My boss gave me a heads’ up that I should be prepared to work from home for the rest of the calendar year. Given the recent decisions by most school districts in our area to start the year with “remote” classes and the overall numbers and autumn forecasts for Covid-19, I was expecting this, but when it became “sort of” official I still had a moment of startled ‘whaaa?!’
I like working from home and if you’d asked me a year ago, I would have said that having a home office would be a major life improvement. And in many ways, that’s what I’ve found it to be. My life feels way more balanced – no commutes, and the gains in my physical health are undeniable. I’m taking better care of myself, I have more time to spend with my daughter and with my partner, and more time for my own needs.
Every time my company has pushed out the goalpost of “back to the office”, I’ve been relieved. But even though it’s not really a surprise, and it’s the right / sane choice, this is the first time I did not have that secret “yay / whew” feeling. Instead I felt very unprepared and conflicted. The end of the calendar year? That means I’ll be sitting in this home office when the leaves outside the window are drifting off the trees, and when darkness starts to fall in the afternoon. I’ll be sitting in my home office when kids in Halloween costumes come kicking down the street (if there is a trick or treat this year) and I’ll still be sitting in this home office for the first snowstorms. I won’t be worried about snowy commutes but if I take time off around Christmas, my computer will be right down the hall so will it really feel like time off?
In general, I do feel more anxious now than I did at the beginning of the pandemic. I don’t know if this is a delayed reaction, or whether my recent work stresses have had more of an impact than they usually would, or if I just worry more because it’s harder to compartmentalize with everything under one roof – work, love, education, family, pets, finances, chores, entertainment, escapism, etc. I worry about yet again trying to balance Miss L’s educational needs in a remote school scenario with my work responsibilities. I worry that I’m not as good of an employee as I was when I had to show up at an office every day. I worry about distractions and I worry about keeping all those plates spinning. And there’s an undeniable sense of isolation. Even as an introvert, going into the office exposed me to other working parents, juggling the same concerns I was. And there was a sense that I was keeping my head above water the same as everyone else. Skype meetings are not enough to replace that.
I also feel guilty for having conflicted feelings about this. If I had to go back next week, I’d have major problems. The good thing is that among all those worries, I don’t have to worry that I’m being called back to a workplace where I don’t feel safe, and that I can be here for Miss L. Those are very good things indeed, and as far as the rest, I’ll just have to figure it out as I go.