Sometimes, working from home feels like the best of both worlds. There’s an opportunity to think about something other than my children all day, every day. I can avoid the steep costs of daycare, and, of course, make some money.
Other days, it seems like the worst of both. I have to squeeze in my working hours on top of taking care of my children full-time. In the middle of the winter, I can go days without leaving the house. I don’t have co-workers to stop by for a quick chat, and so I end up talking my husband’s ear off the second he comes home.
I work from home, freelance writing and working on small projects for my former employer, for about five to ten hours a week. As soon as I had told my former boss that I would be happy to help them out, my oldest son promptly stopped napping. That change pushed my work hours into the evenings, during those precious “they are finally asleep and I all I want is to sink into a long, hot bath” hours.
I’ve tried other schedules, but to no avail. Occasionally I’ll set up activities from listicles with titles like “27 Screen-free Activities for Toddlers,” hoping to check a few tasks off my to-do list before my sons get wise to the fact that I am not giving them my undivided attention. Those activities last exactly as long as it takes for me to boot up my computer.
In fact, just a few moments ago, I tried to let my son play quietly beside me while I took a work call. Within thirty seconds, he had unscrewed a tub of Vapo-rub and jammed it into my nose. Luckily, my boss is also a mom and didn’t mind the interruption, but now every breath feels like I’m standing in Siberia.
The siren call of working from home has bewitched mothers for decades, promising women the ability to have it all. You can have a career, earn an income, all without having to sacrifice a precious second of your kid’s childhood. The sidebars on every website I visit scream offers: $21 an hour to type! $35 to transcribe! $18 to answer the telephone! All promising I can remain in the comfort of my own home.
And my home is comfortable. There is no fighting over the office thermostat. No one giving me the side eye if I’m wearing the same yoga pants for the last three days. No need to eat my lunch from the office vending machine.
But my co-workers are a different story.
They are cute, sweet, and darling, but they are also busy, loud, and constantly underfoot. They cannot resist the temptation of attacking a keyboard that I am using, climbing onto my lap when I have a phone call, or asking me a litany of questions whenever I sit down at my desk.
“What are you doing?”
“Why are you working?”
“Why do you have to work?”
“When will you be done working?”
“Can I play with the computer?”
“Why can’t I play with the computer?”
“Please, can I play with the computer?”
“But I said please!”
Let’s just say I’ve decided to only work when the kids are awake if my husband is home, or if I’m under a deadline.
There’s plenty of stay-at-home moms with a side hustle. According to a survey from Redbook, 62% of stay-at-home moms say that they contribute financially to their household. About one-third of the women surveyed said they work regularly.
A good portion of this work exists outside of the traditional economy. Stay-at-home moms help pad their family’s finances watching a friend’s kid a few days a week, making jewelry for an Etsy store, or buying and selling goods on E-bay. Of course, there are also the modern Avon ladies, selling everything from high-end, non-toxic makeup to flashy leggings.
What many of these women have realized, is that when your home is your office, you get to have a foot in both the working and the home world. I know that hammering out a few articles a week on my keyboard in the evenings isn’t the same as holding down a full-time gig.
My financial contributions to the family budget may be fairly modest, but without a massive daycare check to write each month, I can bring home comparable pay in far fewer hours. Mostly, however, I enjoy thinking about something other than enriching pre-literacy activities and vegetable recipes my kids might actually eat.
But I miss the office.
My husband thinks I’m crazy when I say that, because a good chunk of the forty plus hours he is in the office he wishes he could be at home with us, wearing sweatpants. If I had to do it all day, every day, I’m sure my tune would change. Nevertheless, I find myself missing putting on real clothes and talking to real adults.
For now, working at home a few hours a week has helped create a better balance for me as a mom. My evenings might involve less Netflix binging than I would like, but sacrificing a bit of free time for pursuing something I love to do is worth not knowing what happened in the last season of House of Cards.
If you’re a mom, you’re working. No matter if you are in the office, taking care of children, or at a computer – we are continually pursuing a better life for our children and our family. So whether your officemates are your colleagues, or are knee high and begging you for crackers, here’s to finding a balance that works for you.