My brother, and partner in crime on this site, asked me this question the other day in our Trello feed. Do dads need an office when working at home? I haven’t come across something I’m quite so passionate about in a long time (well, maybe my kids… maybe).
Hell yes, Dad needs an office.
Or a dedicated space. An office might be too limiting. Maybe what Dad needs is a garage or a workshop. Some dad’s I’ve known have built their own backyard tiki bar.
But Dad needs a space all his own to get things accomplished. Mom probably does too, but not being a mother, I don’t know.
There are some things that just need to be done away from the prying fingers of little ones. Let me relate my personal experience as a case study in why a separate office area is a necessary piece of productivity.
“Every 10 weeks I see 60 new hotshots who think they can write worth a damn. It takes quite a bit of time and mental energy to dissuade them of their hubris and knock them down a peg.”S. Griffin
When it was just my wife, oldest son, and I, we moved into a three bedroom house in the burbs. It was nice. Big yard, fence, neighbors. The whole nine yards.
My son got a room that was designed to be “the kid’s room” and my wife and I took the master bedroom as was our right by conquest. That left our middle bedroom open for different options.
The first option that we took advantage of was to use that space as storage (we really need to get rid of some stuff). But one of the other things that I made sure to do was carve out a little corner of that room where I could put all my work stuff.
No, I kid.
But it does take a lot of time and focus to work with each student’s writing and engage with them as a writer. It’s not even the time that is the most important part.
It’s the focus that you have to give to each paper.
It turns out that humans rarely read word for word. That skimming approach doesn’t work so well when you’re trying to work with the “brush strokes” of writing.
Ya gotta read it all. Focus requires a work area.
Working at Home Requires a Dedicated Space
I know that focus requires a work area to be set aside because I lost my home office when my youngest son was born. He needed a place to sleep that wasn’t near Mom and Dad, and wasn’t yet with his brother in the “kids room.” So this is what I have today.
I’ll grant you it’s a really sweet roll top desk. The laptop? It’s banging. Linux Mint 18.3 with a powered USB hub. I even have a mechanical keyboard in there. Sounds great right? Well… let me show you what else is going on in this room at any given time:
Yep, there are the kids. I love my sons dearly, but God Damn are they distracting. Every 10 seconds they need something. They’re hungry. They’re thirsty. The baby has crapped his pants. Imagine if your office environment was made up of the neediest coworkers to ever walk the Earth.
Okay, now imagine you’re also the cafeteria staff, the security guard, and the janitor as well. Oh, and you actually want these coworkers to succeed, so you can’t just blow them off.
Plus they’re fragile as hell and constantly trying to off themselves through dumb actions. Anyway, this working at home set up is less than ideal for grading student papers.
I don’t think it takes too much imagination to see how this scenario applies outside my particular field. Take any hobby or piece of housework that involves even the slightest bit of focus or danger and you’re right there with me.
Trying to change the oil on the car? Well, you can’t do that with a 1-year-old hanging off the front pack. You’re going to need some dad space. Want to mow the lawn? It turns out spinning blades of death aren’t the best thing to have around the kids either. Are you an artist, musician, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker?
All of these activities require you to be able to separate yourself from your brood when need be.
3 Reasons to Carve Yourself Some Working at Home Space
Fortunately, as the kids get older, they become less of a triage problem. But if you’ve got a little one, make sure you carve yourself out some space and make it sacrosanct. If you lose it, it may be gone forever.
Remember that you do a lot of things as a dad that are just dangerous. There might be chemicals involved. There could be carcinogens. Hey, I don’t know what you’re up to. Just, the kids shouldn’t be involved a lot of times. If you’re thinking you don’t need to find a place to do those types of activities away from the kiddos, think again.
It’s way easier to focus on a project if you’re not also actively parenting (especially around dangerous stuff). Make sure that you consider how much better you’ll feel if you’re not constantly in triage mode.
You get a lot more done at work don’t you? The same thing applies here. A dedicated space when working at home allows you to focus on what you’re trying to get done. If you have a dedicated space set aside for particular types of tasks, you’ll be able to get it done.
This theory goes much the same way as making sure that your treadmill isn’t doing double duty as a shelf. If it’s clean, you’re likely to use it.