Does anyone really work in their PJs?

At the end of last week I had one of those perfect ‘pick-me-up’ moments that are sadly becoming increasingly rare in the freelance feature writing game.

At least in my (recent) experience, when sometimes even actually getting paid for completed work can be an uphill struggle.

A lovely commissioning editor I work with emailed to let me know when an article I’d written for her magazine would be running and added that the editor apparently loved the piece I’d penned.

Isn’t it amazing how a two-line email can brighten your day?! And after a week when I’d been struck down by some dreaded virus from hell, making juggling work and the little people much trickier than usual, her timing couldn’t have been better.

Anyway all this, plus several days’ experience of trying to type cogent copy with a raging temperature and limited childcare, got me thinking about the big list of pros and cons that adds up to working from home.

It goes without saying that when you’ve always commuted to an office, the idea of running a business from inside your own house sounds incredibly indulgent. After all you don’t have to go out in the pouring rain and cold to get the bills paid, so just that fact alone should improve your quality of life, right?

Not to mention being able to get chores done at the same time, thus surely saving you time, having your fridge and Facebook on tap, plus the enviable ability to work in your grubby PJs without brushing your hair for two days, should you so wish.

This is certainly what I thought freelancing from home must be like – before actually taking the plunge into the self-employment game, with children.

And there certainly are big, BIG pros to ‘lap-topping’ your day away at the dining room table.

The inclement weather factor is certainly true, and that many means many fewer frizzy hair days too. A vain point maybe, but still worth considering (especially when you have hair like mine that looks permanently as if I have just inserted my finger in an electrical socket.)

Quickly ‘grabbing’ lunch is literally as easy as walking into the kitchen and slapping two slices of bread on a plate.

If not too busy I can catch up with a TV programme on planner without the soundtrack of mini-me asking a million questions, or the risk of me falling asleep on the sofa because it’s past 9pm.

I can even make a start on dinner so hubby and I actually get something of an evening after getting the rugrats to bed.

I’m not distracted by office gossip or chatting to colleagues or those meetings you have about other meetings, so my productivity level is bound to be higher.

And finally I don’t have to remember complicated hot drink orders for a large number of people.

Now for the cons:

On a lovely sunny day I often long for the chance to get out, but if snowed under with deadlines the only ‘outings’ factored in are nursery drop-off and pick-up related.

Sometimes it’s really nice, and necessary, to have a quick break from your desk, even if that’s only picking up a bite to eat. Sadly walking five metres to the next room really doesn’t count.

There’s no defined boundary between ‘work and play’ when you run a business from home, and that means you can feel guilty most of the time for doing other things when you should be working. Even when that’s folding laundry at 10pm on a Saturday night.

I often miss sparking off other people in an office environment – it’s hard to brainstorm with yourself after all! Joining a couple of Facebook groups with like-minded journos has really helped with this, but again you get the guilt factor when chatting over social media.

And being part of a tea round of one is rubbish!

I suppose what it comes down to is that home-based freelancing is like most things in life, on certain days you’ve got the world at your feet, and on others the grass is always greener on the other side.

I would like to point out that I’ve never yet stayed in dirty PJs for two days without brushing my hair. But I’m not ruling it out…

Things I’ll never get used to as a parent

I’ve just had one of THOSE mum mornings.

You know the type, where nothing, and I mean nothing, goes right. Where you’re running stupidly late, again, and trying to speed up somehow only results in everyone moving even slower.

Where your semi-decent, moderately coordinated, mostly stain-free, outfit is soon drenched in sweat as you start to overheat wildly at the effort of shepherding offspring out of the house while trying very, very hard to not lose your temper.

(At least you hope it’s that because otherwise you must be suffering from the hot flushes of early onset menopause.)

When your need for caffeine is so strong that you wonder whether you will actually be able to cope physically with the toddler whinging currently ringing in your ears until you reach the rendezvous point where you can access some.

It paints a pretty picture doesn’t it?!

Today I also spent 20 minutes huffing and puffing over trying to install the new ‘easy fit for all models’ foot muff to our buggy whilst poor blue-eyed boy broke his heart sobbing because, funnily enough, Mummy couldn’t cuddle him at the same time.

Clearly I’m just crap though because while fiddling with the stupid stroller straps constituted some kind of Krypton Factor challenge for me, BFF calmly sorted the whole thing in about two minutes at soft play. Show off!

Anyway the point of all this rambling, and there is one I assure you, is that there are some things I think you never really get used to as a parent.

For me the biggest one is being able to get out of the house calmly and on time. No matter how much I plan and pre-pack, no matter how much time I allow it just never happens.

Friends have assured me it ‘gets easier’ but mini-me is almost three-and-a-half now and frankly I just don’t believe them.

The person who articulates best what a nightmare vacating home can be in the mornings is comedian Mike McIntyre.

Google his ‘people with children just don’t know’ sketch and I promise that you will soon be crying with laughter. It’s basically my life.

Here are a few of the other things I don’t think I’ll ever quite adapt to.

*Clearing up other people’s poo

There’s no nice way of saying it is there. I remember at 17 babysitting for some children round the corner and realising with horror that I’d have to wipe a three-year-old’s bottom. Things have never really improved from there.

My personal poo highlight is when it goes up your fingernails mid nappy change. You may try to deny it but you know what I’m talking about…

*Never having a lie in

I have dim memories of weekends long past when I didn’t have to get up before 8am. And no staying in bed with a toddler and large baby sitting on your head doesn’t count.

*Missing the cinema

Hubby and I used to love going to see a good film whenever we liked. Of course we can still go now but planning a night out at the flicks can constitute a military operation so it’s just often easier to wait for the DVD.

*Lack of personal space

Three year olds really don’t care if you need a little time to yourself do they – and I’m only talking about thirty seconds trying to restore your sanity while hiding behind the kitchen door here. Is it really that much to ask?

*The endless questions

‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummmmmmaaaaayyyy….’ (Add your own screeching sound effects here. And the optional banging – yes, that’s your head against the wall.)

Parenting Wars: Battle of the Sexes

There’s a ‘fun’ little game hubby and I never seem to tire of. In fact we often seem to play several rounds in any given day.

You might be familiar with it yourself? It’s what I like to call the ‘my life is harder’ game. Yes, that’s the one.

You know where you’ve barely had a minute to sit down all day, have been dreaming of supping even a semi-lukewarm beverage, and then the moment you’ve finally got the rug rats into bed your other half calls to say he hasn’t had the chance to eat since breakfast and what’s for dinner.

You then proceed to mutter to yourself as you stomp around the kitchen wondering exactly how many tea rounds there were in the office today, whether he enjoyed having time to read something other than the back of a baby food pouch on his commute and cursing the fact there’s bloody football on the telly. Again.

Of course you choose not to recall the fact that hubby had to trudge to work in the pouring rain, that you did get to catch up with a friend (if that’s what you can call a snatched conversation as you try to rescue various offspring from the bacteria-soaked ball pit at soft play) and that other half is babysitting at the weekend so you can go out for a drink.

But that’s a given with parental bickering – especially of the mid-week, getting really knackered now variety – isn’t it? The whole point is that on particularly sleep-deprived, vomit-fuelled days your life is DEFINITELY harder than theirs.

Several bones of contention spring to mind at this point. All of which my mum friends would sincerely back me up on. I know because I’ve done my ‘mum market research’, otherwise known as having a good old bitch over coffee!

Firstly who wrote the rule that as a mum you’re the one person in the family who is never allowed to get sick? Or, if someone actually acknowledges that you have a slight sniffle – usually full-blown flu – as mum you are not entitled to a single snippet of sympathy.

No, your job is simply to get on with it. Or ‘man up’ as hubby so charitably described it the other day.

This when I was recovering from a sickness bug that would proceed to take down everyone we know while coping with both kids and he headed out for a poker night. Hmm, yes he did pay for that one. Mostly with hangover + screaming baby = tough, deal with it sunshine!

Second, the dad misconception that when you meet up with friends, with numerous offspring in tow, that a lovely ‘relaxing’ time is had by all, consuming vast quantities of afternoon tea and debating the news of the day.

To be fair hubby does admit his mistakes here when faced with a coffee shop and a plethora of small people at the weekend, but it’s all conveniently forgotten by Monday.

Third, since when did I say that I was happy to become some kind of housekeeper, chef, dry cleaner and professional ironer? Oh that’s right, it was allegedly a given when I got the first bun in the oven. Having been a career girl since my early 20s it’s only natural that the majority of household tasks should all fall to me.

After all who doesn’t love washing other peoples’ pants and cleaning up poo?!

Yes I like things neat and tidy. Doesn’t mean I clean the kitchen floor for kicks.

Anyway, I realise I sound rather bitter and twisted here. But hey it’s the end of the week and I had three hours sleep last night.

The good thing about the ‘my life is harder’ game is that it usually ends in laughter and an admission that ‘sorry, I’m being a bit of a dick.’ And bickering – of the largely good-natured variety – keeps you both on your toes.

Just don’t expect me to iron you a shirt okay?!