Jem and I have worked from home for the last six years. Computers side-by-side in our tiny cupboard of an office, I have laboured away at translating everything from work contracts, architectural reports, banks' annual reports and web pages, but mostly art and design related publications for a local art publishing house. It's certainly been a learning curve and improved my Latvian language immensley, but it's never really been "my thing" - not professionally, anyway - just something to help pay the bills. I have spent a lot of time waiting for the day when someone will 'unmask' me - read a translation and say: "this is crap! you don't really know anything about translating, do you??".
Jem, on the other hand, has spent the last six years doing freelance design and web building work. In that time he has churned out a lot of good stuff - beautiful websites and CD covers, for museums and musicians and other interesting institutions which has required a lot of creativity and devotion on his part. For the last little while, however, it's been obvious that Jem is suffering from a touch of burn out - the constant demands of clients to have work done yesterday, clients who want the impossible, and clients who don't know what they want but aren't happy with anything you give them.
Working from home has been great in many ways, because we have been able to spend a lot of time with the kids and each other - and what we may have lost in terms of wages or owning a "work wardrobe" we have gained in family life and the freedom to set your own work hours. The only problem with this set up is that the work hours tended to stretch long into the night, and the family time always seemed to start with "I'll come and play in a minute, mate, I've just got to check my email/finish this sentence/talk to this person first"... Working from our cluttered home with no way to block out the shrieks and laughter of the kids has, at times, been trying.
So lately we've had a change. Totally by chance, a couple of months ago, I bought the local daily paper (which I don't do often enough) and spotted an job ad (in the news section!) that read like it had been written for Jem - working as a regional web coordinator for a local British institution. We decided that Jem may as well apply, and as it would happen, he got the job, out of 55 applicants from 6 different countries! Jem"ummed" and "aaahed" for quite a while before accepting, because the job requires quite a bit of travel, doesn't pay quite as much as we'd hoped, and means working from an office, which will impede our 'freedom' quite considerably. But all things considered, we thought it would be an interesting change. Jem starts this coming Monday - and his first trip to Warsaw is already booked in for the following week - so we'll see how it all goes. One thing that is already becoming clear, is that this economic crisis was bound to affect our freelance work, and that accepting a job at the time that Jem did seems to have been a good move for us already.
As for me - I've been being on a museum board for a year or so - a new museum that is yet to be built in Latvia, about diaspora Latvian communities and emigration from Latvia. I was quite involved in funding applications etc. while being a voluntary board member - and so when the offer of taking up the first paid position for the museum came up, I didn't think hard before taking it. This job is more along my professional line, it's part-time, and I can decide when to work - so I work while the kids are at kindy. So I started in December, and although lonely at times, it's much more stimulating and creative then the translating gig - which I have given up completely. In the initial stages I have to work from home, but the lovely Mara F.'s family have vacated their beautifully white, minimally furnished apartment in Riga and I get to work from there - so that I can put a bit of space between work and home, and dodge the clutter for a few hours. It's working out well at this stage, and as the museum starts to expand (we just got our first biggish grant for 30,000 euro!) I am hoping my level of commitment to the project will able to increase, considering the boys are growing up and will soon be going to school.
So that's it - the end of an era. Although I can see that these work decisions have been the right thing at the right time, I admit I have moments of feeling sad that we are both again working for "the man". I suppose it will take some time to get used to the feeling again - but we are both hoping that the fact that we can actually come home from work (rather than constantly being torn between being at home/being at work in the same place) will make it all worth it.