This week I returned to full time “work from business”, and for the public sector no-less, after 2.5 years of “work from home” for myself. This first week back has been a rude awakening, catching public transport 90 minutes each way every day, and made worse by me getting a cold on Monday night and spending the other 3 days of this Easter shortened week feeling very much the worse for wear in my new work place (I’m sorry for being one of those people that bring my diseases into work with me, but contractor, so every day off costs be dollars – And I was isolated, away from other people).
I’d like to reflect a bit on the some of the non-work things I’m feeling right now. I knew the return would be difficult. Over the last 30 months I’d got myself into a pleasant routine of doing school runs, playing a stay-at-home dad of sorts, getting out of bed at 8am, having breakfasts with people in similar situations as mine and finally starting my day with a gym workout most days. I’d also get to Taekwondo 4 days a week in the evenings. Perhaps astonishingly, I managed to work at least a solid 8 hours a day most every day. Some days I did 12+ hours and some days I did 6, but it worked out to about 45 hours a week (I was honestly and accurately recording my hours, for no one really but myself).
Contrast that to this week. Up at 6-6:30am. On a bus at 6:30-7:00am. Start work in the 8:30-9:00am region after a painful commute on a loud and uncomfortable bus. Work solid through until a bit after 5pm, with little break to speak of, before making the near 2-hour door-to-door trip home to see my family at about 7pm. That’s a bit soul crushing when I think back to what life was like only a few weeks ago. Crazily, this is the accepted norm for just about every adult.
Arriving home those first two nights, I felt both guilty and sad, as my two youngest children, aged 6 and 9 eagerly greeted me as I walked in the door, an exhausted (and sick) mess. Unusually, they hadn’t seen me all day and were both bursting at the seems to tell me about their day. Me? I was just shattered tired and pretty much all I wanted to do was go to bed. Come Wednesday I did just that. On getting home I had a shower and went straight to bed, finally allowing myself to sleep near 9pm. Back to that first night back. I’m embarrassed to say I yelled at my 6-year-old. I was so exhausted, and he was so eager to talk to me, so full of noise and energy. He’s had me always there since before he was going to school, and now suddenly I’m no longer around. He’s taking it in his stride though. He’s old enough to understand why I’m not around at the moment and I think he’s 100% accepting of this new reality.
Again, thinking about it, I’m being selfish. This is pretty much every parent’s reality, and it sucks. The silly thing is this doesn’t have to be the everyone’s reality. If all these white-collar workers could spend even 2 work from home days a week, that’d make a massive difference to their mental health and their experiences of being a parent (and a partner). This isn’t a blog on why people should work from home though, that has been done almost to death.
Don’t be mistaken into thinking I’m not enjoying my job though. It’s great so far. I really enjoy the actual work. I don’t mind the environment I’m doing it in. Despite not being in an office for a few years, I had 17ish years prior doing just that. It’s still pretty much a “norm” for me. I think the exhaustion I’m feeling this week is partly the commute, partly the cold, and partly the application of pretty much all my mental faculties and concentration for 8 straight hours. A few weeks ago, I could apply the same level of mental muscle for 12 hours, but broken up, and feel more energetic. Now, in this “8 hours straight” format (plus travel), I don’t know how anyone gets the energy to do anything other than crawl up in a ball at the end of the day. I certainly have no desire to go to the gym, or to play video games, or any of the stuff I might attempt to squeeze into my week day.