As a sharp witted lady – Maryon Pearson – once remarked – Marriage is “for better or worse but NOT for lunch!” She was speaking of her husband’s retirement (from being Prime Minister of Canada in 1967) but, due to the changes of working practice in today’s world of high speed internet links and reliable mobile connections, more and more women are finding that, where their partners used to be away all day at the office, now they are ensconced at home well before retirement is even a dot on the horizon.
Working from home is now common practice but how it fits into family life and marital harmony is a knotty question. The home is no longer the realm of the housewife: she is probably busily working away on her laptop whilst juggling the domestic chores and child care with her other hand; but now a new figure hovers into view – it is Man, also armed with a laptop, and heading for the spare room!
Marriage is all about change. Life changes with persistent regularity and so we learn to roll with the punches – or caresses – that come our way and any long term partnership must do the same. A marriage must evolve with the events of life or be left dead in the water.
So having survived our share of little challenges: having children, death of a parent, moving house (and total relocation), not to mention the financial upheaval of starting out in a new career, I felt that my husband and I had tested and storm-proofed our relationship as much as could be expected. Nothing, however, had prepared me for the rigors of ‘working from home’ particularly as we were also ‘working together’.
Now self-employed, my darling spouse no longer kept the regular hours of the commuting worker. Gone was the regular routine of leaving early in the morning and arriving back, late in the evening, with tales of office chat and the world outside. He settled quickly into his new life gleefully lazing in bed on days with no meetings and hopefully suggesting that I join him after the school run, Grrrrr!
I, on the other hand, adjusted less well. Having been managing the office at home happily for some time I found that, suddenly, I had to share. This was not pleasing. Worse still was the lack of silence.
The days became peppered with demands: Could I just…? Where is the…? Why won’t this work…? And the greatest irritation of all – What’s for Lunch?
The lines between Office and Home became blurred and we found that work crept in everywhere – dealing with the accountants whilst counting fish fingers, hushing the children whilst complex conference calls took place and important papers left, scattered, over the kitchen table were all very trying. But it was the constant barrage of demands from my ‘colleague’ that took the greatest toll. Nowhere was safe. No other colleague taps on the shower door to ask where the report on such and such is! No other colleague comes into the lavatory to chat through his thoughts on a recent case.
So what to do? Being female – I went for a coffee strategy meeting with a friend (carefully chosen as she too works from home with her husband). After having a very therapeutic rant (particularly referencing that bizarre male need for Lunch!) we got down to brass tacks, “How do you do it?” I wailed beseechingly asked interestedly.
The Answer: separate offices. Oh and rules about nakedness! (Working while naked, we agreed, ought to command a higher price).
So having put these strategies in place our working and living partnership found its own state of equilibrium again. After the initial irritations we found a balance in our daily routine and life settled down. I even found that there were benefits to a husband who is available for lunch.
Now the children are at school we can choose to escape for a little cheeky restaurant date mid-week and it does have the added benefit of feeling rather sybaritic and naughty. After all the beneficial effects of naughtiness within marriage should not be underestimated!