Ideal vs Reality – working or writing from home

Many of us have opportunities to work from home either because we are employed with that flexibility built in, self-employed in a home office, or freelancers.

But with this opportunity comes a catch. Because all ideals like this usually have some sort of a catch. The catch often comes down to this:

Preparation and Organization

For most of us, I think it comes down to a combination of both. There are days when I marvel at my own organization and advanced preparation skills. Other days, not so much.

Mindfulness and focus is key here. (Until the family wakes up. Ha.)

So, since I’m on a roll here with words tumbling out of my mouth, I thought I might as well jot down my ideal work day from home and compare it to my actual work day from home.

Ideal wake-up time

I get up an hour before the rest of the family gets up, open up my agenda and to-do list, drink my lemon water, brew a tea or coffee, turn on the weather channel or morning show, sit down and mentally prepare for another busy day.

Actual wake-up time

A kid shows up before I’ve finished brewing my hot beverage, and changes the channel to an irritating cartoon. She’s cold and needs a blanket and sits in the spot I’ve already prepared for myself (tray for my cup, laptop and phone on ottoman, note pad with pencil).

Ideal meal prep (breakfast, lunches)

After reviewing my agenda and noting the pertinent ‘who needs what when, who needs chauffeuring or pickup’ and quick notes about meals pending activity schedule, I finish my hot beverage and make my way over to the counter. I pour myself another glass of lemon water, make two more for the children, and start preparing a balanced breakfast for them.

Simultaneously I make lunches for those who need them, and briefly review my partner’s work schedule to see if he too could benefit from a packed lunch. I lay everything out on the breakfast table and lunch-making counter, and watch the clock. Time to wake up the children if they sleep through their alarms.

Since I’m on the ball here, I even have time to empty the dishwasher and get it ready for the breakfast stuff.

Actual meal prep (breakfast, lunches)

The kid on the couch is hungry. She’s also cold. She starts making comments about what’s for breakfast. Struggling to hear her over the irritating cartoon I take the remote away and turn it back to my weather channel and turn the volume on mute. I give her instructions to drink her lemon water and suggest she have x for breakfast. She wants y. I may or may not oblige. Now my train of thought is interrupted. I turn back to her breakfast, get her brother’s egg ready to pop into the microwave, and wonder why he’s not up yet.

I may or may not choose to walk to his room to get him up. Depending on the time, I may just yell something. At this point, if my partner is going to the College for work, he’s now ready to make his breakfast. I choose to leave the kitchen to give him a bit more space, get the boy up, double check if the girl’s clothes are ready for her to dress in, and go back to the kitchen.

The lunches may or may not have been started yet.

The kids’ breakfast is not complete either. The first child is missing her oj, and she doesn’t like the fruit I put out for her. The second child strolls over to the tv and wants to watch sports highlights. A brief debate ensues about who gets to watch what they want to watch. I take the remote back, instruct people to sit at the table and eat and leave the tv alone, and turn it off.

Ideal leaving for school time

The children are ready with time to spare before leaving for school. Together, they happily empty out the dishwasher so they can put their dirty breakfast stuff in.

At the designate time, which they verify on the various clocks visible from the main living area of the house, they grab their packed lunches and snack containers and put them into the previously packed knapsacks which are hanging on their hooks in the designated closest. Both remembered to brush their teeth, dress appropriately for the weather, and deal with their hair. One child leaves to catch the TTC bus, and waves to me. The other has shoes and jacket on at the specified time and we leave the house on time and head to the car or schoolbus.

Actual leaving for school time

Kids need reminders to brush and dress appropriately. They are distracted, tired or grumpy. One kid left her homework on the counter, doesn’t see it as she packs her lunch into her bag. I remind her to get it. She panics about library day (or whatever) and I remind her to check her school schedule which is posted on the inside of the closet door.

The other kid asks if I’m driving or walking to the schoolbus with his sister. I look at the time and direct him to answer the question himself. (To walk to the bus we must leave by 8:10, anytime after that requires driving.) He has to choose whether to catch his TTC bus or hitch a ride with me. (It’s neither here nor there if he comes with me, his school is less than 5 minutes further from her school. He has no schoolbus entitlement in grade 6 anymore.)

As we depart, I remind the older to remember to set his alarm the night prior, so he can wake up on his own.

I also lecture them about packing their stuff the night prior to avoid panic in the morning.

Ideal start to my work day

Upon returning from kids’ drop-off I enter the house and marvel how on the ball we are as a family. The kitchen is clean, the dirty dishes are in the washer, and my computer is turned on and ready to go. All that’s left to do is for me to make my own breakfast, and being my day.

Actual start to my work day

I return from the kids’ drop-off either immediately or slightly later depending on whether or not the van needed gas. I survey the kitchen which is a mess. Looking longingly at my computer, I drag my ass to the kitchen to clean it up while my breakfast cooks. Or, I ignore the mess because my head is overfull of work related action and promise myself I’ll deal with the kitchen while making lunch.

While typing away, I see the white board with today’s activities listed on it. (Sometimes the white board is out of date which means I have to do it now, for my own sanity and because I’m weird). Lunch making will often now include dinner making as well since at least one kid will have either a far away activity or an early one. I adjust dinner making plans to whether or not it needs to be portable. Sometimes my partner’s schedule will impact dinner as well. (Is he coming home in time? Who is taking which kid where? When are we going to eat?)

All this is distracting to my work flow. I turn on the tv to a cooking show and make my way to the kitchen.

Writing and working will have to wait. Preventative measures to ensure minimal chaos later in the day are currently more crucial than writing.

I make a mental note to set my own alarm earlier so I can catch up with my writing tomorrow.

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