As any work-at-home parent knows, your schedule is at the mercy of your family. The exception might be those who have a babysitter or daycare lined up, but for most of us, we have to plug along as best with we can with holidays, changing sleep schedules, summer vacations and the rest of it. Over the almost eight years I've been working from home, I've had to adjust my schedule a few times.
I went from working naps to nights to nights-and-naps to just nights again. I tried mornings and then went back to nights. And that’s where I've been – on night duty – for quite some time. But it’s getting to the point where things are going to need to change again. This time, I’m hopeful the change is for the best.
My Kids Are Growing Up
When you have babies and toddlers, they demand a ton of work, but in reward they often sleep for enormous stretches of time. I once had three hour naps and twelve hour nights. The hours changed, the naps went away, but I was able to keep those long nights for the most part. But now I have one of my babies on the verge of his eighth birthday.
This means I’m not going to be able to keep that seven o’clock bedtime much longer. Already he tosses and turns until about eight-thirty or even nine most nights anyhow, so it’s time to throw in the towel on that. I’ll call a spade a spade and grudgingly give in to an eight o’clock bedtime, which means sleep (after stories and such) will come around nine. Starting my writing work day at nine is hard. I've done it more than a few times over the years, but my body is pretty ready for rest at that point, too.
My Work Is Changing
Times change and my clients have changed a bit, too. I’m not doing the same sort of work in many cases as I was doing just a few years ago. I've been fortunate and can be more selective about projects I’m taking on, and this means I’m working fewer hours overall. Don’t worry – I’m not lounging about. I also have a full-time job outside of the home during the school day.
But the bottom line is that the nature of my work is changing so that it doesn't need three uninterrupted hours of silence at a time. In fact, a lot of my work can be done in less than an hour. This makes it a bit easier to block off into smaller “bites” if you will.
I Have Downtime
It was astonishing the first time it happened. My kids ran upstairs after school to play and they didn't come back down for an hour. I wasn't really sure what to do with myself. I tried exercising, but that required more than my hour of time once you included the shower and warm-ups. I tried reading, but I just felt guilty knowing that I had work ahead of me. So I did some work.
Then I did some more. Soon I was able to fit almost all of my work into that time after school and again after dinner when my kids were upstairs playing. Since they aren't toddlers or even preschoolers any more, they don’t need my constant attention. They are reasonably safe up there without my ears on them every moment. My brain and fingers are free to work during an unexpected time.
And I’m definitely taking advantage of it!
If you ask me when I write I’ll probably still say “after bedtime” because I have for so many years. But it’s increasingly untrue. Now I’m working about two hours around dinnertime. The kids are happy crashing around upstairs and building castles on Mindcraft. I’m happy because I’m productive and get paid for all of the hours of my working day.
Best of all, after eight years, I’m starting to get my evenings back. Now I find myself lost as to what I should do with two or even three nights free in a row. I've gone through books and caught up on some TV shows. Pretty soon I might even try exercise again. But I don’t want to rush into anything too over the top right away at least.
Maybe I’ll read a bit more yet.