I work for myself and have for years. I love having control of my time. To be sure, it would be mistake to see this as a stark choice; one thing I’ve learned from the Mosaic Project is that plenty of people with conventional jobs have reasonable control over their time too. Nonetheless, with my set-up, the stakes to choose something personal rather than work-related are probably smaller in any individual decision. But that leads to a different problem. Because I can do things during the day, and can often move work from one day to another, or one week to another, each decision to say yes or no seems more fraught.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with this recently. September has been a month of transition: starting schools, a new childcare situation and schedule, new sports routines and the like. All the expectations of previous years have been re-set. As one example, I now do the morning routine on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Last year, I didn’t. That means (among other things) I go outside and wait for the bus with my 7-year-old. But he asks close to every other day (when we have childcare) if I’ll be coming out, and can I come out, and so forth. While I enjoy chatting with him about his day, so I am happy to do it twice a week, five times a week is a different matter. It’s an uncertain chunk of time during what is often a productive hour for me. I either need to say no and deal with the whining, or else I do it, and feel like these 3 days of the week are chopped up. Are there consequences? Not immediately, I suppose. But over the long run, I can’t do everything I could do without undermining my professional goals too.
If I had an 8:30 a.m. staff meeting in an office, I could answer semi-truthfully that I “can’t” do it. I can do it — though I also know I can accomplish very productive things in that window, possibly doing more than some chunk of meetings accomplish.
My husband tried to be philosophical about this with me: “It’s like a country western song! Eventually he’ll be too embarrassed to be seen out waiting for the bus with you! Aren’t you lucky that you get to be home during this time when he wants to be with you?” Which is fine, except that this country western song could apply equally to both of us. We both have control of our time. He seems to have managed the expectations differently.
All of this is part of transition, though, and I’m sure at some point we’ll reach an accommodation where each individual decision is not fraught. My son may figure out that I come out with him twice a week and don’t three times a week, and that’s just the way we do things. In the interim, though, I’ve become a bit more amenable to 8 a.m. calls. They give me specific reasons to stick with the 2x on, 3x off schedule.
If you have a flexible schedule, how do you decide what you’ll do and what you won’t?