Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Past Deadline: We All Stay Home

Here's the latest on the home front - published in The Perth Courier on Tuesday, Feb. 24/09.

We all stay home

“Hm. We’re almost out of milk,” I observe, mentally calculating how many more cups of coffee those last few dribbles will serve.

“We are?” Groom-boy asks as he settles into a chair with a newspaper. He is currently on sabbatical before starting his Brand Spanking New Career as a professional Cat Herder and Rodeo King.

“I can go get some in a little while,” I say.

“Good, because I never leave the house anymore,” he jokes.

Probably that’s because it’s darned cold out there. Or because he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Or something. I can relate to this. I’ve worked from home for almost 10 years and I’ve learned a great deal about social contact – or lack thereof – because of it. Even though I have natural homebody tendencies, many’s the day I have felt on the edge of going stark raving if I didn’t get out of the house right! this! minute!

My mom stayed at home with my brother and me when we were growing up. As I got older, I remember marvelling about how incredibly disorganized she was. After all, she went out every afternoon to the store and bought just a few things. Why on earth wouldn’t she just make a list and get it with her big shopping order once a week?

I get it now. She needed to get out of the house and get some fresh air and talk to people. Probably that is a big reason why my brother and I are still alive today.

This sounds like a crazy thing to say, but I realized early on it’s surprisingly hard to stay home. Even before I had kids some days felt terribly long and lonely and I missed the daily interaction with coworkers at ye olde Perth Courier.

It doesn’t help that the nature of the freelance beast tends to be feast or famine. Things are darned groovy when it’s busy (unless it’s insanely busy, which presents different challenges), but the quiet times were a big adjustment. I stopped short of taking the quiet times as a personal slight by the Fates, but some days I had way too much time too think. Not only am I getting better at determining when my busy season is and isn’t, but my ability to relish the quiet has improved. Calling it “vacation” has helped.

When Boychild was born in a cold, snowy January, you’d think all my natural homebody instincts would kick in. In fact, I was more compelled than ever to follow in my mother’s footsteps and hit the sidewalk almost every day, unless it was really REALLY cold. I hauled that stroller over snow banks and through slush and driving snow, with Boychild warmly cocooned and protected by a plastic shield. I’m certain it was good for both of us.

That daily excursion is a Huge Big Deal in terms of strategies for surviving working from home with small children in the house. Whether it’s walking Boychild to and from school or heading out on foot to do errands with Girlchild, it not only clears the head, it allows you to experience the weather changes so you can gripe about it with the first Canadian you encounter.

When something prevents me from getting out, such as a sick child or hurricanes or pianos falling from the sky, I start to get a bit twitchy. That’s true even if there is lots to keep me busy at home.

Don’t assume being cooped up is an automatic recipe for getting more things done inside – such as cleaning. This may sound like some sort of crazy-brained excuse, but I honestly believe when you’re stuck inside too much you stop seeing your immediate surroundings. Go out for a while, come back in and voila! Look at all the dust, cat-hair tumbleweed and clutter! Somebody should really do something about this.

Speaking of Groom-boy, since I started writing this epistle he has gone out to get milk. Maybe he’ll start dusting next….


Heather said...

as I was reading this I daydreamed about having a magic wand that I would use to whisk myself to your house, knock on the door and sweep you away to Hawaii with me. Then I revised that because Hawaii would be backtracking for me. I am too logical!

Steph said...

It's not backtracking if we continue east! We could see Europe and Asia first! :)

Karen said...

I loved your line that your mother getting out everyday is probably why you and your brother are still alive today! LOL

You are so funny and refreshingly *honest* about motherhood's challenges and rewards.