I heard a variation of this statement so many times when I was chairing the American Cancer Society Relay For Life this year. Sometimes, people were more tactful and said things about me “having more free time” or noted my “work at home” status.” But mostly, people were implying that I didn’t really work.
In actuality, I work at least 9 hours every weekday. My day starts about 7am and ends about 4pm. I don’t take a lunch typically, and if I have a busy week, I work from 6am-6pm.
What I do have is flexibility – the fluidity of time and schedule to work 45 hours in 4 days, for example, so that I can spend a long weekend with my bridesmaids as we shop for my wedding dress. Flexibility is no small thing – and it’s one of the reasons I LOVE my job – but having flexibility does not mean I don’t work or even that I work part-time.
All of you who freelance or work from home or write to deadlines (self-imposed or otherwise) know that this life is amazing – flexibility of time, the option to work in pjs, and the ready availability of your favorite snacks. But you also know that you may have to work into the night sometimes, that Saturdays are not always work-free days, and that – as my friend Ed said on July 4 – holidays are not paid days off. Plus, we don’t get sick leave or vacation time. So there’s that.
I wish I had some witty retorts to share to help make people aware without sounding snarky. I could point out that freelancing is much like what little I know of parenting small children – no time off, things often don’t follow plan, and an abundance of tears. Or I could make some snide and slightly bitter comment about how nice it must be to have co-workers so that other people can share the blame when there’s a screw up. Or I could lament the fact that when I steal office supplies I’m the one who has to replace them, so it’s a futile effort at getting back at “the man.”
But the truth is that I’m not bitter. I LOVE my job – for it’s flexibility and pj-time – but mostly for the work. To get to write, teach, and edit all day is everything I’ve ever wanted. If that means putting up with the narrow view of work that requires a commute, a cubicle, and a 8-5 schedule, I’m okay with that . . . at least most of the time.
So what about you? What do you say when someone implies that your work isn’t “real” or even that you don’t really work?