I've been a work-at-home mom in some capacity, either part-time or full-time, for the entire duration of my life as a mother. So in other words, I've spent the past eight years of my life as a mom working from home. I've also worked outside of the home as well, both part-time and full-time, so I've had a taste of what life as a working mom is life from all angles. And while there are definite pluses and minuses to every situation (um, coming home to a clean house your kids haven't destroyed all day? Awesome.), I can definitely say that for the stage of life I'm in right now with four young kids all under the age of 8, working from home is the best choice for all of us — even me.
Just between us, I want to be honest about something: working from home makes me certifiably stressed about 99.9 percent of the time. It's not ever easy and the stress of working from home with kids underfoot makes me have pretty regular breakdowns. I wake up every morning wondering how and when I'll get my work done, and it's a stress that is hard to describe to anyone who hasn't experienced it firsthand before. I realize this is making working from home sound totally awful, but I'll get to the good stuff in a minute — I just want to make it clear that working from home with kids is hard. It's really, really hard, because unlike a job that you do outside of the home, your kids are there with you all day, every day. And that means they require your full-time care all day, every day. Most stressful for me, however, is the full-time cleaning. Working from home, for me, feels like a dance between being a full-time stay-at-home mom and a full-time working mom all at once. More often than not, doing so feels like an impossible task.
At the end of the day, despite the challenges, sick children, and the guilt, I still wouldn't choose anything else.
When you're working from home and your kids are sick, it's even harder to get things done. Speaking from experience, sick kids are clingy and puke-y and more often than not, filled with explosive diarrhea, and that kind of tends to slow you down when you're trying to meet a deadline, if you know what I'm saying. And don't even get me started on the guilt I feel for constantly working around my kids. I worry that they'll grow up with memories of me glued to a computer screen.
But at the end of the day, despite the challenges, sick children, and the guilt, I still wouldn't choose anything else. Working from home provides more benefits to our family than anything else. Working from home allows me to be the primary caretaker to our kids. I'm able to take them to and from school, to schedule doctor's appointments, to be there for random days when they're off from school, and to never worry about who will take care of a sick kid (and with four of them, someone is always sick). I also don't have to stress about things like a package delivery, and I'm fortunate enough to have the type of circumstance that allows me to care for all the kids too young to go to school, a count currently numbering two in our household. I know that working from home is a privilege, and I'm fortunate that it's the best fit for our family.
Because I'm not super-human, I've experimented with ways to lighten my load at home when things get tough. At one point I hired a wonderful sitter who was able to our home every now and then, especially when I was still breastfeeding. It was much easier to have someone come right to the house so I could always be available for the baby. I've made adjustments and concessions and learned what works for our family and what does not and most of all, I've learned that I pretty much need to communicate with my husband because the stress of being home with the kids all day and juggling a career at the same time really, really gets to me.
We're lucky to have found a balance that works for us — and giving that up just doesn't seem doable right now.
Time is our most precious commodity right now and that's not something to forget about in a marriage, especially when one partner works from home. With kids around. So talking often (and a lot) about what works for us has helped us both.
And whenever I get especially overwhelmed or when my house feels like it's one never-ending dust bowl needing to be scrubbed or when I can't take hearing one more kids sniffly nose, I remind myself what the alternative would be: Would a full-time job outside of the house work for our family right now? Probably not. And would it be financially reasonable for my family if I was a stay-at-home parent? Definitely not. Trying to survive as a family of six on a public school teacher's salary, without the fulfillment that my works gives me and the passion and energy it fuels me with would be bad news for all of us. As parents, my husband and I do what we need to to keep our family comfortable. As people, my husband and I have every right to have work that fulfills us. We're lucky to have found a balance that works for us — and giving that up just doesn't seem doable right now.
Working from home may sometimes be the best and worst of both worlds for me, but right now, it's the best I have. For that, I'm incredibly grateful.