Taking the plunge

So maybe you've been reading this column for a while and you're thinking: Boy, this jerk's got a sweet deal. Putter around the house, watch over a couple of kids, contemplate his navel, all while his wife's bringing home the family bacon.

You're right, of course. It is a sweet deal. But it took years of mental and financial preparation before I could quit the 9-to-5 world and become a full-time writer and househusband. Only the strong of mind and spirit (and wallet) can withstand the daily onslaught of housework and home repairs, kids and pets, computer crashes and culinary catastrophes.

If you've been thinking of starting an at-home business, you should first check your mental readiness. Can you work productively without adult supervision? Do you panic when faced with unstructured time? Are you too attached to your necktie, your co-workers, your salary to leave it all behind?

We have formulated a handy quiz to test your mental preparedness. Think of it as a checklist of your coping resources. Sort of like those inventories of supplies kept in bomb shelters.

The test is self-scoring. There are no wrong answers. If you're honest with yourself, however, you'll soon realize you're crazy as a loon for even considering quitting your day job.

Q. The thing I fear most about working at home is:

a) Solitude.

b) Loneliness.

c) Forgetting the niceties of social interaction, such as table manners.

d) All of the above.

Q. The thing I would most enjoy about working at home would be:

a) Solitude.

b) Setting my own schedule.

c) Being allowed to smoke at my desk.

d) "Oprah."

Q. When I'm working, I like to wear:

a) Stylish clothes that catch the eye.

b) Conservative business attire.

c) Sweatpants.

d) Nothing.

Q. When the doorbell rings, I know it will be someone trying to sell me:

a) Avon.

b) Fresh fruit.

c) Salvation.

d) All of the above.

Q. When working on a computer, the error message I fear most is:

a) "Insufficient memory at this time."

b) "A fatal exception has occurred."

c) "General failure."

d) What's an error message?

Q. My child is stuck up a tree, screaming for help. I would:

a) Call the fire department.

b) Climb up the tree and help him down.

c) Stand below, ready to catch him, while I gently coax him down.

d) Hide in the house until he figures it out on his own.

Q. When the phone rings, I expect it to be:

a) An important client.

b) A telemarketer.

c) My spouse, wondering whether I've accomplished anything today.

d) The state Children, Youth and Families Department.

Q. Faced with two inches of water on the laundry room floor, I would:

a) Unplug all the electrical appliances, clean up the mess and try to find the problem.

b) Call a plumber.

c) Call my spouse and whimper into the phone.

d) Tell the kids we're having a pool party.

Q. To make my home the perfect place to work, I need:

a) A supportive family.

b) A loyal dog.

c) E-mail.

d) A straitjacket.

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