The Rockwood Files: Dirty Laundry at the Office

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and Motherlode mama of 3

It’s just another typical day at the office. As I type these words, I can hear my office mates down the hall. They’re searching for the bubblegum-flavored toothpaste, opening drawers and cabinets, and coming up empty. “Mom, where’s the toothpaste?” So I stop my work mid-sentence and jog down the hall to hand them the tube of toothpaste that was right there in the top drawer the whole time.

Now, back to work. I get two more paragraphs cranked out and reply to some new e-mail messages that just showed up in my inbox. That’s when I hear the low hum of the clothes dryer stop. So I jump up from my desk chair, walk six steps due south and empty the warm shirts into a clothes basket. Got to get them on hangers before they wrinkle.

Five minutes later, I’m back. Now, where was I? Oh yes, third paragraph. Admittedly, it’s probably not the most efficient way to work – stopping to change loads of laundry and find toothpaste – but it’s a reality for me and lots of other people who work from home. It’s nearly 9 p.m. and while most people are winding down toward bedtime, I’ve got about two more hours here at the keyboard to get the big stuff done on time. When you work from home, you learn to work when conditions are most conducive and, for me, that’s after our three kids have gone to bed. Daytime hours are broken up by school drop-off, pick-up, lunchtime, snack time, diaper time, etc.

Lots of people think working from home is an ideal situation, and it certainly does have its perks. Nobody around here even bats an eye if I show up in my pajamas and make a few business calls before I even brush my hair. And I can stop at any point during my workday, grab my toddler and blow a raspberry on her stomach just to make her giggle. It’s definitely one of the better fringe benefits of clocking in at a home office and it’s the main reason I choose this particular brand of professional chaos.

On the other hand, it’s really frustrating when home stuff keeps interrupting your work flow. Especially in the writing process, it’s easy for me to abandon a tough project because the dishwasher needs to be loaded or the towels need to be folded. At home, there’s always something else you could be doing instead of what you’re supposed to be doing.

Conversely, working from home is also kind of like being stalked by your own job. When it’s time to relax and get your mind off business, there it is – calling you from the next room. “Hey there! Here I am! It’s me, your office inbox brimming full of things to get done for work. Don’t forget you’ve got a million things to do. I’m watching you, waiting for you.” Ugh. Sometimes it would be nice to put at least a few city blocks between me and that demanding pile of paperwork.

But if I did that then I wouldn’t be here to use my coffee break time to play a rousing game of Chutes & Ladders or to let the cable guy in sometime between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon. And of course the shirts would sit in the dryer until they’re more wrinkled than they were at the bottom of the clothes hamper. If I was at an office across town, my kids might never find that tube of toothpaste and then their teeth would rot out of their heads. We can’t have that.