Juggling, and the holidays

It has come to my attention that normal working people, in other words those who did not work from home until the pandemic hit, had a great deal of trouble fitting in all the “extras” that the holiday season seems to insist on us performing on top of their regular duties. Even if we no longer put up elaborate decorations, send Christmas cards, or do a lot of visiting, there was still a strain on the budget and on your time for the absolute holiday necessities… To which you could add guilt for not doing all the other things you thought you ought to be doing.

As someone who quit the 9-to-5 rat race 12 years ago and is now self-employed I can imagine the pain of the newly-working-from-home dealing with the unexpected insanity of trying to have themselves a Merry Little Christmas on a nonexistent time budget. Working from home is a lot like being self-employed. A wise person once described self-employment as the following: you get to work half days, and you get to choose which 12 hours! From the outside people think that working from home means you have unlimited time and extra leisure. The reality is anything but.

First of all, there are distractions. If there is one thing I miss about my former life is a wage slave it was the fact that occasionally I could go to an office and people would actually leave me alone and let me work. Those of you with children who are also home have discovered just how distracting they can be. If you’re a frustrated homemaker you have discovered that working-from-home does not mean extra time to do decorating and crafting projects. Far from it. Housework, it is said, will expand to fill the existing time allotted for it. It is also an excellent distraction from the work you should be doing for your employer.

You see, there is the matter of no one being at home to push you – except yourself. If you were already a self-starter this might not be much of an issue for you, but if you miss the structure of the workday and the work week it might be huge deal. Writers (and editors – I’m both) are familiar with the term “cat waxing” to describe doing stuff you don’t really need to do to avoid doing the stuff you don’t feel like doing. Yes, gentle readers, that is my favorite term for our human tendency use busywork to avoid things we don’t wanna get to.

Add to this what many people are discovering: some bosses assume that since you were commuting to work and you’re now telecommuting, you have more time. Plus some bosses seem to think you’re probably goofing off so they must ride herd on you to make certain you’re not a slacker. Example: one of my sons was doing 14-hour days when he started working from home due to Covid-19. He’s managed to get it down to 12 hours a day. The boss thinks this is perfectly reasonable, but he wouldn’t if my son were showing up at an actual office. My son longs for the good old days of reasonable office hours.

Some of us may not get those employer offices back, either. One of my sisters (recently) and my brother (three years ago) were told that they would be working from home from now on. Neither employer wanted to pay for office space that now seemed an unnecessary expense. (Note: post pandemic office spaces will be harder to rent.)

My third sister in Sweden and I have been working from home for quite some time. She’s a musician and music producer, and – like me – has trouble fitting everything into a normal day because we’re ambitious and work hard. Add the holidays to that and where do you fit in the baking, the parties (Note: no more office parties, at least not this year for my siblings in America), the gift-buying, decorating, etc.?

So here’s the solution most of the people I know who are working from home during the pandemic are coming up with. They pare down family traditions. They buy baked good instead of making them. They buy gifts online (some places will even wrap them for you) and have them delivered instead of visiting. They don’t just do Zoom meetings; they Skype or use Facebook videochat, or WhatsApp to visit with family. They isolate themselves further.

All of the above are good coping mechanisms, up to a point. But take it from me, you’re not going to be satisfied with the lack of human contact if this goes on for too long. Trust me, I’ve lived it. People need community, friends, family. The sooner things get back to us being able to interact safely, the better. And if your job has become telecommute only, there go many friendships where you ate lunch together, any chances at an office romance. (God – this is taking me back to when I went to college online! Talk about lonely…)

I guess what I am trying to say is that you’re now also going to have to WORK at having a social life and human contact.

As if you’re not busy enough. Merry Christmas.