Not long after my son was born, I briefly returned to work before deciding to pull the plug on my stable job and dip into the world of stay-at-home parenting. And not long after that, I transitioned again, and found an entirely new set of challenges as a work-from-home parent.
On the surface, it was a no-brainer: new mom quits full-time work to be at home with her 6-month-old baby. However, there was more to it. Our new situation gave me the chance to revisit my priorities and my schedule and so, after some serious effort, I can now call myself a working mom again. Or more, specifically, a freelance writer. And here’s the kicker: Writers can write from anywhere. Which means that, more often than not, I find myself at home with my laptop. I’ve been just about everywhere with my Little Machine That Can, including but not limited to: our dining room table, living room couch, kitchen table, our bed, my husband’s desk, my own desk. It’s a far cry from my former professional job that required pants and shoes (unless of course, I'm venturing to a coffee shop, in which case I consider it a courtesy to other patrons to wear actual clothes).
To be fair, this is pretty awesome most of the time. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that there were some challenges with working from home when you have kids. Alas, allow me to share them with you:
The nature of work is that usually people would rather being doing other things. This is why someone pays for something they need to get done to, well, get done. And let me be clear that there is no other job I’d rather have than a writing job, but sometimes there are certain other things that are appealing to me in the very moment that I’m trying to write, like say, snuggling with my toddler, watching WHAS: First Day of Camp, or going to the kitchen for more cold brew coffee (sometimes, all at the same time).
I should probably just take the batteries out. Seriously though, unless you have a legit home office (in which case, fist pump for you and NO I AM NOT JEALOUS STOP ASKING ME THAT), it's pretty likely that your workspace is decorated in the style of toddler chic.
I never thought I’d be thankful for a dog that needs walking, but sometimes a family walk after dinner is the only thing that gets me out of the house. I don’t remember the last time I was in the car. I think it was earlier this week, when I had to go pick up a prescription. Hashtag glamorous.
When you work from home, there is always something work-related that you could be doing. Combine this feeling with the fact that there are always chores to be done, kids to fly around with your feet, and partners to make eye contact with, and the to-do list seems to never get any smaller.
It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to accept the fact that using my house (and my kitchen) 40-ish more hours a week than I used to means that it requires more cleaning and upkeep. It’s a vicious cycle: Chores that need doing are a distraction from working, however, stopping to do the chores only stretches the amount of time it’ll take until I’m done working. Damn you, dishes. I shake my fist at you.
To be fair, I've worked in offices where I used a blanket in my desk chair, too. But it happens way more now that I'm home.
Yes, I know jokes about stay-at-home moms and the lack of time to shower are plentiful (I'm guilty of making them, too). Still, the fact remains that bathing can slip down to the bottom of the list for work-from-home parents, too. I don’t want to say anything more about this or else it will make me sound gross and I still (despite evidence to the contrary) fancy myself a non-gross lady.
Show me a mom who can turn down snuggles from her toddler, and I will show you a Jedi master. I'm weak, you guys. If he stretches his arms out, I have no choice but to oblige, even if I'm on deadline (unless my editor is reading this, in which case, just kidding! I never allow myself to get interrupted when I'm on deadline! *cough*)
My husband, who occasionally freelances, has been asking me for years to just, please, be cool when he’s working. As in, let him do his thing and do not try to dance up on him for my own amusement (which may or may not be a regular occurrence in our household). That said, I’m humbly acknowledging how hard I must have made it for him now that I’m the one trying to get things done from home. Sorry, dear. And trying to explain “work time” to a toddler? Forget it.
I’m not sure if it says more about me or this one particular brand of slippers, but a pair I got for Christmas already has a hole wearing through it.
I mean, if things are working, then this one isn't a big deal. But if not? OMG THE INTERNET IS DOWN AND I CAN’T DO ANYTHING EVERYTHING IS RUINED I’M DYINNNNNNNG.
Which may or may not be worse than spilling it on a laptop purchased from your employer. Not that I'm speaking from experience.
The commute to my last job wasn’t that bad, and even included some pretty views of rolling hills and a couple cow pastures (I’m serious. That’s not a joke). By the time I arrived, I’d had enough time to get my head in the game, so to speak. However, now that I’m home, there’s no time between work and play. It’s up to me to psych myself up for work mode. Sometimes, this means copious amounts of coffee, and other times it means the score of Harry Potter playing triumphantly in the background (which is awesome for working, can confirm).
I mean, I may or may not slide my headphone wire up my shirt to subtly listen to them when I'm on the third hour of playing on the floor with my son, but still. It would be easier (and make me feel less guilty) if I listened when I commuted.
Do you power through and work during naptime? Do you ask for help from friends and family? Hire a nanny? Enroll your little in daycare? I suspect the answer will look a little different for everyone family. Not sure about you guys, but I'm constantly revisiting and re-evaluating our childcare choices because as far as I can tell, there's no perfect situation.
My son is young enough that if he's in the other room, someone (usually his dad) is in there with him. But that doesn't mean it doesn't tug at my heart strings every time he's upset and I'm not there to help.