“Since you're home all day, could you...?” “You don't have kids holding you back, so you can do whatever you want, can you....?” “Well, I knew you'd be off today so, can you...?” “They always say busy people get things done, so I thought I'd call you – you're one of the busiest people I know...”
I started a computer services business in 1993, working from home. I had unrealistic expectations of what working from home entails.
Fantasy #1. Wake up, have a relaxing coffee, make breakfast. Get my work done. Go to the bank and deposit the amount of money that covers 150% of my household needs and wants. Have lunch with a friend or my mother. Buy some office supplies. Straighten up the already tidy house. (Pffft!!!) Cook a nice dinner and relax for the evening.
Fantasy #2. The entire family works together on keeping the house up. My work day is 8-4 with regularly scheduled breaks where I would smile at my family members who are all doing their own thing quietly in some other area of the house during my work hours.
The Work At Home Reality – You want to work from home for the freedom it will give you! Your children, regardless of age, are unable to quietly do anything – pour a bowl of cereal, find their socks, dress themselves, pick up the remote control, locate the milk. The amount of errands that need done has multiplied, since you're home. A friend calls you at 10:30 in the midst of a bawling meltdown because she's maybe getting a divorce and everyone else is “at work”.. and she knew you'd be home. A relative and another friend also call daily during your work hours and just have to tell you "one thing" before they'll let you hang up... one very long, emotionally exhausting thing. Your mother wants to go to lunch once a week, because you need a break honey! You spend Tuesday morning at the pediatrician with a child exhibiting signs of strep throat, then pick up the prescription and special foods and spend the rest of the day running to their assistance because apparently the strep has disabled their legs and they can't reach the remote control, a glass of juice, a blanket, a pillow, their stuffed animal or a new roll of toilet paper. At 3 o'clock you vow to at least return phone calls from your business voice mail. At 3:30 the rest of the crew gets home and bursts into your office. You hold the phone to your left ear and wave frantically with your right hand to shush them. They ignore you and continue yelling their news to you through the closet door where you finally retreat – plugging one ear with a finger and getting into the corner farthest from the door. Your potential customer thinks you're an amateur. A lonely client keeps you on the phone for almost an hour while your family eats dinner without you. You want to go back to work to escape. Everyone thinks you are "living the dream!"
People didn't respect my boundaries, because I had none. I felt compelled to juggle it all. After all, I wanted to work for myself so I could be there for the important things. I just had no idea there would be so many!
After a day in my “reality”, I wasn't creative enough or energetic enough to market, run and grow my business. I worked into the evenings, but it wasn't my best work. I was angry, frustrated, exhausted. I wanted to “get it done” with the least amount of personal investment necessary because I was tapped out. I no longer had the ability to say no without a reason, or justification that would be “acceptable.” I felt that way for years after the business closed. It had a numbing effect. I expected myself to do MORE with less... always.
If you won't prioritize and control how you spent my time, others will. You'll feel powerless and resentful. I wasn't my own boss... I had 4-8 bosses spending my time and energy between them.
Years passed and this Superwoman role became a part of my identity. So had the stress of feeling out of control and on call for emergencies both real and imagined. Some days it became an effort to breathe.
After a panic attack that felt more like a heart attack, I promised my husband things would change. For a time, I avoided people since I didn't know how to say no. I'd led everyone to believe I'd always “be there” for them. I started to say no to everything, but I felt I needed an excuse to say no.
I knew I had to find the power to make my own decisions. I stepped out of the hub of this wheel and tried to connect all those people to one another – encouraging them to lean on each other for a little while.
Eventually most people forgave me for this, but some have had hurt feelings. They've felt abandoned and unloved. They felt “pushed off” on other people. I said no to almost everything – going from one extreme to another as they saw it.
It took several years before I could say yes or no honestly. Changing direction was hard, but it was way past time for me to grow up and act like an adult in my own life. Not carrying the weight of the world has reminded me that only God can be God in the lives of others. When people are not able to comfort us, God comforts us best and helps us to change.
How can you know who you are if your entire life is lived at the will of the people around you? If you've not made the decisions for the direction your life would take? If you deny the things that would be “best” in order to serve the things that are only “good?” If you've never taken the time to identify them for yourself?
For one week - take 15 minutes each day to sit quietly with pen and paper. Ask yourself and God – Am I saying “yes” when I should say “no”? If I said “no” to those things... what things would I be free to say “yes” to? Come back and share your “best” list with us!