Working from home is no walk in the park. It’s not a vacation. It’s not “pretending” to work and actually taking multiple naps and watching The Price Is Right. In fact, I haven’t watched Drew Carey tell anyone to come on down since my early days of unemployed motherhood. And now that I work from home, I struggle to work and parent simultaneously. Some of my colleagues understand that struggle, but still manage to "do it all." Seriously, I'm in awe of how these moms work from home while watching their kids.
I only have my son home on Thursdays, weekends, and certain holidays. I try to do the bulk of my work when he’s at school, but there are days when everything just catches up to me. On those days, I try to have some kind of activity planned for the mornings so he gets some energy out. I also try to have some puzzles handy, in case he’s somehow actually feeling like playing alone, which is a rarity these days. Naps work from time to time, but he’s starting to lose interest in them (which is, frankly, terrifying). In other words, it's not easy.
I think being honest about how difficult it is to work from home as a mother will, in the end, actually help. When we realize that things aren't as "picture-perfect" as they look, we can find ways to make things easier for us all. So, with that in mind, I asked some other work from home mamas what their tips were, and here’s what they shared:
“Magical moving pictures! I only get work done during nap time (which almost never happens), but otherwise, Netflix is a godsend for however long I need. And I love that my girls like the educational shows.”
“Always keep popsicles on hand. When I have conference calls, I would stick my toddler in a high chair with a popsicle in front of the TV. I could almost always get through my call that way.”
“Nap times and Yo Gabba Gabba! That's about all there was. Except that one time that she most inconveniently refused to nap the day I was on a conference call with my boss, grand-boss, and about five other people. I shut the noise-blocking double-paned kitchen slider, went out into the yard, and watched her scream angrily at me the entire time I was on the call. That was fun. Felt like a real professional, not at all like a failure as both a worker and a mom.”
“In addition to using times like nap and after bedtime, I look for the spontaneous work moments. Like when my 2-year-old gets involved in an activity, and then I tackle tasks that could easily stop, like answering emails or dealing with social media. I save tasks that need more time or focus, like writing for when they're asleep. I also work a lot when my husband is off, because working at home with kids is unpredictable. [I also] get out of the house when I can (such as heading to Starbucks after bedtime) because I find my productivity goes up when I work away from home."
“I have an 8-year-old and have to keep working from home during the holidays (it’s our long summer holidays in Australia just now). I’ve put together a boredom box for him for the times when I really can’t be disturbed.”
“I think it partially depends on how many kids and how old, because it’s shifted. For the most part, I make sure there’s a good nap schedule in place and rely heavily on those naps to get my work done. I feel like it helps me stay focused when I know I have a one and a half to two hour chunk of time. My 3.5-year-old is in daycare three days a week, and my 10-month-old is home with me always. The baby’s first nap is my work time always. If the toddler is home, that’s when he gets screen time. So work during naps and after bed, seven days a week... I guess not ideal but it’s how I’ve made it work. My husband’s schedule also varies ,literally day to day and week to week, but we try to plan ahead so there is at least one day when he does full kid care and I leave the house to work.”
“I have a 3.5-year-old who is off preschool one day a week, and a 19-month-old that is home full-time. Naptime, glorious naptime! Along with entirely too much Paw Patrol and a hefty dose of not-getting-Jack-done.”
"When mine was a baby, I let her nap in my lap. I typed while she slept. I also did several phone interviews while breastfeeding, because I knew she wouldn't cry with her mouth full! As she got mobile, I had to lean more heavily on grandparents to watch her so I could get anything done."
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