Here's a post I wrote roughly a year ago but never published... an update to come soon:
I'm 41 and working from my bedroom...
The steady stream of stories trumpeting the alarming news that women 'drop out' of the workforce... that mothers pay a career penalty, whereas fathers are rewarded... that being low down the totem pole (or indeed entirely off it!) is a sign of career failure... usually gives me pause each working day.
I often feel envious of my colleagues broadcasting from state of the art studios in London or New York (or even New Delhi!) , sipping coffee with coworkers, in the loop, on the cutting edge.
Meanwhile, I'm a one-woman-operation... setting up stories myself; hunting down the most mundane telephone numbers. There's no office to lean on, no coworkers to ask for help or to comisserate with if things are not going well. Often, my kids find me just as I'm on an important call. Once, while interviewing a politician, my daughter came to my desk, pulled up her dress, and peed next to my feet.
No one is putting me up for awards... I don't fly anywhere anymore.
It's very easy to suffer from 'grass-is-greener' syndrome, and god knows I do, constantly! "If only I had a salary I could count on, whether or not I've filed a story today. Then I could develop really meaningful stories without worrying we won't eat!" Yes, in some ways it would be easier.
But here's the flip side.
I have the freedom to report on a fascinating country, sometimes from my bedroom while still in my pajamas. (NOTE: I don't stay in my pajamas out of laziness... quite the contrary. Once you've helped feed, dress and coax two kids to school, had breakfast, read the papers, organized your desk and made sure there are groceries, toothpaste and toilet paper in stock... it's time to WORK, whether or not you've managed a shower!)
Even on the busiest days, I'm able to give my son and daughter hugs when they get home from school. I remember my own homecomings, age 4, waiting for my parents for hours, watching TV and feeling uneasy as the sun went down. One day, my kids won't need us so much, but for now, both my husband and I cherish the fact that we're physically here, even if we are in separate rooms working during the day.
For those of you who feel you've come down the totem pole working from home... you and I both know you're working as hard as everyone else. Next time you feel a little unsure, remember that being outside any cult is probably a very good thing. Not that offices or work are sinister suicide pacts, but they are intense little worlds that often don't allow us to see the forest for the trees.
My own years in the wilderness have meant I've pursued becoming a children's author, and taken up writing short stories, while still being a journalist, albeit part-time until recently. I could only pursue those other dreams once I was free of the gravitational pull of news, deadlines, and the constant pressure of the office.
Yes, I have also missed out on promotions, trips, recognition. But frankly, if I hadn't left, I'd never have progressed. Without the time and space to appraise my own strengths, weaknesses and ambitions, I'm pretty sure I would have spent time treading water.
In a way, that's the tragedy of it. I've never been a more dedicated, effective and ambitious employee as I'd be now, on the other side of parenthood. And yet, according to the experts, and to my own limited experience, many prospective employers see something else- a 'soft' woman perhaps, with her 'needy' kids. Astonishing.
Yes, I'd still like a job, because I want to channel my considerable experience into an organization I really believe in. And I am, at heart, a sociable creature who likes seeing others and investing in them.
But for now, I'm hoping those lucky colleagues in their smart suits, sipping coffee with co-workers wish - at least some times - that they could be at home in their pajamas, like me, giving their kids a quick cuddle before filing that story!