Working at ‘home’ has its (dis)advantages

By John Toth

I got used to working at home a long time ago – been doing it since 1983.
But working at home has its pitfalls, especially with kids in the house, like my kids, and today, granddaughters.

O.K, I’m working at my older son’s house and babysitting, which is like working at home without being home. I have worked at home in Europe, Colorado, while camping, seeing my other son off as he left for Afghanistan, and then again, when he came back.

Working at home to me means I don’t go to work. I can work anytime I want, anywhere, and under any circumstance.

So, I am watching my granddaughter, Layla, play after school. I picked her up from school, following the specific instructions of her mom and dad. Like grandpa doesn’t know how to pick kids up from school. Like I have never done it before, right?

My wife is doing the actual babysitting. I am working “at home.”

The Houston Chronicle let me work at home when I joined the paper in 1983. It was the best break of my then-short journalism career. It didn’t take me long to realize the benefits and the pitfalls.

The work got done all the time, and often more work got done than what I was paid for, but making police checks and planning out the day in my pajamas had its advantages.

The commute to work was also ideal – from bedroom to kitchen for coffee, then to the office down the hall. When I switched to publishing The Bulletin in 1994, I again decided to do what I’m used to, and kept the home office environment rather than start going to work.

But kids being kids, it wasn’t always smooth sailing, like the time my daughter, Stephanie, decided to “fix” my computer’s floppy drive right before we finished the paper and sent it over to the printer.

“I fixed it, daddy,” said the 4-year-old, cute-as-a-button girl, not realizing what she had really done.

The text for the paper was still on a floppy disc. For those of you with computers in the 1990s, you know what I am talking about. For the rest of you, a floppy drive was the granddaddy of the flash drive, but the disc held far less information, and the drive was more vulnerable to little girls sticking a pencil in it on deadline.

I dashed out, got another drive, installed it, and we were up and running again. From then on, we just left the text on the hard drive and backed it up. Lesson learned.

The little girl is all grown up, and floppy drives are long gone. But, I still prefer to work at home, no matter where I am.

But, there aren’t kids around now to interrupt my every thought. My house is now quiet. Nobody is doing homework in my office while watching the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.

For a short time, though, I am reminded of the years when I was pretending on the phone to be in a newspaper office instead of my house with laundry and kids all around me. And my computer was being “fixed.”

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