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Setting limits (with myself) while working from home

Categories: Career, Hacking Life, Making Time, The Juggle, Uncategorized


Once upon a time, I had a proper home office, with a door that closed and everything.

It turned into a nursery.

My next home office became my oldest stepdaughter’s bedroom. My next one was a nook in the master bedroom, with a desk that could barely hold the massive computer monitor from 1998 (older than three of our five kids) and where I hated to work at night because it was so far away from the hub of the house.

I started roaming around after that, thanks to my best Mother’s Day Present ever, and thanks to the fact that I only worked from home a day or so a week. But now I’m working from home 99.9 percent of the time, and even though it’s been less than a month, it’s cold and flu season, which means that it’s only a (short) matter of time until I’m working from home with a sick kid or two in tow.

Which means that I need to find a way to reclaim that home office with a door. And I also need to find a way to set a few limits.

Not with work — the team I’m part of has been wonderful. Not with my husband — he’s been nothing but supportive. Not with the kids — yet. Turns out, the person I really need to set limits with is… myself.

I’m the only one wondering why dinner isn’t on the table at 6. And why the laundry is heaped in the bedroom, in piles taller than my kids. The house hasn’t been decorated for Christmas, but that’s OK, because I don’t decorate. But the dog hasn’t been brushed, the floors vacuumed, or the fridge stocked. And while everyone else is willing to cut me some slack, I’m stressing over the way I haven’t seamlessly transitioned into this chapter of my career.

How do you juggle your work and your family when your office is at home?

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4 comments so far...

  • My computer is in my bedroom, a couple feet away from my bed. (Of course, I am single, so . . . .) I expect to work the same hours whether I sit at home or go to work. (Though I do take some time once every week or two to do a few personal tasks during the work day. Hey, I work 7 days & 7 nights, I need to do laundry sometime. At least I’m not spending time on a commute.) I cut off work by a set time and rarely revisit it again until the kids are in bed. I focus on my kids in the interim.

    If I have a sick kid(s) at home, when they aren’t sleeping, I will park them in front of a favorite movie (perhaps in the same room where I’m working) and just hope for the best. Obviously I won’t be super productive, but I’d get even less work done if I were a WOHM and had to take a day off.

    I try hard not to let domestic stuff (like laundry, dishes) pile up. It is a lot less overwhelming if it’s done a little at a time, preferably as early as possible. Remember that work efficiency rule that says, try to never touch a thing more than once or twice? Why shouldn’t the same rule apply in the house? Having day-to-day domestic stuff under control helps to clear the mind to focus on work at the appropriate time. I don’t think I could work as effectively if I had a big pile of laundry staring at me all day.

    SKL  |  December 11th, 2010 at 4:21 am

  • I try to pretend that I am going to work in an office outside my home. I put up mental blinders so that I do not see laundry piles, dishes in the sink, dust bunnies, or other distractions. I tackle those during my lunch “hour”, and then it’s back to work. An entirely separate discussion is the distraction that my own computer brings (email and Facebook et al).

    When the kids are home from school (because of vacations or illness), however, the distractions come marching right into the room where I work. At that point, all bets are off, and I just do the best I can to make sure they are occupied, are not fighting too much, do not feel ignored, etc. It’s not the best system, but it is getting a little easier as they get older.

    Suzanne  |  December 13th, 2010 at 6:14 pm

  • I juggle by doing things backwards: prep dinner in the morning before work heats up so I can pop it into the oven later (when things are more hectic); do laundry at night (bonus style points: utility rates are lower!)…I do the wash cycle in the evening, toss it in to dry in the morning, fold at lunch (if I haven’t yanked things out to wear in the a.m.), put away in the evening. Decorating? Ha. Very funny!

    Jeannie  |  December 14th, 2010 at 7:45 pm

  • It is a very tough juggling act for sure! I find that the basement office for me works, then it is on an entirely different floor with a door! When I am in my office I work, when I am not I don’t work! Well that is until my hubby got me a netbook that I can haul anywere!

    LInda  |  December 15th, 2010 at 6:48 pm