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Hometown stories: Heidi McElfish

Perils, joys of working at home

November 10, 2010 - When we first started our business, my husband and I had a perfect working relationship. I did all the accounting and billing and he handled the client relationships and the actual work that we would get paid for.

Our children were still young, three children, with the oldest being five years old. We set three rules for our kids: 1.) Never come downstairs talking, especially yelling or screaming since they wouldn't know if we were on the phone with a client. (It would be terrible if a client could hear a child crying or worse yet, a dog barking); 2.) Always be respectful and say hello using Mr. or Mrs. when you greet visitors, especially clients; 3.) Then of course, no shenanigans or 'rough housing' above, where the sound could be heard below.

One afternoon while I was out shopping, my husband made arrangements to have a client meet at our home office to go over some last minute copy changes on his brochure. I must say this particular client was a very refined, well-to-do gentleman that never had any children. No problem, since our oldest was in school and it was naptime, so the other two were asleep.

The meeting went very well, and after it ended, my husband began to escort his client to the front door in front of the stairs that lead to the kid's bedrooms above. The two of them were just finishing their conversation when our son called out from upstairs, "Daaaaad?" Apparently he wasn't taking a nap. My husband desperately tried to ignore our son, and even pretended that the client really didn't hear him. As they continued talking, they again heard, "Daaaad?" even louder this time.

The client was ready to step outside when my husband was forced to ask, "What is it son?"

"Can you wipe my butt?" he yelled out. (At 3-years-old, I guess this was his afternoon ritual.) The client initially looked mortified…but then after a few seconds, he started to laugh! All my husband could do was laugh along with him. As the client walked to his car and as the door shut, all my husband could do was stand there and think, "Why?" "What timing!" As he walked upstairs to take care of business, he muttered under his breath "I have to get a regular office."

On another occasion, while we were both working downstairs, our son was busy in his room just being 'inquisitive' again. Our daughter, only 5-years-old, came flying down the stairs, unannounced and of course, breaking rule number one. She yelled: "Come quickly!" because her brother electrocuted himself. No, it wasn't as bad as you might think, but it was bad. You see, he found a small luggage key, and boys, liking to see how things work, decided to put it in the electrical outlet. Sparks flew. We rushed upstairs and found him on his knees crying, still holding the key. His fingers had turned black and so did the wallpaper above the outlet. He was definitely startled, but thank goodness he was all right. After that we bought those 'child proof' covers for the outlets.

All in all it was still great being able to work at home and balance child rearing with work. Otherwise we would have missed so many events in their life. We also had more opportunities with their education, too.

For instance, our baby girl, almost 2-years-old, loved animals. She was playing outside with her brother and sister while their father was raking the leaves. I was doing the monthly billing and was deep in thought at my desk when she came down the stairs holding something in each hand and said in her sweet baby voice, "Look what I got." As I came closer, I immediately started screaming at the top of my voice, "Ahhhh! Ahhhh!" in a frightful tone.

I scared her so much; she dropped what she was holding. She had two dead birds, one in each hand. I don't know where she got them or how they died. All I could think was that she was bringing some disease into the house.

I know I overreacted. My husband thought I was getting stabbed and my daughter will never, ever pick up a bird again. Therefore, her education on birds 'flew out the window.'

Eventually, we moved our business to an official office about five miles away. The conclusion on the matter is the office at home worked, but not without its perils. Looking back, we never lost an account in those years because of working from home. But what we gained with the many "laugh out loud" memories will last for years to come.

Heidi McElfish is a freelance writer living in Clarkston. She majored in Creative writing and English Literature. Her motto is "Write from the Heart." Contact Heidi at heidi.lane@yahoo.com.

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