I looked across my desk. There, in front of me was a computer, a printer, a stapler, pens and a book or two. All very typical for a home working set up.
Also on my desk, however, was a cuddly toy, a random LEGO brick, a copy of National Geographic Kids, some laundry and a random component from a Harry Potter Quidditch toy. Oh, and there was a note from my kids’ gymnmastics instructor, a flannel, a handbag and, when I looked a bit deeper (next to the spoon and tube of Savlon) I discovered the rest of the Quidditch toy.
This, I have discovered, is one of the realities of working from home: Your workspace is never entirely your own. It’s also never entirely tidy.
Okay, I am possibly giving you a very bad impression of myself. I am not going to pretend the desk in my home office is ever pristine and polished. Nonetheless, it is usually much better than this.
My excuse is that I’ve been on the back foot with housework since the beginning of the Easter holidays. Balancing home working and family over the holidays is always a juggling act. I have managed to knock the rest of the house into shape, but the one space I have neglected to clear up has been my desk.
Of course, life has changed for me over the past 18 months. The youngest of my children started school and this freed me up to dedicate more time to freelancing and blogging.
I remain the kids’ main carer. Mrs Adams is out of those for around 12 hours a day and so I do the school runs, I oversee homework, I do the laundry and ironing. During school hours, however, I spend increasing amounts of time working from home.
When I started this blog, I worked from the dining room table on an old Acer laptop. These days I need a dedicated workspace and something with considerably more computing power than an old laptop.
I’ve slowly and steadily transitioned from stay at home dad to work from home dad and it works well for our family, although I am noticing working from home comes with certain challenges. Having a desk that is free of Harry potter toys, handbags and tubes of Savlon is just one of them.
There’s also the challenge of getting the family to appreciate there are moments I mustn’t be interrupted. During one recent school holiday, I got up early each day with the intention of doing a couple of hours work so I could spend more time concentrating on the kids. I tried to enforce a rule that I was not to be disturbed before 7am in the morning.
It was a nice idea. It simply didn’t work. the kids would wander in and request breakfast or ask for help with some random task.
I am also staggered that, in a house where Mrs Adams and I have mobile phones and tablets, I often come to MY desk to find MY computer being used either by Mrs Adams or one of the kids (yes, I am possessive of it, that machine is mine, mine, mine. Use it at your peril!).
In fact, more often than not, Mrs Adams is the culprit here. I wouldn’t mind too much but for the fact I very often find her sat at my computer reading the Am I Being Unreasonable (AIBU) thread on Mumsnet (yes, okay, I may be a fan of the thread myself, but that’s not the point).
I mean, you know, organising a complicated travel itinerary or editing a photograph or something like that, yes, I’d understand the need to do that on a desktop computer. Getting the latest update from Mumsnet, well, Am I being Unreasonable to point out that can be read on all manner of devices?
It’s all very well, me highlighting the challenges I face working from home. In truth this is a two-way street. The rest of the family has to tolerate me and my demands.
As you can maybe tell, top of the list is to keep off MY computer. I have very genuine reasons for this, although I appreciate the kids may fail to appreciate why I am so fussy about others going near my computer hardware.
In addition to this, Mrs Adams has returned home from work on many occasions to discover I’ve converted part of the house into an elaborate photographic studio with lights, tripods and cameras all over the pace. Ah, yeah, then there was the time, very recently as it happens, when the kids raided her cosmetics collection because I was writing a blog post about the appropriate age for kids to wear make-up. That didn’t go down too well.
The less said about the Danish and Brazilian film crews that have visited the house the better. Just as well they weren’t both visiting at the same time.
Although home working comes with challenges, they are very minor compared to the challenges I faced in Corporateland. In those days I panicked every time one of the kids got a mild dose of conjunctivitis because I knew they’d be unable to go to nursery and I’d have to stay at home, explaining the situation to an unsympathetic boss.
With me working from home, I can drop everything to deal with the kids if I have to. I can dedicate time to them and I love that I am able to do this. Many parents, especially fathers, simply don’t have this luxury.
The untidy desk, the interruptions and strange work hours, I’ll take them every time over my old life. Every single time. Harsh as it sounds though, I will not loosen my grip on MY computer. Oh no, that computer is mine an no one else’s, okay?
Do you work from home? Do you recognise the challenges that can come with running a business and fitting it around the family? Would you, however, be happy to go back to earning a salary or does this work better for you and your family?