See my hands, hovering above the keyboard, about to touch-type something very witty and poetic at 65 WPM? See my fancy notebook and tidy pen cup? I'm clearly a 'professional working lady'.
But wait. Zoom out a bit.
This is 'the truth'. Now you can see the crayons, blunt pencils, bits of scrunched-up paper and Lego constructions. And that thing on the right that looks like a paper plate with a toothpaste box stuck to it with sticky tape? That's a "letterbox". Also, you may not be able see the porridge on my tights or the remote control car under the table, but they're there.
Okay, I admit it. I'm really a 'not-so-professional working lady'.
It has taken me nearly an hour to write 131 words. This is not because I have writers' block; it's because I stop typing every few minutes to shout things like "If you can't stop crashing that car into the wall, I'm going to sell it on eBay!" or "What's that smell? I said 30 seconds in the microwave, not 30 minutes!"
Working from home is great. I can take mornings off to go to BodyCombat, I don't have to attend any staff meetings, I never have to hear anyone say "Let's touch base later" or "Can you action this ASAP?" and I can't get the sack. Also, my office is active-wear friendly. So it's a perfect situation. Except in the school holidays.
My kids are generally pretty good at entertaining themselves -- they're six and eight, after all -- but as soon as I switch the computer on and position my fingers over ASDF and JKL; there is a DIRE EMERGENCY.
"Mum, can you undo this knot?"
"Mum, where's my special frog pen?"
"Mum, what's for tea?"
"Mum, look at how huge this piece of snot is!"
"Mum, feel my arm. I am so smooth."
Last week, I took the kids to see a movie. It was animated and rated G and contained no sexual tension whatsoever -- not really my genre -- so I thought I'd take my laptop along and get some work done. As the lights went down, I silently congratulated myself for being so organised and resourceful. Then the previews came on and I immediately forgot my password -- the very password I'd effortlessly typed in hundreds of times before. Twenty minutes and 18 combinations later, I admitted defeat. And, as I couldn't ring the IT department for some assistance, I had no choice but to watch the whole stupid movie. Lucky it was dark so nobody could see me scowling.
Every school holidays I get 'real job' envy. Proper working people get to wake up, put on clean clothes, kiss their children goodbye and dash off to air-conditioned offices. There, they are able to work, uninterrupted, for eight hours -- no stopping to blow up balloons or discuss yo-yo techniques -- and, if they're lucky, dinner will be ready when they get home.
Sometimes, I tell my kids that I am going to work. I brush my hair, make myself a Nescafe, say "Goodbye!" in an official way and take my computer into the dining room. Unfortunately, they are not fooled by this charade, and instead treat it as an invitation to come with me and commence a recount of the entire plot of 'Hotel Transylvania 2'.
I guess there are several things I could do:
1) Get a real job.
2) Stop taking on freelance work during the holidays.
3) Ignore the kids between nine and five.
A 'real job' might have perks -- free Post-it Notes and the like -- but if I had one I'd have to organise and pay for some kind of childcare. If I stopped taking on freelance work during the holidays, I'd have to sell more than the remote-control car on eBay. And if I ignored the kids, they would probably spend time acquiring pet magpies, painting the furniture and getting in some match-lighting practice.
So I think I might as well stick with the present arrangement.
Look at this:
It's now 9:52 pm, and I am writing in bed. I didn't get this piece finished earlier because, as well as listening to movie plots and pretending to be impressed with snot, I also washed the dishes (twice), went to the supermarket, took the kids to the park, put some washing on, cooked dinner, read to the kids, hung out the washing and watched television.
And, to be honest, I'm now too tired to bother writing a thoughtful conclusion. So I will just say this: working from home during the school holidays is completely inefficient and entirely frustrating. I can only hope that in 20 years I'll look back on this time with great fondness. Maybe in my nostalgic mind I will picture the summer holidays like this:
And, if I'm lucky, the kids will too.