave my laptop at home.

Although I work harder from home than I ever did off-site, the pace is mine and the rules of the office are mine. There's no micro-manager other than my own guilt if I don't meet my own set of expectations. I feel taken advantage of by the family, because they do things they wouldn't do if there was nobody here every day. But, I'm really close to my kids and all their friends refer to me as "mom".

Do I ever think about not working from home? All the time. I hate tax-time. I hate not having employee benefits. But everytime I think about corporate life and daily life inside a cube with employers who will have a bird if I need to take care of a sick child, I know I've made the right choice. When I worked for one company, I was forced to bring my son, and his broken collar bone, to work with me. Sure, he needed X-rays. They let me take him to get them, as long as I also came in to work.

I no longer have to tolerate management that tortures families. I'm really grateful for that. Now I only have to tolerate me.

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 10/31/2005 03:40:00 PM

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