Work From Home made me question what I value in my relationships
With the joy of meeting people at work and interactions at the office coffee machines gone, work from home is proving more daunting than I thought.
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There was a report in the news last week about a jump in divorce rates in China following coronavirus quarantine. The authorities reportedly said that the divorce rate spiked across the neighbouring country after “couples spend too much time together during coronavirus home quarantine.” While one marriage registry office in Sichuan Province went on to claim that over 300 couples applied for divorces in the past three weeks, another registry in Xi'an received 14 requests in one day, claiming to hit the upper limit. Chinese officials reportedly said that the sharp increase of divorce requests could be caused by the fact that partners have spent too much time in close quarters under quarantine.
My first reaction was to scoff and laugh it off (saying that it was exaggerated). And then reality hit home when on March 17, my husband and I were informed by our respective offices that we had to work from home (WFH) from the next day till further notice.
Initially, I was quite happy. After all, there will be no soul-crushing commute to work, no more getting frustrated with the maddening traffic and the joy of being with the husband and the dog — two souls whose company I enjoy the most in the world. Or so I thought till my castle of beliefs came shattering down.
Representative photo: Getty Images
Don’t get me wrong. My husband and I are a couple very much in love — to the extent that mutual friends envy our camaraderie. And all it took us was the past week to realise that the secret of our comfortable companionship was the “social distancing” from each other for ten hours a day at our respective workplaces. We rarely used to call each other from our workplaces unless it was an emergency and we make it a point to respect each other’s workspaces. The past week shattered it all.
While my husband and I are far from reaching the point of divorce (or so I believe), petty issues (as petty as leaving the wet towel on the floor) lead to tempers flaring up, and with no “time out” (at work or otherwise) to reflect on the necessity of sharp words, the tension escalates. Further, both of us have always been “people’s persons” and enjoy meeting and interacting with people at workplaces. The isolating circumstances have deprived us of that joy too.
On the one hand, I was very happy on Day 1 of my ‘work from home’ status that allowed me to spend time with my dog while I worked. However, having a dog demanding attention and putting his paw or snout on my laptop while I am trying to edit a 2,000-word copy was irritating, to put it very mildly. Again, don’t get me wrong – my dog is my love, joy and pride. I love him more than you could imagine. But then, a week into the WFH status and my dog is equally sick of having me around all the time. And then, there would be instances when the husband would come across something very interesting and rush to tell me, breaking my concentration in the process. Do I tell them off and break their little joy, or swallow my irritation? I guess, every relationship needs its boundaries and mandatory 'social distance' and we seem to have breached it somewhere in the past week. Clearly, I am not alone in my predicament.
How do I cope with it? For starters, I have been locking myself in the study for nine hours a day. No husband, no dog — only my laptop and work. But then, when your personal life and your work are under the same roof, it becomes that much harder to switch off. While domestic chores without help were initially daunting, I guess ending the day with the physical labour gives me the much-needed release from the frustration of being cooped up. But again, the joy of interacting with the domestic help and getting to know of her day is lost.
Give me a choice, and I will opt for working from the office on any day. But that’s the point — I don’t have a choice and in times like these during a pandemic, the rational mind knows it is for the best. The challenge, however, is to deal with the irrational part of the mind.