Friday, January 25, 2008

What about work?

I should have requested to go to part-time status when we first decided to pull Jacob out of school. That was in December. But I put it off. Then Christmas came and went. Then I took some vacation days. And next thing I knew, it was the middle of January.

I thought I’d have a good case for my company to keep me part-time. The company had been through a long period of restructuring, and our department survived. Hiring freezes seem to have been in effect ever since I started working here seven years ago. And it was actually the company – my boss – who wooed me to join the ranks of employees rather than continue doing writing projects for them on a freelance basis. I'd been working freelance for 18 years...

My boss often works from home, so she just wasn’t around for me to broach the subject. And I wasn’t quite sure what I’d say. Homeschooling still isn’t common, and I knew people would think I’m a little weird to pull my son out of "perfectly good school" and teach him myself. I waited a few days for her to come in, but since she continued to work from home, I finally called her and stated my case – “We’ve decided to pull Jacob out of public school and homeschool him.” I requested part-time status and permission to work from home, and held my breath.

“I thought you were going to tell me you’re sick. I’m glad it’s not that,” said my boss. I had been on a medical leave for several months in 2002 because of a bout of lupus. “I’ll see what I can do,” she promised.

She didn’t get back to me for over a week.

“I talked it over with my supervisor,” said my boss, again over the phone. Her supervisor – the head of the department – is the one who makes these decisions. “He said that his brother used to homeschool his kids,” she added with obvious amazement in her voice. I was probably as surprised to hear that as she had been, but this was a good thing. “You could go down to 32 hours. But we would still like you to work on site. It won’t work for us to have you working from home. We want you to spend more time with the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), not less.”

Thirty-two hours on site! When? That would be over six hours per day, and the absolute soonest I could get to the office would be 1:00 PM. There isn’t a person in the office after 6:00 PM. Besides, most of my contact with the SMEs is via e-mail or phone. I rarely see them in person.

We went back and forth, and I counter-proposed that I work on site at the office from 1:00 till 6:00 PM, and then work the rest of the hours from my home office. I had, after all, been working freelance when I first met my boss. She’s hired me to write a video script for her, which I did evenings at home while I took care of the kids in the day.

My boss said that she’d have to ask her supervisor about this.

Several more days passed. When she called me back, I was surprised that her counterproposal to mine was that I continue to work 40 hours per week, but flexible hours from home, except for the 1:00 to 6:00 part. “We’ll try it for a month and see how that works.”

I reluctantly agreed to the 40 hours.

But before I can start coming in only afternoons and putting in flexible time from home for the rest of the hours, I have to get high-speed Internet at home! I’ve been functioning on a phone connection for over the last decade. It's painfully slow - slow enough to discourage teenagers from surfing the 'net. And then there are all the security measures that the company requires I put in place so that I can connect to their intranet from home.

“It may take a month to get all this arranged,” my boss added.

A month!? How would I start teaching Jacob at the end of January?

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)