One of our most frequent questions is, “How do you spend so much time with your husband?” (Replace “husband” with “kids” and you’ll get another frequently asked question, but that’s another blog post entirely.) Some people find the thought of their husband working from home, in their space all the time completely unfathomable, and I totally understand that. It was an adjustment for me too.
What these people probably don’t realize is that Sam working from home is not a new thing for us. He has been self-employed and working from home for most of our married life. However, during the first few years the grass appeared greener on the other side. I was so excited for Sam to get a “real” job after college. He took a position with a start-up company and the position included health benefits. I was excited! After managing our health insurance for the last 5 years this was going to be great! It would be less expensive! It would be better coverage! Unfortunately, we realized that the “dream” job was in fact, not our dream. 2 months into our 9-5, “normal” job I pleadingly looked at Sam and asked if he could quit and come work from home again. I hated being restricted on our health plan choices, (turns out I liked having control over that), he worked long hours some weeks, and most of all, I missed him. When the time came to quit his job, we both gave a huge sigh of relief and jumped right back into Sam working from home.
While our specific arrangement and work spaces have changed over time, the general activities and balance has not. For those of you with husbands thinking about working from home, here are 10 things I’ve learned over the last 10 years:
1. Yes, He’s Home, but He’s Not REALLY Home. This was probably the most surprising realization for me. In our first few months of marriage, I’d kiss Sam and whisk myself away to school and work while he stayed in our basement apartment to program. I’d come back near the end of the day and be upset that the house was still a mess and there were dirty dishes in the sink. Didn’t he do ANYTHING while I was gone? How is this place still a disaster? Turns out he WAS doing something: working. I’ve learned to not expect anything domestic related while my husband is at “work”. It’s not fair to him. He’s trying hard to pay the bills, he doesn’t need to take breaks and wash dishes as well.
2. Work is Over at 5pm. Sam doesn’t need 8 hours to pay the bills, and most of the time could be “done” with work around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. While I’m sure I could come up with a list of things to throw at him the moment he walked upstairs, I learned that he needs his own time. If he gets done with work early, I figure he’s earned some “free” time. He’d often use those extra couple of hours for house projects he’s been waiting on, he’d go on a bike ride, or even work on a personal programming side project. Didn’t matter to me. That was HIS time. Honestly, I really didn’t want him coming “home” before 5pm anyway. That was MY time.
3. Set Spacial Boundaries. If you are like us, and have kids, it adds a whole new dimension to daddy is home all day. Fortunately, our kids are great at leaving daddy alone and just letting him work. Back in our Lehi home, Sam had a dedicated office where he could physically close the door. The kids knew that they weren’t supposed to bother dad unless mom asked them to, or it was an emergency. If you don’t have an dedicated office with a closed door, maybe set up a corner of a room that’s daddy’s space and teach your kids not to interrupt. Here in the Airstream, that’s pretty much how we do it. I try and scram with the kids as much as possible (school outside, museum trips, walks or bike rides) but often times Sam is just holed up back on the bed with the curtain closed and his headphones on. The kids still know that they need to ask me for things and not him.
4. Don’t Pop In to Chat. This goes along with #3, but I felt needed some additional clarification. Women are chatterboxes. Well, lots of them are. We like to sit around and talk about things, and when our husbands are home all day, shouldn’t we get to talk to them too? Turns out that’s a bad idea. Sam gets his head into a problem and gets really grumpy when you interrupt him. Not only that, but after an interruption that takes him out of the zone, it’ll be a good 15 minutes before he can wrap his mind around it again. Can you imagine doing that all day? It would be frustrating. So, instead of opening the door and sticking my head in to ask a question, we Google Chat. Seriously. Its much less intrusive for him, and he can respond when he gets a minute instead of being interrupted.
5. I Don’t Need Rescuing. This is a bit of the flip side and something Sam had to learn. There were times when I was disciplining (yelling) at the kids, and he’d come bounding up the stairs to reinforce whatever punishment I was dishing out. In his mind, he was supporting me, in my mind he was being obnoxious. I don’t need help, get out of my space. He’s learned to let things go while he’s at work. Having a nice set of headphones to block out the noise certainly helps, but unless I ask for back-up he usually just ignores the yelling.
6. Feed Him Lunch. Or Not. But Warn Him. Sometimes I just don’t want to be responsible for 3 meals a day. Having Sam home for lunch everyday got to be a bit of a chore. Somehow, if he was there, I couldn’t just feed the kids mac & cheese and then scrounge something for myself. It had to be LUNCH. There was more perceived pressure there to provide something nice for my hard-working husband. It was all in my head, and I eventually got over it, but the mental shift took some work. Usually we’d have leftovers, but occasionally I had something going on and we’d be away for lunch. Sam would come wandering up around 1pm and wonder where everyone was and what was for lunch? As long as I warned him we were gone, he was definitely capable of coming up with his own food, but it was the times I’d forget to warn him that created the most friction.
7. He Doesn’t Get to Come to Everything. Just as if he were at an office, Sam doesn’t do everything with us during the day. He really does have to work. He misses out. Sometimes its bigger things, and other times not so important ones. I try to save the really cool places and activities for times and days where he can come. We adjust his work schedule often and will take off in the middle of the afternoon when places are less crowded and he’ll work in the evening intead. But there are a lot of really cool places that the kids and I have been to and Sam has not. Its just life.
9. Be Patient and Adjust When Necessary. While we realize this type of work situation is not ideal for everyone, it definitely has its benefits. Its also not a lifestyle that becomes perfect overnight. We’ve had to re-adjust a few things to adapt to life in the Airstream, but overall its not too different. Mostly I am amazed at Sam’s focus and ability to ignore the chaos swirling around him in such a small space. Our schedule is definitely a bit more flexible as some days are driving days, others there’s an activity we want to do all together. Mostly I have just learned to let him work when he has the time. Whether its early in the morning, or late at night after the kids are in bed.
10. Enjoy It. I LOVE having Sam home for three meals a day. I love seeing him when he comes up for snacks or just wanders out for a break to say “hello”. I love that we get to spend so much time together. Sometimes I’d even put Cara down for her nap (the other two were at school), warn Sam and then run errands all by myself. It was great! In perfect honesty, there are also a few other activities that went on during nap time as well. Use your imagination.
We are to the point where if we aren’t together all day, something feels off. There have been a few times in the last 2 months where Sam has gone into an office with a friend. We’d get together at the end of the day and I’d realize how terribly I’d missed him and how off my day was. Things just didn’t run as smoothly. Truth is, our personalities just mesh really well. We are the type of people who can spend hours together and not get tired of the company. For that I am really grateful. Is our life perfect? Far from it. But we’ve enjoyed growing together as a couple and as a family with the extra time we’ve been able to spend together as Sam is around all day.