By Mariya Volzhskaya
I am a “working from home” work in progress. Since following my spouse OCONUS and due to strict limitations on work opportunities where we live, “working from home” has been a challenge to grow into. Before we moved, I imagined reveling in a nonexistent commute, a flexible schedule, and an increased productivity level due to all the extra free time. Going from a fast-paced civil litigation environment in a big city, it seemed like a dream.
When we first arrived OCONUS, I continued to work remotely for my previous firm, but the time difference and the pacing of litigation made it challenging to be there for my partners and I’m pretty sure they slowly forgot about me. It was to be expected when they didn’t see me at my desk when they came in in the morning and I was never there for the Friday afternoon firm meeting as it was midnight my time. I do not hold it against them and I appreciated the opportunity to give it a go. It is very difficult to fully control a case when you’re too far away to show up to a case management conference, take a deposition, or call opposing counsel without the sounds of a sleepy toddler in the background. I love being a lawyer; I love going to court and the everyday challenges of litigation, and I took some time to grieve the loss of professional contact that being away from that life entailed.
I have been fortunate that eventually, through my time “working from home” I have been able to cobble together a pretty active schedule that facilitates my professional development while allowing me a lot of free time (and a modicum of income): I teach an online course for the Navy College, I provide education and family advocacy resources as a part of my “home business,” and I try to remain a stakeholder in my community through volunteering my time in support groups for causes close to my heart. And, to be brutally honest, a big chunk of my time is spent going to the gym, on household errands, and maintaining social relationships so I do not go crazy. Oh and the rest is with my family, which is more precious than gold.
I have discovered that long-term I am not a “working from home” type and that is okay. As Lindsey Savage suggested in her article “Spinning the Sabbatical”, I am considering rebranding my time away from a more active work force as a sabbatical, instead of time off or time out of the workforce. I may not be the perfectly motivated work from home type, but I have benefitted from realizing that working from home, far from being a dream of flexible schedules and lots of free time, takes an inordinate amount of work to pursue effectively.
My saving grace has been a community of other military spouse professionals who are currently out of the work force, and for whom working from home has also been a challenge. We meet every week though the In Gear Career co-working events on our small and sleepy military base, where we work on our own projects or businesses, while spending time together. Connecting with other professional spouses has encouraged me to keep going even when it feels like I’m spinning my wheels. If there is anything I have learned through this time is that working from home is impossible to do alone. If you are considering working from home due to displacement or any other circumstances, my only piece of advice is – reach out, find your tribe, and search for ways to connect to others going through the same thing. Working from home can be lonely, but you do not have to do it alone.