I find it ironic that in this new day and age of “work from home” that the best career and life move I’ve made in the last decade plus was getting my own office space outside of my home. However, there’s a pretty viable story behind this and I think you’ll understand my logic by the end of it. I started my work from home journey all the way back in 2008. It had always been my dream to step away from having a boss, commuting to an office, and essentially be in the quintessential “rat race” like everyone else. When I had the chance to venture off on my own, I jumped at it. Authority was never my thing. Even when I had super nice and supportive bosses, just answering to anyone for anything bothered me. I knew that once I was doing my own thing and putting sole responsibility of my income on myself that I would be motivated as all hell. Luckily I was right. With about 6 months of savings I took the leap, dove in, and thankfully I’ve never looked back. These days I have a fantastic business owning and operating a number of websites. The schedule is flexible. I make the kind of money I want to make and in general I’d say I live the life I want to lead. But all that said, I didn’t really achieve peak “contentment” until only recently. It was one small, yet huge change that I cannot even remotely believe I didn’t make years ago.
When I first started working from home
As I said, I first began working from home in 2008. At that time home was a one bedroom apartment in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan. I was living with my then girlfriend (now wife). We had a decent sized space. It was probably around 500-600 sq ft, a great view from the 27th floor looking at the Empire State building, a doorman, and pretty much what many 20 somethings have with a few years or work experience under their belts. However, to go from commuting i.e. walking about 15 minutes to an office building each day, to wearing my boxers into the next room was absolutely glorious. But let’s get something very clear here. Working from home and working for yourself isn’t nearly what it’s cracked up to be.
It requires a ton of discipline. When you’re working right next to a television it’s not the easiest thing in the world to keep focus on that computer screen. When your girlfriend is away all day at her job, it’s pretty tempting to sit around, watch movies, or do whatever the hell else us hairy males do. But for me, I was “lucky” in the sense that just the mere getting away from work life lit a fire under my ass that has still not gone out. I know this isn’t true for everyone and I wish it were, but for me personally, I’m just able to sit down and do what I have to do day in and day out. It’s a critical component to working from home. But let’s get back to business here and focus on actually working from home.
When a one bedroom apartment is not only the place you live, make meals, have arguments, make up, go to the bathroom, etc etc, but also your place of business, it can become somewhat frustrating at times. The separation of work and business becomes this blurry line that you don’t always want to have to deal with. Luckily in my first few years of working from home, this wasn’t too much of an issue because it was all new to me. Just the fact that I had never done this before didn’t really lend itself to issues right away. It was a pretty successful go around for a while. But then things began to shift. Eventually living and working in such a small space didn’t feel quite as fun anymore. Not only that, here I am in the middle of one of the greatest cities in the world and I’m not experiencing said city. It’s pretty weird staying in almost ALL the time when Manhattan is literally down the stairs. The first few years of a business can be the toughest so I’m working 12-14 hour days not to mention weekends too. I tell ya, working from home in New York City becomes pretty old pretty fast. So what would come next was a natural transition.
Living in a house and working from home
The year was 2009-2010 and like many couples do, the wife and I figured it was time to do two things: start a family and get more space. Things were going well in my business, and my wife’s salary provided solid income so that we were able to save enough money to purchase our first home. We decided to move to Long Island. We bought a 3 bedroom townhouse. This was a huge step up space wise. Going from 500 sq ft to over 2000 sq ft was like a dream come true. No longer would I have to eat in the same place I worked. Just the mere act of “going downstairs” to take a break provided a new dimension to my work from home life that would be a much needed addition. Plus I now lived in a nice gated community where I didn’t have to take the elevator down 27 flights just to leave the place. I had a pool only 2 min away, a tennis court, and every house had a lawn. Plus there was snow removal service! Honestly my first couple of years there, working from home was fantastic. House to myself all day while the wife was at work, and ample space to do what I needed to do. If I were in this same situation today, I’d likely still be doing it. But things change and the wife and I wanted a family. So let’s fast forward to when child #1 came along.
Having my first child and working from home
In retrospect, 2012 was the year I should have gotten my own space outside of the home to work in. Yes, keep in mind it’s now 2021 and I did this for nine, yes NINE years. In July of 2012 the wife and I were blessed with a son. Both of us being first time parents, this was a massive transition neither of us were prepared for. While it wasn’t nearly the same as working from home in the city apartment, having a child brought with it a ton of uncomfortable situations. And by uncomfortable I simply mean the separation from work and home would become problematic again. Now we’re dealing with a child constantly. And since my wife was off at work all day, and I had to actually get my work done, luckily we had help with grandmas and aunts. While this help was truly welcomed and a complete life saver, it was definitely something I wasn’t necessarily prepared for. It was one thing working by myself with my wife out all day. It’s another with one of the grandmas or aunts there for the entire day. And it’s not as if I could just stay away from my newborn son all day either. I had the discipline to work at home and get my tasks done but it just didn’t feel quite right. And why should it have? They just don’t tell you about all the crying, crapping themselves, changing, etc etc. Sure we had help, but from a mental standpoint, combining all that with my job was a challenge to say the least. Well, I thought it was challenging until……
Having my second child and working from a bigger home
Nearly four years later the wife and I managed to have another child (another boy). And all the while we managed to upgrade homes again. This time we moved into an even larger living space. Honestly this was a dream come true: 3500 sq ft, 5 bedroom, a pool, you name it. It was essentially our “dream home.” And to top that all off, my wife didn’t have to work all day anymore. When we were living in the townhouse I must say that my wife’s commute absolutely sucked. We lived in Eastern Long Island and she was traveling to Brooklyn and Queens every day. Sometimes it would take her over 2 hours just to go one way. Long story short, when I began to earn enough money we decided it was best for her to be her own boss as well. Luckily in her profession (speech pathology) she was able to be an independent contractor. She worked for a few different agencies and was able to see her students at home in locations very very close to our home. Thankfully my wife now had a much better work life. Did I though? Well, that’s kind of a different story.
While it was initially really nice to have a “Full House” of 4 people and my wife to take care of the kids, things weren’t always so rosy from a work perspective. It was almost easier when the boys were babies and toddlers because they weren’t as mobile. But here’s the thing. While it’s cool to be home for all the first steps, pooping in the potty, first words, and all the other firsts, it’s definitely distracting when you’ve got 8 hours of work to do. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to be there for some moments but I started to sense that while in my new home (sure I had a nice office and all), it was almost as if I didn’t have a “job.” My office was literally next to the kitchen so I could hear everything go on all day. Again, it’s not as if I was unhappy or anything like that, but something definitely changed. People would just wander into my office all the time. It was as if I didn’t have any work to do. And another thing they don’t tell you about being an entrepreneur and working from home: EVERYONE who’s never worked from home before just assumes you can do whatever you want, when you want. Yes, I have flexible hours but when I need to work, I need to work. The thing is, it’s not even their faults really. It’s no one’s fault. But what starts to happen is that little by little you start feeling taken for granted. As the first couple of years flew by I thought that once the kids were in school, things would change a bit. I’d have my “own” time again. I’d be home alone and the wife would be out working most of the day. And for a little while, that was kind of the case until…..
My summer cycle as school began
Only people who work from home that have children who go to school can truly grasp what the “summer cycle” is. Basically it’s this. During the school year, everything’s usually pretty OK working from home. Yeah it’s a little hectic in the mornings when the kids have to leave. But after that it’s smooth sailing until they get home. Bottom line is that I was always able to “deal with it.” Don’t get me wrong though. It’s definitely a pain in the pass when the kids come home at 3:30pm and you still have a ton of stuff to do. But like I said, it’s tolerable. However, what about when summer rolls around and the kids DON’T have camp???? We had two summers like this and I must say, working from home is a complete nightmare in this scenario. We have a pool so I’m constantly listening to splashing, playing, people over, God knows what else. Oh and did I mention people STILL just wander into my office whenever they feel like it? Put it this way. I’ve been at my house for 6 years now and for the last 3 summers I was looking at office space. I never fully pulled the trigger because I always knew that school was around the corner and I’d be sane again. So I thought…..
COVID, working from home, and feeling resented
When COVID hit, everyone got a jolt in the arm. My wife and I were definitely worried and made the decision to keep our kids home for a year and have them do school remotely. In hindsight it was a mistake, but no regrets. We were incredibly worried about their safety and thought it was the best thing to do. But let me just say this. Working from home with a wife and two boys (9 and 5) who are home ALL THE TIME is absolute hell. There’s no other way to describe it. I don’t want to get into details but I will say that over time it just got worse and worse. I felt resented. I felt like I was taken for granted. And the thing is, it was no one’s fault. We were all just stuck there in one house while I had to do work all the time. My wife’s job became remote but she really only had to work an hour or two a week. So essentially we’re talking an entire school year (and summer) of my children, wife, and anyone else who happened to be over while I’m trying to get work done in my office that was adjacent to the one room in the house where everyone spent the most time (the kitchen). It got to the point where the mere sound of people just pissed me off. I really couldn’t take it anymore. The funny thing is that I think I always kind of had these feelings to a smaller extent, but COVID just brought it all to the surface. I knew I had to get out.
Making the jump to my own space
This in and of itself came with a ton of stress. Do I get an office? Knowing who I am and my tolerance for stuff? Screw an office. That just wasn’t for me. An apartment? That sounded more like it. I enjoy my naps and having my own “space” was long overdue. But I have to say it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing at first. My wife wasn’t necessarily on board. I think in her eyes she was thinking I was tired of the family. In reality, I WAS tired of the family but not in a real sense. It was in the sense that it’s nearly impossible to do all your work while everyone is home and screaming all the time. It’s just natural that it’s going to get to you. In reality I wasn’t leaving my family. In fact it was the complete opposite. I was doing what was best for everyone. As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder. In record time I found an apartment only 10 min from my house, set up shop and have been more happy in my work life than I’ve ever been. And even my wife loves it. She comes and hangs out weekly. And now we even have a nice little hideaway from the kids if we need it. It’s just been fantastic. There’s no other way to describe it.
The main lesson in all of this
Look, I probably wrote too much of this story in the first place. Also, I have no idea what everyone else’s situation is. I can only speak to mine. But after working from home for 15 years if there’s one lesson I can garner out of this it’s “stay true to who you are.” Deep down I knew I needed my own space and I knew it was best for me and my family. I wasn’t leaving my family. I was saving my family. Since having my own space, I get along so much better with my wife and kids. I can come home, leave work at the office and just “be” with the people I love most. And looking back, that’s what I should have been doing all along. It’s never too late to make a change that’s much needed. Act now folks, you won’t regret it.
*There’s one caveat. In order for all of this to work, you have to have an amazing, supportive family who encourages you to do these things. While there was initial tension about me making the move, my wife ultimately supported me and I’ll always be grateful for that. I know, in my gut, I’ll always need my own space, and as long as I can afford it, I’ll always have one. My wife knows it too, and that’s why this is always going to work.