Spending Time Together, 24/7
By Michelle Mather
A couple of months ago Cam wrote here about how hard it is to get back into the “working for someone else” mode. He had been temporarily working down the road at our neighbour’s woodshop. When he first floated the idea of working for our neighbour for a few weeks I thought I would enjoy the change of pace and the chance to be on my own. I was wrong.
Cam and I have been self-employed together for 25 years. We didn’t plan on working together – it just sort of happened. Before we had our own daughters, I worked as an elementary school teacher for about 3 years. We both knew we wanted children. I come from a big family – I am one of 8. But after a few years of teaching I told Cam that if we planned on having our own family we should start sooner, rather than later. I felt like my lifetime allotment of patience was going to be used up teaching other people’s children.
At that time Cam was selling computers. We had agreed that once we had children one of us would become a stay-at-home parent. I just knew that I didn’t have it in me to teach all day and worry about who was raising my kids. We had our first daughter and I took the 6 month paid leave that was allowed at that time, and then I extended it by another 6 months of unpaid leave. So I was able to stay at home with my firstborn for her entire first year.
By then Cam had decided to start a desktop publishing business. Needless to say it took some time before the business was turning a profit and we were able to take any sort of salary. So when my first daughter was a year old I reluctantly headed back to the classroom. First we found a young woman, with a baby of her own, to come in to babysit. That didn’t last very long. We ended up having to find a home-based caregiver and so Cam dropped our daughter off every morning and I picked her up on my way home from school. I don’t have fond memories of that time.
Soon I was expecting our second child, the business was finally profitable and in my mind there was no question of going back to work when I had two children at home. I had another 6 month paid maternity leave and then another 6 months of unpaid leave. After that, when I requested to extend my leave, the school administration gave me two options; come back or resign. I chose the latter.
Cam had started our business in our home but quickly decided to move it out into an office building. Then he got tired of spending so much time away from us (his line in the previous post about the definition of an entrepreneur as being “someone who is willing to work 80 hours a week for themselves rather than 40 hours a week for someone else” wasn’t too far from the truth) and so he moved the business back into our basement. The four of us spent our days together. The girls often spent their time at a small table set up in Cam’s office where they did their drawing and colouring. Cam put up a sign overhead that read “Art Dept.” By this time I had been drawn into the business, first tackling the accounting side of things and eventually taking on more and more of the desktop publishing work.
The girls attended a co-op preschool, and then went on to a local elementary school. Even when they were both in school full time it didn’t occur to me to return to teaching. My life was full and busy and it was enough to juggle the demands of motherhood with my work in our business.
When our girls were 8 and 6 we decided to begin educating them at home. The reasons for this are too numerous to outline here. Needless to say my life got even busier! But through it all, Cam and I were working side by side, even if he was more focused on the business, and I was more focused on our children.
When we made the decision to move out here to the country, it was with the assumption that we would continue to work together in our home-based business. And that’s what we’ve done. At first we continued to run our desktop publishing business. Cam tended to do most of the actual graphic design/desktop publishing work and I did some of the smaller publishing jobs and looked after the accounting. When we published our first book (The Renewable Energy Handbook for Homeowners in 2003) I worked on editing the book, Cam did the layout and then I looked after fulfilling orders and counting the pennies.
Eventually the book business took over our lives and so we gave up most of our clients and we began to concentrate on promoting our books and DVDs and writing and producing new ones. I work on my laptop in a small area upstairs in the house and Cam prefers to work on his laptop in an “office” out in our guesthouse. We eat breakfast together, have a tea break, see each other at lunch time and at numerous other times during the day. Both of us like to break up our days by performing numerous odd jobs inside and outside the house. As gardening season arrives, Cam will spend less and less of his time at his computer and most of his time in the garden.
All this to say that the two weeks that Cam spent working down the road were brutal! We missed each other horribly and even though I have one dog, three cats and four chickens (now a rooster too!) to keep me company, it just wasn’t the same. I don’t know which one of us was happier when Cam’s short stint as a woodworker was over! I know many of my friends can’t understand the concept of living and working with a spouse 24/7 but once you get used to it, it’s hard to change!
For more about our move from the city to the country, be sure to read our book “Little House Off the Grid” available on our website www.aztext.com, and from other booksellers.