Before having kids, working from home or telecommuting seemed like such a great deal. Getting to work productively in silence, and not having to make small talk with coworkers about the football game or episode of The Voice you didn't watch last night, and — as an added bonus — being able to wear yoga pants and not have to put on a bra. Working from home with a kid, however, can be (read: absolutely is) completely different.
I love my kids. I really and truly love my kids. Did I mention that I love my kids? However, attempting to work from home last summer when all four of them were off from school was an exercise in patience and a daily test of my sanity. While I loved being able to spend time with them every day, and sometimes it worked out that I could be attentive and get my work done simultaneously, that "perfect" at-home work day was a rarity. Working from home with kids is not for the faint of heart and isn't always the best of both worlds. It takes organizational and boundary-setting skills, an ability to recognize when things are not working out as planned (see: just about everything in parenting), and a willingness to adapt, which sometimes means working after the kids go to sleep or getting up early in the morning.
It also means getting your priorities straight. You can't always drop everything to help your child find a new show on Netflix, but you are there when they need to you to kiss scrapes and bruises or administer hugs. Above all else, it's important to know your limits, be able to say, "This isn't working for us," and make necessary changes, which if you think about it is probably the most important skill we need in parenting.
You'll Feel Isolated
Some days you will desperately miss having contact with other adults. You may even miss the insipid small talk about sportsball and popular shows on Netflix. To make matters worse, you may receive group emails about the donuts someone brought to work or the happy hour planned for this evening. Bummer. Resist the urge to fill that void with social media.
You'll Actually Miss Going To Work
As much as I hated my commute and having to put on pants every day, working outside of the home was kind of like a mini-vacation. I got to do things unrelated to motherhood, while my kids learned and played at school/daycare. Occasionally, I also got to go out for lunch at a restaurant without a kids' menu. Score.
You'll Feel Judged
My coworkers judged me, and it hurt. I remember after my daughter was born, receiving so many snide comments about my telecommuting schedule. Jealous much?
Your Kids Will Get More Screentime
I used to swear my kids would never watch screens. That initial "plan" evolved to evolved to "never watch screens before two," which evolved to "only watch one hour of screens per day," which evolved to "screens only in the afternoon." Live and learn, I always say (and teach your kids how to operate Netflix).
You Will Be Super Distracted At Times
I had to learn to find a quiet corner where I didn't see my sink full of dishes or my unfolded laundry, because when working from home, it's so easy to get distracted.
You'll Forget To Eat
I had to set reminders on my phone. Seriously. Who forgets to eat? Apparently, me.
You'll Get More Done
A combination of my work ethic and my desire to show the naysayers at work that I was not going to just sit on my couch and play on Facebook all day, resulted in some serious productivity.
You Will Forget To Shower, Or You Won't Have Time When You Remember
As much as I love showers, I was surprised to discover that showering was another task that I had to remind myself to do, especially once I had to take a break from going to the gym every day.
On a positive note, it was great for my hair to not wash it every day, and my skin has never looked better.
You'll Talk To Your Child (Or Your Cat)
You know that you have been deprived from adult social contact for too long when you start talking to your baby, or cat. Or both. Just try not to use your child as a therapist or expect your cat to respond.
You'll Wear Your Pajamas All Day
I love this part, except when I get stared down at the bus stop. Yes, I am wearing slippers, get over it.
You May Decide To Send Your Kids To Daycare, And That's OK
Ultimately, I decided to put my son in daycare part time. I still have days when he (or my other kids) are home sick or off on break, and sometimes I have to work on his at home days to meet deadlines or complete special projects, but we are both happier with this new arrangement. I sure do miss midday snuggles, but the smile on his face when I pick him up more than makes up for it.