I f you work from home, do you really work? Apparently, my family doesn’t think so. Until I started working for The View newspapers, my jobs as a reporter and editor were always done in a traditional newsroom. I had a desk with a computer, legal pads, red pens (my personal preference) and reference books like my battered Thesaurus, my worn-out dictionary and my Associated Press style guide. I kept using the Thesaurus and dictionary to look up words long after it became possible to do that online. And I bought a new AP guide every other year to stay reasonably updated on whether underway was one word or two. I’m still mad that it is now one word.
My desk in the newsrooms was surrounded by other desks where other reporters and editors did their work. People all talking on the phone at the same time, someone shouting across the room to ask a question, someone else yelling at photo to get out to the scene of an accident or fire. And always someone around to discuss the day’s events with or to share the very weird brand of humor that is unique to journalists.
I always wondered if I would be disciplined enough to get my work done if I worked from home. Then I got my chance to find out. I spent two years working on a master’s degree completely online from home. I found out I was good at blocking off certain hours to write, read, do research and take exams. I got my schedule down pat, and it worked so well I actually ended up finishing my degree two semesters before I thought I would.
Now I work from home most days, and it’s working out pretty well – at least for me. If only my kids would realize that even though I’m at home, I am working. They call me up or drop by the house just to say, “What are you doing?” I have a job. I am working.
They call me in the middle of the day if they forgot to do an errand to see if I will do it for them. No, I am working. My two daughters who have children of their own ask if I can watch them for a couple of hours or pick them up from daycare. No, I am working. Most infuriating of all is when they ask, “Are you working tomorrow?” Yes, I work every day! Even on the weekend sometimes!
When my five grown children were little children, I worked full time from one of those traditional newsrooms, and their father worked in Lansing, sometimes staying there overnight. I had no family here to help, and I spent most lunch hours figuring out the logistics of school and daycare pickup, getting to doctor or dentist appointments, making it to dance or sports, getting supper, doing homework, baths and bedtime.
A woman I worked with years ago in that same newsroom had two kids, and her retired parents lived next door. One day I heard someone say to her, “I don’t know how you do it all?” I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Another day I came home to find a strange car in the driveway. A young woman stepped out and introduced herself as the personal assistant of a mom from our school, and she was there to drop off Lindsey to do a project with my daughter. I was speechless. This mom did not work, but for some reason, she thought she needed a personal assistant.
Through the years, I’ve come to understand that things are not always what they seem. There may have been things going on in those households that I knew nothing about, and the things that I thought were ridiculous may have had a very good reason behind them.
I’m still waiting for my kids to learn that lesson. It may appear that I’m just hanging out at home with the TV on or music playing and have time to do your stuff for you, but the reality is – I am working! … Ask your dad.
Jalene Jameson is a staff writer for the View Newspapers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.