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?

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kristen howerton
11 years ago

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.

Julie
11 years ago

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.

Pete
Pete
11 years ago

Nope. Downside to working at home.

Bad Mama Genny
11 years ago

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…

BMG

Christine B
11 years ago

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.

Rayne of Terror
11 years ago

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.

Kelly
Kelly
11 years ago

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

http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-of-the-day/flamenco-dancer-spain/

Kelly
Kelly
11 years ago

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

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/working_home

That is the cartoon!

Carla Hinkle
Carla Hinkle
11 years ago

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?

Jessica
11 years ago

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!

crisi-tunity
11 years ago

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.

Sheryl
Sheryl
11 years ago

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!

Ashley, the Accidental Olympian

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

Margot
11 years ago

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.

Carl Coryell-Martin
Carl Coryell-Martin
11 years ago

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.

Melissa
11 years ago

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.

Jamie
11 years ago

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!

http://coworkingseattle.org/Home.html

Christina
11 years ago

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!

Nolita
11 years ago

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.

Hannah
Hannah
11 years ago

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…

Anna
Anna
11 years ago

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?

kim
kim
11 years ago

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.

OmegaMom
11 years ago

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.

Nothing But Bonfires
11 years ago

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?

Katrina
11 years ago

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.

Tansasser
11 years ago

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.

parodie
parodie
11 years ago

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.

Tiff
Tiff
11 years ago

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.

April
April
11 years ago

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.

Kelly
Kelly
11 years ago

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

Shannon Lell
11 years ago

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.

Laura M.
Laura M.
11 years ago

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

MacLeod House
11 years ago

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 :)

Gwen
11 years ago

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!

Karen
11 years ago

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.

VirtualSprite
11 years ago

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.

A'Dell
11 years ago

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.

Sarah
Sarah
11 years ago

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.

A.
A.
11 years ago

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

http://cocomsp.com/

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.)

Melissa
11 years ago

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.

Anne
11 years ago

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?

Stephanie
Stephanie
11 years ago

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

Amber
11 years ago

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.

alison of a gun
11 years ago

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!

Melissa
Melissa
11 years ago

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.

LizScott
11 years ago

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.

LizScott
11 years ago

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.

Laura
11 years ago

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.

J.A.
J.A.
11 years ago

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.

Lori
Lori
11 years ago

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.