Being a work-from-home mom is, in my experience, a pretty sweet deal. There’s no one to question my professionalism when I work in sweats, I have full access to my own fridge and pantry at all times, and my kid’s art is splashed all over the office (it’s a little excessive, I can admit it). Still, there are some downsides, too. In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions about what working from home is really like, and I’ve even noticed there are times society expects you to apologize for being a work-from-home mom. Whether or not you (or I) actually apologize is a different story, but the expectation is definitely there.
In my circle, there are actually a few of us moms with non-traditional work schedules, so I know I’m in good company. For me, working from home includes mostly remote writing work, e-mail correspondence, the occasional video call, and, every so often, an in-person meeting that requires me to shower and change out of my elastic-waistband pants (the best pants on the planet, mind you).
I love this blend, to be honest, and I also love the texts I get from my working friends who are in a similar situation. But for everyone who understands, there are plenty of people who don't and who maybe, just maybe, raise their eyebrows and expect an apology during the following situations:
When You’re Not Available 24/7
I know looks can be deceiving. I would probably assume my friends at home in their sweats, perhaps even on their couch with a laptop, have some flexibility in their day, too. However, if I assumed this, I would be wrong. I can’t speak for all working moms, but for me, there are often deadlines to manage, assignments to turn in, and editors to follow-up with. Even when it’s not a spur-of-the-moment request, I’m not always going to be able to give up parts of my week that my partner and I have planned ahead and designated as work time Dropping everything isn't really an option (at least, not one I'd want to try).
When Your Kid Interrupts A Call
Shout-out to the dad interviewed on BBC last month, who went viral when his kids interrupted. I totally watched the clip and thought it was pretty funny, too. However, part of it made me cringe because that kind of thing can totally happen. I’ve had to straight get-up from group conference calls, with no explanation, because the noises from the other room told me that my partner needed back-up right now. Doing anything, work included, in the presence of a toddler is pretty much a guarantee for interruptions.
When You’re Not Working When Your Kid Is Sick
I’ve tried to work when my kid is sick, because even though he's sick my computer is right there. I’ve tried so many times. Still, it never works out the way I’ve planned. When I fully expect he’ll be resting and napping and I assume I can get work done, my son demands my full attention. When I wipe my plate clean of responsibilities so I can be in full mom mode, he’s resting and relaxing and wouldn’t blink if I got my laptop out. I’ve learned to just look at his sick days as my sick days, too, no matter how tempting it is to pretend the opposite is true.
When You Look At Your Phone At The Park
If my day is flexible and I can take a break, I will absolutely do something with my family, like a picnic or a park outing or a coffee run, to add some variety to the day. However, I’m well aware that I often look like “that” mom, who’s checking her phone and multi-tasking in front of her kid. The silent judgment sucks, to be sure, but I’ll still take a few minutes of feeling uncomfortable so I can spend an hour outside with my son. I will definitely stomach people's unnecessary assumptions instead of having a job that would have me out of the house eight or nine hours a day.
When You Don’t Do Daycare Pick-up/Drop-off
The center where our son goes to preschool is on the way to my spouse’s office, and we can build our son’s schedule around his dad’s work hours. I’m typically the one who gets our son dressed and ready (although my partner jumps in frequently, depending on how loud our son resists), and then my partner swoops in and takes him to “school.” That's what works for our family.
Yes, I wish I knew his teachers better, and I wish I knew the small faces to match the names of his best friends, but I also trust how my partner handles it, too.
When Your Schedule Is Pretty Complicated
Even though I’m now able to manage my own schedule, I’ve still have to account for the missed work. In some ways, working from home can feel like you always have homework hanging over your head, but to me, it’s worth it.
(To my mom friends who've been kind enough to reach out in recent weeks, I promise, I'll get back to you ASAP.)
When You’re Really Excited To Get Out Of The House
Perhaps my giddy grin, the fact that I’m slightly overdressed for happy hour, or the fact that I’m carrying a blinking neon sign that says “I DON’T GET OUT MUCH,” that gives me away. Either way, I’ve definitely noticed that I get a little overzealous for mainstream weekend dates and family outings. I like to pretend that I’m just really supportive of my city’s restaurant scene and our arts community (I mean, I actually am) but I’m also really glad to have an excuse to wear lip gloss, too.