Making Work Work

I’ve drifted a bit lately from my larger purpose of talking about how work-at-home and full-time parenting work together and what things I’m learning.

One thing I’ve learned these last few days is that when a kid is sick the work has to be fit in around the kid. Ben has been feverish and generally just ill for the last couple of days. Right now, he and I are cozied up in a recliner in the way that he wants while I set up to evaluate some papers. Of course, I stopped to blog first because, well, I wanted to.

The notable thing, of course, is that the work doesn’t stop just because I’m at home or he’s sick. So, I work with what he’s willing to accept. Right now, I’m typing one-handed and holding onto him with the other. Would he prefer I put the computer down? Probably. Does he understand that sometimes this is the best he can have at this moment? I think so. We’ve worked on connecting my work to things he likes. You get X special thing because Mom works. If Mom didn’t work, you wouldn’t be able to have the special things.

I know some would say that what he needs most is undivided attention. I don’t essentially agree. He gets a great deal of attention, even with a baby sister. He’s started going on errands with me on the weekends, and he’s learned that it’s okay not to get to go every time. He gets to go sometimes and that seems to be enough.

Work is steady and I can’t complain. There are times when it seems like a lot of things all pile on at once. I’ve been moving back toward my “full” load slowly. I teach less than many people I know, but I’m juggling different things than others are. I know many work-at-home types are advocates for having a set work day, turning off the computer, hiring someone to watch the child, and so on.

For me, that defeats the purpose of working from home. I want to be with my kids as much as I can for as long as they want me. If they get a little less attention because I’m working while I’m with them, then I think that’s okay. Ben is most relaxed if I’m there to see things when he’s done with them.

While he’s been in the sickbed, he’s been doing a lot of building with his duplo blocks. Yesterday, he build a staircase. It was wonderful. He didn’t talk to me or really pay attention to anything but his blocks for a bit. Then said, “MomMom, look.” I looked, complimented his work, and he went back to what he was doing. He needed me in that moment, but not for the moments around them.

I do have the luxury of figuring out where and how I want to get the work down around specific deadlines. Grading is challenging, but doesn’t necessarily require the extreme concentration that some other professions may require (numbers and the IRS come to mind). I recognize that I’m extremely lucky to have a job that a love in an industry that’s stable that allows me to spend my time as I choose (at least to a degree).

There are times when I have to work and I have to lock myself in my office and let my husband handle our kids. And there are times when I’m desperate for an adult conversation. But, contrast that to this morning when I put Katie down for her nap and I get to hear Ben call, “See you later, Sunshine.” I’ll trade the adult conversation for that.

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