I’ve been working from home, part time now, for almost eight years. They’ve been the best eight years of my life. But I remember when I was considering (some might say obsessing about) leaving my corporate job for the work at home world…
I’d hemmed and hawed about it for months… discussed it with my family and friends until they were sick to death of the subject… and spent many fruitless, lonely hours debating the pros and cons while the rest of the house slept on. Still the answer eluded me. Should I return to a job I loved or stay home with the children I loved?
It’s the question every working mother asks herself, at some point or another.
In my case it was the financials that finally tipped the scales. With three young children in daycare I would bring home, after all the expenses of working were paid, a measly $40 every two weeks. Forty dollars.
The shock of this, added to the coming leap year in 2000 — a time to take stock, take chances, shake things up a bit — made my decision at last. It was time for me to make the biggest, scariest leap of my life.
They were shocked when I broke the news, two weeks before returning to work after the birth of my third child — I was resolute now, I wasn’t going back to corporate life — I’d work at home, but my family was my priority, work came second. My husband was behind me 110%. Still it was odd as my female boss; my mostly female co-workers stared at me, varying degrees of surprise and disapproval etched clearly on their faces.
They wasted no time in telling me what they thought….
“You’ll miss the challenge.” True, my job was challenging, exciting — it had been the part of the work I’d thrived on. It felt great to get that killer copy in just under the wire. It was a major ego boost to have people come to me for what they needed, to have my work highly regarded… to have paid my dues. Staying at home meant I’d be walking away from all that and instead helping with homework, looking for lost Polly Pocket shoes, fighting the stacks of laundry that grow from nothing, preparing dinner and feeding an impatient newborn — all at the same time.
Now that’s a challenge.
“No deadlines — you’ll be bored.” Oh yeah, you try getting five people up, fed, suitably dressed and out of the house for a 9:00 am wedding that’s an hour away. Then talk to me about deadlines. A bonus to leaving corporate life was there’d be no more rush, rush, rush to get out of the house to get to a meeting and listen to someone drone on about something that will be forgotten by lunchtime.
“You’ll be so isolated — you’ll start letting yourself go.” No I wouldn’t (and I haven’t). Oh sure, I did (still do) have a few unkempt days… in my PJ’s until 3:00 in the afternoon, but there’s a lot to be said for passing a cold, snowy winter day like this. Of course it was only after the fact, that I realized working from home offers a different sort of freedom — one my former coworkers will never know — you set the schedule, you choose the radio station, you do what you love in a place you love… comfortable and productive. Maybe more productive.
“No adult conversation — I’d go out of my mind!” Well… maybe there will be times (there were and still are) when I’m so starved to speak with someone over the age of five that I’ll have a long talk with the lady who calls to sell me magazines. So what? Maybe she’s got something to say that I never had the time to listen to before.
“You’ve worked so hard, gotten so far, now you’ll be throwing all that away.” Although I didn’t have a clear picture of how it would work at the time, I knew working from home was the right choice for me, and my family. Now I work on projects that interest me, and have filled in the gaps by finalizing and publishing one novel and almost finishing a second… something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember.
What made me able to endure all the disapproval and awkwardness, to face the risk and worry of leaving my corporate job was the realization that I’d rather be all and everything to the three little lives put into my care than the best, most well respected something else. I knew I had to take the chance that I was making a bad career move, rather than miss the chance to spend precious, all too fleeting, days with my children.
Have we had a few bad days in the last eight years? Oh yes… some for the record books, I’m sure. But on those days when I’m convinced this has been a colossal mistake, I’ll remember what my mom says;
“There is a time and place for everything in life.”
I’ve seen the truth of this, watched as people try desperately to recapture lost moments of a time past. Sadly, you can’t go back… no matter how badly you want to. Time, more than money, is such a precious, fleeting thing. The only thing I knew for sure back then was that I didn’t want to wake up one day to realize that my children are grown and gone, and I missed out on things that can never be again.
So, as 2008 (another leap year) approaches, I celebrate that leap I made not all that long ago. I’ve had the time to enjoy my son’s toothless grin, to soothe my pre-schooler’s worries, to watch my first-grader run up the driveway, hair flying,
I know now that it was the bravest, and probably best, leap of my life.