Challenge of working at home, and at a career, not as difficult as it seems


July 25, 1993|By Niki Scott

A reader wrote last week with good news for women who are contemplating entering, or re-entering, the job market and find themselves wondering how they'll ever be able to cope with two full-time jobs -- one at work and one at home.

"My husband is an attorney, and I worked happily as his office manager for all of the 11 years he was in private practice, but when he was invited to join a law firm, I suddenly was out of a job," she wrote from Duluth, Minn.

"With no recent work experience except for my husband, and no references except from someone with the same last name, my hunt for work was both frustrating and discouraging, but I kept my spirits up by immersing myself in all the parenting, housework and community service work I'd always enjoyed and never had time for.

"The trouble was, the harder I worked and the more competent I felt as a wife, parent, member of the community, etc., the more insecure I felt about ever being able to work full time again and handle all the responsibilities I'd taken on!

"I couldn't imagine how my two sons would manage without me to chauffeur them to endless baseball practices, football games, basketball playoffs, play rehearsals (for one), chorus recitals (for the other) and, of course, to the mall and their friends' houses," her letter continued.

"I couldn't imagine how my family would survive without the elaborate (and heart-healthy) suppers I'd been preparing every night, or how my parents (both elderly, though healthy) would get along without me around to check in, run errands, take them to their various doctor appointments and make sure there were always groceries in the house.

"I couldn't even imagine how our food co-op (to which I contributed more and more of my time because I was the only member without a 'real' job and didn't know how to say 'no') would manage if I went back to work -- and the fact that all the other members kept telling me they couldn't imagine how they'd manage, either, didn't help.

"By the time four years had gone by, I wasn't working a paying job, but I was usually so tired by the end of the day, I could nTC hardly move!

"Then the miracle happened: I was offered a job with the (state) Department of Human Services -- a chance to use my dusty old master's degree, to earn a respectable living and to do some good in this world.

"Fortunately, I was so ecstatic at first that it was two days before real panic set in, and by then I'd already accepted the position.

"Eight months later, here's what I have to say to other women who have been working at home for a while and wonder (a) how they'll ever find the strength to do everything they're doing now plus a paying job, and (b) how the people they love will survive if they're not there for them 24 hours a day.

"The answer is: You probably won't be able to do everything you've been doing, but you'll be able to do far more than you think because you won't have worked as hard all day as you are now!

"What I had forgotten is that most paying jobs aren't as hard work as the people who work them would like other people to think. Time spent on coffee breaks, lunch breaks (I never sat down to eat at home, just ate on the run) and people stopping by to chat alone is more time 'out' every day than I ever took when I worked at home.

"Plus, there's an actual beginning and end to the workday when you work for money, whereas when you work at home, you're never not working.

"Plus, you use a whole different set of muscles in an office from the ones you use at home. Now I may be tired, but I'm tired in a different way -- one that allows me to turn my full attention to my family because it's not what I've already been doing all day.

"So if you've been home for a while and you can't imagine how you'll be able to work a 'real' job again, then have the energy to do what needs to be done at home, stop worrying.

"You'll almost certainly work less hard at a paying job than you do now, and you'll use different parts of yourself and a different kind of energy, too, so you'll probably be less -- not more -- tired."

) Universal Press Syndicate

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