It’s 9 a.m. on Monday morning and I’m well into my third cup of coffee. It’s just the start of the workday for most, but since my desk is a mere 20 feet from the bed, I started answering emails around 7 a.m.
It’s been just a few months since I started working from home full-time. I was laid off from a job that I loved and in order to pick up the pieces of my shattered life, I started freelancing to offset some of the bills piling up. It’s not ideal, but I’ve come to love the freedom of creating my own schedule and hitting deadlines of my own making.
Luckily, I’m not going at it alone. For just over two years now I’ve been sharing rent, grocery bills and laundry duty with my boyfriend (who in July became my fiancé).
The last few weeks of working in my PJs have been blissful. But I quickly noticed that since I’m home more often, I began pulling a lot more weight around the house – cooking every night, cleaning up and running errands. I didn’t think too much of it until my fiancé started asking me to do these menial tasks throughout the day; tasks that we usually reserve for Sunday afternoons. Together.
One night it was "Oh, can you vacuum tomorrow? It’s been a while.” The next day it was a pile of laundry we didn’t do that weekend.
Like with any job, I go through waves of work throughout the day. And unlike others who sit in an office and get face time with co-workers, I can whip up a quesadilla on my cast iron skillet (a favorite) or catch up on last night’s reality show during lunch (don’t hate me).
I have no problem cleaning up when I’ve got the time, but after just a few months of working from home, it somehow became expected that I was going to be the one cooking dinner every night. Because I’m home all day, and what else would I be doing?
Here’s the thing: I love my fiancé more than anything in the world and know that I’m extremely lucky. Because yes, he actually knows how to clean up the kitchen, can take out the trash when I ask (there’s a really scary stairwell) and was the first person to teach me the importance of separating out laundry.
And big picture: these little tasks in our one-bedroom apartment aren’t that big of a deal. But the thing that really irks me is that he doesn't appreciate my time spent at home, working and fulfilling my dreams of becoming a writer. Right now I need more support than ever. And he isn’t getting it.
Despite the number of articles I’ve published since my dreaded last day at the dream job, I’ve gotten the sense that he thinks I don’t do a whole lot until he gets home.
Mostly because I think that he considers "the workplace" to be an office with co-workers, and time spent at home to be your “free time.”
Here’s the thing: I’m not the only one whose spouse/significant other/friend is making that assumption about working from home. Every day, stay-at-home moms everywhere have to deal with similar stereotypes — they’re at home all day, and are required to do way more work than throw a few lousy words on paper. They actually have humans to take care of and homes to maintain.
More and more people are reinventing the workplace, and I’m one of them. Despite the fact that my desk is in my living room, my day is packed with emails, phone calls, pitches and research just like any other – I just might get the chance to finish baking those muffins for tomorrow’s dinner party.
I want him to understand working from home still means that I’m working…like actually trying my best so that we can keep taking vacations, enjoying date nights and seeing friends. Because I like cooking dinner and keeping our home clean, I just don’t want it to be expected of me and me only now that I’m home more.
Of course, just like in any regular old office with cubicles, a water cooler and that crazy boss, communication is key.
In the end, we got talking about what we hoped our roles would be as future husband and wife. My fiancé doesn’t expect the ‘50s housewife, and I don’t expect someone who isn’t going to help out in the kitchen.
He needs to understand there’s still a separate space for home time and work time. While I don’t need to commute anymore or pack my lunch in the morning, I’m still pulling the same hours as anyone with an office. There’s just a vacuum in the closet instead of extra stacks of printer paper.