I’m certain there are other moms in the world who have a similar work/childcare set-up as mine, but I don't know many of them. I'm a work-from-home mom. My partner takes our son with him when he leaves for work in the morning and drops him off for part-time daycare on the way to his office. I’m left at home, often still in my pajamas when they leave, stumbling for the coffee maker and embodying many stay-at-home mom stereotypes. And I am a mom, who stays at home. That part is technically true. It just so happens that my kid isn’t always with me, and when he's not, I'm working. While it all makes sense to me, when it comes to everyone else, it looks like a lot of lines about roles and responsibilities are super blurred in our house. And you know, fair. Let's discuss.
Over the summer, my partner and I tried juggling our parenting responsibilities without additional help. He teaches, which gives him lots of flexibility in the summertime. However, we quickly discovered that there would be no way for both of us to keep up with work demands while still giving our son the attention he deserved. So we got help, in the form of a few mornings a week at a local children’s center (I still haven’t figured out why it’s not called a daycare, but whatever, I'm not here to tell others how to self-identify). My son ends up being outside of the house for about 80 percent of my workweek, and for the most part, it’s worked out really well. However there are some aspects that are trickier than I expected, and they're things that I'm sure a lot of parents deal with regardless of whether or not they work at home. But I do think a lot of childcare/work balance issues are especially hard on work-at-home parents, such as:
I understand that guilt with childcare is not something that only work-from-home moms deal with, however, I’d wager that it’s a slightly different struggle when you’re surrounded by your kiddo’s toys and clothes; when you can practically feel their presence in your home. Plus, the fact that many-work-from-home moms manage to swing doing it without childcare often leaves me feeling pretty strained. (No, but really, how do you get anything done?)
Work-at-home moms are often viewed as "bored housewives" with "pet projects" rather than "women with actual careers for whom technology has made it possible to be creative and flexible about the structure and location of their workday in ways that previous generations of moms might not have been able to." Like, sorry that I've found a way to balance having a career and being more present at home for my family. Work-at-home moms are certainly not the only subgroup of moms that face judgment, but that doesn’t make us immune to the sting.
Every so often, the stars align and my toddler sits quietly for a few minutes and amuses himself with books or blocks or whatever household items happen to be within reach. During these moments, I often think to myself, “OMG MUST GET MY LAPTOP OUT.” These moments, however, are typically fleeting because as soon as I’m settled, he’s ready to move to else, and the universe laughs in my face. There's nothing more precious than a work-at-home mom who lies to herself about how much work she's totally going to get done while hanging out at home with her kid(s).
I can’t blame exactly blame him. I mean, if his mom is sitting just a few feet away, why shouldn’t he try to climb on her? He doesn't necessarily care that my laptop's in my lap. And I totally get it, when he’s a few feet from me, I’m always trying to talk to him and make him smile, so…yeah. I can't be mad. I also can't be productive at all.
I’m sure my husband’s life would be easier if he wasn’t tasked with taking our son to and from the children's center everyday. And while he will be the first to admit that the amount of ease he’d experience isn’t enough to change our current situation, it's still in the back of my mind.
I could spend hours or days trying to determine whether or not it would be better for my son to be home with me full-time, but I’m not sure it’s that cut and dried. Would there be benefits to it? Of course. But are there benefits to having him in childcare part-time? Absolutely. We’ve seen him bring home new words and new skills, and grow his confidence around other kiddos, which frankly, I’m not sure I’d be able to replicate in the same way. I’m not saying one way is better than the other, but I see benefits to both. And for work-at-home moms, seeing both sides of something, and trying to retain the benefits of all possible options without everything stepping on everything else's toes... Well, that's pretty much what we do all day, every day.