The stages of working from home

I've had a remote work position for the last year and a half. I had never planned on working from home, but the position seemed to make sense for me career wise and happened to be in another state. Rather than uproot my entire family to take the position, working remotely allowed me to take the position and keep my family where they were. I think sometimes people confuse what it is I do, with some flexible working arrangement because I work from my house. However, I have a full time job, with big (sometimes) responsibilities, and a lot of work to do each and every day. The misunderstanding is more my issue than anyone else's though, so I'll leave that alone. I travel to my company's headquarters roughly one week a month, and those trips help me to feel more connected to the people I talk to on the phone when I'm home. They also remind me that working from my home is both good and bad. It took me several months to adjust to the routine of working from home, I think I went through stages of acceptance in order to come to the steady state I enjoy today.

Stage One: Oh This is Awesome
Duration: 1 week
At first I had many thoughts about working from home: I have no commute, I don't have to get dressed up, I can work in my sweaty running clothes if I want to, life is wonderful.

Stage Two: This Sucks
Duration: 3 months
After a short honeymoon period, the reality of what it meant to commute 10 feet from my kitchen into our home office started to set in. My main contact with people I wasn't related to started to be over the phone. I had lost the daily office niceties of passing colleagues in the hall, and eating lunch with other people. Gone were beer Fridays, corporate meetings I attended in person, and random quarterly celebrations with free food. Gone was not having to set up meetings with your closest colleagues because you sat across from each other and could have quick brainstorming sessions using the white board in your cubicle. Gone was wasting time rehashing random things that happened over the weekend or who you liked best on The Voice. Gone was the social life that surrounds working in an office. During this stage I often fantasized about how long I would have to keep this job so it didn't look like I was jumping before giving it a chance. I didn't know people at the corporate headquarters well enough to actually feel like I was in the loop with what was happening when I wasn't physically there.

Stage Three: This is okay
Duration: 3 months
After deciding that I hated working from home, but also deciding that I wanted to put more effort into being successful in my job I mostly made peace with the situation. I went through a phase of putting effort into dressing up each day, even if I was just going to sit in my home office all day. It made me feel more like I was at work, and that was something that helped to give my days more structure. I also started to have an understanding of what it was I was going to do in my job - this more than anything else likely saved my ability to work from home. My position had been more or less created for me, but it wasn't firmly bounded. I had to do a lot of searching to figure out where I could add the most value, and then poke that understanding with how others viewed my role. There was a good deal of trial and error - still is, but eventually I found my way.

Stage Four: I would hate working in an office again
Duration: 1 year and going
After making peace with remote working, I found that I loved it. Well I loved it until summer came and my oldest child who is too old for daycare started being home with me, but that is another story. I stopped dressing like I was going into an office - though to be fair at best from home I dressed as though it was always casual Friday. I save my former work outfits for when I travel to the company headquarters. The bad part about this is that my former heel loving self is now very fond of flip flops and casual boots. I find that my feet don't love to wear heels when I travel now because I'm not used to wearing them - unless you count my wedge Teva flip flops (they don't count). I've also found ways to be as productive as possible from home, and thankfully from places that have free wifi when I just need a change of scenery. I've found that my favorite way to make phone calls is with the simple headphones and in-line microphone on my iPhone ear buds attached to my work iPhone. I learned that I needed to turn off the audible alert for new email messages on that phone because those alerts were audible to the rest of the people on my many calls too. I also learned how to walk away from the home office at 5 pm, which is actually pretty easy since my Eastern time zone coworkers are all long done with working by then. There are still days where I wish I had the distraction of a coworker downstairs to complain about something to, but then I call one of my colleagues and can do the same thing.

When I think about the next step in my career path, I think it is highly likely that it will be another remote working opportunity. I want to take on a greater degree of responsibility in my chosen field, and it is highly unlikely that I will find something in my current metro area. I'm glad I have made peace with working from home, even if sometimes I do still miss the comfort of office life. I think for me going to an office was a false veil of productivity - where from home you really have yourself and the work with no easy distractions at every corner. That was painful at first, but now it is freeing and a little painful if I'm completely honest.


Enjoying the wonder

I get so caught up in what we need to be doing, where we need to be, when our schedule has us arriving/departing, and who we need to be with. Sometimes it feels like I'm not choosing any of the things that fill our days. Then I remember, that I have control over all of the who/what/where/when, and that I created most of the busy in my life. It is easy to make excuses about why we can't make time to be with our friends, or why we can't spend an evening doing exactly what the kids want to do. Why is it so easy to forget to stop and enjoy the beautiful world around us? We surround ourselves with screens, and we focus on status updates from friends rather than actually connecting and doing the things we know will fill our souls.

The other night my kids came rushing in the house and asked if one of us would take them to the beach. T was having none of it, but as I sat there with the first word on my lips being "no," I asked myself why I wanted to say no. I thought for a few moments, and decided to say yes. So we went, the kids and two of their neighbor friends got in my car and we were at the beach just 15 minutes later. They didn't want to stay that long, but they got to swim, they got to take videos in the water with the GoPro camera, and they loved it. I sat on the beach and stared at my phone mostly, but after a while I put the phone down (aside from taking some pictures) and just enjoyed the quiet peaceful evening with the sounds of happy kids filling the air. 

The beach

Sunset at the beach
Every once in a while I need a reminder that there is more to life than all of the busy we have created for our family. When we drop all of the busy and let ourselves experience the wonder in the world around us I think it fills our souls more than any soccer practice ever could. Our world is an amazing place. There is so much to see, so much to do, and there is so much to experience if we can open our eyes to it. I want to do a better job of slowing down and enjoying the world around me. When I do, I always experience something deep inside my being, and it makes me feel alive. It doesn't even have to be hard to see the wonder. If we are open to it, we see that there is wonder all around us. Even landing back home from a work trip is filled with wonder. What led me to take pictures of clouds from an airplane window? I think it is because when you let yourself appreciate the world, you see beauty in almost everything.

Clouds - my view from an airplane last week
 Sometimes taking your son to the creek because he asked you to, is the best thing you can do. We both get something different out of the experience, we both experience our own sense of wonder. The only way we really pass this gift onto our children is by actually enjoying it for yourself. If my children see me checking my phone constantly, and not really present they will learn to ignore the wonder all around them just like I did. It might take a good deal of retraining, but I know I can find the wonder around me more and more every single day. I hope they can see it too.
J enjoying the wonder that is a rapidly moving creek


Finding the right team

Soccer in our state is open for players to move around to different clubs, provided that each player commits to just one club for each season. This freedom is a blessing for many, but a curse for some too. With choice comes the obligation of choosing. All along both of my children have played for the club in our city, and it has been fine more or less even though I get caught up in the politics and get mad about some of the decisions that are made. I haven't been mad enough to leave, even though we have watched some really great families do just that - for valid reasons. The draw of a club that holds practices walking distance from your house is very strong for us.

J at U9

At the end of the summer season last year was the first time I started to entertain the possibility of our kids playing elsewhere. When I picked J up from evaluations (deciding at the end of July which team your child will be placed on for a season starting the following May) he was upset. He said that he didn't know why they bothered with evaluations because they already knew who was on the top team (not him). He said that the top team kids didn't pass to him at all during the evaluation scrimmages, so he never got any opportunity to show what he could do. I didn't watch the evals, so he might have been right, or he might have been exaggerating, but he was visibly deflated. This came after a season in which he hated going to soccer at all. He had some good friends on the team, and I think that was the only reason we got him to finish out the season.

That ride home with J, was the primary reason we enrolled J in a private soccer coaching academy. He very much wanted to improve, and hadn't had any real coaching to do so over his previous few seasons. You could see the disparity pretty clearly between the top team who had just won state at a level higher than J's team played at and the half of J's team who actually showed up at all for evaluations. The kids who knew they would make the top team, and the kids who felt like it was a waste of their time to even be there. That was pretty much how it played out too. One player from J's team made the top team, but the remaining handful were placed on a half roster with the assumption that somehow enough boys would be found to fill out a team by the following spring. I was relieved that J had the soccer academy coaching to look forward to. He finally got good coaching to help him with skills he wasn't proficient at, and he got lots of opportunities to play soccer throughout the year.

I wrote in my last post about this soccer season, so I won't rehash the details here. However, we are nearing the end of the season and it is time to look forward. There is still a top team/bottom team problem in the club, and it is more pronounced because they move to U13 and 11v11 in the fall. Both teams need bigger rosters to cope with a bigger field. For the most part I think that kids from our city leave our club for other clubs, so magically attracting enough boys to fill out two rosters is likely a long shot. I found myself looking up evaluation schedules for neighboring clubs because of this fact. J might make the top team this time around, but I'm not sure I want him to. When the options are make the top team and deal with not really feeling like you are part of the team, or being on the leftover roster that will hopefully fill in with enough boys to play it seems like a simple choice to find a different club to play for.

It isn't a simple choice to leave though. We went to our city's fireworks last night where we sat with 3 different soccer families. At one point I looked up and J was sitting with 5 or 6 of his teammates laughing and having a great time. If we leave nothing really changes for the club, J is just a name taking up a roster spot or not. I don't think they would even ask us why we left. I've asked J what he wants, and ultimately he just wants to play with his friends. He only wants to go to another club if his friends do too. He doesn't want to be on a leftover roster either though. He loves soccer, and he wants to play on a team filled with kids who love to play as much as he does. I'm still not sure what we will do, but I hope that either way J continues to love playing as much as he does right now. I also hope that I can keep it about what J wants, and not what my ego wants for him.