Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just In: Work At Home Productivity Down 95%

Every night when my husband comes home from work, we exchange our daily routine banter. He asks, “So, how was your day? What did you do?” I regale him with stories about the past 10 hours, which no doubt include way too many details for him, and after me talking for about 15 minutes solid his eyes are a little glassy and he’s already onto his second beer, and he wraps it up with, “So. You wrote the table of contents for your book. That’s great.”

When I stop to think about what I accomplished, which is to say, what I actually wrote down or edited or drafted, it occurs to me that it never really sounds like much at all.

But I always feel so busy! I didn’t even leave the house, not even to check the mail or take the kids to the bus, instead telling them to “walk in the rain; it gives you character. I’ve got to get some work done.” I felt like my ass was strapped to my chair for eight hours, my brain working on overdrive for about 10. How had I only accomplished one little blog? Or one small article? Or one little Letter of Introduction? Do I have multiple personalities that black out sections of time, while my second persona goes shopping, has lunch out, and gets her nails done? Where the hell is my day going?

Well, as I type this I realize now where it’s going. My day is going to that three-year old time-vacuum. The one sitting in the other room right now watching Curious George and eating her breakfast on the couch, no doubt smearing banana hands on my furniture.

When we were finishing the lower level in our house, it was my brilliant idea to create the playroom right off the office space. That way, thought I, my youngest can happily play with her fabulous toys while I sit at my drafting table and write feverishly, churning out loads of novels, websites, blogs, and essays that are thoroughly researched and highly entertaining. She will be happy. And I will be happy. And I’ll have mastered the stay-at-home-work-at-home conundrum.

Yeah. That happened.

My daughter has no desire to play with her toys for more than 10 minutes at most, and then she’s at my drafting table opening the drawers so she can scale my desk and try to sit on my lap while I work. Which if you’ve seen how much clearance I have behind my desk, or know that my chair is a bar stool whose legs we sawed off to fit the height of the drafting table rendering my chair ineffective for moving in and out, you’d understand that what she’s trying to accomplish is a little bit like a circus elephant trying to sit on the shoulders of a tight rope walker without her falling to her death.  

Here was my morning; aka, a typical writing day for me when my daughter is home:

  • Sit down at computer. Open email, begin reading email. Spend 10 minutes reading and responding to email.
  • Daughter wakes up. Must comfort and love on daughter so she’s not in a bad mood. Lop her onto the couch and put on Curious George which buys about 10 minutes.
  • Go back to computer. Close email and go over list of things I need to accomplish today; 1. Finish an article, 2. Continue editing book project, 3. blog.
  • “Mom! I’m hungry! Can I have bwekfast?” child yells from TV room.
  • Get up from computer to make toaster waffle with cream cheese, half a banana, and glass of orange juice. While I’m in kitchen I pull out crock pot and cans of beans to make chili for dinner. Serve child breakfast in front of TV like bad American Mother.
  • Sit back down at computer, open up article to work on. Read through article to figure out where I’m going to add information in and begin to think. Yes, I actually need time to think about stuff.
  • “Mom! Look look!”  “WHAT?” I yell from office. “Look! I finished my bwekfast! Can I have more?” “More of what?” I yell. “More bwekfast! Come here!” she yells back.
  • Get up again, gather child’s plate, get her another waffle another banana, deliver food, and head back to computer.
  • Where was I? Oh, yes. Thinking. Thinking about my article and trying to be creative. I have about five minutes.
  • “Mom! I hafta go to the bathroom!” “Then GO!” I yell. “WHAT?” she yells back. “GO! TO THE BATHROOM!” I yell again. Note that we’re not yelling in anger just for distance, because Curious George is loud and getting out of my office seat eats up time
  • “Mom! I’m done going to the bathroom! I need help!”
  • Swivel-tilt-my chair back, climb out of my creative corner (that hasn’t seen a creative thing yet today) and help child in bathroom.
  • “Do you have to poop? I ask. “No.” She answers. “ARE YOU SURE?” I inquire again. She nods yes. Fine. She must wash her own hands. With lots of soap. She must rinse her own hands. One finger at a time. She must turn off the water, grab the towel, and hit the light switch with no help from me, but I must be physically present.
  • Swivel-Tilt-Adjust myself back in corner. Re-read article for the third time. Okay. Think. Start writing. Feel a groove coming on, a hint at productivity, silence from the other room propels me forward, and dare I say I’m feeling like I might be able to…
  • “Mom! I hafta go to the bathroom!” my daughter yells. “You JUST WENT!” I yell back. “No! I hafta go POOP!” she retorts. “I ASKED IF YOU HAD TO GO POOP BUT YOU TOLD ME NO!” I quip loudly.
  • Passive-Aggressively leave desk and bruise hip and thigh on corner, a good Karmic sign that I need to not be passive-aggressive with my three-year-old. Because peeing and pooping are clearly two separate activities and must not be performed at the same time, when one is already on the pot doing the other, even if convenience and logic tells you otherwise. Different exit areas, different results, different activities. Duh.

And on continues my day, in two and three minute increments. I write in between picking up the toy room so she can find the accessories to her ponies, getting out paint, brushes, and water so she can decorate little wooden hearts and bird houses, throwing a load of laundry in because the other children who live here are out of underwear…. (“Mom!! Mommy! Mah-Mah!” She just yelled. “Are you almost done?? You said you would come check on me!” Do you see what I mean?) and not that I even have time to put it in the dryer let a lone fold it because suddenly it’s lunch time, and I must go scrape together something halfway healthy for her noon meal, which is particularly difficult because we need to go shopping today as we have no food, but we don’t get paid until tomorrow. Mother Sucker.

When I die I have decided to have the following epitaph inscribed on my tombstone:

Here Lies Rachel Vidoni
Tired Dead Mother But Never an Author
She Hopes Her Children Are Happy
Now She Has Time To Think

I’ve been sitting at this computer for an hour and a half, and this is what I’ve got? It could have been better readers. But I must move onto to my next task. Just so I have something to tell my husband when he comes home. 


Megan said...

I have just given you two minutes back in your day with this nugget of wisdom - make her two waffles the first time, then she won't ask again and even if she doesn't eat it- it was worth it.

You're welcome.

Rachel said...

Megan, your time managment skills are truly first rate! It's no wonder you are such a successful business woman-I could learn a lot hanging around a woman like you! Thanks for the tips..not just that one, but ALL the ones you've given me lately! Seriously, I appreciate your feedback. And sadly? Making her two waffles the first time didn't really occur to me. :)

tracirabin said...

Thanks for the laughs! Oh & by the way, I will call my mom & thank her.

p.s. you're a good mom!