Working When I Should Be Sleeping

Most people I know are sleeping at 2 or 3 in the morning. If they’re awake, it’s because one of their children is, too, like a new baby needing milk or a preschooler retelling a bad dream. If their children are asleep, they are, too…usually.

Every one of us has probably experienced that uncharacteristic bit of insomnia that seems to occur when you most need your sleep, like the night before your child’s birthday party or a road trip where you’re the driver. Perhaps, you’ve been awake at this early morning hour when you’re watching the end of a great movie, or at least a movie that isn’t restricted to PG ratings. And I imagine most of us have been up in the middle of the night putting gifts under the Christmas tree or exchanging teeth under the pillow for money or putting candy in the Easter baskets – and perhaps enjoying some of that chocolate without the pressure to share.

For the most part, parents are likely sleeping during normal sleep hours, the majority of the nights of the year. Unless, like me, you have online jobs or you work from home. And then, I know I’m not the only one awake at 2 or 3 in the morning on a regular basis.

I’ve been working from home for the past six years, never a time without children at home, and I’ve come to value the time of day after everyone has gone to bed and is sound asleep. It is a wonderful time to get some work done, the only time of the day that I can be sure to work uninterrupted.

I’ve come to know a lot of fellow work-from-home parents in these odd hours. We all seem to share the same love of uninterrupted work time even at the expense of a full night’s rest – though, rest assured, we do get our sleep. There are plenty of challenges to working from home, but there are also plenty benefits and two are flexible hours and bed in the same building as the office.

Still, I am often surprised when I see another person online at night on the same continent as me. I don’t know how many times I’ve received an e-mail from a colleague at 2 a.m. and replied back with something like, “Wow, you’re up late! Go to bed.” It’s not until that person replies back with “So are you!” that I even realize the irony of my comment.

While I make the conscious decision to forgo my sleep at night in order to spend more of my day with my kids, it’s not an easy decision. I empathize with my fellow work-at-nighters. It is hard to stay balanced, no matter whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or you work outside the home or you work from home. Me time, sleep, and work often compete for the same time slots when the kids are sound asleep. And when you choose to work, you have to be especially careful to be sure to choose me time and sleep when you have the opportunity. Life becomes an even bigger juggling act. I’m often tempted, due to my reading the articles on sites like https://kratomystic.com/, I’ve learned that there are natural ways to get your self to sleep, even when you are stuck in your insomnia. Maybe when the kids are older I will experiment with stuff like that. For now though, I will stick to my routine.

I’m OK with the challenge. I like it, even. But I’ve been doing this for several years and it’s just the way my life is, by now. I don’t even think I can live a “normal” schedule anymore; I tried a little bit a couple years ago and was bored with the routine. I’m to the point where my brain is wired for this work-from-home life; I’m happiest with a full life of kids and work. But when I meet other parents working from home, I often wonder if they knew what they were getting themselves into?

This post is part of the delicate balance series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

Busy as Can Bee

I do most of the correspondence for my work over the phone or e-mail or in ways that don’t require a peek inside my home. It’s not just the baskets of clean laundry stacked in my living room the past week or the pile of dirty dishes on my countertop or my chronically unmade bed that makes me unsure about using Skype and other webcam services. It’s the whole juggling act of working and parenting.

The other day, I was attending a webinar – thankfully not one with video-conferencing capabilities – on honey bee colony losses for an article commissioned by a local magazine. It’s a good thing most webinars are recorded, and if they’re not, their information can usually be double-checked on a website somewhere or at least by giving the speaker on the webinar a quick phone call.

So, I’m trying to write down various quotes and all the pertinent information on these beekeeping management surveys. A lot of research, something that requires quite a bit of attention. And I notice that the baby needs a diaper change.

The webinar is playing on my laptop, on my bed. The bed’s not made, so there’s only the thin fitted sheet between baby’s bum and my pillow-top mattress. I check out the situation and figure it won’t take me long to change his diaper, but in the middle of the said change, something comes on the webinar that catches my attention and I drop what I’m doing to hurriedly catch up my notes.

Somewhere in all this, my five-year-old and four-year-old burst into my room arguing about how each wanted to draw on this same piece of paper (we have a whole box of paper!), and one of the cats jumps up onto the laptop’s keyboard, muting the webinar. And I’m squinting my eyes at the laptop screen trying to concentrate all my energy into copying down the words that the man on the computer is saying without taking the time to process what that means in the scope of the story. No time for thinking – at that moment, I was a photocopier memorizing the words coming through my ears and the images coming through my eyes and using my fingers to put them on paper. I don’t have a true photographic memory, but I’m pretty darn close, which is very helpful in overwhelming moments.

I don’t know how many minutes pass, but somehow I do manage to get everything I need down on paper, including intact quotes, and I’m able to mediate my daughters’ quarrel without hurrying through it. I hear a noise, one that usually indicates a diaper change is needed and I think, Thank goodness I got a diaper on him. Except I don’t.  And now I need to do a load of laundry, by far my least favorite activity in the realm of housework.

This is an everyday occurrence. Maybe not the same events, but certainly the amount of distractions. Work, kids, kids, cat, other cat, mail, phone call, work, kids, mail is here, I’m hungry, work, kids, kids, need a nap, kids, work, kids, need a break…get a break, whew!…and repeat. Working from home while being a stay-at-home parent is a lifestyle choice, that’s for sure. This may sound like chaos, but it’s the only way I know to work and work well. I need that little bit of chaos to give my brain the motivation to hyper-organize to be able to be as productive as I am. For me, the fuller my life is, the happier I am. Although I do wish there was a way for me to avoid having to do laundry…

This post is part of the Delicate Balance series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

Mommy Has Testicles!

“I bet you didn’t know my mommy has testicles!”

I bet you didn’t see this one coming, I’m thinking, as my precocious four-year-old daughter, E, my second born, bounces up to the man who I was hoping to become a new client. A father himself, he’s been dabbling in selling vegetables from his home garden and is looking to expand this hobby into a side business by getting a professionally designed label. I’d barely charge him anything for it. He suggested trading it for a box of produce this summer and throwing in a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Sounds more than fair to me.

“Hey! I bet you didn’t know that my mommy has testicles!”

The man looks at me. I nod my head, and say, “Why yes, yes, I do.”

The man raises his eyebrows. E notices his confusion. She’s used to having to explain what she’s talking about, because not all of her consonants come out right. For example, her “c” and “st” sound like “t,” so that both “star” and “car” sound like “tar.” So, she starts explaining why Mommy does indeed have testicles.

“You know, those things that the tid has, that makes white things on the whales?” E asks.

I translate. By “tid,” she means “squid,” and by “white things,” she means “scars.” Squids grab hold of the whales in their mighty battles for life and death, and the squid’s arms have hooks on them that tear the whales’ skin, which leave scars after they heal.

“Tentacles?” the man asks.

“Yeah! Testicles!” E says excitedly.

Tentacles. Testicles. There’s only a couple letter differences there.

The man asks why I don’t correct her. I do, but “testicles” is easier for E to say than “tentacles.” She just learned the word, after all.

At home, we had looked up information on squids on the computer together – studying photos and watching YouTube videos, listening to me read aloud various facts about the squid, acting out underwater life in our family room. On the drive up to meet the man, we were imagining that we were a family of squids. I was using my tentacles to protect my three baby squids from the perils of the ocean, including whales. Certainly it’s easy for me to switch gears from playing with my kids to working, but to E, I was still Mommy Squid even when talking about making a food label.

This post is part of the “Delicate Balance” series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

Can You Please Retrieve My Bagel From Under the Bed?

rita and kids

I don’t normally eat anything found under my bed. The vacuum cleaner can only reach so far. I also have two house cats, and that’s where they go to get a little R-and-R from my three kids. Plus I do have a kitchen stocked full with food found in usual places like the fridge or pantry. But since going gluten-free this winter for medical reasons, it’s not often I get a chance to eat a beautifully soft bagel mounded with cream cheese spread. And I really wanted that bagel.

Losing the bagel – sunny side down, mind you – to the depths reminded me of a great disappointment a few months earlier. I had just left the doors of Burger King with my three children, a baby in a car seat and two girls, ages four and five, and in the crux of my arm balanced a refill of Dr. Pepper that I was really looking forward to drinking. It was a little breezy, and the older children were tired, and the parking lot seemed to be especially busy. When I got to the car, I put the drink cup on the hood and began the process of getting the car seat into its base and the older children into their booster seats. Triumphant with how smoothly things seemed to be going, I reached for the drink cup – when suddenly, a gust of wind shot it off the car and my longed-after Dr. Pepper dumped all over the ground. I was so disheartened that I didn’t even think of going through the drive-thru to get another one.

So, yes, I wanted that bagel. I didn’t want a repeat Dr. Pepper episode.

How did that bagel get under the bed, cream cheese side down, stuck in the dust bunnies and cat hair? Well, I was doing one of my infamous multitasking attempts. I was breastfeeding my baby while sitting on my bed, using the breast pump on the other breast (due to chronic yeast), talking on the phone with a client, sketching out an idea for a project with a pen and notepad, and eating this bagel – at the same time. The baby is at that age where anything within reach is in danger and he batted at the bagel. It dropped to the floor and rolled under the bed. I couldn’t express my dismay more than grimacing a little, because I was still on the phone. And I couldn’t attempt to get the bagel before the 30-second rule, because I was still tethered to the breast pump.

My husband didn’t even blink when I asked him to please retrieve my bagel from under the bed, like I do this kind of stuff all the time…

This post is part of the “Delicate Balance” series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

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