The surprise tantrum in the middle of a conference call is more than made up for by the other perks, says Christian Toto
The biggest perk of working from home isn’t ducking rush hour traffic or saving money on dress shirts and ties.
It’s the stress reliever that’s just a few feet away when I’m having an epically awful day—a hug from one of my two boys.
Granted, they’re not always on board with my work breaks. The other day my four-year-old said, “that was a long one,” after an extended hug, his tone telling me he preferred a quickie, at best.
Sorry, son. That one was medicinal.
I never dreamed I’d be juggling fatherly duties while meeting deadlines, but it’s just a part of the options available to modern dads. Technology lets us work from home no matter where our bosses may be. Women’s liberation means more wives are collecting a paycheck, while their mates applaud their economic clout sans envy. Societal roles once carved in stone are now written in sand, shifting as the cultural winds see fit.
The flip side to these changes, of course, is that you never really leave the office. Your smart phone is your cordless connection to the Boss, and no matter where you are there’s a chance he or she will call with something urgent for you to do. A small price to pay for the freedom technology affords us, but it takes some getting used to.
Today’s dads have to be ready for it all or risk getting left behind. My father, who toiled for years at gigs he never really loved in order to provide for our family, couldn’t prepare me for this type of lifestyle. How could he have even see it coming? It’s ad hoc all the way, and it makes me ready for virtually any scenario, from a toy sharing exercise gone awry to a critical phone interview interrupted by a Class 5 tantrum.
I spent seven years at a daily D.C. paper, where I had to write a flurry of stories each week ranging in subject from the tensile strength of a spider’s web to the new dud from director M. Night Shyamalan. This did well prepare me for my current job status. Try concentrating on a 1,000 word story due at 3 p.m. with a cacophony of conversations, some heated, blaring around you.
There’s no training for the experience. You either get used to the surroundings or you slowly but surely lose your cool. It took time, but after a while my cubicle mate could blast an air horn in my ear and I’d keep on typing. At the very least I’d tell them to take a message.
I no longer deal with noisy co-workers or incessant phone ringing. Instead, the score of my work days includes crying toddlers, a barking dog and the low but unmistakable sound of my wife losing her cool upstairs. We employ a sitter for half of my work day, and my wife takes care of the rest since she starts her day in the wee hours.
I never want to cheat my employer, but while traditional office workers sneak a smoke break or gather at the proverbial water cooler, I’ll stop my duties briefly to spell my wife or calm a crying child. It’s often just an excuse to bond with my boys, to let them know Daddy is just a flight of stairs away.
I worked at home one day a week at my old newspaper job, and my discipline didn’t always stay strong enough to clock a true 9-to-5 schedule. Becoming a parent changed all that. Every minute is precious now, and whatever lazy habits collected during my 20s are now but a memory. I can’t break wood or do any cool physical stunts, but I’m ninja-like in my ability to get things done. It’s an unspoken perk of being a dad.
In a way I’m glad my wife works in a standard office setting. She is teaching our boys what it means to dress up and go to work, part of a cycle that they still may take part in no matter what technology brings in 15-odd years. I love watching them swarm around her when she comes home after a long day, drowning her in hugs just like my brother and I did for my dad so many years ago.
I miss that.
I get the next best thing—the knowledge that no matter how much work piles up in my basement office, my boys are upstairs waiting to make my day a bit brighter.
photo: Brandt Kurowski / flickr