Before I became a mom, I had an ideal vision of “working from home.” I did it occasionally in previous jobs, and it always felt so luxurious. I could play music, wear sweats, and make myself as many cups of coffee as I needed sans judgment. After my son arrived, I started working from home all the time, and realized that "consistently" is not the same as "occasionally." I understand that it’s easy to make assumptions though, since I held many myself. Still, there are things work-from-home moms wish other moms just knew.
For the record, working from home can come in all different shapes and sizes, depending on the job, the home, and the family (and probably a number of other things specific to each person and their unique set of circumstances). Since I started working from the comfort of my own home, my partner and I have tried various forms of childcare, including; none at all, accepting help from family, and having our son in part-time daycare, which has worked out quite well for all of us.
I share this not because I consider myself an expert of any kind, but because these experiences have given me different perspectives. All that said, if every mom I encountered knew the following things about my (and other work-from-home parents’) situation, it would save me a lot of time typically spent explaining my family set-up to one, or more, very confused faced.
Just Because It’s Happening From Home Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Actual Work
My sense is that most millennial moms are open to the idea that working from home can be done as part of a legitimate career path. However, just in case there’s anyone out there who still assumes that all work-from-home parents have glorified hobbies, please allow me to say: that’s simply not the case.
We Don't Think We Work Harder Than Other Parents (Especially Stay-At-Home Parents)
Working from home doesn’t give me any magical parenting powers, nor does it mean I’m cramming in the same amount of time with my son that I would be if I were a say-at-home mom who didn't work. It just means I manage my time accordingly, and accept help when and where I feel I need it.
Some Days Are Just As Awesome As You Think They’d Be
The hours when I’m working and when my son is at daycare are the hours in my day when I have the most freedom. Yes, I’m on my computer, but I can still pick where I want to be; if I want to go out and work from a coffee shop, or if I want to stay home and be at my desk (or even in the couch).
It can feel like the best of both worlds to have flexibility and responsibility, and still be done with work in time to greet my son and share a lunch once he returns from daycare. And yes, I’ll probably go back to work when he’s asleep, but in the meantime I’m not complaining.
Some Days Are Not As Awesome As You Think They’d Be
I’ve learned that when my son is sick (or I'm sick), there can be an impulse to still “get things done,” because I’m still inches from my work space. This is not a good idea. I’ve also learned that, when you’ve not showered and you’re wearing sweats for the third day in a row, it’s easy to feel like you’re becoming, dare I say, "frumpy." The chores can pile up and the guilt is still there, and it does mess with my head a little bit because I’m home, so I should be getting more done. I’ve found the deep breaths and to-do lists are helpful.
It’s A Constant Struggle For Balance, Like Most Other Aspects Of Parenthood
What’s that? A work-related email needs a response, but my son doesn’t leave for daycare for 20 minutes and still needs breakfast and to be changed out of his pajamas? I wish I had answers about how to handle this but, to be honest, it sounds like a normal Tuesday morning around here.
We Can’t Just Drop Everything To Hang Out Or Meet For A Play Date
Tempting as it may be for us to do just that, parents who work from home still have work to do. In the off-chance you’ve caught me on a day where I’ve met all pending deadlines and don’t have a to-do list that’s a mile long, sure, I may be able to swing a coffee date. Normally, however, I will need to plan ahead.
Our Partner’s Support Is Crucial
My partner teaches and freelances, so he’s often right there with me in our home office. On a regular basis, I’m thankful for the fact that he understands the specific needs that parents who work from home have, and that he’s supportive of my choice to do it. I don’t think partners have to experience it to know how to support one another but, for us, it’s been a benefit.
Working And Parenting At The Same Time Is Next-Level Difficult
I don’t do it often, but I have done it and I don’t recommend it. I understand that some jobs (and kids) are slightly more accommodating and may revisit it in the future when my son’s a little older, but in the meantime I don’t even try. If it’s just my son and I at home, I’ve learned (the hard way) that it’s not worth it to attempt to multi-task because pretty much everything (and everyone) suffers. To any parents who manage this on a regular basis: you’re the real heroes.