So far, in my over eight years as a mom, I've been a full-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom, and now, a work-from-home mom. Each work situation definitely has its pros and cons, and I'm not really sure which route I would choose if I could go back and do it all over again. But what I do know, for certain, is that as a work-from-home mom, I've never felt more alone. The isolation is simply overwhelming, and I had no idea it would be like this.
Now, I'm not attempting to claim that I have things harder than other parents in different situations. I mean, I only lasted a few months as a stay-at-home mom before I quickly, deliberately, and unapologetically started prioritizing going back to work. I knew, pretty early on, that being a stay-at-home mom was difficult and, in the end, really not for me. Plus, I had always planned to be a working mom, wanting to both advance in my career and be a good role model for my kids. But, that, too, had it's challenges. I found that trying to balance work and parenting was pretty impossible and often left little time for me to, you know, take care of myself. At the same time, being a working mom is lonely, too, and I was constantly rushing — out the door, to day care, to school, to work, and then back to school, daycare, and home. At the end of every single day, and at the end of all that rushing, I always managed to disappoint at least one person. That was a burden I didn't want to continue to bear.
So, I assumed working from home would be the best of both worlds. I get to be here for all of my baby's firsts, I can be the one to take him to his appointments, and I get baby snuggles whenever I want or need them, especially when it's difficult to get through the day. I am home when my older kids leave for school, and home when they return. I do have to occasionally deal with poop blow-outs in the middle of business meetings, and having to meet deadlines with a baby crawling all over me, but it's pretty amazing to work in my pajamas or yoga pants every day.
But when it comes to my needs as an adult, including my innate want to interact with other adults, make friends, and maintain those friendships, it's seems pretty impossible for me to feel like myself.
That said, I totally didn't expect working from home to be so isolating, especially considering that I have five kids to care for. My family is loud, intense, fun, chaotic, and full of energy. I love them, and I am literally never alone. Someone is always touching me, asking for something, or expecting me to help. And that's totally part of "my job" as a parent. But when it comes to my needs as an adult, including my innate want to interact with other adults, make friends, and maintain those friendships, it's seems pretty impossible for me to feel like myself.
I think part of the problem is that while working from home is the best of both worlds, it also has the drawbacks of both working outside of the home and staying home with your kids. Between two jobs and a consulting business, I work some hours during the day, and some early mornings, evenings, and weekends. So, when it comes to making plans with my working friends, it's difficult to carve out time in an otherwise swamped schedule. At the same time, I can't always go to daytime playdates, story hour, or mommy and me yoga classes with my stay-at-home parent friends, because I have deadlines and work obligations, too.
This disconnect — between talk to people and really talking to people — has left me feeling isolated in a way that's not only difficult to describe, but difficult to digest.
Honestly, the only people I interact with on a regular basis are my clients, my co-workers, and my online friends on social media. They are amazing, and I feel lucky to live in a time when I can have friends all over the world to experience my parenting adventures at my side. But at the same time, I kind of need a hug once in a while, or a person to bring over a bottle of tequila when life gets hard. I am in contact with people all day, ever day, and yet I'm isolated from in-person, physical contact and connection. This disconnect — between talk to people and really talking to people — has left me feeling isolated in a way that's not only difficult to describe, but difficult to digest.
To make things even more difficult, when I do try to go out with my baby I never know how things are going to go. When my other kids were little, I could always drop them at child-watch at the gym and get a work out. But, because my 10-month-old son has been home with me pretty much every day of his life, taking him to child-watch is a crap shoot. Will he cry? Will they pull me out of class to rescue him? Will he play happily? It's so stressful. Same goes for trips to the store, car rides, and pretty much any time I am not in view.
I am in contact with people all day, ever day, and yet I'm isolated from in-person, physical contact and connection.
As a result I have developed a bit of social anxiety. Like, I am not sure how to talk to other adults anymore. I sometimes go days without leaving my house for anything other than work or to pick my son up from preschool, and when I do, I'm afraid that I will make a total ass out of myself. As an extrovert, I need people, but as a work-from-home mom I fear social blunders so much that I don't meet that need on a regular basis.
I am a little embarrassed to admit that working from home has made me somewhat of a recluse. When given an opportunity to stay at home in my pajamas, and not put on a bra, I take it and choose my comfort zone every damn time. So, even when I don't have work deadlines, can find an affordable babysitter, or my husband offers to watch the kids so I can have some me time, I often would rather stay home, even if it means skipping going to Target by myself (which totally used to be one of my favorite things).
As an extrovert, I need people, but as a work-from-home mom I fear social blunders so much that I don't meet that need on a regular basis.
I know things will get easier when my kids are older and I am able to find some balance. But right now, at least most of the time and even though working from home is "working" for our family, it is so isolating and lonely. I just have no idea how to "fix" it.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.