Like everyone else, New Yorkers are shaped by their circumstances. This means we make strange jokes to our kids. When they get cash for a present, we’re likely to compute how much square footage that money could rent, for how long. It’s a neat way to teach the kiddos about miniscule fractions: ‘That twenty bucks would get you 3.2 square feet, or one-eighty-ninth of our house, for a month. Standing room only, sweetie, no sleeping!’
All this to say that space always will go for a premium here. So when I tell you I rent an apartment as my office, you know I’m talking a huge investment.
How can I justify this? A quick story if I may.
Last week my daughter was sick and home from school. I wasn’t traveling, but my schedule was full, as usual. I had every reason to say goodbye to the kids, have faith in my husband’s ability to keep my daughter’s nose clean and spirits up, and jump into the flurry of my daily business.
Well, every reason but one. Leaving her was impossible. When my kids are sick, I am Mom. End of story.
So I brought her to the other apartment. I got (some, maybe less) work done — enough to know I wasn’t leaving anyone out to dry or blowing a big opportunity. And I took care of her. She, in her inimitable way, took care of me.
For the two days she ‘worked’ with me I said it again and again: “THIS is why I should keep doing what I’m doing.” In truth, I’m fortunate to have many reasons why I love my working life, but being able to set the mom-work balance, I think, tops the list.
Like every entrepreneur and freelancer, I’ve had my longings for corporate life and its perks. A month with one too many bad contract negotiations and the unreturned phone call too far can feel I’m stupid turning down health benefits, a 401 (k) match and a little more stability. Not to mention paying for one apartment instead of two.
But my desire to be a hybrid mom/working girl is strong. I’m doing a pretty good job of it. The apartment, every dearly bought square inch of it, is a justifiable expense. It gets me out of the house and creates a genuine office environment, in which I can plot, talk shop, make deals and give the entrepreneurial me the cubic space she needs to breathe normally.
But it also can bend to accommodate the spillover of my domestic life. For now, there are art supplies, craft projects, and lego kits to keep them co-working, when they are here. As my kids grow up, they’ll know they can drop in whenever they need me — provided they keep it down when I’m on the phone.
Entrepreneurs need to see these balances clearly. The business owner has a luxury in her freedom. Often it’s dearly bought, but when you think your priorities through, that freedom can be more than sufficient reward.
I work awfully hard to afford that apartment/office. But it’s always money well spent. When it comes to my quality of life, that rent check always gets filed under ‘bonuses’. Not every one of those means you scored in your bank account.