You Have What?!

So I’m lying in bed this  morning, mapping out my day, as one does during those precious moments between waking up and having to get out of bed.

The day promised to be satisfyingly productive, but not overwhelming … TKO at the gym; phone a client who might possibly be getting annoyed with trying and failing to reach me on the phone (just email me, already.  I’m a writer and I respond better to the written word!); dentist; a few hours in the office; etc etc.

Then my husband casually mentions that he has a TV crew coming to the house to interview him for a business profile.

WHAT?!

The house looks like a crime scene, the bunny is stinking up the entire main floor, the fish is swimming in green jelly, and … well, again, the house looks like a crime scene!

Now, I have been told that I am addicted to the exclamation mark.  While I can’t go cold turkey, I have been trying to cut down.  But, really a situation like this clearly calls for multiples, and yes, even ALL CAPS!!

Suddenly my main priority for the day became creating the fake house.  In a way it’s a mixed blessing because the possibility of being arrested for child neglect based on the condition of my clutter to floor space ratio was slightly worrying me.  There’s nothing like the threat of exposure to prompt a good clean-up.

Still, a little notice wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Given the time restraints I’ve had to be satisfied with a Level 3 Clean, which translates to ‘respectable if you don’t look too hard’ (Level 2 being ‘clean enough for company’, and Level 1 being ‘have a good old poke around – it’s spotless’; a condition it hasn’t been in since shortly before we moved in).

Now my brilliantly planned day is all ruined, and if I have to console myself with chocolate and trashy sitcoms then it’s clearly not my fault.

Where The Buck Stopped

It’s always a good thing to be able to blame others for all your problems.    In fact, I make it a policy wherever possible.

So you can imagine my distress when I found myself forced to accept responsibility for my own shortcomings at a business mastermind meeting.  The discussion wending its way round the table was ‘what is your biggest challenge as a solopreneur?’.  Not a startlingly original topic, which I answered with the equally uninspired complaint of distraction.

There is no doubt that the productivity of anyone who works in a home office is seriously threatened by thoughts of dirty dishes and laundry, and interruptions from demanding children, or dogs with dreams of the park.

I received all the usual advice – turn off the home phone; shut the office door for a pre-determined amount of time; and above all make sure the children understand not to interrupt unless there is fire, blood or a visibly broken bone.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before – and much against my better judgement I found myself admitting that, try as I might to blame the house, the children, the husband and the dog, when it comes down to it, the real problem is me.  If I’m working on a project for a client I am focused and motivated, because I do not miss deadlines.  On the other hand, if I’m working on anything that could be described as admin or business development I will joyfully latch onto any tiny distraction that presents itself.

Oh dear – did I forget to put that green load on to wash?  What happens if my son wants his favourite t-shirt tomorrow?  Oh look the sun is shining – if I take the dog to the park now I will get a valuable dose of Vitamin D.  I really haven’t phoned my parents in a while, and with the time difference between here and England I can’t wait until this evening … you get the picture.

The solution?  I’m working from a rented office for a few hours, four days a week.  My plan is to use that time, not to do the client work which I know will get done anyway, but to focus on anything more easily prodded down the to-do list.

After all these years it’s like having a job again!  I pack my lunch and head off, watching the clock in case some imaginary boss notices me being late.  Then once I’m there I find myself actually having to manage my time in order to dent my to-do list during the allotted time.  I feel so grown up.

Seriously though, I think I may end up achieving more in 16 hours at that office than I usually do during the entire week.  Let’s hope it actually translates into some kind of income.

The Only Swinging Going on Here is My Mood

I generally think of myself as the unhinged one in the family.  Not seriously, mind – let’s just say moderately dysfunctional.  Nothing that can’t be treated with a decent prescription and a regular Terry Pratchett fix.  (If you’ve never read any Terry Pratchett, start now.  Any of his books are guaranteed to jumpstart a failing sense of humour.)

But right now the drama being enacted in this house has reached whole new levels.  In fact if I could teach myself not to agonize over everyone else’s stress I’m pretty sure I’d be 15lb lighter and look ten years younger.

First of all, my landscaper husband is gearing up for the season with an imposter using a name confusingly similar to ours.  Having just relocated from another city where they went bankrupt and outstayed their welcome (with suppliers, the trade association and, presumably, customers alike), they seem to be settling in here with the intention of piggybacking on our good name.

I doubt they’ll last long enough to do too much damage to our reputation, but it is still annoying and rather worrying.  Let’s face it, in a city where the growing season is about 10 minutes long, and in an economy not conducive to discretionary spending, we don’t really need this.

Then, as if it wasn’t bad enough watching my daughter get her dreams crushed in January, in February I had to stand by and watch her heart being broken.  I have to say I’m a little nervous about March.

Young love is a cruel and terrible thing, but somehow the wisdom that comes with my unfortunate maturity is little able to console a child who, contrary to all her current expectations, will almost certainly love again.

In fairness to the young man in question I believe that he is as in love as she is.  Unfortunately he is a product of one of the more rigid religions and apparently neither God nor his family approved.  I guess it’s hard to take a stand when you’ve been taught to conform and believe without question, based on the compelling argument that your people have always acted and believed this way.

I’d like to tell you that I am retaining a detached but supportive concern for my suffering loved ones, but in reality I am once again reduced to chocolate almonds and gin as a palliative.  The irony is not lost on me that a bunch of teetotalling extremists have driven me to drink.

Sign Me Up

I’m starting to see a little bit of light at the end of the “Volunteer Mum” tunnel.

With three children I have felt like something of a slave to schools, teams and activities; all expecting their pound of flesh to supplement those astronomical fees.

But times are changing.  With #1 graduated and #2 working in his spare time I am pretty much down to one child still in need of the volunteer parent.

Usually that translates to the odd field trip, or some fundraising at the gym, but this weekend it meant hours on end hanging around a gymnastics meet selling raffle tickets.

Not by choice, you understand.  More because I was seriously delinquent on my volunteer commitment and in grave danger of having a huge fine added to my visa card in June.  Who knew that when they give you that monstrous parent handbook at the beginning of the year you’re actually supposed to read it?  If I had I would have noticed that the gym had reverted to the volunteer commitment system after a few years of optional fundraising.  At least I realized in time to address the situation.

It certainly wasn’t a demanding task but it didn’t feel like an especially productive use of my time.  Except that the fine equates to about $25 an hour which isn’t a bad rate for sitting on a chair explaining how a raffle works.

What a shame I didn’t actually have a child competing.