Author Jeff Burlingame reflects on what it’s like to work from home while he raises his energetic 2-year-old son.
On warm days, I hear him chatting.
On sunny days, I could see him. But I can’t stand to look.
Working from home has its challenges, but none of them have been difficult for me to master. Daytime TV doesn’t do much for me. (Thank goodness the NCAA basketball tournament only comes around once a year.) I don’t like to talk on the phone. (Texts and emails are my best friends.) And I have an uncanny, borderline-insane ability to dive so deeply into the life of whoever I’m writing about that the dirty dishes, diaper pails and unfinished yard work that envelope my physical being vanish—temporarily, at least—the moment I unfold my laptop each morning.
I rarely find reminders of those undone chores in my work. “Laundry” isn’t in the vocabulary of most of the subjects I write about.
Sure, I occasionally get sidetracked by social media or daydream of slamming that plastic computer lid back down, grabbing my fishing gear, and hitting the road. Unless that day happens to be one with a deadline attached to it, no one would know or care. Yet when such Kerouacian thoughts arise, I let them run their course and quickly hop back on the work train, hell bound for Quitting Time station. I disembark there. Then I go fish. I have written 26 books in seven years. Temptations don’t faze me. I am rubber. They are glue.
Next door to me lives a retired couple who watch my son each weekday while my wife and I ride the nine-hour Gravy Train. My unflappable work ethic would flutter away were it not for those two kind souls. Knowing this is why I anger when I hear someone question what stay-at-home moms do every day. I couldn’t begin to write a book with a child to take care of. My son’s favorite word when he sees me is “Up!” His favorite plaything in whatever toy-filled room he may be in is me. My computer is a close second.
He is 30 pounds of sinewy resolve. He is what stay-at-home moms do every day: a nap-fighting, dog-grabbing, cat-chasing, door-opening, 24-month-old, knowledge-seeking sponge I hardly can keep up with during moments I dedicate to him.
As pleased as I am to have child care next door, there also is a huge downside, a new temptation.
When my laptop flips open, my son’s picture is there. When the windows are open, my son’s voice is there. I’ve heard him say “Daddy.”
When the weather is nice, he’s outside in the neighbors’ yard—running, gardening, playing. Doing the things we do together when Daddy isn’t writing. Jealousy! Regret! Guilt! Sadness!
Unconditional love is an unshakable temptation.
On warm days, I close the windows.
On sunny days, I draw the blinds.
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–Originally published on Tacoma Working Mom
–Photo: Dan Strange/Flickr