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Woe Is Me! “My Family Is Treating My WFH Hours Like I’m on Holiday”

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Mar 29, 2020

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Image credit: Charulata (1964)

Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.


“I’ve been working from home ever since the Covid19 quarantine lockdown started. However, I live with family, and they seem to think that I’m free all day to take up chores instead. I need them to treat my work-from-home time just as they would treat me if I wasn’t physically present at home and working elsewhere. How do I take this up with them without offending them?”

— Take Me Back (to Office)


LG: First, let me congratulate you on having a job! What a blessing in these uncertain and economically difficult times. Second, I suggest creating a colleague, quite literally — it’s difficult to understand what you can’t see, and your family needs something tangible. Stuff a couple of pillows into an old set of clothes, draw a face on a pillow slipcover, and set the pillow-person up next to you as you sit at your laptop. We’ll call him Manoj. Manoj is a bit dimwitted and dull, but has excellent taste in music and is surprisingly a non-creepy blast at the office happy hours once he’s had a couple of drinks.

Whenever a family member comes knocking, asking you to take on a chore, just gesture helplessly to Manoj and say, “I would, but Manoj really needs me to explain this process to him right now; it can’t wait and it’s taking forever.” At dinner with your family, talk about how slow and in need of hand-holding Manoj is. Share the one mildly funny joke he made that day. Complain about how his desk is always a mess, covered in crumbs. Eventually, the illusion will take hold, and your parents will understand you not only have a job, but also coworkers who depend on you. And you’ll have an outlet for all your stress. And who knows? Manoj might bloom into an office romance for you, or at least a mild flirtation. Anything to pass the time.

AJ: Lock your room! Keep a DND board outside. I feel that when parents see us especially on the bed, with our laptops on, they assume we’re not doing anything productive! I suggest you sit on a desk. Give them a time period to not be disturbed – 10 to 5. It’s also important, to perhaps let them know what you’re working on? So they know you’re not Netflix-and-chilling the whole day, you actually have a shit tonne of work to do. I used to feel the same during my initial few days of working from my parents’ home. But I’ve hijacked my father’s study room – so they avoid disturbing me, apart from the lunch calls. Also, sitting long hours on the bed isn’t good for your back anyway. It’s a win-win! 

ADT: Going to be gently contrarian and say, what if there was a balance? If you did do around two of the five chores your parents asked of you, at odd times, you’d probably get off quite easy not doing the other chores. What we’re doing here is making your family feel like you care, but only enough so they know not to mess with your boundaries. If they’re the pushy, annoying sort — I’d suggest donning a pair of headphones and keeping a video call link open whenever they’re sniffing you out, just so you can always be ‘on-call.’

RD: I urge you to channel your inner teenager. Lock your door, blare some music, and shut your family out during work hours. You could go the mature way and talk to them, but hey, the lockdown is upon us, and we’ve all deserved to let out some frustration. They’ll get the hint.

SM: I’m sure this problem is super duper relatable for most Indian millenials because boundary setting is a huge problem we have to grapple with. There are lots of perks of being mollycoddled and treated like a child who needs love and care, except when you need to do serious adulting, and your parents just won’t let you. I suggest you make a chore timetable and give it to your whole family — this will state when you’re available for which chores, when you’re doing office work, and when you can chill with them. You can say you made this because this is something your HR person wants you to do, or that you saw this really cool scheduling thing online, or better still, that one of your parents is so great at scheduling, that they inspired you to do the same, so you don’t feel stressed out.

DR: Unfortunately, I understand your woe only too well. Since the Invisibility Cloak that J.K. Rowling made us wish we could disappear under, doesn’t really exist, I would encourage you to seek refuge under the cloak of pretense instead! Here’s a plan: agree to help your family out by wiping the floors, while you’re at it, pretend to slip and fall, throw a fit and bawl about how badly you’ve hurt your arm. While they’re busy tending to you, get someone to wrap a crepe bandage on the affected area. They’ll feel pity, and do the rest of the chores themselves. Do remember to groan from time-to-time when they’re around to keep up the facade. Since a doctor can’t check you in person (courtesy the lockdown), they’ll never be able to affirm whether you’re really hurt. The silver lining, see! Oh, and they’ll always be at your beck and call too — now that you’re injured. Total win-win! 

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Written By The Swaddle Team

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