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I love being able to work at home, be there when my kids come home from school, know who they’re spending their time with, attend their school functions and sporting events, take them on spontaneous outings, help them with their homework, or just hang out and talk. It’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world. But, always being at home while always being at work, can have its drawbacks.
It’s difficult to separate the two. I once negotiated a contract over the phone, while in my nightgown and cleaning a toilet. My client didn’t need to know I was eight and a half months pregnant and suffering from a second round of the flu. I hung up the phone and puked, cleaned the toilet again before leaving to pick up my son at preschool, then got back to work once he was settled in with his toys. Just another day.
The hardest things for a work-at-home parent are the isolation you sometimes feel and the monotony of staring at the same four walls. It can wear you down more than you realize. Not that I’m aching for a long commute in rush hour traffic or the hassle of finding a parking space downtown. But a little escape once in a while can do wonders.
Once a month I make an appointment with myself to work at my local café for a few hours. I plan all my writing assignments for the month, do some research, and, if I’m lucky, work on some of my much-neglected fiction pieces. For the price of a cup of coffee, I don’t have to hear my phone ring or be distracted by the laundry, dirty dishes, the TV, or the fridge. And that’s a nice outing. But it still leaves something to be desired.
A better way to cope with the isolation and monotony of daily life is to escape into nature. I live in the Northwest, with plenty of parks, foothills, meadows, mountains, waterways, and overall stunning scenery. I’m never more than a short drive from someplace wonderful, created by God for us to enjoy.
With crisp mountain air filling my lungs and a lush carpet of grass and wildflowers below my feet, I am suddenly free of stress. Jagged peaks and carved canyon walls erase my worries as I hear fish jumping and the soft, steady sssshhhhh of wind in the trees. There are no deadlines, no phone calls, no eye strain from too many hours on the laptop. Just the gentle calm of a mountain lake or the freedom of a soaring peregrine overhead, crisscrossing the canyon walls of my favorite fishing spot before coming to roost.
This renews me like nothing else. And although I’m smart enough to know I should always carry my cell phone and my pocket knife for protection, I take great pleasure in surrendering to the fact that I am just a mere part of something much larger than myself. The timeless wonder of a winding river, carving its crooked path through a majestic, brick-colored canyon is enough to reboot my overworked brain. A pine cone, so simple and yet so complex in its design, can fascinate me and inspire me to create something equally simple, or complex, when I return to my workday routine.
Taking in nature gives me a fresh perspective and clears my mind of all my shortcomings, my pressures, my criticisms, my negativity. It reminds me that I was created by the same One who created this beautiful world I live in, and that my contribution will impact others, just as all of this has impacted me.