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Working Away vs. Working From Home

Photograph by Getty Images

Two weeks ago, I underwent a seismic lifestyle makeover. Did I get divorced? No. Did I do something foolish like give up coffee or chocolate? I think not.

Simply put, I went from being a WFH mom to a WAFH mom. And what a difference an "A" makes.

Up until the end of last year, I had worked from home full-time. I cranked out copy in my jammies, drove my kids to school between conference calls and was at their beck and call for every forgotten lunch, overdue library book or gym class accident that prompted a trip to the ER (true story). I was living the dream. I had it all.

Or did I? Turns out, there's a dark side to everything—even being a WFH mom.

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Since I was plugged into my virtual office 24/7, I never felt like I had any time off. Not really. For each day that started with a pre-dawn team call there was a late night or weekend spent incorporating edits and finalizing proofs. With no excuses like car trouble, a sick child or inclement weather, I found myself doing whatever it took to make a deadline. I inhaled stress and exhaled exhaustion. Worse, while I was there for my family, I was never really there.

Needless to say, my family took the news of my job's demise with mixed emotions. Worry over our financial security was offset by relief when my smile returned and I began making a sound I hadn't in years. Laughter, and lots of it.

Again, my family adapted. We tightened our belts and before long, I secured another job. An away-from-home job. Downtown. The eyes of my two youngest widened at the news.

No biggie, I assured them. I had done it before. While part of me relished the alone time that I would get on my train ride to and from work, and the built-in cardio workout that would come with walking from the station to my office, I knew it would make for a long day. But this wasn't about me.

Our house had not seen this type of morning chaos since the time I tried squeezing in early morning runs and a much-needed shower before my parade of boys rose.

Their daily routine was about to be upended as well. My high schoolers had to be ready earlier than usual so my husband could drop me off at the train that would get me into work on time. Our house had not seen this type of morning chaos since the time I tried squeezing in early morning runs and a much-needed shower before my parade of boys rose. Further, my husband would now have to take on all of the grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry in addition to chauffeuring and running errands for my parents who live nearby. Assuring me he was up to the task, I noticed a glint in his eye that told me he was relishing some alone time of his own.

My start day loomed. Like a nervous student prepping for her first day at a new school, I packed my lunch and loaded my briefcase with photos and a few cherished work-related knickknacks. Still, the jitters persisted.

Would I get there on time?

Would my co-workers like me?

How would I find my way around?

Would my stuff fit in my locker, er, desk?

And worst of all, what should I wear?

I stared at my closet. It was stuffed with casual clothes and a few dressier pieces I had accumulated for any special occasions that happened to dot my calendar during the past few years. Undeterred, I yanked at the hangers until I found what I was looking for: three favorite suits I had retained from my managerial days. I dusted off their shoulders, checked the sizes, laid them on my bed and tried assembling an outfit that could pass as business casual.

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I selected a black-and-white flecked suit jacket, my black pants and a white shell. Boring, but classic and, best yet, no panty hose required.

The next morning, as I headed out the door, my youngest handed me a new piece of art he had created for my workspace wall, and my husband handed me a gift card to my favorite coffee place that had locations at both ends of my train route.

Could I have asked for a better launch to my new WAFH career? I think not.

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