Working from home: is it a “real” job?

Working from home?

A pair of comfortable pajamas and slippers, in the comfort and quiet of your home, without being enslaved by the clock, without the hustle and bustle of public transportation or traffic.

Who knows, maybe you can even work by a cozy fireplace in cold weather? Or listening to that great vinyl with a steaming mug of tea on you hand… Or even, on the hottest days, you could take a break for a swim, just because you can! Sounds perfect!

I have been working from home for over twenty years and a considerable part of that time as a freelancer and a full-time mom, and I can tell you that you would be better off curbing that enthusiasm. In life, everything has advantages and disadvantages.

Over the years I’ve lost count of how many people have commented on how “lucky I was to be able to work without leaving home” while they were forced to wake up early day after day to catch the bus or train and spend eight tedious hours in a cold grey office with obnoxious co-workers and/or superiors who were described to me as real-life gargoyles.

They would tell me how lucky I was and how they envied me, as if my day-to-day life was like a relaxing vacation by the sea and not as if I often worked twelve or even fourteen hours a day, and nights until the sun came up without leaving my computer except to attend to the needs of my little one.

But in reality…

The first few years as a freelancer were years of hard work, of late nights, day in and day out not seeing myself in the mirror without my pajamas on, to the point where I almost forgot what I looked like when I put on lipstick or when I did my hair or wore that blouse that really matched my skin tone. I saw only the pajamas and those dark circles under my eyes, and every day was the same—almost indistinguishable—whether it was a holiday, the weekend or a workday, rain, or shine.

The truth is that people—and when I say “people” it includes family, children or even husbands / boyfriends / life partners—not only idealize our activity, but also don’t consider it a real job.

In the past, how many people, including close relatives and close friends, referred to my job as if it weren’t a real job? To the point that for almost the entire first decade of my journey, many loved ones came to me with job offers, such as a waitress at the corner café, or a cashier at the local grocery store. This was because, in fact, they saw me as unemployed!

It was no use explaining that I worked, yes, and worked a lot! And that most of the time I was even earning more than I could ever earn as a waitress. When they weren’t telling me that until I got a “real job” I would never have a life “like other people do” they gave me those condescending looks which had the same effect on me: unbridled frustration.

It’s hard not to expect some recognition, some validation from those we love, even though such external validation is not really necessary to live a full life.

And, in this scope, if I’m at home, and don’t have a “real job,” why not pop over to my house to pay an unannounced visit on those working days when they were off duty and (they) had nothing to do?

Or even, why not call me and cry hopelessly on the phone for three hours because they got mad at their boyfriend or girlfriend? After all, even if I had a real job to do, I could always do it at any other time, and friends are for hardships, right?

Since we’re not really “working,” then we’re expected to have time to do absolutely everything single-handedly: the housework, grocery shopping, taking the kids to school, to the playground, doctor’s appointments, school meetings, etc. and we still must do our work!

How to deal with it?

It took many years to “train” all the people in my life who are truly important to me to see my job as a profession as serious, rewarding, and valid as any other. And as for other people, not so important to me, they also had to learn that in my house there’s work in progress and, with few exceptions, they had to be invited to come by.

I also had to “train” myself to be able to do such simple things, but so unthinkable for me in the early years, as not answering the phone every time it rings, for example!

Little by little, I learned that the world doesn’t end if I let the phone ring and I can always return the call later.

The truth is that the more distractions we allow ourselves during the day, the more evenings we will be forced to spend in front of the screen, to the detriment of our rest, our health and, consequently, our productivity.

And that huge pile of laundry to be washed or ironed is going nowhere. And the dishes will not wash themselves. We have to find time for everything, and it’s essential to have a routine that is a little stricter than what people who have never teleworked for a living would imagine.

Those who understood that I am no less a friend (and no worse a person) for doing this, have stayed… And those who didn’t understand, eventually walked away, but that just means they were never worthy of being in my life! So, good riddance!

Check all our other articles on teleworking! 

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