Rounding out the last few days in the office, I've received numerous reactions from my coworkers when they hear that I will be working from home part-time while being a stay at home dad. With the advertising industry's tendency to draw workaholics, I had half-expected some to regard me with my reduced hours as if I'm doing time in detox, abandoning them in some crack den of an office. For the most part, the responses have been generally supportive, thankfully nothing near the levels of negativity I found online.
Still, sometimes the reactions from my colleagues were somewhat confusing. Generally, they tended to fall in one of the following categories:
For some reason, congratulating my transition to working at home is somehow phrased as a question, even if it's really intended as a declarative statement. It might be due to many in my agency being on the younger side, with little experience around parenthood, or marriage for that matter. Perhaps it is expressed like a question to denote uncertainty of whether congratulations are even in order for this situation. Fatherhood is nothing new. Working from home is nothing new. But working from home as a stay at home dad might be perceived as an undiscovered territory.
"Oh, is there anything you need?"
Others have looked at me like they're in mourning, whispering to me in hushed tones as if they're paying final respects at a funeral. I wouldn't be surprised if the next words out of their mouth were, "he looks so natural." But I can understand their line of thinking. It perhaps goes back to the type-A personalities that agencies often employ, with the sentiment that being that reducing work hours is some kind of loss for me. That might be true in terms of career path, but I gain so much more outside of the career that I hold.
"Hell yeah! Live the dream!"
Some have confided in me that they admire the courage I have in working from home, as if I'm trying to upstage some rebellion against the corporate mentality, extricating myself from the bonds of the cubicle. As flattering as that might be, somehow I don't see preparing lunch for my kid as a call for an uprising. It's simply a decision I made using pragmatic reasoning.
"I guess I'll be seeing you..."
It's strange being offered a happy hour in honor of my departure, especially since I'm not exactly leaving the company. In some ways, that feels even more like attending my own funeral. But I can understand since on a day to day basis, I won't be seeing them anymore. As much as I'm looking forward to life at home, I know I'll miss some aspects of office life. I've worked in an office for 16 years. And some of them really do understand what I'm trying to do; I wouldn't have been given the opportunity to work remotely otherwise.
I'll miss the even just hearing the conversations and the odd sequitur, like a former analyst who thought Siamese cats were born conjoined, like Siamese twins. Or the buyer who thought kidney stones were passed out of the human body by pooping ("forget kidney stones, this thing is a kidney brick!") Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if I hear those kinds of odd sequiturs as a stay at home dad.
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