The best (and worst) example of the clashing of my two lives happened yesterday lunchtime. My toddler comes home from school for two hours (we’re in France) for lunch. In that time I had an urgent email to send, so scurried up to my mezzanine workspace to get it done. While I was there she was doodling on post-its next to me, ‘sending emails’ as she called it. At some point she decided she wanted to stick these works of art to the wall.
The next thing I know, a cold wash of superglue fell over the back of my hand. I don’t know how she knew it was there, but she’d gone to a drawer, come back up the stairs, unscrewed the cap and poured it all over my desk. And her. And me.
In a mad scramble, I scooped up as much of the glue as I could, rushed downstairs and tried to clean her up. She got all fussy about having the glue on her hands, and I now have bits of my to-do list permanently stuck to my desk. I didn’t need the real world to give me an apt metaphor for trying to manage home life and work life in the same place, thanks very much.
At least we have a bigger space now. Back in London, my partner was working in the kitchen while I was wedged into a corner in the living room. We’ve sort of got our own workspace, and the space behind the sofa is currently doubling up as my gym. Yes, I’m still doing stabilisation and strengthening exercises three years after having a baby, thanks for asking.
I wonder what all of this might be doing to me, to us. Apparently the lack of small talk caused by no commuting or working in open spaces is breaking our brains, which is a little worrying. The most obvious immediate impact is that I’m moving a lot less, interacting a lot less. But I wondered if there might be something even worse.
After I went to University, my mum changed her life. She got a degree and became a priest. I was so proud of her, but she had the unfortunate situation of her home being her workplace. I suppose my house isn’t marked ‘the office’ in the same way hers was marked ‘the vicarage.’ But there’s still that same sense of not really being able to relax, of being plagued by work worries in the moments after I lie down to go to sleep, or when I migrate a few feet to the sofa in the evenings.
At least with the addition of a small person, it’s not like I am able to do much when I’m not physically sitting at the desk. Well, not work related. I might be ‘mummy cat’ having a picnic on the rug with plastic food or taking a small cow on a Lego car to go the museum. Not exactly something I can claim expenses for. But it might be a blessing in disguise.
I don’t want to get to the point where it feels like I’m sleeping at the office. With so many ideas and projects whirling away in my head now I’m working freelance, it’s incredibly hard to switch off. I have, at least, got some networks to help me out. This week I have two meetings, one with fellow freelancers, and one with fellow writers. They’ll allow me to have that ‘chit chat’ I miss so much, meaning I’ll be able to ‘talk shop’ with someone who understands what I’m talking about (he does his best).
Maybe I should start wearing work clothes again. At least that means I could regain the lovely feeling of putting my lounge pants on (thank you Marks and Spencer) when I got home. Or I could walk around the block once I’ve finished work, to pretend I’ve got a commute.
Either way, it looks like I’m in this for the long haul. Hopefully I can manage to eke out a separate existence without getting these two worlds glued together (again).
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