When I started my new part-time research job at the university early this fall, they got me a new computer. It’s a laptop, and I love it. I have hobbled along on an old dinosaur for years, because as the miser I am, I could not justify buying a new one (especially with just one salary for the family). I now realize how wonderful it is to have access to fast internet and an updated computer – it makes everything so much easier! How quickly the computer world changes, and how easy it is to lose track of new technology.
Having a laptop, I’m noticing that my work and family life are tangling. The portability of my computer means, basically, that I am never far from it. When my kids are around and don’t need me I can stay in the common living space and slip onto the computer (for example, my daughter is doing her homework at the same time as I’m writing this right now). I have figured out how to work productively on ongoing projects that I can pick up in free minutes, such as formatting a data table, searching for references from the library on line, or reading something from one of the many open pages of this and that on my desktop.
And, while the computer is theoretically primarily my work tool, I continue to depend on it more and more in my home life. I now have much faster and far more diverse access to recipes for dinner than looking through my cook books; it easily resolves questions that come up on homework (what exactly is a mixed number?); I stream NPR and our CD collection now lives on itunes; the other day when friends came over for coffee, I asked if they had ideas about the lego kits I am considering for Christmas presents… you guessed it, it didn’t take long to pull up lego.com . Natural gravitation. And I haven’t even started with facebook yet.
So while I intended to use this laptop in the cozy little office my husband and I set up in our spare room to work from home, I see now that it is too integrated into my family/home life to stay there long. It keeps migrating out of the office and onto the dining room table – and my papers and books have migrated there too, shuffling back and forth to the nearby bookshelf between meals.
In an effort to reclaim the dining room table from this takeover, I’m now brainstorming ideas for a workspace that is separate but compatible with living space. My latest idea is to design an office nook in the corner of our living area, but I wonder if that will adequately contain the associated cords and papers…
In my attempts to balance home and work I fear in some ways I have gone beyond balance to merge. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this.