The Loh Life

Lean Sideways, Part 4: The Stresses of Flex Time

Sandra Tsing Loh struggles to find the work/home balance.

Pity the poor employees of Yahoo.  It's the last month they can telecommute.  It's the swan song of that elephant in the room CEO Marissa Meyer supposedly labeled "WFH" - or "Work From Home."  Many have attacked Meyer for destroying flex time, the salvation of working parents - But, as someone who has worked from home for decades, I think there... might be something to be said for... working in an actual office.

I mean, the romantic notion about telecommuting is that we can find work/home balance.  And - don't tell Marissa Meyer - I find I'm doing neither particularly well.

Part of it is today's yardsticks.  Michael Pollan's new book - "Cooked" - says we should cook more from scratch.  He bemoans the average family spending "only 27 minutes a day" on food preparation, which I believe does not include dishes or laundry.  Never mind that I spend 15 of those minutes just assembling my 11 year-old's lunch.  It includes such Costco buys like cereal bars, jerky, vegetable straws, and even seaweed.  Because in the exciting Los Angeles Mad Max barter system of fifth grade, you don't eat - you trade.

As for preparing a dinner that takes longer than burning a Costco salmon?  The sad fact is, I'm a middle-aged gal with a tire around my waist and sometimes I have only enough time in a day to cook OR exercise.  So, what I do is I rush to the gym, and I watch Alton Brown cook salmon five different ways while panting on the treadmill.  It FEELS like I've cooked, and I've certainly learned something about kitchen thermometers... none of which I own.

Never mind my domestic skills, of course, my OFFICE chops have foundered also.  Recently, there was an unusual instance - my non-profit's board meeting - where I actually had to pull it together.  It was a rude awakening.  Just as I always wrongly think I look about 35, I always wrongly think I need just 10 minutes to pull myself together as opposed to, say, three hours.  This is because, as a working mom friend observed recently, "Sandra, I notice that your home, like mine, does not contain many mirrors."

And when a work-from-home mom finally looks into one - Oh my gosh, there are eyebrows like forests, nails that are chipped and half-painted, calves with stubble... every blouse has toothpaste on it!  I make an emergency visit to the hair salon and am pelted with questions: How do you usually wear your hair?  Where do you part it?  What products do you use?  I started screaming at the stylist in panic.  "There's some bottle with a pump in the shower!  Are my Crocs and fanny pack a clue that I'm lost?  Just help me out here!"

Next week: The Broken Headset Brigade.


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