I live a tragically average life, but as far as jobs go, mine err on the side of non-traditional. On my more insecure days, I shame myself for not having a ~real job~ (i.e. something that requires me to wear something other than sweatpants every day). On my stronger days, I truly pride myself on the fact that I’ve made a happy and honest living so far in my young life doing things I truly love: nannying, yoga-ing, and writing. However, having a job outside of the 9-to-5 means a few different things. For me, one of them is that I am essentially living a double life. My new(ish) job as a nanny is anything but traditional. The mother I work for is a flight attendant, meaning that she travels overnight, often multiple times per week. This means that I get to play mommy all night on the days that she’s gone. I say “new-ish” because I worked at this particular job for a long time, then left the family for the past year to go back to school and focus on some other goals. However, I’ve very recently (within the last week) went back to start working with them again, which means accepting some of the harder things about the job that I’ll be dealing with once again – and doing everything in my power to make it a little easier this time.
A job that requires spending nights outside of your home is scary for a few reasons, one of them being the fact that I have to split my week between two homes: mine and theirs.
Sometimes, this means living out of an overnight bag, no matter which house I’m at on the given day. Both my house and theirs sometimes feel like holding cells where I just sit and wait to go to the next one. At some point, having an entirely separate home and family as part of your job just makes it nearly impossible to mentally separate “work life” from “home life.”
Similarly, recent endeavors in blogging and working with TFD have meant that I’ve had to create and somehow adhere to a set of strategic rules to effectively schedule myself and stay productive. I’ve never had the freedom to create my own schedule almost entirely, and without hard-and-fast rules, I’d drown under that amount of power. For my first few days with TFD, I was admittedly pretty terrible at managing it. I found myself scrambling to write a post that made any bit of sense at midnight, and wondering why the actual hell I didn’t do it during, you know, normal workday hours.
Separating my personal life from work is a process that requires accepting all the different reasons why I suck at it: one of them is my tendency to procrastinate, one is the stress and confusion of my part-time-live-in-nanny situation, and one of them is the fact that I’m constantly anxiety-ridden. I have one of those (super fun!) minds that often tricks me into totally believing I had twelve things to accomplish that I totally forgot about (Was I supposed to work today? Did I forget to schedule that thing?) when I, in fact, made no such mistake. The anxiety is annoying on its own, but the worst part about it is that it basically breeds with its stupid nervous self, and then multiplies, preventing me from calming down even in the moments when I’m totally work-free.
In order to create a healthier lifestyle for myself, I needed to find an easier way to manage my jobs and be diligent about separating my work life from my home life. These are the three things I’ve done to try to take charge of my double-life, and try to separate Work Mary from Personal Life Mary.
1. Making my work-home into more of a home-home.
It may sound counterproductive to separate work from home by trying to make work feel like home, but this has worked wonders for me. One of the worst ways I went about having a job where I had to work overnights was being totally fucking dramatic about not being home for the night. In all honesty, I should have been insanely grateful for the fact that part of my job is literally getting paid to sleep. I psyched myself out so much by dreading my overnights so much, to the point where I was too anxious to even unpack my toiletries bag on the days that I was home. That decision put me in limbo at all times: even when I was at my actual home, I was all packed up to go back to work, and living out of my bag as if I was there. To remedy this, I took the financial hit of going out and doubling up on all of the products I use day-to-day, so I could leave one set at the house where I work. It sounds like such a small change, but not having to worry about packing up my toothbrush or all of my skincare products has helped a ridiculous amount in making me feel like I’m not going on a stressful adventure every time I head to work for the night. Having all the comforts of my real home there make my job feel a little more like home when I have to set up camp there for the night.
2. Scheduling myself regularly on the days that I can, instead of treating them like vacations.
Since a portion of my week is spent working two or three marathon overnights, the days that I’m home sometimes feel like mini-vacations from work. However, sometimes I get so excited to be able to be at my own house and do what I want for two days that I spend those two days doing literally whatever I want trying to soak up every minute of the relaxing ~home~ time. The problem here, besides the fact that it is just a stupid idea in general, is that I still have other work to be done on the days that I’m not physically on-the-job (because lest we forget TFD, or my online classes for school). In order to keep myself on-track with my other work when I get days off from being Mary Poppins, I try my darndest to schedule myself in 9-to-5 on those days. I wake up at a reasonable hour, wash myself and prepare for the Real Working World, do my work, then give myself a hard out at the end of the day. Doing this means I’m less likely to abuse my “freedom” from nannying and screw around for eight hours, then scramble to get all of my work done late at night.
3. Stop trying to make it something it isn’t.
Does anyone else remember that episode of Sex and the City (Do I mention that show too much? Do you guys hate me?) where Carrie dates that jazz club owner? At one point in the episode, when she tells him that she doesn’t like jazz because it is too complicated to follow, he tells her to stop trying to make it something it isn’t and just accept it for what it is so she can enjoy it.
When you work a job with non-traditional hours, you have two choices: you can either accept that you are working on an opposite schedule than most of the universe, or you can decide that you’re not emotionally able to handle that fact. I find it very important to not compare myself to people around me. If one of the nights I’m working overnight happens to be a Friday when a bunch of people I know are going out, I have to remind myself that I’m not in a shitty situation – my life is just different than theirs. They probably feel similarly jealous when they wake up at 7:00a.m. on a Monday to drag their butts to work and I’m still hanging in bed because I get to do my work from home that day. We all have our own brand of shit, right?
Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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