Released On 29th Oct 2020
Ally's blog: The squidgy bit
There was a period just after my second maternity leave when I was going through a redundancy process. While many people suggested redundancy from my job based in the City might be a good thing because, with two young children, I could perhaps freelance or find a job working from home, one astute friend observed that the thing I most enjoyed about work was the whole “going into the office” bit. And that was so true. Since my first days as a trainee lawyer, I’ve never lost that buzz of going into the City, joining the streams of people striding along the pavements at 9am and swishing into a shiny office building. (I suspect many of my job choices have been based solely on the quality of the firm’s entrance lobby and revolving doors). Before this COVID madness, I used to marvel at the magic of the tube, transporting millions of us every day in and out of town (yes I can manage to find the positive even with my nose in somebody’s armpit!). And I loved stepping out of the “mummy friends” bubble, being able to have a conversation that wasn’t about catchment areas, and to hear about new bars, restaurants, weekends away to foreign cities, and add them all to my wish list.
A year ago, most CityParents were probably struggling to carve out enough time to be at home to spend quality time with their families. I always had a nagging guilt that, during the week, we rarely sat down together for dinner as a family. Our daughters ate earlier with grandparents or babysitters, or on the hoof to a dance class, and my partner and I would eat later (probably far too late) once back from the office or client events.
So now the situation has flipped. I’m at home literally all the time. I’m there when the school day finishes, even if it’s simply to throw a biscuit at my daughters and then get on to the next conference call. I’m doing my full working days but, without the commute, we can sit down as a family for dinner each evening. I am so grateful for this time that I am now able to spend with my daughters, even if at times the “joy” of family meal times every night of the week runs a bit thin.
We know that, as parents, parenting is about much more than simply feeding and clothing and keeping our children safe. It’s also about the squidgy, undefinable bit around the edges and now I’m based at home I feel like I have more time to focus on that. On the flipside though, being permanently out of the office has made me realise that, in the same way, work isn’t just about the work. Working life is also about the squidgy, undefinable bit around the edges. So while on paper I can do my work just the same from home, I have to admit it’s not the same. The things that make my work life worthwhile are the people and the wider interactions. The buzz of the team in the open plan office, the chat around the kettle, hearing snatches of what everyone else is working on and thinking about, and just seeing how other people tick. The colleagues who through a mix of inspiration and fear push me to put in that extra effort, be that little bit better. Other colleagues who might never do that but will simply make the working week a lot more fun.
Just as we all know that reading your child a bed time story over the phone from the office isn’t the same as being there to tuck them into bed, this whole office life without the office isn’t the same. We’re all putting a brave face on it, carrying on working, trying to recreate the water cooler interactions with “social” chats on Teams or Zoom, but with the prospect looming of another 6 months at my kitchen table “office”, I’m calling it out. For all the positives of working from home, I’m missing the office and would love to once again be swishing through that shiny revolving door. At least for one day a week.
Ally is a lawyer working 3 days a week in the City, with 2 amazing and entertaining daughters aged 10 and 12.