Out of necessity, I’ve worked from my home for many years. Working from home has its pluses and its minuses. On the plus side, I don’t have to conform to someone else’s codes of conduct in the workplace. I don’t have a dress code. I can take as many breaks as I want. If I want to clip my nails at my desk, I will. I don’t, but I could. Nail clipping is annoying, no matter who does it. Sometimes my workspace looks a lot like my kitchen counter and sometimes it looks like my home office. Mostly it looks like a corner of the couch, in the living room, with the television on. The only thing I can’t really control is a deadline. I still have deadlines. And from the moment I became a freelancer, I have tried to come to terms with deadlines. The closer the deadline is, the harder I work. Deadlines are inspiration. Or so I tell myself.
Today, Sunday, my office is in my bedroom and I have a seven-and-a-half-year-old assistant. She knows the game plan because she’s worked with me before when she’s visited on a weekend. However, as her adults work in offices away from home, I’m not sure she has truly grasped the idea of “working from home”. So, we had “the meeting” whereby I tell my grandfriend that I do have to work and that I don’t want to have too many disruptions. She said she understood and, more or less, agreed to the terms—but she is in grade two and has a lot of energy.
“I am a sports-girl and a vegetarian,” she tells me, as she does a kind of repeated bum-drop on the side of the bed and then begins to sing something that sounds like Material Girl. I’m not sure she understands the subtle nuances of being a vegetarian but, personally, I sort of wish it meant she didn’t have quite as much energy.
And the singing? There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about the singing, especially if some of the words are very funny. All in all, having an assistant isn’t a bad thing, especially when it’s a “grandfriend,” but it isn’t easy, either.
Over the years, as often as my grandfriend and I have worked together, I’ve learned that she likes to take a lot of breaks, which usually involve me stopping whatever I’m doing to “break” with her. Taking breaks usually means I have to help find the Quik, help pour the milk (because the milk carton is too big and five ounces of milk looks like someone drained the swamp when it hits the floor).
Taking a break includes me suggesting the upside of using a serviette under the brownies and not pretending to hug me when you’re really just wiping icing off your fingers onto the back of my hoodie. Occasionally, I have to provide a reminder that jumping on the bed or pillow-tossing is a bit distracting. Also, giggling, snotty-nose-bubbles, burping and armpit farts are creative and funny but, again, distracting. This weekend, only once, while bum-bouncing and singing, did she fly off the bed and maybe said a word that she shouldn’t have heard (in the first place) or repeated with such conviction when she hit the floor. I may, or may not, have stifled a snicker knowing where she probably heard that word.
This weekend, because I have an assistant, I’ve decided to scrap my original idea for this column in favour of writing about the chaos that is my life as it’s happening. As I’m typing these words, my assistant is, now, sounding out some the words in the first paragraph. The word “counter” didn’t get the “ow” sound it deserved and, once again, I have to stifle a snort. By the time I stop laughing she’s zoomed ahead to tell me that “fart” is a bad word and she doesn’t think that Rick should let me use that word in “the story”. For all of you who have conventional jobs and long for the the laid-back work-at-home experience, be careful what you wish for. There’s always a catch.