An experiment: Himself would juggle it all from home, and I’d head out to work. For a whole week

Jen Hogan: When the tables turned, I remembered why I’d made the move to work from home in the first place

Nobody in this house has given out about working from home more than I have. And when I say nobody, obviously I mean, out of the two of us, I have complained about it way more than himself.

In my defence, though, I worked from home long before it was cool to do so. There was no major adjustment to my working life when the world shut down in March 2020, save turning the Ford Transit into the season’s must-have — a broadcast-from-home studio. Aside from that, it was business as usual from my diningroom table.

But oh how I resented himself heading off to work every day during the restrictions and avoiding the hell of homeschooling. And oh how I envied that he got to speak to real people he wasn’t related to on a daily basis, while, here, the highlight of our day was wondering which disapproving adult we might encounter on our family walk who would glare at us as if the devil incarnate had taken her spawn out to wreak havoc on the world. Those vectors, how very dare they breathe the same air, walk the same paths, or enter the same shops as paying, voting adults.

Last week, though, we got to switch roles.


For the first time in more than 20 years, himself would juggle it all from home, while I headed off to work, for full days, for a whole week. Of course there’d been the odd day here and there over the course of the past two decades where I’d been gone all day. Those were the days where perhaps I might be in Cork, and a call would come in from a child to ask where I was, had their green top come through the wash, and could I drop them to drama later. Bilocation was as of yet beyond my skillset, I lovingly explained in response – but they could always check with their father, who was seated 259km closer, in the diningroom.

I sauntered off to catch the bus that fine Monday morning, conflicted, with the weight of the world on my shoulders. There was no way we could get through a whole week with me gone every day, I catastrophised. It’s not that himself doesn’t pull his weight, or anything like it. It’s just that when you’re not there every day on your own with the kids, working and parenting at the same time, you can miss little things like the fact that it’s not just good fortune there’s a constant supply of clean jocks and socks. Or that when the migraine-prone child warns you he’s feeling sick, and within seconds resembles that scene from the Exorcist, you must react immediately lest the dog help you with the clean-up.

Still, there would be real people, and hot tea, and no interruptions. I remembered working in such conditions, vaguely. And I miss that aspect of going to the workplace. I miss the banter and the craic and the chats, and even the colleagues who wreck your head. I miss the company. It can get really lonely at the diningroom table.

And so it came to pass that my absence was noticed by my offspring. When I came home that first day, random children asked me how my day was, gave me hugs as they passed by and seemed mildly pleased to see I’d returned. The youngest boys filled me in on the day’s happenings and the curly haired dude went for the jugular and asked if he could get something in Minecraft. The prodigal parent returned, I was enjoying my new-found popularity. And so, I did what any mature, responsible parent would do in this situation, after his father had already declined the request, I said yes, of course, and basked in my new-found popular-parent status. “Aha”, said I to himself. “This is what it’s like to be the good guy.”

The second day I came home to similar adulation, and dinner ready in fairness, but also the news that they hadn’t made it to karate. That was the day the eye twitch started.

On day three, the air was warm and the wind was blowing. What great drying weather I thought to my cool, hip self. I thought it again that evening when I came home and looked out the kitchen window at the washing line adorned with the same clothes I’d hung out four days ago.

Turns out I missed the minions much more than I anticipated that week and I remembered why I made the move to work from home. Surprisingly, it was nothing to do with facilitating a steady flow of clean jocks and socks. Still, I wouldn’t mind exploring that concept of bilocation a little more.