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Archive for July, 2008

It’s critical for your sanity and for the sake of work actually getting done to establish clear boundaries for the home office. This pertains to space – where is your workspace and who is allowed access to it – and to when you’re ‘at the office’ and when you’re ‘at home.’

I’ve highly recommend having a dedicated workspace, whether it’s a desk, an alcove, or an actual room. Right now, I’m lucky enough to have a room, with a door that closes. The monkeys, Mr. Daddy, and our former nannies all know that if the door to my office was closed, they should act like I’m not home. Even when I didn’t have a door to close, I made it clear to everyone in the house that when I was ‘at work’ – sitting at my desk – I was unavailable.

I never really have had auditory privacy, which means I know what’s going on in the house even when I’m at work.  Sometimes I would hear stuff going on and help out, especially when the monkeys were tiny babies. But I found that as they got older, it became really hard for them to see me pop in and out of their day but not have me to play with. So it was better for them and for me that when I’m working, I’m working and when I’m done, I’m done. When they’re home while I’m at work, I keep water and snacks nearby so they don’t have to see me while I’m working.

One thing I’m less good at is evening boundaries for when I’m at home. It’s almost impossible not to dip in and out of email in the evenings to see what’s up in my West Coast office. Ideally, I’d cut that out and make the boundaries even more sharp – perhaps by setting aside 15-20 min to check and respond to email once in the evening so I can have some regular down time. But I haven’t quite gotten there yet. It’s a work in progress.

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I’ve had trouble finding time to blog lately. To help myself get a bit more disciplined, I’m succuming to a tried and true blogger tactic – the weekly column.

A lot of folks who juggle work and family life have the amazing opportunity of doing them both in the same place – working from home. I’ve been at it for over 4 years, and I’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t. So on Tuesdays, I’ll share my tips for successfully working from home.

Today’s tip: Make lunch dates.

One of the hardest things about working from home is the lack of built in social infrastructure. Sure, you can call your colleagues, but if you’re in PA and they’re all in CA, you can’t spontaneously decide to go out to lunch.

Making up for the lack of social interactions by getting extremely chatty with the drycleaner, the barista, or the preschool teacher can only get you so far. It’s not the same as griping about work and sharing ideas with someone who understands what you do. 

Try to find people in similar industries near where you live, and schedule monthly lunches. I’ve recently been connecting with a former colleague who reccently moved to the area and a new friend who I met through a special interest list serv who work downtown. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it helps prevent the feeling that you’re just a disembodied head on the phone or hands on the keyboard. And it’s a great way to stay connected to a local network.

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We went to Ikea for dinner tonight. (This time, we didn’t go just to get the monkeys to behave, but knowing that I wanted to go check some stuff out gave me a great way to keep those guys in line all day. A nice byproduct.)

After dinner, we went downstairs to get ice cream. We got the cones, but didn’t manage to get the extra cups and spoons we usually give them so they can eat their ice cream and not make a total mess. As they started to eat I realized that at 3 years old, the monkeys are actually old enough to learn how to eat an ice cream cone.

Being old enough to learn how to properly lick an ice cream cone is not a major milestone that’s likely to be found in any parenting book. But it’s another reminder that they’re growing up, and fast. 

Tonight, it was another reminder that we cling to the practices that worked when they were younger because that’s becomes the habit that we’re in. Assisted ice cream eating, sitting in high chairs at the dinner table, swinging in the baby swings at the park, and ‘bumping’ down the stairs are just a few of the things I can think of that we should probably be moving past soon. But they’ve become as much crutches for me as they are assists for the monkeys. The high chairs keep them stuck in their seats. When they bump down the stairs, I don’t have to watch them as closely (and they can carry things!). All these reasons keep me – and them – rooted in what’s comfortable instead of looking for opportunities to grow.

And to be fair, it’s not just me. Although they are getting to be ‘big boys’ the monkeys still love to be cuddled, coddled and carried – mostly by me. They like to play the baby role almost as much as they like playing the big boy role.

But there’s something exciting and fun about teaching your kids the proper technique for maximum enjoyment of ice cream with minimum melting all over your hands. And for them, there’s something exciting about developing new skills and doing things that the big kids can do. Even as we give up some of the positive benefits of old behaviors, we gain something from adopting new ones.

It’s not just our kids that we get into these patterns with, of course, it’s our colleagues, too.

It’s easy to limit someone’s growth by saying – she’s not ready, we’ll give her training wheels and then, someday she can do it on her own. It even sounds like you’re doing something nice. But you’re not. You’re limiting her growth. Because without trying, she’ll never really learn.

Often growth happens at work by accident. People get pushed into developing or demonstrating new skills and flexing new muscles when they have to – a particularly difficult project or a very busy day means that everyone has to step up and eat their ice cream without a cup. And that’s when you realize that they can. But it’s probably worthwhile to be more proactive about providing these opportunities, not just taking advantage of them when they come up.

But I am going to be so sad to get rid of those high chairs.

 

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