with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
Once upon a time I was a productive member of society.
Oh, it’s not that I’m not, now. I contribute what I hope is some useful stuff to the world around me, in various ways. But what I mean is that I went to school for years and years and raised my hand to speak and did group projects with other students and I met deadlines and ran meetings and then went out into the “real world.” There I no longer had to raise my voice to speak, but I did have to do things like put a professional greeting on my voicemail and do things like “follow the chain of command” and be in the office at a certain point every morning and stay until a certain point each evening. I’ve worked in a cube and I’ve had officemates and I’ve had my own office. But all of those were still under the watchful eye of various bosses and assorted colleagues.
For all of the things that freelancing from my home office has given me, I sometimes wonder if it hasn’t rendered me completely incapable of returning to a “regular” job without being fired. Mind you, I have zero desire to go back to that sort of job, but who knows? It’s weird to think about.
Let me count the ways in which I have changed since I began freelancing:
1) I’m much more introverted. I often attribute my introversion to age; it’s true that the older I get, the less I feel the need to do a lot of socializing. I’ve read studies that find this is typical as people age, too. But I wonder if in my case it’s not also that spending my days largely alone has simply lowered my tolerance for crowds and even just one-on-one socialization. I spend a few days in heavily-populated spaces—a conference, say, or even just a few days with extended family—and I’m exhausted by it, afterward. I don’t know how I ever went into a crowded office every single day.
2) My biorhythms are more pronounced. Work in a cube-farm for The Man and you’re probably looking at 8-5, 5 days/week, or something similar. While parts of my schedule are dictated by my kids’ needs, I’ve found that for perhaps the first time in my life, I’m figuring out when I’m most productive and adjusting accordingly. For a while I worked constantly, falling prey to the notion that I “had” to, but once I got past that, I discovered that taking the weekend off wouldn’t kill me, and during the day I’m more likely to get a lot done in the early morning and later at night. While I will sometimes work all day long, it’s much more common, now, for me to work a long stretch in the morning, take a few-hours break from work midday, and finish up before and/or after dinner, depending. It seems to work. And I never would’ve been able to do that in any of my old jobs.
3) I make fewer trade-offs, and am more content with them. Without the “if I don’t do these required things my boss might get mad at me” threat hanging over my head, I’m free to make a lot more decisions about what I do and don’t want to work on. If that project sounds boring, I’m free to say no. If that project is boring but pays a lot of money, saying yes means I get paid a lot of money, not just that my boss won’t be mad but I’ll still make the same money I’d always made. Being your own boss is nifty like that. Could I ever go back to reporting to someone else every single day, and being salaried? A salary is a nice safety net, but I think I prefer having freedom of choice a lot more.
4) Work is a source of pride, but it’s not my life. I love what I do. But I love being free to be here for my kids, to take a day or two or three off if I feel like I need to, and to shape my schedule around the rest of my life, instead of trying to fit my life in around my job. I absolutely miss the perks and the security of being a salaried employee, sure, when it comes to money. On the other hand, I think the flexibility afforded me by working from basically wherever I can get online is priceless.
5) I’m more productive overall. I remember when I worked out of the house full-time, it always felt like a Herculean effort to fit in mundane things like laundry and cooking dinner. Now I can do household chores while I’m working (only takes a minute to swap the laundry from machine to machine; I can start dinner in the crock pot while I’m eating lunch), or not have to have my day ruined by waiting for a service guy to show up. It just makes everything else less of a hassle, I guess.
Of course, the day could come when I do head back to an office, and I imagine if that happens I will pull myself together and try to act like a respectable adult. But I’m really hoping I can just continue being a stereotypical pajama-clad writer for as long as possible. Heh.
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