She said: When I worked in an office building, I always enjoyed my commute home. Despite traffic jams, that drive was my time to listen to music, singing at the top of my lungs, getting wrapped up in a book-on-CD or even practicing a new language. By the time I got home, I was ready (almost) to face whatever was waiting for me such as dinner to be made, homework to be monitored or housework to be done. It would be a long night ahead on my “second shift” but that transition time helped.
Now I work from home which is fantastic but there is no transition. My transition involves literally walking from my home office to the kitchen, 10 feet away. I can’t even get through one song in that time! My second shift starts before my laptop can even cool down from my day job.
What makes this particularly tough is that Thomas is great about making sure he has transition time. He doesn’t revel in the drive home like I did. Instead, he makes a real transition by coming home and going for a bike ride, a swim or a walk. Then dinner is ready (courtesy of me) and he’s ready for his second shift. How nice for him.
Now, I don’t want to begrudge Thomas this time. He has a stressful job and needs the transition in order to be a less grumpy dad and husband during the evening. So for that, we’re all grateful and don’t deny him his transition time. In fact, often, the kids go with him on his transition outings which is great for them. Where am I? At home, making dinner, getting the housework done, preparing for the evening ahead. If I took that transition time, dinner wouldn’t even get started until after 6:30 and the whole evening would run later and later which doesn’t work for anyone’s schedule. I have to start my second shift as soon as possible to keep things running smoothly the rest of the night.
I asked a friend, also a mother of four, who is in a similar boat, what she does to make the transition from her work self to her wife and mother self. Her rule and her transition involves a glass of red wine, precisely at 5pm. Transition in a glass? Perhaps I could make time for that.
Twenty-four years of marriage has taught me that women are masters of compartmentalizing their emotions and responsibilities; there’s some internal switch that my wife can flip to go from career woman to mother/wife/cook/maid/tutor (each of which presumably requires more switch flipping) in a matter of seconds. Was I born with no switches??? Apparently not because I’m still ticked off at the end of the day because I ran out of milk for my coffee at 6am mixed with the stresses of my workday.
That said, those years of marriage have also taught me that women are awful about setting aside time for themselves. In reality, Courtney’s aforementioned “transition in a glass” will be downed while she simultaneously drains the pasta for dinner and signs off on our son’s homework planner, not leisurely sipped as she reclines on a lounge chair overlooking our scenic backyard. She could, nonetheless, take some time for herself after her workday. To me, it’s okay if the whole evening starts a little late. It’s no big deal.
I don’t feel guilty at all about taking some transition time after work. I need it and I deserve it. After spending nine hours sitting at a desk, I need some fresh air, exercise and, frankly, alone time. I don’t doubt that Courtney needs the same at the end of her workday, and I appreciate that she works so hard to make sure that dinner is ready when I come home and that the kids are done with their homework so that we can all spend time together. However, this all comes at the expense of her sanity.
So, I propose that she and I each get at least a half hour of chill-out time at the end of our workday. If the phone rings, we’ll let it go to voicemail. If the kids are hungry, they know how to make pasta; it’s all they eat anyway. If a police shootout starts outside our house –well okay, that’s a little scary, we might have to take that seriously. The point is, we acted polite and civilized for nine hours straight, it’s time to let loose, if only for a little while.
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