It's summer, and the kids are sleeping in. I stretch out in the sunroom with both of my laptops—one for editing my authors' manuscripts and my own writing; the other for the "business" of writing: podcast scheduling, blog and website management, travel and keynote schedules; I could go on, but alas, it's time to med-i-tate...ahhhhhhhhhh.
I light a stick of sandalwood incense and sip my cup of oolong. I take a deep breath in, exhale slowly and enter my happy zone. This is the silence I cherish. Even just 20 minutes of personal space with my eyes closed, alone with my breath, strengthens me. Another inhale, exhale and all I can do is smile. I think, "this is going to be that parenting blog...."
I've set up a support system now, after working from home for a year. It took awhile: the budget, the right help, figuring out what my husband would cover and what I would, not to mention carving out the workspace in the house where there wouldn't be interruptions and there could be lots of filing and whiteboards, all without my daughter Mia smearing popsicles on them. After a year, it's gotten good. I'm in "balance."
Minute 10, and I'm dropping into the deep space of insight. I can hear the very song of peace as the birds sing outside the sunroom, I am one with God. Just then, I hear a screech, "MOMMMMMMMMMMMMM, I NEED YOU!!!!!!"
I jump from my meditation cushion, race out the door of my home office (formerly known as the "cat room" and now known as the "sunroom") and hit a wall of stench as I enter Mia's bedroom doorway. I find her covered in lizard poop, her bearded dragon is on her duvet and allergen-free comforter. Spike is right there, running in place in a pool of dark-brown, liquid, lizard poop. I scream.
This is where (lizard) sh*t gets real.
All I can do at this point is scream kiddy-proof profanities and pick up the lizard (that was a whole 2 inches long when she talked me into buying him, but now measures in at almost a foot and a half), hurl him into his terrarium, sweep her up and whisk her into the shower that is ice cold as I turn it on high. All I can hear in my head is: E-COLI, E-COLI!
The Om has left the room.
Mia is screaming, and her lips are purple as I scrub her down with organic castille soap. I'm not crying yet, but I'm frantic. The water warms and Mia settles down, but I'm shaking.
By 10 a.m., her room is stripped and I'm scrubbing everything with bleach—the real stuff normally hidden in the back of the laundry closet behind the Seventh Generation "non-toxic" bleach.
This is working from home. And I'd be inauthentic if I told you anything different.
Going from running a multi-million dollar tea company in a huge building (with a staff!) to working from home with a rescue dog with a barking problem; two mad cats; a bearded dragon; three overweight, voracious goldfish; a 15-year-old; a 5-year-old; and a husband that usually also works from home in a small-ish house we bought when the market was down has not been easy. But, if you're working from home or planning to, here is my advice for making the crazy more manageable:
Roll with it.
You can't control the world, and as soon as you accept this, the more productive you'll be.
Don't think normal working hours apply to you.
This was one incident that repeats itself in the home-working parent's life—in all sorts of forms—so work will need to be made up after hours, while everyone in your office is home, probably watching Netflix.
Simplify and streamline.
My suggestion is to say "no" to more pets, playdates and more responsibilities outside of your parenting and professional goals. If you want to have a semblance of sanity while making a success of your work-at-home life, you'll need to clear "the decks."
Become a miser.
Preserve your energy and time for some self-care. Commit to your yoga, walking and eating healthy routine as you become the sole proprietor of your well-being. This applies to all parents, working in an office or at home, but somehow I took better care of myself when I worked in an office and went to lunch. You're alone with your household responsibilities at the same time as your professional ones, so become a stand for your boundaries.
I do love working from home and accomplish nearly double what I could if I had to commute. I live in California and work out of Manhattan. Technology and flexibility have allowed me to make a career out of passion. Success and joy are my rewards, and although Spike, the bearded dragon, is going on Craigslist (sorry, Mia), I am continuing to learn the power of keeping simplicity in focus, so that next time I can get in my 20 minutes of Zen.
Zhena Muzyka is the founder of Zhena's Gypsy Tea, which she created to fund her son's live-saving operations, and the Robin Hood Laptop Project, which supplies refurbished laptops to the kids in the tea fields. She coaches women in business and speaks nationwide to female, social entrepreneurs.