In the interest of full disclosure, my toddler is running around half-dressed and screaming for milk right now. And, I literally mean right now. Although I'm not a fan of mommy labels, I suppose it's accurate to say I'm a work-at-home mom. I write freelance, and I teach music lessons out of my home. As part of the sisterhood of moms who work at home, I have a few secrets I'd like to share. If you're thinking about working from home, start taking notes.
Many of us pursue home employment as a way to supplement our family income while still raising young children. It's all great in theory, but you have to look beyond the beautifully staged "work from home" commercials. Real life as a working mom is messy — beautiful, but messy. There are always distractions, even if you try to limit your working hours to nap time and bedtime.
In theory, my husband watches the kids two afternoons a week, and we have in-home care for our three boys a third evening each week. However, no one can replace mom, especially when you know she's just behind a door. The other day, I was trying to teach violin, and my two-year old kept running away from the sitter to invade my lesson, a serious infraction that carries serious consequences in our house. Finally, on the fourth time, I hauled his little butt out of my studio only to get puked on. Turns out, he was sick. That ended my teaching for the rest of the day. Gross, disgusting, inconvenient distractions.
Know that the work day never ends
One advantage to working outside the home is having a clear cut-off for the day's work. When you leave the office, you can switch from work mode to mommy mode. If your office is inside your house, however, all hours of the day are fair game.
I have the biggest problem with not running to the computer every spare second, even when I know I need some downtime. Recently, after a particularly draining week, I desperately needed sleep, but I stayed up way too late writing up article proposals for editors and for my blog. Zombie-level exhausted the next day, I was worthless as I tried writing out any of my ideas. It's totally counter-productive, but it's nearly impossible to get away from work when you physically can't get away from your work.
As a kid who went to daycare, I got to destroy someone else's house all day while my mom worked. I'm not saying my working mom didn't have household responsibilities, but she had caregivers to prepare two of my daily meals, all of my snacks, and absorb some of the mess. This isn't to disparage moms who work outside the home — they don't have it easy either, but realize that when you work from home, you have all the demands of a job with all the mess of the kids.
As much as I would love a sparkling clean house, most days I have to pick between meeting a deadline and the dishes. Because I work 20 or more hours each week, something has to give, and I'm not sacrificing playtime, books or snuggles with my boys. Since this is a confessional, I am hereby confessing that I'm not sure when my shower was last cleaned. Oh, and we ate cereal for dinner twice last week. And, I'm not really even sure how to balance a checkbook, but if I did, I still wouldn't have time.
At this point, you might wonder why any sane mother would choose to work from home. She wouldn't. However, us crazy moms make it work. Jokes aside, I love the flexibility working from home offers. It's nice having time to see my son's baseball games, take care of my sick kids, and lounge around in yoga pants all day. I also love growing my career and feeling like I'm using my very expensive college education. It's not exactly the best of both worlds, but it's a unique arrangement that suits our family perfectly.