Something that I am asked often as the wife of a “work at home” man is how it works. What people are really asking me is what the boundaries are. There seems to be this false impression out there that being self employed and working from home offers the ultimate freedom. I think a lot of people believe that all Curtis does is play all day.

All I can say is that it took a while.

Yes, there is a lot of freedom involved in running your own business, being your own boss, and setting your own schedule. That said the work still needs to get done, and our family still has to function.

In the early days when he was trying to get it off the ground and working a normal day-job we sacrificed a lot. He worked a lot of evenings, almost every Saturday, and often got up early to get things done. That was ok with me at the time because I knew it was short term. We had very few other commitments in our lives, no kids, lots of friends and hobbies. I could entertain myself and he could work away at side projects. For the most part it didn’t really have too deep an affect on life in general for us. Did we fight about it sometimes, yup. Usually though it worked because we both knew that the end result would be worth it.

As the business started to take off we had to re-draw those boundary lines. When he finally made the jump from running a “side business” to it being his sole employment I started to expect a little bit more of his time. (I also got pregnant with our daughter shortly there after and became a generally untenable woman for about 9 months so take some of this with a grain of salt, pregnancy doesn’t bring out my best personality traits). That said I still understood that he was figuring things out and though he wasn’t the sole income earner in the family he was certainly the main income earner.

We started to draw more clear work/play boundaries shortly after our daughter was born. A lot of his desire to work from home was to be involved in his kids lives beyond an hour after work every day. His business was still young at that point though and he was still missing out on some important events. I was also finding that I needed/wanted more of his help to maintain the life that we had become accustomed to.

It was around then that we started to evaluate his true working hours. Some of the things we asked ourselves were: When did he work well? When is he most productive? When do I need the most help, and how can we balance this? Most importantly how do we also make sure that we spend time with each other and keep our marriage healthy?

Some of the answers were obvious. Curtis is sharpest and most productive in the morning – I mean the EARLY Morning, like he can get up at 5, get to work and accomplish more between 5 & 7 than a lot of people do ALL DAY LONG. He lags in the afternoon, but usually finds if he has time he can be quite productive again in the evenings.

Some of the answers were a little more obscure, and things are always in-flux. How do we make sure that he gets time with E, and that we get the time we need together? How can he help me out around here without it taking away from his work time? How does he handle the “friend” that assumes that because he’s not working in a traditional office he can take off and do whatever he wants during the day.

After sorting through some of those things we came up with the following solutions to take advantage of his most alert hours, encourage his productivity and keep some balance around our house.

Mornings often go like this: 
Curtis is up at 5, and spends from 5 to 7 working on a personal project – product, course, e-book etc. that will earn money down the road but doesn’t have a tangible income as of yet. 7-8 he helps me get E up, ready, breakfasted dressed etc. She is Daddy’s girl and the morning goes much more smoothly for all of us if she gets some time with him before he moves to his desk for the day.

Our daytime looks a little like this: 8-12 Curtis is at his desk. 3 days a week E is out at preschool and so he gets a couple hours where he sees absolutely no interruptions which I’m sure he appreciates, but the other days of the week I do the best I can to keep her downstairs with me, out of his office and off his lap. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, sometimes we go to the park.

12-12:30/1 We often have lunch as a family. E LOVES getting to see her Daddy in the middle of the day, and is so thrilled to have lunch with him, play lego’s, or read stories. How long he spends at lunch with us often depends on how heavy his work load is during that particular day/week. When he’s busier sometimes it’s a quick bite then back to his desk. When he’s got some time to spare then sometimes lunch is a little bit more drawn out.

12:30/1 – Dinner (usually around 5:30 or 6). Curtis is back at his desk, and again I am doing what I can to minimize his interruptions. That said, if I need him to help me move something, or someone is sick etc. He’s around to help out, and I love that.

Dinner to Bedtime (translate 5:30 ish to about 8 when the bedtime routine is done) Curtis is present with us 100%. We get his full attention during those hours. It’s not uncommon for him to come down and play with E for half an hour or so while I finish getting dinner ready. Then we try to do something together as a family if there’s time after dinner. Being Daddy’s girl she prefer’s to have him put her to bed these days and I love that because I think having an awesome relationship with Daddy is very important for little girls.

8 – Bed Weeknights – personal or business development.

Yes you read that right, those evening hours after E is in bed is still productive time around our house for BOTH of us. In Jan of 2013 we decided that we were not going to turn the TV on during evening hours on weeknights and we don’t. There are so many more productive things we can do with our time then veg out in front of the TV. So, while he’s not doing client work, he’s reading about productivity, business development, personal growth. code, industry changes or events, etc. He’s researching ideas, we’re brainstorming together, coming up with ways to do things better, grow the business, and also have more freedom. OR we’re visiting with each other, unpacking the events of the day, and generally making sure that our relationship stays intact and healthy.

Honestly our no TV on weekdays rule has allowed him to grow his business twofold this year, and we’ve really found that we don’t miss it. In fact on the weekend when we do watch a movie or a TV series on Netflix, sometimes I now feel like I’m missing out on some of the most important time that I spend with my spouse.

This is just a generalization of what our life typically looks like, obviously we stray from this routine from time to time. Sometimes he works more to accomplish a goal – like his recent decision to put in extra hours until the end of the year so that when our second child arrives in January he can spend time with us and help with the adjustment. The thing to keep in mind though is that we’ve put a timeline on how long he can do that. That way we both know that it’s short lived. It makes the small sacrifices worth while because we both know that it’s short term.

On a day to day basis this is what our life looks like and we’ve set these boundaries in place so that we can keep some balance between life and work. When you run your own business, and especially when you work from home it’s very easy to allow the business to take over every aspect of your life so we’ve found it essential to set some clear boundaries. This helps us all to keep stress levels down, and makes sure that we all know what to expect and when.

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

2 responses to “Boundaries”

  1. Jesse Petersen Avatar

    That schedule is eerily like ours, as I’d gathered it might be when Curtis interviewed me earlier this year. What I’m NOT doing and going to be giving some thought and conversation to now is that Bedtime – Bed (weeknights) section.

    We do watch a show or two and then go to bed. I do have projects I want to work on for personal development, a plugin update, contribute to WP Core, and a long-term income source. I think we might have to try that for a month going into 2014 and see if we want to keep that for 2014 or not.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      We found that even if you don’t work on business development we’re more likely to talk with the TV off. For some ‘funny reason’ talking to each other at night helps us have an awesome marriage.