design business WFH

3 Tips for Quiet Quitting (when you work for yourself)

The latest buzz term in the post-pandemic workplace is “quiet quitting.” For too long, the American can-do culture has about done us in—expecting success to rise from pushing the limits of what it means to give it your all. Add to that the historical societal expectations for child rearing placed on women that kept us completely out of the higher tiers of corporate America, and many times, out of the building completely. To shove our way in, we had to do the same job but better, and do so without letting it be known that there were children who needed to be picked up from school, teacher conferences to be had, or doctors’ appointments to be booked. For mothers, the adage, “Never let them see you sweat,” quickly became, “Never let them see you parent.”

Since the nineties, accommodations like paid paternity/partner leave, flexible work schedules, and the recognition that, frankly, moms bring good sh*t to the table, has increased our position on the corporate totem pole, but the majority is still not at the top. When we are, we certainly are not getting paid the same as our male counterparts for it. Don’t even get me started about the limits that ethnicity, race, age, sexuality, marital/partner status, and physical ability add to this heavy load for many. We’re all trying to claw our way to the top, but those claws are getting worn down, and there’s nothing like the screeching halt of a pandemic to point that out.

Cue the Great Resignation and with that, people deciding that driving their own decisions about work and home balance is how it should be. Now, people are quietly shutting those laptops at 5 o’clock (in their own time zone) and, behold! corporate America is still standing. Perhaps it’s because people are returning to their desks the next morning with a sense of self-control, satisfaction, and balance. 

So, is this a choice we can sustain and stay a successful economy? And if so, how does the self-employed lot accomplish this without losing respect from their contractor, let alone their gig? 

I would argue, yes, we can afford to shut it down at a reasonable hour. I’m not alone, of course. Many studies have shown that workers were just as productive when they had to work from home, even when putting in less hours sitting at their desks. Dogs were walked, bread was made, and yes, even emails were answered. On the flip side, the home as office also blurred the lines of the work day and now we’re boomeranging fast to try and sharpen those lines back up. The hybrid work week (part home, part office) is a result. Quiet quitting is another.

So how does a fully-remote, self-employed contract worker (and mom) quietly quit when there’s competition for work and looser work schedules all around? Here’s how:

  1. Set up expectations from the get-go.
    If you start answering emails on Saturdays, it doesn’t take long for the needy client to learn (and exploit) that you’re always working for them, always. 
  2. Don’t lie when life happens.
    Got a soccer game to go to? A kid to pick up? Tell your client exactly why you can’t make that meeting. It normalizes life as part of the work day and helps remind employers that freelancers are people too.
  3. Do good work and trust it.
    If you prove yourself a reliable asset to your employer, they are bound to give you more flexibility because they want your quality. But, when you are “on the clock,” be there fully, and try not to mix your work and home life (Does “No one will see if I do a quick Instacart order while I do this Zoom call,” ring a bell?).

A combination of measured commitment, embracing one’s reality, and openness is all it takes to release yourself from guilt and restore balance when or if the line between your home and your office gets smudged.

self care WFH

WFH: The devil on your doorstep

At the risk of overemphasizing the obvious, working from home, like many of us do now due to Covid-19, blurs the physical and mental boundaries between work and home. While there are many benefits to this (as I have noted in past articles), there can also be some pitfalls.  

Additionally, this osmosis between spaces offers close proximity to our less socially acceptable vices we keep behind closed doors, like alcohol, overeating, or screen addiction. Now, add some kids to the mix perhaps, maybe a partner, income insecurity, lack of childcare, loss of social support. And, what if you add to that a culture where euphemisms like “mommy’s sippy cup” and other humorous observations about alcohol consumption among moms are increasingly common and, in fact, encouraged? Well, that devil is cozying right up next to you and handing you a drink—probably wine in an insulated cup emblazoned with “Rosé all day.”

First, a little about me: I’m white, cis-gendered female, upper-middle class, in a heterosexual marriage, and have two kids and many pets. For the last year or so, I have worked from home as a freelance graphic designer. I coincidentally left my full-time office gig when we moved for my husband’s job right as the pandemic was revving up. Though working alone at home can be at times lonesome, I personally love the flexibility my at-home setup affords. I get to be a mom when I need to be, make enough money to pay for our kids’ tuition, and chip away at some of the never-ending laundry. 

Back to my point. I remember seeing a video on Facebook a few months into the pandemic by the Holderness Family to the tune of “Do you want to build a Snowman?” from the Disney movie Frozen. It’s a quarantine parody song that poses a day-time question to his spouse, “Do you want to start drinking?” To be fair, I find a lot of their content funny and admire them for normalizing, in an accessible and humorous way, a lot of the hidden challenges of parenting and marriage. But, it made me think: what could videos like this and the normalization of ideas like “wine o’clock,” mean to families—and mothers—especially during a pandemic with all its stress-inducing glory? Are we simply giving license to unhealthy behaviors with “everybody’s doing it” messaging—and worse, could we be encouraging it (read: “everybody should be doing it”)?

What makes the idea of a glass of wine so appealing to so many at the end of the day? More so, why has it become increasingly normal for moms to be attaching themselves to a culture built around memes and posts about it? Well, Americans buy, and what we buy always implies something about our identity. The car you drive, where you shop, the clothes you wear, the food you eat, all say something about your value system and your socioeconomic status, among other things. Basically, in a capitalist society, where you choose to put your money says a lot about you as a person. Marketers obviously realize this and bank on it. 

Recently, women’s alcohol consumption is approaching that of men’s and the alcohol industry is developing product lines and messaging to encourage this demographic, driving home the message: “don’t forget, you are what you drink, too!” Look at widely available and affordable wines these days with cheeky titles like “Skinny Girl” or “Mommy’s Time Out” (subtle). “Barefoot” and “Yes way, Rosé” brand themselves as a quirky analgesic rather than a fine vintage. The culture around wine in America has shifted from the seventies as something you might get a glass of in an Italian restaurant from a raffia wrapped bottle to a reward for good behavior. We’re looking at you, you underappreciated, overworked mom. 

Work-from-home mom, meet stay-at-home mom. Oh, wait! Thanks to Covid-19, you are just looking in a mirror. Personally, I noticed that my clock-watching was getting much more focused around 4/4:30 every afternoon during the early months of the pandemic. Is it five yet? Is it almost five yet? Anything to break the day into a new chunk! I soon was disturbed by what I was feeling with this behavior. All of a sudden having a glass of wine or two at the end of the day didn’t seem like a choice. It was a routine. And, not one that particularly made me feel good. It was the norm that my husband and I would split a bottle of wine at night—that’s like 2 ½ glasses per day. (And, those glasses are bigger now than they used to be.) My husband and I relished this ritual. We started staring at each other’s glasses and second-guessing how big the other’s pour was compared to our own. I felt like my adolescent son when he split a can of soda between his sister and him. He all but whipped out a ruler to make sure they were equal. My husband was noticing this, too. So, he suggested we pull back. We did and stuck with it. We both feel a lot better about our choice. 

Here’s the thing. The marketing people want us to believe that we moms are supposed to be drinking wine at night to unwind, relax, and reward ourselves for if not a job well done, a job—well, done. That’s what got me. It wasn’t a reward. I didn’t feel better or happier because of it. In fact, I slept worse, I gained weight, and didn’t like where my patience level was headed. 

Plus, I didn’t like the message I was sending my teenage daughter: You NEED a thing to help you feel calm and relaxed when you’re stressed. I want her to find relief and solace in relationships and herself, not things. I want to be that for myself. Covid stripped away our in-person community of friends and family, made us full-time roommates with people we were used to seeing a couple of hours a day. (People who we love, but maybe not people who need to be around us 24-7.) I am not at all surprised that alcohol consumption rose during the pandemic—especially among women. We were all looking for rewards for good behavior, for not losing our ever-loving minds because of the demands heaped upon us. Life is messy, motherhood isn’t all well shorn, polite children, clean rooms and hot dinners. It’s OK to need help. The problem is that the market’s answer is: Here. Drink this. It’s classy and it’ll make you feel better. (Until it doesn’t.) 

I like wine. I like it more now that I only have it on weekends. I savor it. I drink less and appreciate each sip. I decided to replace that old routine with a healthier one: exercise. I figured if I wanted something to help me relieve stress, why not take a completely guilt-free and actually effective route? Through this, I show myself and my kids that there are ways that you can take care of yourself, ways that don’t involve something you buy, something you ingest, or something that can ultimately harm you. So I closed the door on that chapter.

Now, I roll my eyes when I see yet another coffee mug that says something like “This may be wine.” At first, the humor was cute. It pointed out that we moms don’t have to be perfect all the time and we sadly needed that permission, especially when even more was being added to our plates. But, the devil’s in the details, and when you take a closer look at who is driving this message and the long-term effects it has on the very women it’s trying to liberate from perfection, aren’t we doing more harm than good? For me, that devil’s still waiting outside the door, I know he’ll always be there. But for now, he’s drinking alone.

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