Is working from home really better for the family?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Some days, honestly, I doubt the answer.

As a mom to a bunch of young kids, working from home gives me the benefits of no commute, a flexible schedule, and the ability to work in my pyjamas at the kitchen table.

It also means, however, that I often find myself working a whacko schedule of late nights followed by early mornings and the occasional hour in the afternoon.

Whenever someone is awake, forget about productivity: distractions can propel me into making ridiculous mistakes like using info for Orange County, NC, instead of Orange County, California (true story!).

I’m always there, but I’m also not really “there”, because my eyes are glued to my laptop screen. And when the time comes to close the laptop for the day, I find it hard to disengage.

Here’s a dirty secret: when you work from home, many people consider it not working at all, even if you make pretty good money (Covid and the lockdowns changed this cultural assumption somewhat). As such, family members expect you to be always available for a phone call or a quick errand during the day and don’t understand what you mean by “busy”.

There are days when the lure of walking out of the door for a set number of hours, then coming back home to really BE at home, is almost overwhelming. Then a kid gets sick or I make a trip somewhere and see the traffic, and think that my choice of being a home-based freelance writer makes sense after all.

The ideal solution for me would probably be a designated home office (and a whole lot of help with little ones!). Until that is in the making, I’ll make do with what I have.

I’m still here

Rainy view from our balcony

Yes, I’m still here. Just bogged down with massive amounts of work – something I find hard to complain about, in the current economic climate.

I’m striving to find balance and have enough time for the kids, the house, and just to breathe.

Luckily, after weeks of enticing weather, we’re having some freezing cold, rain, hail, and a promise of snow. I’m a big fan of warm sunny weather, but hey, this is an opportunity to hole up in our cozy home and do relaxing things like reading and crafts.

Hope you’re all having a safe, warm February!

One valuable lesson I hope my children learn

Flower growing in a rock crevice: blooming in hard circumstances

I started my married life with a mortgage-free home, a husband who had a nice, stable job, and a great deal of optimism bordering on self-assurance. I mean… things were looking so great, so why would anything ever go wrong, right?

Then, for almost a full decade, I had done my best to ride out one financial crisis until another, facing the loss of the income and the house that had seemed so secure. Having chosen a remote lifestyle, I had very limited employment opportunities, a bunch of kids, no reliable transportation, and no steady internet connection. So my only available strategy was, tighten that belt… and tighten it more… until it nearly suffocated me.

I believe my great epiphany came at the moment when I was scouring the corners of my freezer for the last bit of flour to make one last loaf of bread. I was feeling utterly helpless, vulnerable, and desperate.

And I realized I don’t ever want to feel this way again. Never. Never.

Today, I am lucky enough to live in improved circumstances and enjoy wider opportunities. I’m in a safe, settled place and am successfully employed in writing and editing. But often, it still feels as though I first shot myself in the foot and then spent years trying to repair the damage.

In a few years, my older children will be starting on the road to adulthood. It’s a sobering thought; they’ll get to make their own choices – and their own mistakes. And if there’s one message I hope to convey to my kids while they are growing, it’s this:

“Don’t be afraid to envision a bright future in which all your dreams come true, but also make a Plan B in case the you-know-what hits the fan. Believe me, you don’t want to burn all your boats and then discover you’re stuck on an island.”

Though nobody like to think of unpleasant things, it’s wise to think of how you’d handle sickness, prolonged unemployment, or the breakup of your marriage. This does happen, and it’s important to have an emergency fund and employment opportunities on the back burner.

I love attachment parenting and will never regret the years when I was “just” Mom, not a freelancer juggling an intense work-from-home situation. But I’ll never forget the panicky feeling of “I need to make an income and I freakin’ don’t know how, and I’m afraid this ship is going to sink if something doesn’t change soon.”

A few years ago, a building contractor in our community, a young and healthy man, fell down from a ladder to his sudden and tragic death, leaving behind a widow and six children. The widow was devastated, but at least her established high-tech job enabled her to keep providing for her kids. Things were horrible for that family, but they could have been so, so much worse if the mom had had no education or employment opportunities.

Be safe. Protect yourself. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” had never gone wrong yet.

Our favorite rainy-day pastimes

Today, we spent the whole days indoors to the sounds of pelting rain and hail, only to climb up to the balcony in the afternoon and be rewarded by all this brilliancy – trees and rooftops freshly washed, clouds dispersing, and a glimmer of afternoon sunshine showing through.

I thought I’d share some of our favorite ways to cozy up on a too-cold, too-wet, too-windy, indoors-y day.

  1. Curl up with a book. If you know me even a little, you have probably guessed that would be a top favorite. Whether it’s a new treasure from the library or an old friend from the bookshelf, a book is always a win on a rainy day.
  2. Brew a cup of tea. Cold, rainy weather is perfect for warming teas. My favorite combos are cinnamon-cloves-nutmeg or ginger-lemon-aniseed.
  3. Pull out a board game or puzzle. We used to do that a lot by candlelight in our old home, where electricity during thunderstorms was more a pleasant surprise than something you can count on. Which brings me to…
  4. Light candles. There’s nothing like candles to brighten up a gloomy, dark day.
  5. Watch a movie or a favorite YouTube channel. I’m not a fan of too much screen time, but I do love to make dinner early and then free up an hour or two for a movie and snacks.
  6. Do crafts: my go-to is crochet, but anything goes – drawing or painting, gluing or making playdough, or going all out with modeling clay.
  7. Bake: can you think of a more perfect combo than a tray of cookies or homemade rolls, hot from the oven, and a rainstorm raging outside?
  8. Take a hot shower: now blessed to be living in an area where we can actually turn up the water heater without fearing a power outage, I love to hop into a hot shower, then into a pair of cozy pajamas, and then straight to bed.

I hope you are all enjoying the colder season – unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, of course, in which case you might be shopping for flip-flops and sunscreen while the rest of us huddle under quilts and hunt through the drawer for warm socks.

First rainy day

Rain has been a bit late to come this year, but today it fully made up for its tardiness. It poured and poured, and I was overjoyed we had taken the time to enjoy the lovely cooling weather the day before – because today, there was no poking one’s nose out of doors.

Being shut up at home made everyone get crafty. Shira whipped up this little red back warmer for one of our kittens.

Meanwhile, I improvised these cinnamon twists, sorted clothes, pulled coats, boots and umbrellas out of storage, and got the closet shelves ready for the season.

I know that some of my overseas friends are already shoveling snow, but my kids had been running around barefoot up until yesterday.

At some point, I will probably get tired of muddy boots, damp and the indoors, but for now I’m enjoying the change of seasons.

When little ones are sick: a re-post

I thought it would be nice to re-post this little throwback to four years ago.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

This week we’ve been struggling with a bout of flu that got all of the children in turn. As much as it pains me to see a little one sick, I consider this also an opportunity to slow down – which is especially important if I’m not at my best either – rest, unwind and do some quiet, enjoyable things there often isn’t enough time for:

Reading – listening to an interesting new story, or re-visiting an old friend of a book, is a soothing and relaxing activity that is perfectly suited for a day spent mostly in bed or on the couch. Older children can read quietly to themselves.

Crafts – drawing, stitching, beading and working with play-dough all stimulate the mind and creative senses without requiring too much physical exertion. Dress-up or building forts and hideouts with chairs and blankets are also fun.

Board games – pull out old favorites like Monopoly or Scrabble, or try something new. Forbidden Island is currently all the rage here.

Outdoor time – if the weather is nice, I see no reason to necessarily stay indoors. On the contrary, warm sunshine provides a cheering effect and may even help with nasal congestion. I do discourage sick children from “playing hard” – running, riding bikes, climbing trees, etc.

Outdoors we may also pick herbs to make medicinal tea and talk about their various healing properties, as well as of the importance of staying hydrated in general.

Movies – I like to restrict screen time, and especially so for sick children, because I find that prolonged staring into a screen is fatiguing, but a short cartoon or an educational video can be nice.

On days when the children don’t feel well, I usually dispense with school, but the girls may still choose to do some fun educational activities such as writing in their story notebooks.

The most important thing is to remember that this, too, shall pass. Slow down, allow everybody the time to rest and heal, and try not to mind the mess too much. There is always tomorrow for catching up with housework, gardening and lessons.

Living through another lockdown

I’m failing to keep up with what’s going on in the rest of the world, but Israel is going through another lockdown, and I feel like I’m nearing the end of my rope. I’m not alone, either.

Things are mostly closed, except for food and pharma. Places are shut up and businesses are going bust. COVID statistics are frightening. Hospitals are nearing maximum capacity and we’re all going to suffer from further overload.

There’s something profoundly unsettling about having to keep away from people – to meet a friend and then be restricted to talking awkwardly from a distance through a mask, without being able to give a hug.

No library. No swimming pool. But thankfully, the heat is letting up enough for us to plan some hiking and spending time in the open air during this week of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).

I have some friends who have taken this whole crappy period as an incentive to do lots of house remakes and upgrades. Me? I feel like I have weights on my arms and legs. I just slug through work, food prep, basic cleaning, and some reading and crochet to keep sane.

I keep counting my blessings. We’re all in good health. I

live in a large house with a yard, trees, chickens, etc. We have a large supply of books and craft supplies. There are plenty of educational and entertaining stuff on the Web. I work from home and have a flexible schedule.

How many people have it way, WAY harder?!

Still, I find it hard to shake off this heavy, heavy oppressive feeling. And I’m sending this post out there as a big virtual hug for all the people who feel the same.

Stay safe, guys. And stay sane. Hug your kids. Do that puzzle. Bake those cookies. Put on some music. Do whatever makes you feel good that isn’t totally unreasonable. Be kind to yourself. You’ve got this.