Did you ever feel as if you could, or would, work from home? Any reason why?
Reading about the complaints of the so-called Manc sharers, who bemoan being unable to spend as much time at home with their children because of their remote-working computer jobs, I had to do some serious soul-searching.
How did the digital revolution prompt what must surely be a world-first experiment? A world where it’s easier for us to work from home than ever before – but nonetheless impossible to juggle it all?
As much as I yearn to work from home, I can’t. Well, maybe I could, but I wouldn’t know where to go. They didn’t build this country’s technology infrastructure to allow me to do that. I have to go to the big offices and work for big companies.
I’d rather spend my time researching a science book than fulfilling my daily online duties. I wouldn’t dream of sitting at a desk in front of a laptop in the morning to check Twitter. Then again, I’m happy to pay someone to do that job for me, especially as it’s a niche job.
The good thing about being able to work from home is that I now, finally, have more time to write the more thought-provoking novels that I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve always wanted to write that novel about the 19th-century British woman who renounces marriage to spend her entire life travelling the world meeting people, and then returns to England later on in life to lay down her teaching career. At least I can amuse myself with this far-fetched idea while I watch Countdown on TV.
I enjoyed working from home until the sole reason why I needed to be here in the first place became abundantly clear: my children. Or rather, the people who care for my children.
Working from home makes you less attached to home. For years, I wasn’t attached to anything else. Not my home, not even my coat. But now my children are back home and my house isn’t the only thing that’s empty.
Working from home suddenly made sense, but the benefit for me seemed to have been offset by the horror of missing out on everything in life. Many of those who work from home with children find that they miss family functions so badly that they have to force themselves to go. I don’t have that issue, but by staying at home to care for my children, I would literally be missing out on so much.
And so, to answer that basic question that the Manc sharers ask, they can never work from home. In fact, they never will. It’s a brief form of labour pioneered to some degree by the ancient Greek Spartans and its only present-day equivalent is now found in the Manc sharers.
The thought-provoking novelist Willa Cather has a great chapter in her novel Maybe About Tomorrow, in which she describes the joy of mowing the lawn at her son’s wedding in Idaho. She hated the mower for a couple of years, but the joys of being able to get to work from the farm where she lives in Alaska was too great. She smiles for the most part and enjoys every step in the sequence.
It’s no small irony that Sheaf Lawrence, a writer whose writings were acquired by Amazon, was a member of the authors’ strike against Amazon’s working conditions. He was never able to work from home, no matter how hard he tried.
The question I have, then, is “What’s the point of travelling to a foreign country to cut my kids’ hair, take out the rubbish and give them presents?” Isn’t that the real thing? Travel for the beauty of seeing new places and that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to prove to myself that I’m doing the right thing.
• Harriet Price’s latest novel, Guernica, will be published by HarperCollins in August 2015.