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Humor at Work

How to Not Kill Your Spouse When You’re Both Working From Home

By Bull Garlington

Working from home is frightening for those newly forced to it. And with everything closing down, it’s going to get scarier. And weirder. And maybe last for a long time. But you’re in luck because I’ve been working at home for 15 years and I know all the tricks and … none of them matter because my wife’s company made her work remotely and she’s been on the phone in the living room for two hours and I’m going to kill her.

Unless you’re a zillionaire, you’re probably living in a two-paycheck, middle-income household. You and your significant other often meet briefly to have a glass of wine and watch Stephen Colbert before finalizing that draft and then falling asleep in your chair at midnight. I know my wife (WHO IS A SAINT) and I do. And sometimes, as we type furiously side by side, we wonder aloud, “Hey, spouse, why don’t we work together at home more?”

This Is Why We Don’t Work Together More

Because we will murder each other. It’s a matter of when, not if. She listens to podcasts about women who murder their husbands and get away with it, so she’s prepped. And it’s not because we don’t adore each other. We adore each other! It’s just who we are at work and who we are at home are different people. I’m a perfect employee and she’s a homicidal maniac. But we’re stuck in the house together for the next who-knows-how-many days. Maybe some strategy is in order.

Like, We Need to Establish Boundaries

Physical and professional boundaries. My wife is an attorney, so her job is mostly shouting, “Seriously, Frank, I will gut you like a carp” into an empty room like a lunatic because she’s wearing wireless headphones, whereas my job is 80% pondering. Conversely, when she’s not shouting, she’s writing, which she does with a pen on a tablet in perfect silence. When I’m not pondering, I type like a machine gun, which makes mi esposa want to shoot me. We can’t work in the same room together. So, like, what?

Well, Murder, for One

I’m strongly opposed to mariticide, especially since my own maritum is so well-prepared. I don’t know where our life insurance papers are. I never hid a body. (I’m not saying my wife hid a body, I’m just saying everyone struggled in the Bush years.) I’m mostly opposed to prolicide, though the concept is familiar territory for any parent who lived through the kid’s first 18 years. Just don’t say it out loud.

Probably the best way to stave off familicide is to tune in to your frustration, then discern its origins. Is it the pen clicking? Of course, it’s the pen clicking, but is that all of it? Maybe you’re hangry. But what do you do about that in the stark absence of a company cafeteria or taco truck? ’Cause they’re all closed and — wait, what’s that giant shiny metal thing in your eating place?

How Does Cook? Why So Food?

Just look at that kitchen. Sure, you paid an arm and a leg to have it remodeled, but you’ve never actually stood there at 11:30 a.m. on a Thursday in your gym shorts and your BoJack Horseman T-shirt staring at the gleaming granite gorgeousness your genius (and your bonus) hath wrought. And so, like, now what? Do you even remember how to cook?

What am I saying? You’re a foodie! You watch Chef John videos. You know what a mother sauce is. Of course, you can cook. But hey, slow down there, Gordon Ramsay. You’re not shooting for a Michelin star here. Stick to the basics. Grilled cheese. Bologna sandwiches. Duck a l’Orange. When your spouse puts her meeting on hold because she realizes you’re in the kitchen and then bellows out, “DIET COKE!” without even saying “please,” or “here’s a hundred bucks buy yourself something nice,” then yell back.

“You’re NOT My Boss!”

Because that’s gonna happen when you’re working from home. At work, you guys might hold different ranks. My spouse, for instance, runs legal teams who [I AM NOT ALLOWED TO TELL YOU THIS] and [OR THIS]. She’s in charge of people. She wakes up at 4 a.m. to take a meeting with the team in Belarus. She’s a globe-hopping multi-degreed badass attorney. She snaps her fingers and things happen. Currently, I am staring at a bird. I snap my fingers and the dog throws up. So I get that we’re in different classes — at work.

But at home, we’re equal. I don’t work for her. I work for myself. And as soon as I’m done bringing her a Diet Coke, I’m going to explain this more. Because no matter how equal we are at home, we’re not equal in our take-home, and in the long run, my job is pretty easy where her job is more like screaming at people about science lasers. Or something. I have no idea what she does.

No More Afternoon Delight, Please

When you do the math, this other person in your life is the love of your life. And, frankly, they’ve been at their firm’s offices constantly for the last 11 years and now suddenly they’re at home, rocking those abs and flexing their pecs. And before you know it, you’re both [REDACTED] [REDACTED] in the kitchen while [REDACTED] [REDACTING] as you [REDACT] your [REDACTABLES].

I mean, seriously. You have work to do.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

Yes, I’ll Have Another …

Read “Five Awful Cocktails to Make As You Run Out of Everything While the Goddam World Burns Down” by Bull Garlington over on Medium.

And, this: “How Not to Talk Politics and Survive.”

More from Attorney at Work on dealing with the pandemic:

Free COVID-19 Webinars from Attorney at Work Authors:

“Working Remotely and Securely: What Lawyers Need to Know” is presented by Sharon Nelson and John Simek of Sensei Enterprises and covers the technology and security issues of working from home.

“Legal Marketing in the Midst of the COVID-19 Crisis,” with Jay Harrington and Stefanie Marrone, discusses the issues law firms, lawyers and legal marketers need to be thinking about during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Bull Garlington Bull Garlington

Analog Attorney columnist Bull Garlington is an award-winning author, columnist and public speaker. He is the author of the books “The Full English,” “Death by Children” and “The Beat Cop’s Guide.” He prefers South American literature, classic jazz, Partagas 1945s, a decent Laphroaig, and makes a mean chicken and andouille gumbo. His company, Creative Writer PRO, offers top-shelf content for small and medium-size businesses. Follow him @bull_garlington.

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