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Mon, Apr 16, 2012
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Kids, Dad's at work - at home
by Clara Chow

Last week, the Supportive Spouse quit his job to set up his own business from home.

For weeks, we had deliberated if he should do it.

After all, with two kids and a domestic helper (and my Internet-shopping and beauty-product addictions) to support, the loss of one source of regular income seemed a little risky and frightening.

In the end, we decided that:

A) setting up a writing and publishing services venture was a now-or-never shot at being his own boss;

B) it was more economical and productive if he didn't have to commute to work; and

C) a work-from-home arrangement would allow him to eventually spend more time with our two sons.

We did our sums and redrew our household budget. We decided that eating out, staycations, toys and assorted non-necessities were out for the time being.

He got in touch with business contacts and sussed out potential deals.

I redecorated our study into a joint home-office - complete with a comfortable armchair so we could camp in there, our kid-free zone.

I had visions of us working side by side at our long Ikea desk, manning separate laptops, divided only by our ink-jet printer.

I admit: I felt very excited, in no small part because I thought it was time he had a taste of my life 24/7.

Welcome to the work-from-home bliss/nightmare of small hands pounding on the door for your attention or refereeing kiddie fights.

Welcome to the end of leisurely lunch hours; of nipping out in mid-thought-stream because the kids have to be brought home from school.

Alas, not long into our preparations for the impending Dad-At-Work-At-Home event next month, we ran into a snag.

With both of us born under the fiery star sign of Leo, I had a sneaky suspicion that working together - at least, physically - was not going to be a bed of roses.

After all, we had met while working at a now-defunct newspaper, and I have vivid memories of him turning his sarcastic wit on a co-worker that tried his patience in those salad days.

And while I am usually mild-mannered at work, I can morph into a lioness when crossed at home.

So it was that, a couple of days ago, we got into our first work-related fight.

The SS was typing out some e-mail messages on a Saturday morning, while I was hanging out with our boys, blowing some soap bubbles, when I asked him to step out with us for a moment.

When he replied that he was busy, I blew my top. Wasn't the point of starting your own outfit so that you could spend more - not less - time with us?

I went all Unreasonable Wife on him for about an hour. Luckily, we were quick to make up (Leo anger dissipates quickly, and then we're back to all smiles while you wonder what hit you).

I have since realised that having both spouses working from home takes some finesse.

After some Googling, I found some useful relationship advice, such as respecting the sanctity of each other's work space, and setting specific times to deal with family and work topics.

Chief of these was that one had to think of one's spouse's work as "our business".

Given the fluidity of roles in such a set-up, both partners must be invested in the venture, and help out where their strengths lie.

So, if I had to mind the kids on a weekend while the SS took an important business call, I would feel less resentful, knowing that it was our business he was working towards.

Communication was also key. We should prep each other beforehand about the day's schedule and divide the home and work tasks appropriately.

That way, if he is having a packed day at work, I could help to keep the kids out of his hair, and vice versa.

It's an arrangement that will need to be tweaked, and it might not even work out (either one of us might have to end up renting a workspace elsewhere).

The priority, however, is always our marriage and family. And knowing that is the first step to success.

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