Making Space for Work

The truth is I’ve never been much for working in shared spaces. In college, I never went to the library to study. In my freelance life, I’ve never set up shop at the local coffeehouse for a day of work. I’ve always worked at home—sitting cross-legged on my dorm bed; tucked into the tiny desk in the one-bedroom apartment in DC; or, since moving to Durham nearly six years ago, ensconced in my perfectly appointed office with the view of my backyard garden. I like working where everything—even the most obscure, not-thought-about-in-advance thing—I want or need is within easy reach, where I can pop out onto the back porch for a break in the hammock whenever I need it, where I can yell whatever choice words I want at my computer.

Before my daughter was born, I had all sorts of ideas about how I would make working at home work as a freelancer and a mom. I’d work during naps. I’d get up early and work before she woke or do my work after she went to bed. I’d hire some in-home help to care for her a couple of hours per week. Heck, maybe I’d even work while she just played independently on a blanket at my feet.

Then my daughter was born, and, as everyone so annoyingly likes to tell you when you are expecting your first child, everything changed. And it wasn’t just that my daughter didn’t believe in naps longer than thirty minutes, or that there was no way my exhausted body was going to agree to getting out of bed before she did or staying up (at least in a productive state) long after she went to bed, or that my daughter’s idea of independent play was emptying every single thing off of my shelves and out of the garbage can. These were all, certainly, obstacles to being a productive freelancer, but the problem went beyond that. Even after we hired a wonderful babysitter who my daughter adored and happily played with a few afternoons a week, I still was finding it difficult to work at home. Instead of going straight to my office and shutting the door as soon as the babysitter arrived, I found myself, instead, on my way to the grocery store, or outside tending to the garden, or in the basement doing laundry. It wasn’t that these things didn’t have to be done before my daughter was born; it was that I used to have all day to do my work plus these things. Now I had only a few precious hours, and as much as I should have been using them for work, I just couldn’t block out all of the other to-dos on my list when they were so blatantly in my face. For the first time, working at home was a detriment to my productivity. It simply wasn’t working. I wasn’t working.

Enter nido—a place set up for me to work. Just work. Where I can open up my computer, pull up the files I’m working on, and focus solely on them, no dishes in the sink that I’ll just wash really quickly before I edit that article, no sad-looking plants out the window that need only a quick hit from the hose before I download that file, no load of diapers that I’ll just quickly run down to the washing machine before I respond to those e-mails. At nido, I’m freed from my obligations to everything but my work—work that I find fulfilling and important and interesting but that I wasn’t finding the time for when I tried to work from home after my daughter was born.

Is it a perfect solution? No, not entirely. After all, when I come home, there are still dishes in the sink and dying plants in the yard and diapers that need to be washed. But these things will get tended to—perhaps only at the end of the day when I’m essentially in a stupor, but I’m okay with that. There’s bound to be something that’s relegated to that position, and I’d certainly rather it be trivial household tasks than the work I take both pride and pleasure in.