Golden times - FamilyEducation

Golden times

June 03,2008

At the pool this past weekend we met an interesting couple who also live in the neighborhood (thanks to T., who ended up joined at the hips with their two kids--the same ones who were frog hunting with her the other day). We've been meeting a lot of interesting people at the pool lately--people we click with immediately and have engaging conversations with. This couple appeared in deck chairs last weekend, as if blown in by the breeze, leaving us to wonder where on earth they were last summer, these interesting people, because it would have been nice to have known them then.

What I found unusual, I think, is that both members of the couple work at home AND they have small children, who they juggle much as we do, using preschools and sitters to fill in the gaps. I admire people who work at home, but I'm in awe of a couple who work at home. I've tried to work from home but, invariably, while lots of work gets done, it's often not of the paid variety. The house gets cleaner, the office desk more organized. I might remember to make a few phone calls related to non-work matters, like medical appointments for the kids. I snack too much when I "work" from home, and linger too long in the bathroom and on the porch outside every time I get up to let the dog in or out. I can't seem to maintain a focus when I'm at home, even when the kids aren't there--it's as if some magnetic force draws me away from what I'm supposed to be doing, and channels me into other tasks--important ones, too, but certainly ones that could wait until later.

A long time ago, when Scott and I were first married, we worked from home often. He had his study in the guest room at one end of the apartment, and I had my very own little office in the small sunroom at the other end. I wrote all my papers and creative work on a small Mac classic, with no Internet connectivity to distract me, no blogs loaded into the background to read, no IM windows popping up now and again with messages from people I know (and some I don't). The apartment was small, and from where I sat I couldn't see the mess in the bathroom or the dishes in the kitchen. We had no kids in those days, only the cat, and she used to sleep in the black papasan chair in my sunroom/office, lulled to sleep by the tap-tapping on the keyboard. Home WAS where I worked back then--I had no other place to go. Life was infinitely more simple back then, of course, and my mind was not nearly so split into as many different parts as it is today.

I have discovered, though, that if I can get up early enough--if I can seize that golden sliver of time between when I first wake and when the complications of the day begin to take hold, that I can get some work done at home. If the kids are still sleeping, and the coffee pot brewing, and I've slept well (and the stars were aligned just right the night before), I can work--and be happy and productive doing it. So this morning, inspired by determination and too many pressing deadlines, I dutifully got up at 6:00, showered and dressed, started the coffee, put the dog out, fed the rabbit, booted the computer, put away a few toys that had made their way onto the office floor, and sat down to work. But as I sat there waiting for the computer to wake up, lost in a morning fog, I heard a door close and the running of feet.

L. was up.

In the ten minutes between when I heard the feet and when L. appeared at the doorway to the office, pajama-clad, my emotions ran the full course from irritation, annoyance, frustration, grumpiness, and resignation, to calm acceptance. There's not much you can do, really, in situations like that, except watch your morning work opportunity evaporate into thin air and, perhaps, pour yourself a little extra coffee as compensation.

I hugged L. close, his body still warm and relaxed from bed. He asked me what I was doing there, at the ready, computer on.

"Trying to work," I told him. "I'm trying to sneak in a little extra work time."

He's my morning child, L. is--my early bird. He's gotten better lately about sleeping in, but if anything even slightly out of the ordinary is afoot, he's out of bed at dawn's light, hopping from one foot to the next in anticipation of the day.

"Why aren't YOU still sleeping?" I asked him, accusation creeping into my voice.

"Because you're not!"

Years ago I had so few distractions at home, and now so many. Years ago I had a room of my own to write in, I worked guilt-free, and now guilt often lurks in the background, every time I snatch a few moments of computer time at home, or stay late at a meeting. Now home is home, the place I want best to be--a place where my son is propelled out of his warm bed in the morning just to be with me, to start his day alongside mine.

Which is why this morning I found myself, at 6:45, in quite a different golden sliver of time, eating cinni-minis with L. and studying the Silk Soy Milk carton together, pondering the benefits of wind-driven energy, and the day ahead.