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Around the Water Cooler

September 1, 2010

This one is Russian Orthodox!

For the past three years, I’ve been working for a “virtual organization.” So, though I was an employee, I was the sort for whom pants were optional, if you know what I mean: I worked from home.

There are pros and cons to that situation, of course.


Some of the pro are avoiding the time and effort of commuting, avoiding other people who are commuting, avoiding bed bugs on the commute, avoiding other people in the office, and not being tethered to a desk but having the ability to roam, pantsless, from the kitchen to the desk to the bed to the couch and back. When working from home, I also enjoyed the ability to get some tacos started in the afternoon when on a conference call.

These were the pros before I was a parent. But once I became a mom and went “back to work,” one of the biggest pros was having a babysitter hand my baby to me so he could take milk from me, rather than carry a secret machine in a backpack with lots of parts that needed to be washed and bottles with a quantity of milk that I feared wouldn’t suffice that needed to be refrigerated and transported. And finding time and space in a busy day in order to pump.  People who can manage to pump at work are miracle workers so far as I am concerned.

I also got to know and relate to Henry’s babysitter and be around in case she needed me.

In sum, there are a lot of pros to working from home. But as I said, there are also some cons.


Let’s see: absolute lack of community, abject loneliness, a burgeoning inability to relate to other adults, and a new aversion to pants. Lately, having a small child tap at my bedroom door saying “mama? mama?” has made everyone pretty sad, so last week, I finished up at the nonprofit.

And Now?

This week, I started a part-time gig at a publisher where I used to work. It’s the sort of work where, I only go 20 hours a week, but I actually *go.*

I get up, I get onto the train with my reading material and my iPod, I buy expensive espresso drinks and drink them in the company of other people, all while I am wearing presentable clothing.

My Thoughts So Far:

1. The offices look exactly as they did several years ago when I left, except for with several years more grime ground into the rug and upholstered bits.

2. If you had asked me what it was like to work in that building before, I would have told you that the fire alarm went off every day but that it was a false alarm and that the man at the front desk used his faulty and buzzing intercom system to attempt to explain to us, in a very thick and possibly fake accent, what was transpiring. But then both you and I would have suspected that I was exaggerating. Here’s the thing, though: it happened the first day I was there, and I have only been there two days, so let’s just say that it does actually happen (at least) 50% of the time.

3. After 2 days of sitting in a chair for many hours in a row without galvanting from room to room at will, my back already feels like I urgently need some sort of invasive surgery.

4. I missed the water cooler, you know, figuratively. The water cooler culture. I went to find the literal water cooler, though, to get a drink on my first day, and noted that it looks like a robot has conquered and ousted the bubbler. Whereas it used to be a plain jug thing that relied on gravity and a glugging noise to deliver water, the new water cooler has a piercing blue light and no obvious supply of water, which must come from, I don’t know, behind the wall or something. Both water cooler culture and technology have changed. I hope I can handle it!

Thanks to striatic on flickr for use of the photo!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael H. permalink
    September 1, 2010 10:05 pm

    I have been working from home for the past 3.5 years, so I know exactly what you mean about missing the water cooler. Flexible schedule and short commute are great advantages; not having the ability to casually drop in on co-workers, and having the option of working all day long (or not at all) are not positive features. But in general, it was a pretty nice deal.

    And now I have a beautiful 5-month-old daughter. My wife and I have been taking turns working & baby-tending. For a brief, shining month, we had a high school girl from down the street babysitting for 5 hours/day, and that was wonderful, but otherwise we’re on shifts or alternating days. I know, I shouldn’t complain, we each have schedules flexible enough to let us do that. But it’s definitely harder than I’d expected, and there’s not really a lot of getting work done while minding the baby.

  2. Karen permalink
    September 2, 2010 7:12 am

    RE Miracle Pumpers, I couldn’t agree more. I did it for about 8 wks and my milk was not adequate to begin with. It was tough, for sure. But it also provided the best instance of Girls Embarrassing Boys I’ve ever had the pleasure of perpetrating:

    My boss told me that there was a room with a sm fridge where I could pump, but as soon as I was “finished” it would be turned into a server room (apparently they didn’t anticipate any other nursing mothers in the company’s future, despite the fact that I was the first female *ever* to have a baby and the average age at the company is about 31- but I digress).

    One midday I came upon the door to the “pumping room” wide open with the pump sitting on top of the dorm-room fridge, all ready to go. There was a team of 3 under-30 IT guys (one of whom is our director of IT) standing at the door.

    “Do you know what that is?”

    “Yes, it’s my breast pump, for pumping breast milk for my baby.”

    You never saw such a variety of scarlet faces on boys in your life. It was wonderful. That door stayed tightly shut after that until I certified in writing that I was no longer using it.

    We currently have 3 pregnant women on staff, one who is about to finish her leave. Wonder what they’ll do…. ?

  3. September 2, 2010 10:05 pm

    Good luck with the change. Mid-office yoga stretching very helpful to the well-being of one’s back. Although for true effectiveness, it starts to feel like it must be done every 22 minutes…alas…

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