It’s been nearly a decade since I had a traditional job, but I remember well the boundaries (then) between work and the rest of my life.
Work began (mentally) when I got in the car, drove toward the office, walked through the office door. Work ended when I walked to the car and drove toward home. My schedule stayed consistent, 8 to 4, Monday to Friday, with little variation.
Typically, I shared about my work day with my husband, talking through one crisis or another. I thought about my clients, deadlines, and coworkers at home, but not much. Occasionally, I took phone calls during evening hours or on the weekends from clients or their frantic family members.
Generally, my work was contained, fenced off, from the rest of my life. At least, I think it was.
I didn’t have work email to check at home. Although it seems impossible, I don’t think I had work email at all. I left full time employment in 2001, and our organization was just beginning to use email; I didn’t have a cell phone.
I had my work life, which I immersed myself in for 40 hours a week with energy, dedication, and focus. And I had my home life, which I pursued with equal enthusiasm: hours spent on church work with my husband, running, managing my home, reading, relaxing.
Mostly, my life then divided cleanly: work and life, life and work.
I am not sure that many people live such cleanly divided lives anymore.
My husband, after spending nearly 60 hours a week at the office, comes home to phone calls and emails. His cell phone alerts are a ceaseless intrusion to our quiet evenings at home. He does a good job of shifting his focus from work to home (and back again.) And… his work is always with him.
I just wrapped up a very busy season of my new work life.
For about six weeks, I worked full-time. When I say full-time, I mean full-time hours but I mean more than that.
I immersed myself fully in the work; I let it consume my thoughts, energy, and focus. Since I work at home, I had a difficult time breaking away from it. If I wasn’t working, I was thinking about work: from very early in the morning until the end of the day, seven days a week.
As a work at home mom, I struggle with boundaries. I always want to check my email one more time, send one more tweet, and finish just one more project.
I don’t know to contain my work; I have trouble shutting it off.
And… I must.
Over the next few weeks and months, I will be exploring these areas of boundaries and work. I will experiment with what it means to be a work at home mom who is fully immersed in work and who maintains proper boundaries in order to be fully present, also, with my husband and daughters.
Can you help?
Tell me something. How do you contain your work? What boundaries do you keep between work and your home/family life?