It starts with the division of labour conversation. It makes sense that the person who can best earn the money earns the money and the person best equipped to stay at home and look after the baby does just that. Great if you can swap that around sometimes, but we, like a lot of people we know, sent me out to work and Mette to stay home and look after the baby.

It’s a big change for a new father. I do a whole day at work, very focused and busy, then once home, I jump (sometimes with a little push) straight into support person clearing and cooking, or father-mode. If my partner gets some time away from her primary care role, she doesn’t come and see me and see what work she can help me with. I think I need to spend more time in father-mode in these situations, not just support person. And I think I need to realise that she’s never coming to see me and see what work she can help me with, especially after a full-day of entertaining a two-year old.

I’m lucky enough to work from home. I produce visual communications – slides for presentations. I have established clients domestically and internationally and earn good money for the hours I work, but I charge an hourly-rate and so have to work those hours to earn that money. Therefore going from a double-income-no-kids situation to a single-earner supporting two and a new baby situation was a bit scary at first and continues to be a concern in the back of my mind somewhere a bit too often. We have a mortgage and a bank account that teeters about just around “well, we’re okay this month”.

I really like my office – I think it’s like a city space – think glass bricks and concrete – in the middle of a lush green paddock in rural Australia. I used to work in a tiny room next to the bedroom, but that’s now the nursery. I now have a big space downstairs – separated from the house by an outdoor staircase – so I can get things done (and occasionally watch English Premier League football live on the wall projector).

The routine was certainly much easier with only two of us. We could both do what ever we wanted when ever we wanted to. We had to work sometimes, and sleep sometimes but the rest was up to us – whatever we wanted.

Now, when I’m at home before work I’m doing what I can to help, then I go to work, then I come home and do what I can to help, then Zoe goes to bed. We have some time together and then we go to bed. Of course, there are good days, and weekends, where we have more time together and can watch Zoe discover something for the first time or develop a new word or skill. Me and Mette still have great evenings at home.

Worst work situation is when a screaming baby is handed to you while you are sitting at your computer and have important data that you’ve copied and not yet pasted – in limbo. “I have to do a load of washing, this is important; I can’t do it with her while she’s like this.”

We discussed pretending I worked on the Gold Coast, an hour and a half away, and was simply unavailable between 9 and 5. I could go for pretend walks on the beach at lunchtime. I got phoned on the intercom and asked whether I wanted some avocado on toast. I quickly came back from the Gold Coast.

The main disadvantage of working from home as a new father is that you don’t get a commute. You don’t get that 15 mins, or hour, of solitude to separate the work day from the home night. On a commute you have a chance to read a book, or listen to music, or learn a language for goodness sake. I think I’d just sit, or stand quietly.

Psychologically, I think it’s important to separate the two and to have a physical journey between them helps to know that you’ve left one place and you’re going to another.

I imagine one day I might put on jacket, go outside on the deck, sit on a chair (or in the corner of the garden somewhere) pretending I’m on a train for 30 minutes. I might take a book just in case I get bored. Then get up, go downstairs, take off my coat and say good morning to my computer.

The advantages of working from home are plenty for me. I get to hear little giggles from upstairs, and the patty of tiny feet rushing towards the next adventure. I get to be close to them if I can’t be with them.

We’ve settled into a good routine now. On a good day I get up and make breakfast with Zoe, go the office and check e-mails, come back up for breakfast, then go down to work. Work all day, sometimes join them for lunch, and sometimes avoid work until the evening so we can go on an outing together to the beach. I’m usually always around for reading, bath, bed routine and take we turns putting her down (although recently I’m way behind my turns). Some times I’d like to spend more time during the day with Zoe and perhaps have Mette work for a while –she’d be able to see her every evening, but that’s that division of labour conversation.


6 comments on Working from home

  1. Yari says:

    Great read Neil, and good point about the division of labour. I’ve been the sole bread winner for the past 5 years and would love to ‘even things out’ a little, spend more time with my kids and Nella to get some part-time work.

    Cooking meals, doing dishes and endless loads of laundry almost sounds blissful to me! I guess I just need a change in routine.

    Having just moved my office back home this week I’m also looking for a way to officially start and end my days, one idea has been to go for a 10 min run at the end of the day, but I decided that was too boring…. the book in the garden sounds ideal.

  2. Neil says:

    I think a 10 minute run sounds like a good idea – something needs to separate the two environments. I’m going to try a half-hour cycle – cycle 15 minutes away from my house, then when the alarm goes, try and cycle back before the next 15 minutes is up. Good opportunity to listen to podcasts too.

  3. Andrew Crabbe says:

    It’s a hard conversation to have.
    I am fortunate that my partner was eager to rejoin the workforce after about a year off. It’s only for 3 days a week, but it gives her the chance to talk to adults and not loose too much of a footing in her career as well as a fiscally allowing me to take some time out to spend one on one time with the little one and with the the two of them as a family unit.

  4. Marcia & Rutger / Sweden says:

    Hi Neil,

    Wow! Quite the change from when we visited all those years ago when you would take this little airplane to work ;-). Even though our kids are now 15 and soon 17 I still do remember Rutger trying to work from home when they were younger. It was hard for the kids to grip the fact that daddy was working when he actually was at home. We even, at some point, had an idea of putting a sign on the office door when he was working ;-). On the other hand, I also do remember Rutger going away to the office, only to come home to a (sometimes) tired mom who would hand him a little one when he had barely walked in through the door and was still in his work suit. All I can say is, that if you have the advantage to work from home it will give you great opportunity to be there for those firsts which are priceless and if you’re good at focussing on what you’re doing it can be a wonderful thing to work from home.
    Big hugs from our family in Sweden
    Rutger and Marcia

  5. Graham Booth says:

    Well written Neil. I’ve witnessed in person what you have described and I have nothing but admiration for the way you go about your business. Many would say you have the perfect scenario but how many would be tempted away from the home office to join the family upstairs? Fortunately you have a partner with the patience and understanding needed to allow you the peace to do your job. Yet at the same time you both have the flexibility to be called into action to help out now and again and give one another a break. Zoe is a very lucky girl. 🙂

  6. yari says:

    Love the pic Neil, is that your bunny or Zoe’s?

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