How often do you stop?

Can you ever stop when you work from home?  When clients rely on you for your work and your family relies on you for food and clean underwear, can you really stop?

And if you did stop, what would you do?  Could you actually do nothing?  What does “stopping” look like?

I’ve been trying to stop.  It’s taken me a week to work out how.

Lessons learnt from a minor ailment:

Working from your bed isn’t the thing to do, despite what I tried to tell youSleeping in your bed is a much better idea.  It’s actually not possible to do decent work when you feel inhuman, and as well as potentially making yourself worse, you’re simply wasting time that you could be spending recovering.  And quite possibly making stupid mistakes that you’ll have to fix later.  (Of course I would never do this.  Ahem.)

If someone offers to help, say yes.  Whether it’s the school run, making dinner, doing the shopping – if someone else is able do it, and is volunteering to do it, say yes even if you think you could probably manage.  Don’t even think about saying to yourself, “but I should be able to cope”.  Says who?

If they don’t volunteer, ask.  They’re only not volunteering because they don’t realise you need the help, because you always manage.  Don’t be a martyr.

Giving yourself time off is hard.  That’s why you need to take more of it than you think.  I promised myself I’d take at least four days off to recover and spent two of them working the whole time because I just couldn’t switch off.  Now I’ve got that out of my system, though, I’m beginning to work out what “stopping” involves.  I just spent a whole day pottering: walking, writing, reading, trying to sleep (this one still needs practice) and a good helping of staring at the sky.  I saw a fox on my travels and did a lot of not thinking.

Perhaps you can’t do as much work as you think you can.  Not forever, anyway.  Or maybe just not now.  Not if you want to be well and to notice and enjoy the spring that’s just beginning.  Perhaps it’s time to stop, just for a while, until you work out how much work is enough work.


Blessing or curse?

Because I work for myself, from home, I can work from my bed when I’m ill.

Because I work for myself, from home, with nobody to delegate to and a deadline looming, I have to work from my bed when I’m ill.

Like me, you may sometimes wonder whether this self-directed life is a blessing or a curse.  But let’s remember, we always have a choice.  Today I’m choosing to stay in bed and nurse myself, and do the work anyway.  I’m choosing to think of that as a blessing.

Um, this is real life

“When things get back to normal…”

When things are normal, everything will go as planned, everyone will be where they should be at the allotted time, and there will be  no unusual happenings forcing changes of plan.  We just need to get past this impossible deadline, or that thing that we weren’t expecting, then things will be different.

Not so.

Hot water boilers break.  Children are ill.  Events are cancelled.  Trains are late.  New opportunities, or things that need to be done, arise suddenly.  Children are ill again.  (They are so generous, sharing their germs with one another constantly.)  Clients or colleagues don’t keep their end of the bargain.  Friends invite you out on the one day when you had other plans.  Children have school holidays.  Food you’d planned to cook with goes off.  (Or you realise you forgot to buy it in the first place.)  People have birthdays.  It rains.  Or snows.

These aren’t the things that get in the way of real life.  They are real life.

I’m writing this while trying to ignore the film that the boy is watching on yet another sick day from school.  (Without ignoring him or his requests for drinks and crackers – a fine balance!)  It’s one of the many skills a home worker needs to cultivate.

I’ve decided to stop waiting for things to get back to normal.  Normal is what happens every day.  This is normal: the swings and roundabouts, the changing plans on the fly, the multi-tasking.  We may not be able to plan for every eventuality but we can accept what comes and work with it.  We can build in extra time when we estimate how long a job will take, to allow for illness and mishap.  And we can keep the phone number of a good plumber to hand.

It is enough

How easily we tell ourselves that we haven’t done enough, that we aren’t enough.  But stop and count it up, and you are enough.  Even if all you did today was get from one end of the day to the other, you are enough.

Take one of my recent days, for example:

A poorly boy was tended, nurtured and loved.  He was brought soothing drinks and cuddles, and tucked up tight at the end of the day.

A family was fed healthy meals.  (The ones who were able to eat!)

Writing obligations were kept, and new opportunities were followed up.

A week’s worth of laundry was washed, dried and put away.  (And the remainder piled up for the husband to iron. No need for us to carry all the burden ourselves, remember.)

Clients were responded to, meetings arranged and more obligations kept.

Body and soul were held together for another day.

It is enough. It is more than enough. Living and working: together they make a rounded whole.

How quickly we can be derailed

One minute you’re enjoying the downtime, making the most of the quiet work season to make all kinds of business plans and lists, and dream up new business ideas, new blog posts, new everything.

Next minute you’re stuck in a hotel room in a strange town for a week, desperately worried about a poorly child, sleeping not at all and unable to think beyond the present moment, let alone plan an exciting future.

Wasn’t it John Lennon who said “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans”?  Quite literally true, in this case!

So excuse the recent radio silence.  Normal service is, I hope, resumed.

Times like this reinforce how important living and working at home is to me.  When the chips are down, living has to come before working, every time.  When you combine the two, even the difficult times are a little easier because working can take a back seat until you regain some kind of normality.

Homeworking with a poorly boy

It is 3am.  Even now the temperature in the bedroom is between stifling and unbearable.  A hot little body is jammed up against me, arms around my neck, snuffling slightly.  A poorly boy.

Around 4am he finally falls back to sleep and I creep groggily back to my own bed.  It’s already beginning to get light outside.  I side in and out of a stuffy doze until 5:45 when he is back, clutching a cuddly toy and looking unwell but unfortunately wide awake.  No rest for the wicked.  We get up.

This is where home and work really collide, but today is an easy one.  There are no meetings to rearrange, no complex negotiations with the husband about who can do what part of the nursemaid duty.  Today – as most days – I have a day of writing fundraising applications ahead of me, and that is a flexible thing.  A sick day for an eight-year-old boy, at least in this house, generally involves a lot of lying on the sofa watching too much Star Wars and How to Train Your Dragon, interspersed with short-lived bursts of energy and possibly occasional sleeping.  (Though not, unfortunately, for me, despite the disturbed night.)  I bring the laptop downstairs to keep him company and hope the phone doesn’t ring.

Having long ago mastered the art  of tuning out the sound of lightsaber duels and dragon racing, it becomes almost just another day in the office.  In fact, it’s lovely to have tea breaks replaced by cuddle breaks and breaks to administer drinks of water and any delicacies the invalid can stomach.  (Although when the requests for sweeties begin I know it’s back to school tomorrow!)  My conscience forces me to take a decent lunch break to spend time with the boy before he develops square eyes.  We can play a little if he’s up to it.

The working day actually feels longer and more luxurious when it’s not squashed between school runs.  I wouldn’t want it this way every day, for his sake and mine, but it’s a quiet change to the routine and comforting to know that I can easily be there when he needs me.