10 Things I Do When I’m Working from Home

1. Work

I know this comes as a shock to some people, for whom working from home is a euphemism for a lie in, but it is entirely central to my routine. In fact, I tend to start earlier and work more hours sitting in my kitchen. I feel it’s a privilege to be able to do this, and I don’t abuse it.

2. Refuse to look after my child

It can’t be done. I do not work at home to save on childcare. I work at home so I can see her for more time around the childcare, rather than missing half of bedtime sitting on a train. When she is with me, she deserves 100% of my attention. When I am being paid, my work deserves 100% of my attention. This way, everyone wins.

3. Cook

I make sure that I still take an hour’s lunch break (though it might be split into two shorter breaks) and it is a great opportunity to do job lot of cooking of simple things that can be shoved in the oven. This also means I achieve more time with my child when she gets home.

4.  Take a walk

Before I start, or after I finish the main bulk of the day’s tasks. Or at lunchtime, if I’m not cooking. Fresh air is one of the best things for creativity and clear thinking I’ve ever encountered.

5. Set a timer to get up

I have the kitchen timer next to me, and I set it for a reasonable interval – 30 or 45 minutes – and when it goes off I stand up. I might just blink at a wall for 10 seconds, do 20 star jumps, do a couple of stretches or walk to the loo and back, but whatever it is, I don’t stay seated.

6. Eat

Far too much, sadly. It’s so easy when you’re so near the fridge.

7. No housework

It’s paid working time. Not hoovering, tidying, sorting or dusting time. Aside from cooking, the only chore I might consider doing during a break is the laundry, largely because it’s done by machine, not me.

8. Wash and get dressed

I can’t claim to always dress exactly as I would for work, and my shower might be deferred til lunchtime if the morning routine doesn’t allow proper time, but I refuse to work in PJs. It’s the wrong mindset. Also, I feel cold.

9. Work in silence

I was the teenager who couldn’t write  a word without pulsing indie baselines. Now I cannot focus properly with music on. So I work in blissful, library-like peace and quiet without a single interruption but for a cat’s inquisitive meow now and again.

…though I have been known to talk to myself.

10. Send fewer emails

I thought I’d send more because I need to keep in touch with people but actually the distance does make you re-evaluate your ability to handle the issue at hand without bugging everyone about it. And those I do send tend to be longer and more carefully thought out.

Settling a child into nursery: the heartbreaking stage

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m back at work soon. And I’m all sorts of nervous and excited about this, and rather glad that my line of work is the kind of thing that is a) quite easy to stay involved in as it’s all online and b) quite easy to stay involved with if you’re a blogging, tweeting, possibly-Google-plussing community addict, which you obviously are if you do my job.

The thing about going back to work is that childcare has to be worked out.  Three days a week Ramona will be with grandparents, with whom she’s already happy and comfortable and has been left a few times to get used to the idea. But I also wanted her to go to nursery. Not because I’m itching to spend hundreds of pounds every month (and it is, at this end of the country certainly, a phenomenal though understandable fee), but because otherwise she doesn’t see very many other children.* I also think it can’t hurt to get used to the general routine. Astonishingly, school is just three years away, and becoming accustomed to the coming and going of large groups of kids with various tall people dotted about telling you what to do is no bad thing.

So, we started the process. We were lucky enough to find a nursery we loved on the second attempt (sorry, I won’t be sharing which as it’s just plain creepy to have the interwebs know where your child is spending her days). It’s well-resourced, cheerful and full of really lovely staff who exhibit a natural and boundless affection for their variously dribbling, snotty, wibbling and pooing charges. Lots of hugs and kisses, plenty of toys, books (Ramona’s current Reason for Being is to turn pages in board books) and good food. What else could anyone want? In fact, sign me up. I’ll even go to the loo myself.

But of course Ramona’s used to having mainly me around. The first few sessions, getting gradually longer, involved more and more crying, most of it solved by getting her engrossed in some books, or feeding her, although the last time the books only worked for a little while and she wouldn’t eat or drink milk. It was only on the last one that she actually clung to me and sobbed when we arrived – before that she’d smile at first and take a few minutes to realise I wasn’t there. On the advice of the nursery staff I’m basically going in, sitting her down, handing over her milk and buggering off; in their experience a drawn out goodbye only makes things worse.

It is, absolutely, heartbreaking (I sort of thank God she can’t say ‘mummy’ yet, because I think that would finish me off entirely). I know that she’ll get past it and that tears in the morning will become tears of wanting to stay there in the afternoon; after all, she doesn’t have a sandpit and water table and music area and whole crate full of phone-like toys etc at home. And all those things are, she will discover in due course, way more interesting than having me to poke every ten minutes. But I do wish I’d started this all earlier before separation anxiety had a chance to kick in (on her side – mine started before her head was all the way out), and I would have done if we hadn’t been away. But what’s done is done.

I try to make up for it with extra snuggly time – we spent ages cuddling in bed, her dozing and snorting on my chest, then beaming at me – but that only seems to make it worse for me.

The funny thing is, I have no doubts whatsoever about going back to work. I always wanted to and even after a break I can’t imagine not doing my job; it would be like not being me. So I’m not sitting here just to justify it to myself. Even if I was a SAHM, I’d send her to nursery for the socialisation and so that she can be taught by someone other than me.

Still, nothing teaches you to handle guilt like parenthood. Indeed, if you can get past the things you ‘should’ do during pregnancy, the things you ‘must’ do after the birth and the routines they ‘ought to’ follow thereafter, you will be TOTALLY INDESTRUCTABLE.

Women weakened by childbirth? Ha! I’ve never been tougher in my life.


*One of my friends has a daughter just five weeks older than Ramona. Every single time Ramona sees said mother and daughter coupling, she is having a bad day. The other child is frighteningly well-behaved and perfect. Mine – so cute, able, confident and lovely so much of the time – has a meltdown. And to make matters worse, when we see them as a family she is scared of the father’s voice. It basically means that among our closest friends at least one couple think our child is part-demon. This makes me sad, and also makes me think Ramona must, must, must be around other kids her age!