I've been a working mom with a stay-at-home partner, a working mom with a working partner, and a tay-at-home mom with a working partner. These days I'm a work-from-home mom of two, and have been for the past few years. Each of the aforementioned scenarios have their pros and cons, and while there are certainly days I could rip my hair out and wonder what the hell I think I'm doing, there are reasons working from home with two kids is actually easier.
One of the tougher aspects of the work-from-home gig is perception: people have a particular idea about what I mean when I say I work from home and, well, they don't always get it wrong. Some of the perks are really great, but no one seems to intuitively understand the kind of toll it takes to go from task to task when those tasks are completely different from one another and you're granted zero "transition" time. If a typical work day in a traditional, office setting is a marathon, then my work day is like a triathlon. It's not that one is harder than the other, it's just a completely different kind of difficulty and mindset.
People also don't seem to understand that, like, I'm actually working. I'm not just blogging for fun over here, people! Yes, I sometimes work in my pajamas (though less than you'd think or I'd like, to be honest), but I'm still working. I'm working a lot, in fact, because of my assignments and also because of the two humans I have to care for while I work. But, particularly as time goes on, there are more than a few perks to having the two of them around while I work; perks that go beyond basking in the glory of their cherubic faces.
The Dream Of "Doing It All" Is Dead & Buried By Now
When you have one kid and work from home, you can still, perhaps, for a while, labor under the impression that you can or should be "doing it all." Because yes, you're doing a lot, but you can do it, right? Maintain a perfectly clean living space, prepare home-cooked meals, spend real quality time with your child in creative, intellectual, and/or physically engaging activities. Surely you can do all this and get all your work done on time, right? And, of course, you're going to be dressed in work clothes while you do it and you're going to get up just a little early to get some yoga and meditation in, right?
A second child really drives home the idea that this dream, while beautiful, is patently ridiculous. Or, at least, the idea that you'll do all of this perfectly all the time and it will be easy is ridiculous.
Someone Is Usually Sick
I'm pretty sure the Latin root for "school" translates to "place where germs go to mutate into forms you couldn't possibly imagine."
My son spent the month of November out of school, not counting the times he'd say he was well enough to go to school only to be sent to the nurses office because false alarm, turns out he was still sick! So good thing I was on-hand to not only go get him, but to stay home with him. With two kids, the chances that something like that is going to pop up increase substantially, so it's a good thing I'm "on-hand." Is it convenient to have to interrupt my work-day to go care for a sick kid? Of course not. But it's more convenient than, say, when I worked in another city and was subject to public transportation schedules to get back home in the case of an emergency.
Someone Always Needs To Be Driven Somewhere
Between preschool, daycare, activities, doctor's appointments, playdates, what-the-hell-ever. it sometimes feels like you're in your car as much as you're behind your desk. This is only made worse the more kids you have. So I often wonder who I would manage if I had to figure in a commute to and from an office. Actually, I don't have to wonder: I've done it, it's the worst, and I was a chaotic mess. And that was just with one kid. Two? GTFO. So I'll admit, having your home-base be your home (and, therefore, probably nearby wherever it is your kids need to be) is certainly convenient and made all the more obvious by that second kid.
They Entertain Each Other
A lot of this has to do with timing (how old are your children) and also luck (how well do their personalities mesh), but I never thought I'd get to this point and I'm here now and it's amazing. Seriously, they can disappear from my sight for hours and I don't worry about it because I know they're just upstairs playing. One is distracting the other from distracting me without even trying and it's just the bee's knees.
You Get Really Good At Multitasking & Scheduling
With one kid and a work-from-home job, there's just a teeny tiny little bit of wiggle room. Not much, but it's there, and it sometimes means you can be a little loosey goosey with your schedule. It's the same amount of leeway that allows you to believe you can "have it all."
But with two kids? Absolutely not. Every single minute is accounted for. On my phone I have seven separate alarms throughout the day that remind me that it's time to move from one thing to the other (and those are on days where no one has any activities or I don't have appointments or whatever). I seriously live my life like a Medieval nun who lives her life by the ringing of the abbey bells. And on one hand that's annoying, sure, but on the other hand you know exactly what to expect (generally) because that's just the way it has to be if everyone is going to get what they need.
It's not so much multitasking (though, not gonna lie, it's also multitasking) as moving from thing to thing without a hitch.
They Learn To Help Each Other
It's not that I gruffly dismiss my children whenever they need me because I'm working, but sometimes I sort-of-gruffly dismiss my children because I'm working and nothing they're asking me to do is anything they couldn't do for themselves if they put their mind to it. And in those cases they often team up and it's really pretty beautiful, actually.
You Can "Justify" The Decision More Easily
Don't get it twisted: you don't have to "justify" your career choices to anyone but yourself and your dependents. But when you're staring down the barrel of two daycare payments (not to say lots of work-from-home parents don't use daycare, because I did when my kids were younger and getting anything accomplished with two toddlers in the house was absolutely impossible) and you can manage to work from home with your kids there, it makes you that much more confident in your decision to work from home.
People Understand Your Challenge A Little Bit Better
One of the more annoying things about working from home (especially when you have a creative career) is that other people don't realize that it's not like you're living this carefree, Bohemian existence. It's not like I just write when I feel like it. I write between certain hours every day and my editor has certain expectations. So I can't drop everything to volunteer in a classroom, or have a play date before preschool starts, or whatever. With more kids I feel like people get more that I have more to juggle and are a bit more respectful of my time and obligations than they were when there was just the one kid. Not that my time and obligations were any different, mind you.
Everyone Is On The Same Page
I guess this is more of a general statement about working from home than specifically about working from home with two kids, but I think it bears mentioning: when your kids see you work, your career isn't this nebulous, hypothetical thing to them. They know what you do and, in a way, they're a part of it, because you need them to do certain things (for example: stop asking me for snacks every five minutes because OMG I'm trying to concentrate!) so that you can work. There's less separation between work life and home life for a work-from-home mom, and I think that can be a real benefit to all involved.
2x The Parenting Pick-Me-Ups Throughout The Day
You know when you work in an office and (if you're lucky) you have certain coworkers whose assorted hijinks and shenanigans make your day better? When you work from home your coworkers are your children, and sometimes that can suck and sometimes that can be challenging, and sometimes you can really miss being in a space with a bunch of other adults... but sometimes you get an awesome hug in the middle of the day, or you get to have lunch with your 4-year-old, or your 7-year-old walks over and you have a surprisingly insightful conversation, and it's just super nice.