This is the third column I’ve written from home, and each one is getting more and more difficult. A paragraph that you read in a few seconds will have taken me at least 30 minutes to write. Why? As you may have come to realize yourself, working from home is not the paradise it was imagined to be on those long, difficult days in the office.
Since I began this column, my sweet little girl has interrupted me to: a) ask what she was holding behind her back; b) ask (for the umpteenth time) if mommy was home yet from the store; c) need me to help her when she was done on the toilet; d) show her how to turn her undies right-side-out after the previously mentioned help; e) ask if I could watch TV with her in the family room; f) upon being told (again for the umpteenth time) that daddy has a column to write, ask me if she could watch TV in mommy’s and my bedroom, etc. Before I say anymore on this front, let me pick up on “b” from above.
My wife needed to run to the store. I understand that our home cannot be self-contained, and such trips have become a weekly necessity. I get the need to go to the store; but I have a column to write, and I am alone with my 3-and-a-half-year-old (who just playfully punched my arm to get attention). I have a newfound respect for single parents! But I digress; back to my column.
There are many things I could write next, all true, like the plumbing emergency, the internet issues, the landscape work that was scheduled during a pandemic, more plumbing repairs, or just simply the balancing of two full-time people trying to work from home while also taking care of a toddler. I cannot believe I’m about to write this, but I really miss my office! And that is the whole point.
The last seven weeks have been a severe mercy, revealing just how difficult balancing work and family can be without the routines of everyday life. I find myself mixing those old adages about not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone and finally getting what you’ve asked for; I miss the solitude of my office and the familiarity of the environment that lent itself to productivity.
The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that all things have a time and place, and it seems to me that the last several weeks have unraveled a bit of the fabric of work-home balance. Being at home has not been wholly a negative experience; it has been wonderful to be able to play with my daughter in the middle of the day, or eat lunch with my family. There have been many blessings, but there is still an imbalance.
The USCCB website (paraphrasing Pope St. John Paul II) writes that work, “…is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.” Work is more than what I choose to do, it is an invitation from God to do some particular act of stewardship. Sadly, the peculiar intersection between working at home and the vocation of husband and father has me feeling that I haven’t partnered particularly well with God of late. I long for the routines and places that focus me on the work at hand — either at home or the office, not both at the same time.
I’m not so naïve as to believe that the idea of working from home won’t tempt me during a particularly bad day in the future, but 2020 has caused me to appreciate a few things I had taken for granted. It has reoriented my view of work and the role it plays in my life. I hope this will better help me appreciate work-life balance, thus dedicating myself to both in more healthy ways. This is certainly not a grace I could have imagined would come from a pandemic.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, a 36” tall human is pouting because I haven’t paid her any attention in at least 10 minutes. Back to work. No, back to vocation, then back work. It’s all about healthy balance.