Monday, May 18, 2009

Work-At-Home Dad

Ryan started working from home again this fall and, for the most part, we both love it.  But at the same time, we both see the downsides, too.  I know, we are conflicted people.  In case you're contemplating the same move, here are the pros and cons of working from home.

Pro:  It's cheaper.  We are saving roughly $500 a month by not having to pay for an office, including not just the rent but also the required liability insurance, internet connection, and cell phone minutes.

Con:  Money abhors a vacuum.  If there is extra money floating around, expenses instantly pop up.  In our case, we took on a car payment that pretty much negates any extra savings we could have done.  I'd rather have a second car and no office, but I'd really rather have a second car, no office, AND $500 in savings.  

Pro:  Ryan is here when the kids come home from school.  He gets to see them all the time, not just in the evenings.  He's part of their everyday experience.  Ryan's top priority has always been the family, which I appreciate to no end, and working from home is kind of putting his money where his mouth is.  There are so, so many days when I wish I had a job just so I could get a break from the kids that it's even more impressive that, given the chance to escape, he still chose to be home.  I guess I choose to be home, too, but I think for him it's going the extra mile.

Con:  Ryan is here when the kids come home from school.  He has to see them all the time, not just in the evenings.  He's part of their everyday experience.  This means that he's here for the homework battles, the random tantrum throwing, the whining and crying, the massive hordes of children stampeding through the house.  This has its own pro and con:  it's great that Ryan knows exactly what I go through every day, and can empathize, but I don't get a fresh relief parent at 6 p.m. who is excited to see his kids for the first time that day.  Ryan's as worn out by dinner time as I am some days, and that's tough.   

Pro:  Freedom.  Ryan's schedule is quite flexible lately (which was not the case the first time he worked from home) and so he is able to play a lot more.  And as a result, I get to play more, too.  We've taken the boys to movies right after school and he'll take a day off and do something fun with the family when the kids are home.  

Con:  Lack of structure.  This is a minor con, since we're still enjoying the freedom.  But to enjoy the freedom, there has to be some measure of restraint, and our pendulum swings back and forth on this one.  

Pro:  Ryan's available to help.  I absolutely adore being able to get errands done, groceries bought, occasional free time to myself smack in the middle of the day while Darcey's napping.  He helps ferry kids to and from baseball practice.  I don't take the kids with me when I visit teach, or volunteer at the school.  My life is so much easier this time around, and this is the biggest pro for me.

Con:  Ryan's available to judge.  Back in the old days, I would have a 5:00 deadline for having the house and myself be semi-presentable, because that's when he would come home from work.  No matter that at 4:30 I hadn't yet showered, the floor was littered with smashed animal cookies and the kitchen looked like a troop of angry elves stormed through and ripped everything from my cupboards.  By 5:00, I would have gotten dressed, swept the cookie crumbs, and shoved the kitchen detritus into garbage bags to hide in the garage until I could actually clean.  Nowadays, Ryan's likely to walk upstairs for a surprise inspection at any random moment.  Any time I don't know what Darcey's doing, that's when Ryan's most likely to need a drink of water, and I can see from his face as he walks up the stairs that whatever Darcey's been doing, it wasn't good.  Or clean.  This happens roughly 4 or 5 times a day.  Strangely, he never needs to pop upstairs when I'm juggling 4 kids' needs while cooking dinner, or when I'm cleaning up after some disaster he didn't witness.  No, he seems to never catch me doing good, he only seems to catch me neglecting the kids while I do something pointless.  So even though he's home all day and can theoretically understand what I'm going through, I think he still has a skewed sense of my reality.

Pro:  No annoying co-workers.  None that he could fire, anyways.  

Con:  No social interaction with anyone outside of the family.  Ryan's not the most social creature, so this isn't as painful as it is for others, I'm sure.  But the isolation is painful enough that he actively looks for reasons to leave the house and interact with others.  I say this as a con, but really, it's probably spawned another pro:  He's going out of his way to do things with friends, instead of having his only interaction be with coworkers.  He's playing tennis with a friend every week.  He's getting involved with a local Star Wars fan group.  He's being forced to seek social interaction, instead of accepting whatever falls in his lap.  

All in all, having Ryan work from home has been the right choice for us.  I have realized that where Ryan works can be as much about lifestyle choice as it is about convenience or commute time.   And the overarching pro to the whole situation is that Ryan's happy.  That makes up for all sorts of cons.


Anonymous said...

Very well put! Yes, you are right, I don't see any of your shining moments during the day. Next time you are in the middle of one, send a kid down to fetch me so I can come and admire!

Emilayohead said...

You better believe I will! :)

Luisa said...

He's not social? I totally didn't get that.

(Even funnier then that you are the activity committee chairpeople!)