I’m sitting in my mother’s living room, trying to get some work done. It’s hard here. Not just at my mom’s house, but in my small hometown in general. I was born in Tawas City and grew up here. I feel like a kid here, always. I drink my mom’s Diet Cokes without fretting about the aspartame. I roll through stop signs. I nab dog toys from my dad’s vet clinic, and nobody seems to care. Nothing counts here, but in a good way. It’s like the magical protective dome of my childhood is still in tact and waiting to receive me each time I return.
The fact remains that I’m actually here for work reasons. I have a book event tomorrow (woo-hoo!), I made my first book club visit here on Wednesday (so fun!), and I arrived here mid-week despite being in the middle of one of the most demanding workweeks I’ve had in some time. So yesterday afternoon I had a really important interview, followed by sitting on my dad’s couch and working on a long story. Ironically, it was a story about the changing global workplace that included the point that technology allows us to have a better work/life balance. I worked on it for about an hour after my dad returned from work, then we went out to dinner together, and then he, my step-mom and my step-brother quietly kept me company as I worked on it for another few hours. They were super good sports, all clustered together on couches with Apple devices while I spent most of the very little time we have to spend together typing, thinking, linking and looking up synonyms for “innovation” and “collaboration” on mine. I filed at about ten-thirty. Then we all fell asleep.
Did my ability to work remotely benefit my work/life balance? Well, yes. It did. Because if I had to do that story from an office, I would have been in Ann Arbor – or even a parallel universe in which I had to move to New York to be a writer. And now I have the rest of the weekend to spend with my family, minus a few hours to work on a story here and there. What really struck me is how here, in my hometown where the “real world” is typically non-existent, was one of the first times since becoming a freelancer that I really felt the tug of that line between work and life.
That’s probably not a good thing (says my husband, probably), right? At home, in Ann Arbor, I never feel like I’m at home or at work. I’m always both. Is that good?
Listening to some women I care about and respect complain about their husbands being ever available to their workplaces this week caused me to wonder. From their perspectives, it was distracting. It pulled them away from dinners and vacations. By my own measurement, am I ever out to dinner? Am I ever on vacation?
Then, I was struck with this thought: Am I ever not on vacation? I love what I do, which is what makes the fact that my work/life balance is more like a work/life blur sort of awesome. I may have clocked some crazy “work time” in the first four days of this week, but I’m about to go get my nails done with my mom on Friday afternoon. I may sit at a restaurant and respond to emails while I wait for my friend to arrive, but I get to have lunch with a friend in the middle of the day.
And most importantly, I love it. I am super into whatever that email is about, or I would just wait until I got home to write it. What makes a person feel bummed about their spouse sending emails during dinner is a lack of enthusiasm about whatever that email is about. There’s a disconnect between whatever motivates the emailing spouse and the bummed spouse. It’s also an age thing and a culture thing. I’m lucky to be a (more or less) digital native who is passionate about my job and have a husband who’s passionate about it for me. My work makes my life better and my life makes my work better.
What I recognize as an identifiable line that feels weird to cross here in Tawas is the line between my childhood and my adulthood. And that’s probably a fine one to observe. Now I’m going to wrap up this adult blogging and go drink a Diet Coke and get my nails done with my mommy.