If you believe the stuff you read on lampposts (and in the age of Breitbart, hey, why not?), the single most commonly held career goal today is to make lots of money while working from home. While I sadly can’t lay claim to the former, I have most definitely achieved the latter. For going on a decade now I have worked at home. And while it is convenient in many ways (good snacks, unlimited access to semi-clean underwear) in others, it’s an unmitigated disaster.
Last week, The New Yorker magazine paused for a moment between 16,000-word features on the subject of Donald Trump being mad, to run a Shouts & Murmurs by Colin Nissan imagining a phone call between a home-office worker and a 911 operator.
“OPERATOR: I need you to tell me what you’re wearing, O.K.?
ROBERT: You know . . . just regular clothes.
OPERATOR: Outside clothes or inside clothes?
ROBERT: Hold on, I’ll check. (Pause.) Pajamas. I’m wearing my pajamas. I could swear I’d changed into regular . . . I thought these were jeans!
OPERATOR: It’s O.K., sir. Calm down.
ROBERT: Wait, this isn’t even a shirt. It’s just my skin! Goddammit.”
The piece was shared so widely in my social media echo chamber (along with a whole bunch of other stories telling me, in essence, that Donald Trump is mad) that I realized I have a disproportionate number of friends who are self-employed creative freelancers. Many of them, it must also be said, are also rather loopy.
According to the most recent Canadian government statistics, the number of self-employed workers has increased by 17 per cent over the past decade, with women accounting for just over a third of the total. That’s roughly 2.7 million adult Canadians who are in danger of mistaking their skin for a sweatshirt on any given weekday afternoon. Think about that. And while you do, excuse me while I fix myself a snack.
Okay, I’m back [wipes chin on sleeve], where were we? My own personal journey into the world of home employment started while I was single and living alone. Ah, those were the days! I’d simply pad around the house, pondering Farrow and Ball catalogue colours for empty rooms I couldn’t afford to paint and then, around 3 p.m., panic and do a full day’s writing before going out for drinks and dinner or a movie.
Now that I have two young boys, a baby and a husband in the house, my self-employed days are very different. Mostly they go like this:
6 a.m. – Wake and lie very still in hope husband will think I’m dead and go pick up the crying baby.
6:15 -7 – Breastfeed baby in bed while descending into the horrors of social media on my phone.
7- 8:30 – Run round and round the kitchen island chugging coffee and wielding a spatula while shouting at boys to “Get a move on!” When this doesn’t work, bribe them with jellybeans to put on their own shoes, coats, hats, mitts, etc.
9 a.m. – Return home from school run and have a little cry because no one but me ever flushes the toilet.
9:30 – Another cry, but this time tears of joy because the nanny is here!
10 – Wander outside to damp, freezing (but quiet!) writing shed. Open up inbox and find press release on a new design book called book She Sheds: A Room of Your Own by Erika Kotite. According to the release, “women are staking claim to a completely personal space to call their own. A regenerative space, a refuge, a creative studio, or simply a place to rest and think. The structures are taking off – with She Shed-only designers and architects popping up all over the country and globe.” Sit in she-shed feeling very smug and on-trend.
11 – Write, snack, nap on she-shed sofa.
12 – Check online gym class booking system to see if there are any Pilates classes left. Nope. Sigh of relief.
1 p.m. – Write, lunch, breastfeed.
2 – Mouse exterminator arrives. Listen distractedly as he says he can’t begin job until boiler leak is fixed. Call boiler guy who comes round and says he can’t fix leak until the plumber fixes the hot water heater. Tear out hair. Call husband who texts back to say he’s “in a meeting.”
2:30 – Hide in she-shed, breastfeeding, snacking, thinking despondently, “Why can’t I ever be in a meeting?”
3:30 – Middle boy barges in and takes all the paper from my printer and pens from my desk “for drawing weapons.”
4:00 – Oldest boy barges in insisting I give him my laptop so he can watch YouTube videos of teenagers playing Minecraft. Order him to do his homework instead.
4:15 – Give oldest boy iPhone to watch Minecraft videos.
5:00 – Stop writing to cook a Jamie Oliver anchovy and tomato mac ‘n cheese that everyone refuses to eat on the grounds that it’s “disgusting.” Eat mac ‘n cheese.
6:00 – Say goodbye to nanny and try not to cry when she leaves.
6:30 – 8:00 – Run round and round kitchen island chugging wine and wielding spatula shouting at boys to “get to bed” and when that doesn’t work bribe them with jellybeans to put on their own pyjamas, brush teeth, etc.
8:30 – Write, snack, bed, Netflix, read several more articles about Donald Trump being mad. Wonder if his madness is linked to the fact that Trump has always been self-employed and worked from home. Too bad his current job solves neither problem.