On the surface, working from home with children running around can look like the perfect solution for many families. No dropping the kids off at daycare, followed by the horrifying discovery that their lunch has been left forgotten on the kitchen counter again and being forced to turn around to retrieve it, only to arrive late for work. It also means an end to sitting in traffic each evening watching precious time tick away and resigning from having to grab take-out for dinner again.
Well, sorry to burst your bubble mama, but working from home when you have kids in the house is not all rainbows and butterflies. Those stock photos you’ve seen with a smiling, well-dressed woman writing on a whiteboard with a clean and happy baby balanced on her hip are nothing but lies. Yes, there are advantages but there are plenty of disadvantages too so more often than not, working from home is not the perfect solution, but the least imperfect one. Take a look at this rundown of an average day for me, and you’ll see what I mean.
Of course, without the loud screams, horrible smells, and the constant feeling of impending doom, I can’t give you the fully immersive experience, but I’ll do my best to share all I can.
26 It’s 4:30 am And Time To Go
No, I don’t have to get up and drive or transit anywhere, for which I am eternally grateful, however that doesn’t mean I can stay in bed a little later, or wait until the kids get up because the early morning is sometimes the best opportunity of the day to get some work done in peace.
I creep out of bed, fire up the computer, make some tea, and eat a banana while going through my emails. Work is divided between writing information and entertainment articles, producing news items, managing corporate social media accounts, and writing and maintaining my own blog. Working for companies and clients around the world, my early start is helpful because I’m in the Pacific time zone and that can leave me 12 hours behind someone for whom I’m working.
25 Is Focus Still A Thing?
After an hour or so of scheduling Tweets and sharing some fun Facebook videos, I try to settle down to write. This morning it is a piece about how the education system has to provide a service to so many children at once, that it has become impossible for schools and teachers to cater to individuals. They do not have the time or resources, so our kids have to adapt to a general teaching style instead of leaning in a way that works for them.
After about 20 minutes I have my notes and quotes in order and finally get into my flow actually getting words on the page in an order that makes sense and everything.
Actual work is happening. Miracles do happen.
24 The World Awakens
As I sit typing away, I become aware of a gentle creaking from the youngest kids room. That gives me a heads-up that the youngest two whirlwinds will be blowing through shortly. If I’m lucky, I’ll have time to get to a suitable stopping point in my work.
No such luck. Before I can work out how best to finish my paragraph, there is a miniature human bouncing up and down next to me asking for “Krispies.” I know from experience that trying to finish what I am doing is futile. It’s best to serve the popped rice cereal before trying to do anything else.
23 The Annoying Sleeper
In the vain hope that both little ones will be up and be eating breakfast at the same time, I also get out a bowl and spoon for our youngest daughter. While our littlest man eats his Krispies, I go make the beds and generally tidy up noisily, hoping to “accidentally” wake the little lady up so I can get they both sorted and get back to work.
The little ginger head on the pillow remains where it is and because she knows I want her to wake up, my mini-me lays there and sleeps aggressively at me. So I tidy away little man's dishes, get him washed and dressed and settle down on the laptop while he plays Lego at my feet.
22 I Knew That Was Coming
Having spent less than 15 minutes reading through my work so far and making a couple of changes, I hear “Morning mommy.” The little lady is not a morning person and takes a while to get going, so she likes to curl up next to me and wake up slowly.
“What you writing?” She asks.
“I’m writing about schools.” This is of no interest to her, so she doesn’t pursue this line of chat, instead, she will hit me with a variety of unrelated questions.
“Do you know what I’m looking forward to? How many legs do dragons have? Can goldfish get diabetes? Why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore? Do snakes have dreams?”
It’s not yet 6:30 am, and my mind is spinning.
21 Guilt, The Constant Companion
Time to accept that work isn’t going to happen and shut the laptop down for a while. Mini-me is fed, groomed and the three of us sit on the floor and play. While we are playing, I am half trying to pay attention to the constant stream of commentary coming from her ladyship and half-trying to work out what I am going to write in my partially finished article.
This is one of the many downsides of work from home with the kids. If you are working you feel guilty, you should be paying more attention to the kids. If you are paying attention to the kids, you feel guilty you should be working.
20 The Older Kids Emerge
In our home self-sufficiency is a skill to be learned and exercised from an early age. This doesn’t mean I expect the kids to do everything for themselves, without their mom and dad, but it does mean that the older kids can get a bowl out of the cupboard and fill it with cereal themselves. The exception is our oldest son who has a physical disability that prevents him from using the right-hand side of his body. He puts his bread in the toaster, and I come out to butter it because, well, try buttering your toast with one hand behind your back and you’ll see why.
19 The Much Looked-Forward To Dispersal
My oldest babies, my eldest is actually about to turn thirty this year, but no matter how old they are, they’re still my babies, disperse on the wind to their various corners of the world. They are all old enough to do this with minimal input from mom, except my giant 6 foot 8 inch “little one” who can’t tie his laces with one hand so gives his mom a shout. Before each person leaves, they have to say goodbye properly which involves sharing a hug with mom, saying “love you” and letting me know where they will be, with whom, and what time they will be home.
18 That’s Not How It Is
The pressure of a looming deadline starts to bite and I have to get down to writing. The majority of people assume that if you’re a Work At Home Mom (WAHM), you don’t have a “proper” job and that what you do is more of a hobby you are dabbling in to keep you amused during all of that downtime moms in the house with kids have. When this is the case there’s no pressure, right?
That couldn’t be further from the truth. I, like the majority of WAHM, have a genuine, people pay me for the things I do for them because I'm pretty good at it, even if I do say so myself, a job that would be viewed quite differently if I was leaving the house every day and commuting to an office.
17 Put Your Game Face On
It’s approaching 10 am, and I have a video interview scheduled. Online meetings are not a regular part of my work, but they are not unusual either. Most people have seen the clip where a guy is being interviewed by the BBC when his two children suddenly burst through the door behind him, closely followed by his wife, frantically trying to herd them back out again.
This is a constant danger for the WAHM. I have scheduled this interview for when my husband should have been home from work, but he is going to be delayed, so I have to keep my fingers crossed for peace.
16 The Streaming Nanny
I know you shouldn’t use the TV to babysit, and I recognize the irony of doing so in order to work with a client on a series about parenting. Parenting theory and parenting reality are two different things though so Paw Patrol takes over.
This isn’t always the best solution. Anytime you put two kids in a room; they will find something about which to argue. Experience tells me that having both of them agree they’d like to watch Paw Patrol at 9:55 am, does not mean they will both still want to watch it at 10:05 am.
15 Mismatched Dressing For Success
Before getting the little ones settled, I have changed into an actual smart, ironed, grown-up looking shirt. I have never been great with hair and makeup, but I do my best to look more like a well-groomed, skilled professional and less like a harassed, overwhelmed caricature of someone losing their marbles.
Fortunately, the client will not be able to see any lower than my waist. My baggy once black now faded to grey yoga pants, complete with a hole developing at the top of one thigh and a splodge of something ambiguous on the other do not scream “hire me I’m really good at this.”
14 A Typical Split
One of the biggest, and most exhausting, difficulties for the WAHM is the constant switching from mom, to professional, and back again. When work and home are separate here’s time on your commute to switch between the different versions of you, or at the very least it is recognized that some downtime is needed to decompress from work and tune back into family life.
Working from home? Forget transition time; you’ve got to be able to flip that switch instantly, at a moments notice.
In reality, you end up stuck somewhere between the two. Like a half-morphed mom version of the Incredible Hulk, in a rocking, yet now ripped scoop neck shirt and with a vague aroma of sour milk.
13 Meeting Time
Laptop at the ready, I settle down at my desk and in the final two minutes before the meet, look inwards and go off in pursuit of the version of me that is quick, articulate, and can mingle with the best of them.
I make it through the meeting without accidentally using my “mommy mind,” which is excellent because last time I slipped up and called a client “snuggle bug” in the middle of a planning session, it was pretty embarrassing. Especially when he said he liked it and could I call him that more often which made our working relationship somewhat awkward from then on in.
12 Onwards And Upwards
New client secured I take a few moments to celebrate still being able to convince people I am an actual, real live grown-up, who knows what they are doing and can be trusted with proper work and everything.
This feeling is suddenly dashed when a little voice suddenly asks me “Can I see it the next time you do a poop?” A thousand different thoughts run through my mind, I know better than to ask why but I can’t stop the word coming out of my mouth, “Why?”
“Because my poops are different colors sometimes and Puddy (the cat) does different poops. I wanted to see what yours look like.” It’s been a while since I worked with other people but I’m pretty sure this is not the kind of conversation most people have at work.
11 Lunch Time
It’s 11:00 am and time to decide if it is worth trying to get anything else done or if it is best to start on an early lunch. Lunch wins and the three of us pile into the kitchen, and I make three different lunches because everyone wanting the same thing would be too quick and easy.
Kiddos fed, cleaned up and sent forth to play, I sit and eat my sandwich while catching up on emails and my social media work. This is partially successful, although I do waste a good 15 minutes wandering off into the black hole of the internet, before catching myself, and returning to the real world.
10 The Value Of Your Skill
My inbox has several enticing offers from people wanting to work with me. I’m offered a free product in return for writing a review, complete with high-quality photography, and a slew of social media promotion. I resist the urge to be rude and say “yes please I’d love to deliver two days of professional work in return for a $40 product I do not want. Perhaps I can offer to pay my landlord my rent with your crappy product instead of actual dollars”. Instead, I politely decline.
There is a tendency for companies and individuals alike to assume that when you work at home, it’s a “bit of fun” not a job that pays the bills and my day is full of offers like this one.
9 Therapy Time
Two of our boys live with autism, and our youngest one has a session with his behavioral interventionist today. We have been lucky enough to find someone who works with us at home and work takes a back seat, again, while we sit together and work on sight words and forming letters. Our fella is eleven years old now and he can read nine basic words and can say around 20. This is the only regular appointment I make room for in my workday.
It’s generally assumed that working from home is great because you are available for all of those doctors appointments, deliveries, etc., but if you do make yourself available your entire day is eaten up by the domestic life monster that eats up all of your time and energy.
8 Hi Honey, I’m Home
My husband gets home from a long shift at work, plus several hours of unwanted overtime and puts the laundry on. Despite what most people think, when you work at home, time doesn’t magically expand and enable you to put in a full days work, complete all household chores, and be a fulltime supermom.
If anything, being a WAHM often feels like you are doing a half-done job in all areas of your life. You find yourself continually bouncing between roles, never giving your all to any of them. Luckily my husband doesn’t think that because I am at home all day, I can do everything around the house as well as work and look after the kids.
7 The Afternoon’s My Oyster
With parenting reinforcements and the background noises of the vacuum cleaner and our daughter complaining she wants mommy, I actually manage to get a decent chunk of work done.
The satisfaction of emailing the client their finished article is short lived as I turn back to my work folder and decide which task needs tackling next.
Freelancers juggle finding work, delivering a professional product and maintaining client relationships. Contracts can be short series or one-off pieces, and you can never assume you’ll have any work a week from now. Working from home saves a fortune on childcare, commuting, etc., but that’s balanced out by a much lower rate of pay and never knowing if you’ll have any work next week. Not the most relaxing financial situation.
6 Dinner Time
Working when you want to as a WAHM is a fallacy. My work doesn’t often dictate my timetable; the family does, so, despite the fact I am in my groove and spilling out some killer work, I have to stop in mid-flow because the little ones are hungry right now.
Husband cleans up and does the dishes, and I hide in the bathroom with the iPad, playing Candy Crush Saga for six minutes. This is what passes for “me time” these days. If anyone sees me away from my laptop, I am seen as fair game for interaction. I have been reduced to pretend to go to the bathroom in order to sit quietly on my own for a moment. I don’t think this is the what I had in mind when I studied for not one but two Master's degrees and worked hard for years to establish myself professionally.
5 Fourteen Hours And Counting
Six thirty and I’ve been up forever, so I tell the kiddos it will be bedtime soon. As anticipated, in the hope that is they don’t engage with me I will forget about sending them off to the land of nod, both little ones disappear into their room to play. Score.
Husband has been in bed for an hour, hoping to get a full six hours of sleep before starting his working shift at midnight. As a result, I am trying to do some more writing and ensure that the kiddos don’t get too vocal in their play.
Eight pm and the laptop is closed, and I can go into full-time mom mode. Thing One and Thing Two are prepped and primed for bed, and we tidy up their bedroom together. I don’t bother trying to keep on top of things during the day, it’s too distracting, but one rule we do have is, at the end of the day, the creeping tide of child fueled detritus is corralled, and things must be put back in the place from which they came.
Craft items are left spread across the table because the little lady declares “I haven’t finished making the thing that is in my head come out and live on the paper yet.” Having looked at what is going happening on the paper so far, I am incredibly fearful of what is in her head and what will happen if it ever really does get out.
3 Our Special Half Hour
From eight to eight-thirty our little mom and kiddos trio, sits together on the sofa, swapping stories, watching funny animal videos on YouTube and talking about whatever comes to mind. This is the one sacred time of day when nothing else ever takes precedence.
After tucking them in, making sure the correct stuffies are sitting in the right order on the pillow, the nightlight is set to the proper brightness and leaving the door open so they can call me when, not if they need me, I finally collapse on the sofa.
Now I’m in a quandary. I could really go a quiet cup of coffee, but it is a bit late. Secure in the knowledge I’m not going to sleep any time soon I grab a cup, curl up on the sofa.
2 The Constant Workplace
I should go to bed, but I know that quiet time is precious so out comes the laptop again. I let my fingers loose on the keyboard and go in search of my writing mojo. This is another disadvantage to working from home. You’re never away from your job. It’s always there, either in the room with you or lurking on the other side of a door like the big hairy closet monster you have to check for before the kids will go to sleep.
Close your eyes and imagine your boss, the people you work with, and all of the work you do, standing behind a door in your house, gently tapping on the wood to remind you they are there and need dealing with. That’s what it’s like to work from home.
1 Looking On The Brightside
Tonight is a good one. Nobody is worried about monsters in the closet or itchy labels in their PJ’s, so it is almost eleven before I realize it’s not my glasses that are smudged but my eyes that are going blurry.
There’s just time to consider the fact that I still didn’t eat healthily, get in any exercise, or do anything to win a Mom Of The Year award, but I did manage to keep everyone alive, and right now that feels like a win. At this point, I’ll take what I can get. Maybe things will be different tomorrow. Or perhaps the next day, or the next. Being a WAHM is a 24/7 gig so be prepared to live in a perpetual Groundhog Day where the people might age but the work, the guilt, the conflicting demands, and the yearning for an adult conversation during the day never ends.
Reference: This one mom's experience.