My Love/Hate Relationship with Remote Work

Unless there is another extension here in New York, we’re expected to return to the physical premises of work on May 18th. While I have enjoyed many blessings during this time working from home, it will be good to return to the office. This is quite a statement because 1) I’m a Mama-domestic-type person at heart so I love all things home and family; and, 2) the small company I work for is an extremely stressful environment. I plan to leave in the near future.

Some things that I love are also on the hate list…just in a strange reversal in how I view these things!

See the source imageWhat I love about working from home…

  • Hands down, the best part of this bizarre historical time we have been chosen to live out is having a full nest. We all work together in the house, play so many card and board games, cook, bake and eat together like it’s been an extended Christmas vacation (where we also happen to be working). Ironically as I type this, it is snowing out my dining room window (yes, in May), so it really does continue to feel like Christmas vacation.
  • Working 20′ from the kitchen. I snack all day and drink as much water as I want without worrying who is noticing how many trips I make to the rest room!
  • Working the first hour or two in my pajamas, then switching to yoga pants and cozy, cotton tops.
  • No jewelry. No makeup. No hair coiffing.
  • No heels!
  • No nail polish.
  • The lack of a hard, set schedule.
  • The time I have saved by not primping myself, cleaning snow off my car and driving back and forth dealing with traffic is truly priceless.
  • The time I have saved by being able to avoid complainers has increased my productivity. At work, staff wander in and out of my office all day.

See the source image

What I hate about working from home…

  • I was one of the wiser ones at my place of employment who did not permit the owners to contact me after hours – until COVID. Now, the highly tense, always-anxious founders along with a variety of employees contact me not only throughout the work days, but at night and on the weekends. One of the Directors called me on Easter Sunday night!
  • I’m 20′ from the kitchen and I’ve gained 7 pounds. This truth has not stopped me from eating chocolate. Nor has the reality that in a week I need to be back in dress pants.
  • Most rooms have “the office” lingering from one or all of us. Papers, laptops, iPads, pens, notebooks and binders are ever-present throughout the house. We all tend to roam about, trying to get a different view during the day, then leave office remnants on tables and sofas. The decorative vases, photos and candles have all been removed or pushed aside throughout the house.
  • No defined schedule with a clearly marked beginning and end to work hours. I’ve worked more since shelter-in-place than I ever would at the office. The rest of my fam has it much easier with their employers and I thank God every day for that! (And that we have been blessed to remain employed-we are truly grateful.)

As we begin to find our way out of our homes, stepping into this new world, I’m likely not alone when I say that I’m happy to return to a few things from our former existence. At the top of my list is a boundary line between work and home. Yet, this time has also given most people a perspective that has changed us, even if only a little. For those of us still on this side of heaven, we’ve lived through something historic. Praise God.

 

And So She Flew….

This blog has been quiet lately, but my nest has not been. My just-turned-23-year-young daughter (one of the twins) landed the kind of job we’ve been praying for since graduation last May. I rejoiced alongside her four weeks ago that God answered our prayers BIG, but was stunned that the job was 7-states and 16-hours away (by car). Sigh.

I write the beginning of this post from the airport concourse, waiting for my flight back to the nest.

The last month has been slammed at work, then crazy at home with planning, packing and preparing. Now, this huge, life-altering event is behind us. The wheels of my return flight squeaked as they tucked under, making me want to tuck my own feet under me and squeak a bit about what a huge hole there will be in my nest…

I had finally adjusted to the bustling activity and non-stop-in-and-out of the twins returning home from university last May. Although my youngest is still away at her school, the nest was no longer a silent space. We were literally back to “Mommmmm!” at the bathroom door the second I started the shower. Whenever I felt annoyed at something, I mumbled thanks that my nest was alive with life.

My saver-daughter independently purged years worth of clothes and shoes, and thinned three giant bins of cards and notes into one. She even found her saved baby teeth and notes to the tooth fairy (“please leave my teeth and thank you”). Piles to be packed and donations to be given away were strewn throughout the house and her room.

Her room.

The Jonas Brothers. One Direction. Taylor Swift. All decorations from her youth were recently replaced with fresh paint, a new travel theme – complete with photographs of her many adventures in travel. She had wisely turned down a job a Boston a couple months ago and arrived back home ready to nestle in…accepting that it could be a lonnnnnng wait for the “right” opportunity. God has such a sense of humor.

Her and I had just hung the last of enlarged photos from her trips and our summer vacation in Scotland and Ireland when the interviews began with her current job. The room we just completed was quickly deconstructed with all the décor in boxes for her first apartment.

While the mess strewn everywhere, she began wrapping fragiles in what we wrapped her in 23 years ago in the hospital. All of us parents have these exact same, thin, worn wraps somewhere in our homes and it was too much for me when I saw them.

This baby girl is my independent one. We have a favorite family video of her loudly announcing at 2 1/2 years old, “I can do ittttt!” She did not want help. Her independence is part of her. While this is how she can go to a place where she knows zero people, this quality has also (somewhat) eased my Mama-pain over her departure from the nest.

Funny how she’s my most independent one, but she’s also the only one who still sleeps with the same “dollies” at 23 that she did at 2yrs old.

These near stuffing-less treasures went with her far away.

Though Google and Zuckerberg and Apple’s leadership were decades ahead of us in copying and saving our so-called “personal” data – long before society bothered to contemplate if snaps and posts and emails were being saved in massive data centers – and I really go off on a tangent about all of it :), I still embrace certain technologies that keep my babies and I connected. I wonder how I lived without Snapchat to show my kids something at a store. I’ve always refused to use FB despite the disappointment of my friends, but I spend plenty of time on FaceTime with my kids.

Even more than when the twins were at their universities and we talked every day, “live” technologies have officially become a greater blessing during my daughter’s first full week on the job. Snaps of her new office help me picture her there. Snaps of her food make me laugh since she loves to eat! FaceTime on lunch breaks and after work help us still “do life” together as much as we can with 7 states between us.

Though my independent one, she was quick to confirm that it would only be 7 weeks until I arrive for Easter weekend….”you are coming for Easter, right Mom?”

Well…who can say no to that invitation!?

One of the Best Christmas Gifts I Ever Received

I’ve never been great at answering the question, “what was the best gift you’ve ever received?”

Salvation? My children? Health? …. the list is long. But when pressed this year to come up with something tangible that was actually wrapped in paper, I had to say it was a Hallmark Store book titled, The Night Before Christmas.What’s so special about a story we’ve all heard since birth?

This one records voices.

My friend recorded my kids’ voices reading the famous tale in another room while I was prepping a meal, wrapped the book and gave it to me the same day. My twins were around 10 yrs. old and my youngest around 8 yrs. old at the time.

I was so touched and gushed about what a thoughtful gift it was. I meant it but could not have known how PRECIOUS that book would become in the subsequent years.

My daughters voices matured and of course my son’s voice has changed dramatically. Every year that I pull the book out and open each page, tears stream down my face. I close my eyes to picture those little voices running through the house at Christmas…over a decade has gone by since that gift was given to me.

If you regularly follow my blog, you’ll recall my posts about the wedding I attended in Scotland this past summer. The bride’s mama was my precious friend of 20 years who lost her cancer battle three years ago. Her departure at the too-young age of 49 makes me clutch that voice-recorded Christmas book even tighter to my chest, knowing that she gave me that gift that was so much more of a gift that I realized at the time.

The first few years, I think the book was nicely placed on top of some other decorations in a regular Christmas box, packed away until the next year. A couple years ago, I began wrapping that book so carefully…storing it as if it were gold. It is gold to me.

As I contemplate gifts for others in years to come, I’ll search out books that also record voices. It is a treasure for parents and if the book remains in tact as time passes, grown-up kids will certainly get a kick out of letting their children hear them when they were young.

You Know You’re Middle Age When…

Your weight is the same that it has been for 10 years, but suddenly you need the next size up in pants!?

Stuff shifts, people. There are worse things in life for sure, but it’s a bummer.

If you read my previous post, I’m protesting the next size up by exercising. I’m also not spending more money to have a separate closet of bigger pants. I’m fighting the good fight. Well…1/2 way. I’ll exercise as much as possible, but I’m still eating ice cream. There are too few pleasures as we age and I’m not giving up dessert or my chocolate intake :).

It officially takes 3x as much effort for me to maintain —  hoping for a 50-something body to tighten and tone requires far more time than I have this week.

Welcome to Middle-Age!

Joining the Rat-Race Mid-Life

 

Over 20 years ago, I sat on the tarmac in Iowa waiting to take off and return home from a business trip. I was in my first big-girl job post-college, and after receiving a promotion, was promptly sent to various cities to work with administrators in the Midwest and Northeast.

Looking out the window at the night-time sky, a red jelly-like substance began dripping over the windows. I asked the flight attendant what it was, as this girl had only been on one plane ride at 18 years old and knew little about air travel.

She explained that the weather was frigid and the plane was being de-iced. I wondered if I should be worried. I was too young to be as fearful as I would certainly be today. The delay was more annoying than anything and I decided then and there to return to graduate school and become a teacher.I’ve spent 20 years in higher education and there were two main advantages for me: 1) It was truly a meaningful career when I began and, 2) It was the best Mom-gig a girl could hope for while raising children.Fast forward a couple of decades and two giant truths now dominate my professional existence: 1) While the cost of tuition has skyrocketed exponentially, our pay has not. 2) The majority of collegiate institutions are about anything and everything except teaching and learning. Of course there are exceptions. However, if you read the data, and have current affiliation with several universities as I do, you will observe a shift in the actual “education” portion that is alarming. I have also held administrative positions along with teaching, so my insight goes beyond the classroom.

With twins just graduating from college and my youngest with two years left to go at her university, well…this mid-life Mama had to get another job. In addition to kids in college…

-We are a part of a destination wedding this August where my girls are standing up and I’m part of the ceremony (more on that in August).

-My husband went through a job change a year ago and his salary dropped considerably at the new company…blah blah blah…there are too many stories like ours to count lately. You can imagine the strain.

-Then, he landed himself in the hospital for a couple of days-nothing serious but the medical co-pays for three days in the hospital blew through his very handsome severance package.

The timing of these several things at once was comical and costly.

So, I cut the on-campus teaching, kept the online professorship, and added a three-days a week position in HR with a small company at their corporate office. Promptly after I started, the HR Director resigned. I’m essentially the entire HR department on a three-day schedule doing five days plus worth of work. I’ve already been working on my days “off”.

To say the adjustment from both a professional standpoint and a personal one has been challenging would be an understatement.Two kids (here) graduated and moved home from college. My youngest is serving in ministry in Texas for three more weeks. The change in the household has been tremendous. God bless the kids, they are doing the dishes, and occasionally vacuum…After 10 minutes of searching, I find the pasta strainer with the syrup (?), but who am I to complain?! 🙂

I’m working more than I have in a decade while still doing most everything I did prior to the new job.

I’m trying to adjust. I didn’t really think it would be that big of a deal. After all, before kids (and life in higher ed) I had a career in business. I traveled for heaven’s sake. I was a working professional!

I’ve changed and I’m waaaaay older.

Driving home in wicked traffic the other day, I was reminded of how this is just normal life for most. Sit and wait while four lights change and we creep up to finally get through an intersection. Wild morning traffic is something most people have been navigating for decades while I purposely set up early morning office hours to avoid. I taught late classes so my husband was home with the kids when I left. I graded papers and lesson-planned from my home office.

Lunch was when I wanted it and it certainly didn’t have a time limit.Oh, the schedule of “regular hours”. It’s laughable to those of you reading who’ve been in the rat race for decades. Up at 6am, on the road by 7am, work work work, eat lunch fast, back to your desk, back in the car at 5pm….

The conventional work schedule alone makes this deep thinker ponder who came up with the 8-5 workday. Why are we all bumper to bumper at 7:30am just to reach the destination by 8am? Why are we again bumper to bumper at 5:15pm? Even though more employees than ever are working from home, or have flex hours, my small company runs a tight, traditional culture with zero flexibility.

Definition of rat race according to dictionary.com: any exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a….life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.The part of the rat race definition that makes me laugh out loud includes leisure and contemplation. Professors contemplate! We lead our students to think, not just answer questions. We have more opportunity for leisure due to flexibility.

In those years when I had the luxury of being “contemplative”, and particularly when I was in the evening classes with working adults completing their Bachelors and Masters degrees, I spent considerable time discussing the importance of locating the job that would be satisfying after they finally graduated. We wrote out the number of waking hours on paper, subtracting not only 40-hours in a building, but planning for work, choosing clothes for work, drive time, required social and corporate events, buying Christmas gifts for workmates, etc., etc.The ultimate point of the exercise was revealing the truth that full-time working adults work more than they literally do anything else. More time at work than with family. More time working than cooking or playing or creating. I made them take a hot second “contemplating” that stark reality. Really thinking about life in the present – but also what they wanted it to look like in a few years.

Most people work for money and few work because they love what they do.

Most are hustling in the rat-race “routine”, “competitively” working to get ahead, hoping to reach those goals of “leisure” and the luxury of living more “contemplatively”.

My Bible app devotion recently stated: “You have been entrusted with talents… It really matters how you use these.” If only we could all earn a living utilizing our true, greatest talents. I have observed most people at best use their gifts in hobbies or volunteering in ministries. Excruciatingly few can pay medical and dental benefits without a company-job having nothing to do with their greatest gifts. We use our gifts to serve as best we can-where we are.

We are old enough to know that life requires attention. If we’re going to enjoy any of it, we must leave the housework, skip the obligatory visit to the distant-relative’s house and read the book that is collecting dust because too many other things trump sitting down in “leisure”.

I miss my extended quiet time with God in the mornings. I’m way behind in my Bible reading. I catch up on my days off. Things like crafts and baking are time-intensive joys that I cannot afford. My leisure time is spent with my kids doing things together. They will only live home for a limited amount of time and I’m not going to miss these remaining moments living together.

Throughout the years, I could see how my full-time career friends had time for nothing but work. I observed at a distance their counting days off…worried about arriving 10 minutes late or leaving a half hour early to catch their kids’ game after school. Mentally tortured about missing family events and simultaneously feeling obligated to their employer.While I previously watched at a distance, I now live it and while the work is interesting, the schedule is a bummer. I’m thankful that this existence now was not the reality while raising kids. As always, a big hug and sincere admiration to those working parents who legit do it all – and well.

On that note, it’s time to enjoy the weekend and family…

I wish each of you a Happy Weekend! 🙂

Photos: 99designs.com-woman; aviation.stackexchange.com-plane; nyfa.edu/Harvard/-Harvard; robbreport.com/lifestyle/news/would-you-pay-6-5-million-to-get-your-kid-into-yale-2843748/-Yale; ft.com/content/804b928e-6cde-11df-91c8-00144feab49a-RatRace; Cnn.com-man on desk; Colossians: Pinterest