Monday, May 14, 2007

The Domestic

I spent Friday as a home-office refugee, chased from spot to spot by my kid and his friends and the wall of noise they were making. I started in my favorite spot, on the screened-in porch, but had to leave when the kids got up a game of wiffle ball. (I say I had to leave, but of course I know plenty of fathers who would have told their kids to get lost in similar situations, and their approach is probably better than mine. But I’ve never been able to stand in the way of a game of wiffle ball.) I took my laptop up to the balcony off our bedroom, but had to move again when the painters working on the house next door started power-washing the deck. As much as I love working at home, and as much as I love not having to spend my days in a cubicle surrounded by miserable co-workers, there is something a little unnatural about a man spending an ordinary Monday or Tuesday in his house. The domestic world belongs to mom and the kids—I know that sounds starkly Larry Summers-ish, but there it is--and having a man around somehow seems wrong to everybody, including the man.

In the June Atlantic Benjamin Schwarz reviews a pair of books on domestic architecture, and calls the family home “contested terrain—between the individual and the family, children and the parents, wives and husbands.”

But I say it's no contest. Which is one of the reasons I’m writing this at five in the morning. I’ve got the house to myself at this time of day, and I can work where I want.

My wife and kid will be up in an hour or so, and they’ll reclaim their space then.


  1. How do you feel about the garage? I remember in your old place, you worked in the bathroom sometimes, right?

  2. It is true that I did, on a few isolated occasions, set up shop in one of the bathrooms in our old place. It had everything I needed--good lighting, electrical outlets, comfortable seating (the toilet with the lid down), and most importantly a door that closed and locked. But I draw the line at trying to write in my garage. It's dim and dusty in there , and worse still, it's filled with too many reminders of failed home repair projects--mangled two-by-fours and warped gutter extensions and a sledgehammer with a shattered handle. Not a good vibe there.

    The trouble with holing up in the bathroom now is that AJ's little friends are always running arnound the house for hours on end and wanting to get in there to blow their constantly running noses or whatever. And I don't want them going home and telling their parents that they can never use the bathroom at AJ's house because his dad spends all day in there typing.