I have a babysitter who comes to the house three days a week, usually from 11-2 PM. This is by far my most productive work time, because—and here’s something I didn’t 100% totally completely grok with fullness a year ago—working from home with kids around is, like, really hard.

It makes a pretty big difference in my week to be able to get out now and then in order to grind out some deadlines, but there is, of course, the small matter of finding some place to go.

For a while I went to a coffee shop, but I gave that up because 1) the wireless was always slow or spotty, 2) I felt like a dick buying one coffee and taking up a chair for three hours, and 3) it was infusing me with roasted bean stench. My hair, my laptop bag, my clothes—it was worse than being in a smoky bar, I swear to god.

I’ve tried the large food court area of a local mall, where you can find one of a zillion tables and pick up the nearby library’s wireless, but this got depressing real fast. It’s, you know, a food court. It’s loud and messy and the chairs suck and it’s just kind of bleak.

So for the last several months, I’ve been going to the library. It’s perfect in most ways—it’s quiet, the wireless is great, the couches are comfy. The only problem is that it’s full of people being as silent and self-contained as possible. No one is talking or interacting with each other, except for harried mothers chasing toddlers through the kids’ section. This is a great environment for focusing on work, but for someone who is already so isolated from other adults, it’s, I don’t know, it’s like being there every week is contributing to this growing sensation that I am disconnected from everything. There I sit with my laptop, ostensibly around other people, but sealed into my own muted world.

It’s lonely.

(I’m not sure if I’m describing this well.)

Have any of you tackled the issue of working without an office? Did you find a good solution for those times when it’s better to work outside the home? Did anything help stave off the feeling that you were, ha ha, slowly morphing into freakish recluse doomed to eventually develop an obsession for urinating in jars and putting Kleenex boxes on your feet?


82 Responses to “Working from not-home”

  1. kristen howerton on October 10th, 2011 4:42 pm

    I have been having the same struggle for the last year. I felt like a nomad, bringing my files and papers and laptop and trying to find the perfect space. I also found the comings and goings of others too distracting, and if I ran into someone I knew, I felt like I was being robbed of the little work time I had while we did the obligatory chit-chat. I finally opted for childcare outside the home, so I could work from the comfort of my own desk. Renting an office would be ideal, but I can’t afford that AND a sitter. So right now, a three-day-a-week preschool is serving as my childcare and my office solution. I’m loving the ability to work at my own desk without kids underfoot.

  2. Julie on October 10th, 2011 4:42 pm

    Talk to your librarians. We love it when people who aren’t wearing foil hats or demanding that we read their vampire sex slave novel talk to us. We could also probably help you with your work occasionally– we’re amazing at research, you know.

    Even the children’s librarians should be able to help you, and send you home with some great books for your boys as well.

  3. Pete on October 10th, 2011 4:43 pm

    Nope. Downside to working at home.

  4. Bad Mama Genny on October 10th, 2011 4:45 pm

    Yes, completely identify. With the urinating in jars thing. Not the working from home thing. I don’t know anything about that.

    I kid, I kid. I’ve tried all the options you have, but (including working at bars with wifi). The best thing I’ve found is to locate other work-from-homers and set up regular cafe work dates. Intermittent socialization means I’m not such a needy freak when The Boy gets home, and because my blog/work is highly creative, it’s awesome to bounce ideas off of other funny people.

    If you lived anywhere near Chicago, I’d co-work with you for sure!

    Another option I’m looking into–finding co-working groups around the city…


  5. Christine B on October 10th, 2011 4:54 pm

    I work about ten hours a week, telecommuting with my company doing medical records work. It’s REALLY hard for me to get work done during the day/with kids around, so I end up working at night, or when the kids are in school/preschool. I actually relish the solitude a lot of the time, as I have three kids (ages 3, 5, and 13) and our house has a baseline level of chaos and noise, and I am the kind of person who needs a baseline level of quiet sometimes. My solution occasionally is the local Barnes and Noble — people, some noise, wireless, coffee, and the potential to run into friends.

  6. Rayne of Terror on October 10th, 2011 4:55 pm

    In my area the local freelancers all follow each other on twitter and volunteer where they’ll be in the morning and 2 or more sit together while working. They seem to go to coffee shops and libraries.

  7. Kelly on October 10th, 2011 4:56 pm

    Why working from home is both awesome and horrible, via Oatmeal… (so hilarious and true!)


  8. Kelly on October 10th, 2011 4:57 pm

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/working_home Or I could send a picture of a flamenco dancer… haha awful!


    That is the cartoon!

  9. Carla Hinkle on October 10th, 2011 4:59 pm

    I find it almost impossible to work from home these days with the kids there, even with a sitter. Too loud, too distracting.

    I have tried just about all the things you mention. None ate perfect so I just try to mix it up. Including sometimes spending precious sitter time on coffee w/a friend & paying the price of working late at night in order to not feel too socially isolated.

    My bigger 2 are in school so often I send the sitter out w/ the toddler. It took a bit to be ccomfortable w/her driving him (even just a few miles to the park), but then I have a quiet house and can stay home to work.

    It’s such a tough balance. I suspect it will get better when all 3 are in school full time…I hope?

  10. Jessica on October 10th, 2011 5:01 pm

    I wish I had the freedom to leave my desk! I work from home but I have to stay connected via my desktop to access teh companies database. I love it because I stay home and my toddler is relatively self-amusing, but I get really tired of conversing via chat box with my co-workers. However, I know I am lucky to have that because I would go crazy if I didn’t have them to “talk” with daily!

    I love the idea of freelancers coming together to find places to work though!

  11. crisi-tunity on October 10th, 2011 5:02 pm

    The way my mom did this when I was a kid and she was working at home was by putting the fear of God in me. If I interrupted her while I could hear her typing, or while she was reading one of her research books, or while she had the door of her study pulled to, hoo boy was I f*cked. Not that I think this is the best way to go about this, exactly. Because I’m still resentful about how much she missed during those years by being so obsessed with work. (It was a few more than nine hours a week.) More that if you make it a household rule that Mom does not get interrupted while she’s in her Office Room with the door closed between such and such hours, that that’s babysitter time only, maybe eventually they’ll figure it out and fall in.

    But then, they’re boys. Major wild card.

  12. Sheryl on October 10th, 2011 5:11 pm

    Dude….I live with a teenager. My girl is 14 and it’s just the two of us. No other adult around. I work outside the home, but my “department” is spread all over the country. I go to a “McOffice” every day. I have an officemate, but she travels a lot–I maybe see her a couple of times per month and she must hate me because when she is in the office, I talk her freaking ear off. So, although I leave my house daily, my work still feels sort of like a telecommute. Okay that’s enough of that….gotta go wash out my urine jars. Ugh….I know how you feel!

  13. Ashley, the Accidental Olympian on October 10th, 2011 5:13 pm

    Sadly I have nothing for you but understanding. I work from home 5 days a week and the only company I have are my two dogs. I am in contact with coworkers and customers all day long, but I don’t speak to anyone for 12+ hours a day.

    I also am carless, and living in a new town. Basically, I just wanted to say, “I HEAR YA SISTER.” And, tell me if you figure it out.

    From Silent in Alaska

  14. Margot on October 10th, 2011 5:15 pm

    I don’t even HAVE kids, so I’m just a freelancer, and I STILL find it incredibly hard to work from home. There are so very many distractions, as I’m sure you well know. My saving grace is co-working. I’m on a part-time plan for $200/mo. I get my own desk, work friends, a kitchen I don’t have to clean, and blazing fast internet. And quiet. I can get 5 days worth of work done in 3 days now. Maybe there is one near you on Loose Cubes? http://www.loosecubes.com/. Otherwise, I say take to the internet, embrace your local freelancers, and scrounge up your own system.

  15. Carl Coryell-Martin on October 10th, 2011 5:16 pm

    I’ve had success renting desks from friends running local small businesses.

    Gives me a regular place to go and that whole social energy working thing.

  16. Melissa on October 10th, 2011 5:23 pm

    I tried working at parks. Let me tell you, that serene, commune with nature vibe quickly turned into “ick, i’m sweating, and I can’t see the screen”. Those Dell commercials are full of BS.

    Eventually, I found a hand full of other work-from-homers and we get together at Barnes & Noble, at coffee shops, or the library.

  17. Jamie on October 10th, 2011 5:25 pm

    Have you ever heard of co-working? I don’t know much about it, but it sounds interesting (hopefully flexible, cheap, and not to social anxiety inducing). Of course it might be a bunch of weirdos. Good luck with your search for a happy medium!


  18. Christina on October 10th, 2011 5:32 pm

    Err umm recluse sounds pretty effing awesome!! I would take this any day but that is me. I am most definitely coming to terms with the fact that I am introvert, I like not having to interact with people too much and when I do I fret and worry and all that good stuff. Do you know other freelance or work from home moms in your area? Could you form a sort of work group with a few of them so you could maybe get together to kvetch once in a while about being on your own for work? Might be interesting!

  19. Nolita on October 10th, 2011 5:52 pm

    I like that idea of working with other friends or moms. Maybe you could rotate meeting at each other’s homes and possibly sharing a babysitter? I bet those other moms would appreciate this sort of working group… I know I would. I get crazy at work chained to the desk so I go for walks 2xdaily with friends and it helps… break from the routine.

  20. Hannah on October 10th, 2011 5:54 pm

    I am in a similarish situation right now. I got married and moved to Washington in June, and have spent the last three…four? months in front of my laptop filling out so. many. job applications. I don’t have kids, so I most often work from home, but sometimes go to the library or a coffee shop.The thing I can empathize with most is the feeling of isolation. I had a really awesome group of friends in California, and up here the only person I know is my husband.

    I think that people’s suggestions on the whole “co-working” thing are awesome. I’ve never heard of that before, but sounds like a really good way to go.

    This makes me think of a discussion a girlfriend and I had a while back about how hard it is for adults to find social interaction outside of work or church. I feel like I need to find myself extracurricular activities to make friends. I pass a fabric store with an add for sewing classes, and I’m like YESI’LLSEWCLOTHESWITHMYNEWFRIENDS! So if you want you can always join my fake sewing club. Just ignore the jars in the corner…

  21. Anna on October 10th, 2011 6:13 pm

    I have a love hate relationship with our library for the same reasons you do. It’s amazingly isolating, and when I don’t feel cut off, I feel inundated with the same-aged kids I’m trying to escape. There’s gotta be some middle ground . . . Maybe a bookstore without a prominent children’s section?

  22. kim on October 10th, 2011 6:21 pm

    I was in grad school the past few years & it was really hard for me to work at home — mostly because of the endless distractions (& I don’t even have kids) and not because of the isolation (which I enjoyed). I never found a good outside-the-home option. The best compromise seemed to be a college library or study lounge, but here, anyway, parking was such a nightmare that it was hardly worth the trouble of trying to get on campus. You might not have the same problem, so maybe if you went to a local college library, you would strike the right balance of noise/quiet? It’s hard to feel too isolated when surrounded by chatty & hormonal college students.

  23. OmegaMom on October 10th, 2011 6:26 pm

    I didn’t start doing the work-from-home thing until my girl was 5-1/2, but even then she was pretty high-maintenance. The good thing, though, was that she was then in school, and the next year, she was in school full-time. My working life got much easier.

    My socialization life, on the other hand, sucks dead toads.

    My suggestion (which I have thought of doing myself, but I don’t want to spend the money)? Find one of those “executive suite” places and rent an office there. They usually come with a receptionist/secretary, and you’d have other people to connect with on a day-to-day basis.

  24. Nothing But Bonfires on October 10th, 2011 6:39 pm

    I’ve been working from home for three months now, and man, do I know what you mean about the loneliness. I didn’t expect to feel this isolated and while I don’t mind it a LOT of the time (I’m kind of a homebody by nature, plus it’s very easy to feel smug about sitting in your pajamas when it’s raining outside and you don’t need to do an hour’s commute on public transport), there’s certainly a weird…..aloneness that comes from working from home, and it’s hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t do it themselves.

    The best thing I’ve found is working in a cafe WITH someone else. You get the interaction, but you also get the solitude. Yeah, it has its downsides — I spend way more money on the days when I work in a cafe, and my diet goes to crap because I buy a coffee, then lunch, then a mid-afternoon snack, just for the privilege of sitting there and using the wifi — but if you only do it once a week or so, it’s not the end of the world. Do you have another work from home buddy you could pair up with? Do you want to come to San Francisco and be mine?

  25. Katrina on October 10th, 2011 6:45 pm

    I wouldn’t worry about the whole ordering one coffee and sitting for hours thing. The cafe are glad of your business – that’s why they have wifi in the first place. Maybe try and find another one with a less ‘roasty’ area?

    What you really need though, is work mates. Are there any other work from home people in your area who are missing Friday night drinks? When my husband was working from home he and his mates in similar situations used to joke about putting together the freelance christmas party- since office workers always get a party at the end of the year and freelancers don’t. I still think it would be a good idea.

  26. Tansasser on October 10th, 2011 7:23 pm

    Have you thought about a childcare exchange? I know, it’s yucky thinking about taking on more children, especially ones who are not your own, for any length of time, but you reap the benefit of being able to work from your home (drop the kids at the other house) while returning the time and favor for someone else.

    I did this with a kid last year and thanks to the many times we watched her without cashing in our time, we still have some time “stockpiled” that we use now. And we haven’t been strict – I mean, I wasn’t exactly standing around with a stopwatch and keeping a log or anything – we just know that when one person needs help we can call on the other person to assist.

  27. parodie on October 10th, 2011 7:24 pm

    Yup, I hear you. I did contract work from home (with no kids around) and it was lonely and a bit crazy-making. I was going to suggest the office-sharing solution others have pointed out – consider if there’s anywhere close by that might have some space to share and be grateful for the cash, if you can’t find an organized office-sharing group or freelance buddies (e.g. Church? Non-profit?).

    Other than that, I would suggest being very deliberate about finding hangout time with people you like (book club! girls night out! etc). Sometimes it’s not as much needing the interaction as not knowing whether you can even get it. Being able to anticipate an evening out with adults makes it ok.

  28. Tiff on October 10th, 2011 7:24 pm

    I know this sounds nuts, but go to a local community college library and put a good pair of sound blocking headphones in and listen to music while you work. It’s actually cathartic for me to not have to listen to the dinguses that are in the library, but I don’t feel alone. Those college kids are better than the soulless Starbucks customers. Plus, you get to feel really smug and amused that you aren’t a high school/college kid anymore when you do decide to listen to their conversations.

  29. April on October 10th, 2011 9:02 pm

    I have the same problems- it sounds totally dumb but I have yet to find the perfect spot. Library is nice but I feel like I can’t bring drinks in there… Corner Bakery-comfy and bright and they have my Drink of Choice (diet Coke) but they also have yummy baked goods that are hard for me to resist… not a coffee drinker (and hate the smell of coffee) so coffee shops are out, etc etc. It’s a stupid problem to have but one I struggle with constantly.

  30. Kelly on October 10th, 2011 9:26 pm

    What about a community center or community college? Many of their public spaces have wifi and would be a bit more lively.

  31. Shannon Lell on October 10th, 2011 9:38 pm

    I envy your situation. I have all but forgotten what silence sounds like. I’m stuck in my house all day with a toddler and a 2 month old infant trying to eek out one measly little website. I don’t have the means or the writing production to justify childcare, (oh how I long for that day). What I’d give for three solid hours of quiet w/o, A. having to feed a child off my body and B. having to say, “just a minute honey” every five seconds. Either way, it’s lonely.

  32. Laura M. on October 10th, 2011 9:57 pm

    Someone may have already said this./I haven’t read the comments…
    Have you considered Office Nomads or some similar co-working type situation? :)

  33. MacLeod House on October 10th, 2011 10:14 pm

    I used to work from home ‘outside the home’ in all manner of places – but nothing worked better for me than being at home, for all the reasons you mentioned. A good solution for you would be desk renting – have a look at desksnear dot me – and then search in your area for a cool startup or agency that has desks available for freelancers, I’m guessing that where *you* live there are a ton – which give the the opportunity of interacting with other like-minded folks – and god forbid actually bounce ideas off! Try it out and let me know how it goes :)

  34. Gwen on October 10th, 2011 10:55 pm

    I haven’t done it personally, but I’ve always really liked the idea of coworking spaces. Philadelphia has Indy Hall (http://indyhall.org/), and I’ve heard great things about it. I have the same problems with coffeeshops (too smelly) and libraries (too quiet) that you do, so in law school I always studied in lounge areas where there was some level of noise and social interaction.

    I imagine Seattle would have at least one similar setup, and probably more, given the tech/creative culture. Good luck!

  35. Karen on October 10th, 2011 11:00 pm

    I just split up the time. Half at the coffee shop, the other half at the library. Magic! Sure, it took fifteen minutes to get from one to the other (wasted time! gasp!) but it was worth it.

  36. VirtualSprite on October 11th, 2011 4:26 am

    In our community we have a “business incubator” where people who don’t have an office can get office space for little or no money to help them launch a business or career. They also offer mentoring and other services, but it’s a professional environment. Here is a link to their page: http://www.wausaudevelopment.com/incubator.htm. Maybe there’s something like this available where you live. It’s worth a shot.

  37. A'Dell on October 11th, 2011 5:11 am

    Echoing the coworking spaces thought. We have one here in Dallas called CoHabitat (cohabitat.us/dallas) but I know there are similar setups in lots of cities. I’ve been to a couple in Austin as well. They usually have a day rate and are pretty hip places with a good vibe. It’s less boring than renting a desk (that sounds kind of…bleak) and more like a building with a bunch of freelancers, all working in the same place.

  38. Sarah on October 11th, 2011 5:32 am

    I totally know what you mean about the library. Do you have a college nearby where you could access a library (and their wireless)? That’s my solution. The college library is quiet, but not TOO quiet. The college kids having quiet conversations provide a little connection to the world.

  39. A. on October 11th, 2011 5:53 am

    I’m also going to mention coworking. We have a site in both Minneapolis & St. Paul and I’ve heard amazing things.


    If you have one nearby, might be worth a look? Sure, it’ll be hard being new at first, but at least you’re surrounded by other people working, too. (I bet they’re not weirdos, either.)

  40. Melissa on October 11th, 2011 5:58 am

    Maybe its because I have two girls, but they self entertain pretty well. If I ask them to, they’ll go play in their rooms if I need to focus. And they’re generally quiet for phone calls as well. However, I’ve been working at home since before they were born, so it’s what they’re used to. As far as they’re concerned, everyone works from home except daddy. I have really been enjoying two-day-a-week preschool with the youngest. Those 2.5 hours are blissful. Not today though, because the 9year old is home with strep. But thursday will be awesome again.

    I think you just have to keep trying things and really take advantage of the sitter. Even if it means staying home to work – don’t let them interrupt you.

  41. Anne on October 11th, 2011 6:14 am

    In Chicago there are often “writer space” groups and the like where people get together at a bookstore or library or some such thing to essentially work on their work-from-home stuff together, interacting some, just to be less lonely and isolated. Maybe check something like meetup.com for a group like that? They wouldn’t likely meet every day you wanted them to, but maybe one day a week working with people (on your own stuff) would help?

  42. Stephanie on October 11th, 2011 6:16 am

    How about having the sitter take your kid/s out to the park or some activity while you work at home?

  43. Amber on October 11th, 2011 6:19 am

    Coworking spaces! Yes. I just read about these in a recent issue of GOOD magazine. Like a work-from-home collective kind of thing. Find one of those!

    But watch out for the cow orking spaces. You don’t want to know.

  44. alison of a gun on October 11th, 2011 6:45 am

    I didn’t read all the other comments since there were a ton (sorry) but one (more, maybe) vote for getting the sitter to take the kids AWAY while she’s working. If she’s too young to drive I’m sure there’s a park she could walk them to, or wagon them to, or even just keep them outside, away from your ears. Make her earn that money, man!

  45. Melissa on October 11th, 2011 6:50 am

    Aside from a few work trips a year, I work from home full-time and have for more than 5 years. At the beginning the isolation was a real problem for me. I found I have to make a conscious effort to build things into my schedule that require personal interaction, even if it’s just helping out at school over my lunch break or meeting some other moms for coffee fairly regularly.

    My kids (12 and 15) are old enough to know that, if Mom’s office door is closed, only Blood or Fire are worthy reasons to interrupt. And sometimes Boy Drama.

  46. LizScott on October 11th, 2011 6:58 am

    God, you just described my last year. It was so, so SO hard. Hard for me, hard for my family, and while I’m at it, have you noticed how no one wants to hear about your hard “work in your pajamas” life when they’re commuting? Well, bite me: it’s soul sucking, just in a different way.

    ANYWAY. Barnes and Noble was my savior. Not as pervasively coffee shoppy as a straight up coffee shop, and not as quiet. Also, switching it up helped — making sure I would go to a different haunt every day (even when I only had two places, I would stagger them.)

    It’s hard. I feel for ya. If I’m ever in Seattle I’ll totally sit next to you and not talk to you at a coffee shop while we work.

  47. LizScott on October 11th, 2011 6:59 am

    ALSO – and this is random and only slightly related: this is when I stopped distance running. After so many hours of just sitting with no one else to talk to, the last damn thing I wanted was to go for a nice long run …. with no one else to talk to. Major bummer.

  48. Laura on October 11th, 2011 7:36 am

    Try finding a coworking space. I belong to one and there are a lot of people that come and go but are all about chatting it up here and there. I use it three times a week for 4 hours each and find that it serves as a great social outlet without being overly social and I don’t walk out of the house with my kids food on my clothing anymore either. It’s great for everyone.

  49. J.A. on October 11th, 2011 7:42 am

    I live in Amsterdam, and we have these things called creative workspaces here, and I think you would LOVE something like that. If it does not exist in your area, maybe it is a business idea you can start up :) http://www.spaces.nl/en/ Check it out! You pay a small amount to basically have desk space and common areas amongst hard working and creative and interacting adults.

    I think you could thrive in something like that.

  50. Lori on October 11th, 2011 7:44 am

    In my city we have quite a few of the shared office space concept businesses. It’s like a cross between the library – where everyone is there quietly working – and the coffee shop – some you can buy food and drink- and a “real office”- some have enclosed rooms you can rent. One even has child care. Google “co-working”. You can rent by the hour, day or membership.

  51. Nik-Nak on October 11th, 2011 7:51 am

    A friend’s house?
    When I think of work from home I always picture a nice park on a pretty day. But internet is not usually found in parks. And then you run the risk of running into even more children when the whole point was to get away from them. So no, I’m no help.

  52. marna - jwoap-oregongurl on October 11th, 2011 8:03 am

    I used to find a friend to go with and we’d go to the library, work together, go have coffee, or lunch and then return back to our respective homes. We did that once a week for a four hour window. So we got to talk and work at the same time.

    I also have an office at my house I can shut my door and I have had the baby sitter watch my son while I shut the door and work.

    And even though this is off topic, I was thinking as I was reading this. I begun to read you from your inception, ( I think I found you on disco the kids’ site? years ago) and your journal is the first name I look for that’s highlighted on my google reader. I have cried and sobbed along with your journal, (the turtle post, I saved that one, as it was a comfort when I as going through the same kinds of struggles) I laughed myself to the point of not being able to catch my breath (I think the posts when you curse in all caps is by far my favorite – you know, JESUS FUCKING CHRIST HOLY SHIT MOTHER FUCKER), totally love it. I have also felt protective of you and gotten angry on your behalf as well.

    I think because you say what I think, and I wish I could just blurt that stuff out in real life. I know I don’t know you from Adam but it’s been really a treat to watch you and your family grow.

    Anyhow, we all in this world critisize too much and I just wanted to say I appreciate you and enjoy my dose of Sundry Mourning.

  53. Mary on October 11th, 2011 8:22 am

    I’ve been working at home for 4 years and recently brought all my freelance clients with me to our new home in Denver… a city where I don’t know anyone except my husband, and was feeling isolated from not talking to other human beings during the work day.

    I joined a co-working space a couple months ago, and lo, the world opened up. I know it’s been mentioned a ton, but it’s all so much easier now. I like having people to go to, people that aren’t in cubicles. And I volunteer on a committee for the space so I can meet people, etc. But if you’re after solitude, it can be heads-down productive when you want it to be, for sure.

    I pay $95 for “hotdesking” 2 days a week, and I know some folks do a “trade” — become their social media person and get a discount for tweeting once a day or whatever. If you need part of a couple days, owners of these places, at least here, seem very open to working with you. And another upside: They work to help connect people with potential new clients.

    If that’s not your thing, I second finding a friend to meet up and work with somewhere. I feel like less of an asshole if two of us were at a table buying beverages instead of 1.

    Let us know what you end up trying. I suppose no solution is perfect, but it still beats the hell out of commuting to a cube farm.

  54. MRW on October 11th, 2011 8:34 am

    I don’t work from home, but the comments about going to a college library got me thinking that maybe finding a grad school library might work too. In my college library there was a lot of chatting and socializing which might not be so good for getting work done. In grad school the library was more serious – people still chatted, but not nearly as much.

    I know the grass is always greener, but reading this makes me yearn to work from home because I have a coworker who will not stop talking at me for 9 hours a day. It’s hard to get anything done she talks so damned much about herself, office politics, regular politics, you name it, she talks about it. I feel myself on the verge of committing homicide nearly every week. Could really use some quiet.

  55. Olivia on October 11th, 2011 9:11 am

    No experience here, but would a Barnes & Nobles or other book store work? Good wifi, quiet but not too quiet?

  56. Sarah on October 11th, 2011 9:36 am

    I’ve been trying to balance the same thing for the past two years. What worked the best was sending the kid(s) out of the house and then making myself sit down to work (and not do laundry or the dishes). I also found I liked the local coffee shops – not Sbux – better in the evenings rather than the daytime. Maybe more tea and less coffee smell? And since I live in Pullman, most people are studying at coffee shops all hours of the day so it’s not unusual to get one drink and take up a table for hours. Maybe go to a university area coffee shop? The balance is hard, I always wonder how it all gets done.

  57. laziza on October 11th, 2011 10:09 am

    I was also going to suggest the coworking/office sharing/renting a desk route.

  58. Sarah on October 11th, 2011 12:03 pm

    Does JB work in an office where they could make a little space for you? It seems like that might be a nice way to get an office and might not come with the cost of some of the other options (assuming he is in an office and that he is the boss there!).

  59. Snarky Mommy on October 11th, 2011 12:59 pm

    OMG, the Starbucks Stank. I hate it. I have a sitter come three days a week for three horus as well, so I can go write. If I stay home, I am not as focused as if I actually have to get dressed and go out and do it. I have found Panera is a great place — you can eat lunch and their wireless is good. But it’s sometimes hard to get a table near an outlet because people treat it as their personal office space. So, doesn’t solve the issue of feeling like a dick for sitting their for hours, but at least you don’t smell.

  60. Jen on October 11th, 2011 1:13 pm

    I’ve never really ventured out of the house to work, instead I ship the kids out of the house (I need more than just a couple of hours a day, two or three full days blocked off for Work Time works best for me) But I do get what you’re saying- it can be SO isolating to be at home all day, just typing. I’ll go 7 hours without uttering a WORD out loud. Kinda freaky. So I play music and sing so I at least feel human, ha.

    Is there a place you can hide in your own house while the sitter is there? I’ve found it tough personally to be here at home working while someone else (husband) deals with the kids. I always end up sucked into whatever drama is going on. But that might help with the depressing aspect of the mall food court or the library. But then again… you’re hiding in your own house so… heh. Not really an easy answer to this one.

  61. Jon on October 11th, 2011 4:58 pm

    I’ve been there. When our kids were smaller it was hard to work from home with them around. Now they’re pretty self-sufficient and leave me alone. I still like to get out of the house sometimes though. I used to have an Atlanta Bread Company (Panera-like sandwich shop) near me with Wifi and not such an overwhelming stench of burning coffee. It was my favorite place to work for an hour or three.

    Now I rotate between the library with the homeless guys and/or Merlin Mann, the greek place with baclava-sticky tables, the SUPER LOUD ESPN-FILLED SPORTS BAR, the Barnes and Noble that’s pretty packed, or the continuously-mopped McDonalds. None are great, but I get the most done at McDonalds.

    If you can find a free/cheap coworking space, that could work but it’s probably full of starry-eyed kids with startup dreams.

    I like the idea of connecting with other local freelancers on Twitter or something and doing some spontaneous co-working / socialization. Getting together with someone for lunch 1-2 times a week can be expensive but it goes a long way.

  62. Amber on October 11th, 2011 6:30 pm

    I had so much trouble working by myself – lonely, isolated, fairly certain inspecting my ears with my finger in public was acceptable behavior, etc. – that I moved from San Francisco to LA to fix it.

    Not that I’m saying MOVE. YOU MUST MOVE. I’m just affirming that, yeah – it’s a thing. My solution was to find someone else who was in a similar situation (and with a similar temperament, work ethic, etc.) and work with her as often as humanly possible.


    Anyway, if you can find someone in a similar situation and have work dates as often as possible, it should help enormously.

  63. bj on October 11th, 2011 6:59 pm

    I totally understand what you feel (and, yes, like another commenter above, that you said exactly what I feel). There’s a set of moms at a private school who rent a house near the school — to have just this kind of shared work space.

    I see this in the Seattle area:


    There must be something like that closer to you?

    and this:


    I know there are places like that that offer shared studio space, and I really have to search for one. Thanks for the validation and the incentive.

  64. Amy on October 11th, 2011 7:12 pm

    Yep, I was going to suggest coworking too. Sounds like a good mix of stability and flexibility, though I have no personal experience with it. Seems more likely you’d find it in your area then mine (rural Mississippi), though. Can’t wait to hear the zany exploits sure to come from this journey.

  65. kathleen on October 11th, 2011 7:23 pm

    I work from home part time and am in grad school part time. I end up working 5-6 hours alone most days. It’s taken me a year or so to figure it out, but I now work from home 1-2 days a week, and then go to the same three businesses on assigned days of the week. (X coffee shop on Tuesdays, Y library on Wednesdays, etc). I’ve found that I’ve gotten to know some people just because we are always there at the same time, and it keeps me from getting to lonely in my house (I’m single, so it’s just me there). After I graduate in May I’ll be full time from home, and I’m not sure if my schedule will change or not in terms of home vs. out working. Let us know if you find anything that helps/works!

  66. Meagan on October 11th, 2011 8:55 pm

    I wrote a novel in coffee shops (plus the occasional Borders). Maybe you just need to find one that’s less smelly. :-)

  67. Kathleen on October 11th, 2011 9:25 pm

    My local library is oddly nonquiet. It used to have a coffee shop, which is sadly gone but now houses the used book sale area and lots of chatty people who make for good people watching. Libraries in our area vary widely – some are great work places, some are just too cone-of-silence. Shop around, perhaps?

  68. Kate on October 12th, 2011 5:48 am

    Do you have a nearby community college? You could go to their library – they are a bit noisier. Or a Panera Bread? That is a good spot for some noise and good internet…

  69. Cheri on October 12th, 2011 1:29 pm
  70. Kirsty on October 12th, 2011 2:19 pm

    I’ve worked from home for (God help me) 15 years and still don’t have an actual “office” – just a corner of our sitting room. It IS hard, especially when the girls aren’t in school (all day Wednesdays, weekends, holidays) and when their dad can’t take them (often, even though he’s unemployed. Drives me batshit).
    As a single mother, the lack of adult contact is, to be honest, killing me. I’ve never felt so utterly lonely in my entire life. I’m just aching for someone adult (and male) to put their arms around me, hold me tight, pour me a glass of wine and share a joke with me (not necessarily all at the same time, of course)…
    To combat the working from home thing, I’ve always done a little teaching – part-time, more or less. This makes for a lot of working hours and even more crabbiness, but I have debts galore so there’s no choice.
    And, though teaching is absolutely not my vocation, it DOES bring me into contact with adults (I teach mainly postgraduate students so yes, they’re waaaaay younger than I am, but they ARE (technically) adults).
    Despite all my complaining, I wouldn’t (professionally) have it any other way – I love the freedom of working from home (on school days, anyway, which mean that I’m “free” from 8.30 am to 4.45 pm).
    From a personal point of view, I’m terrified of spending the next 40 years alone but can’t see how it can possibly be otherwise given that I have no social life…

  71. Karen on October 13th, 2011 9:26 am

    Have read some not all of the comments, and co-working or desk renting sounds like an awesome solution, and so much more noble and honest than my old method…. I would say goodbye to the kids and grandma upstairs, walk out front door, and sneak back in the basement for 2 hours of quiet writing and good internet. The guilt was always secondary to the level of accomplishment!
    Now they’re all in school and life has settled down…..
    hang in there!

  72. Jen W. on October 13th, 2011 1:00 pm

    I’m still working in my pajamas and haven’t brushed my teeth at 4 pm so I’m not sure I can give advice at this point…

  73. Frannie on October 13th, 2011 10:20 pm

    There’s a place called Stardust Coffee and Video in Orlando. Maybe there are places like it in your area. It has food, but doesn’t smell of coffee; it’s usually quiet during the day (turns into a bar at night), and even has a good selection of video and art. People have no problem being there for a while. Most of the clientele are friendly and want to socialize.
    What places/people inspire you? I have a hard time being more gregarious, but places like that have a special quality in that I am able to talk and/or work.
    I also agree that meeting with fellow freelancers or rent-a-desks seem like a cool idea as well.

  74. Farrell on October 14th, 2011 10:30 am

    I don’t know how anyone expects to get work done with young kids at home. I’ve been working from home 2 days/week for 7 years and there is NO WAY IN HELL I could get anything done while my daughter was home, esp. in the younger years. Now on my days from home, I can pick her up from school and still keep working while she has a snack, watches tv, does her homework, and then we’re both done and ready to play (she’s in first grade)

    Do you have a home office set up? Can you set one up, if not?

    I work in an office 3 days/week but nobody is that social.

  75. Gina in MN on October 17th, 2011 1:03 pm

    Ha: I’m writing this from a library right now, where I am also working from “not home”! I agree, very isolating.Although at our libraries there are likely to plenty of homeless people who would be happy to chat, I’m sure… that somehow doesn’t make me feel better. I don’t have any real answers (haven’t read the other comments yet), but I’m hoping to find some regular (even monthly) gathering to schedule in. Maybe a knitting group, book group, networking or even toastmasters group, fergodsakes. I don’t think I really need a LOT of social connection, but working without real in-person colleages is harder than I expected when I gleefully left my rather comfy office a year back or so. The grass is always greener, and I don’t think i would have believed anyone working from coffeeshops etc if they would have told me how hard it was before I quit. We just have to live it to know, and adapt as best we can. Good luck!!!

  76. ned on October 18th, 2011 9:57 am

    I work as a clinical trials auditor, which requires me to travel to clinics and hospitals 60-80% of the time to review research data. But when I’m not traveling, I work from home, which, for me, ranges in satisfaction from waterboarding to 9th circle of hell.

    If I’m not answering a hundred emails (ALL marked urgent by their respective authors BTW), I’m writing reports on my trips. All of which leaves me completely isolated from the world. So, when I really need to focus and get work done, I go to Starbucks, or Barnes & Noble, or the Library. I’m lucky because my company Blackberry allows me to tether my laptop when free WiFi isn’t available, so literally ANYPLACE is acceptable. But since I live in God’s Waiting Room (South Florida), it’s usually too hot 9 months out of the year for me to work outside.

    Bitch much?! Yes I do. It’s the essence of me.


  77. Kirsten on October 21st, 2011 2:11 pm

    I soooo need to go read everyone’s responses because seriously I struggle with the SAME crap. This is WAY harder then I thought it would be and I’ve been doing it for 3.5 years.

  78. Amy on October 24th, 2011 4:40 am

    This is me as well. I can go to my company’s main office and work in “hotel” space, but my problem now is that I’m surrounded by new faces every time and it’s an hour commute each way on a good day, so it rarely makes sense to do that commute just to see strangers. My kids are in school most of the day, but I find it hard to focus sometimes with all the other home crap distracting me. I only wish my house was spotless to show that my distractions accomplished something.


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