Being a work from home mom has helped me emotionally and of course financially, allowing me not only to provide for my family, but be present for them as well. But just because I have the liberty to stay in my pajamas and work at my kitchen table doesn’t mean that being a work from home mom is a walk in the park.
So what is it really like being a work from home mom?
Often, I start my days by getting the older kids (nearly 4 years old) ready and then drop them off at school. Then I run some carefully planned errands and complete as much housework as I can with my 6 month sleeping or drooling on my back. Our nanny comes for a couple afternoons per week, leaving me to sit down to my computer. I focus on getting as much accomplished and ignoring everything else (SO much harder than it seems!) while I have those few hours in the afternoon. Then the nanny leaves and baby and I leave to pick up the kids. And then it’s snacks, bathtime, dinners, pajamas, stories, dishes, pick up the house, and, if I’m lucky, a few hours of sleep alone in my bed. But usually my bed is a sea of toddlers… and pee.
Where’s the catch?
Sounds pretty straightforward, but being a work from home mom means it’s difficult to separate the ‘home’ and ‘work’ and ‘mom’ tasks in my head. ‘Work’ is often punctuated by the needs of my kids and home, and there’s the never-ending list of paperwork and house chores that nag at me. If there’s something that needs to be dealt with, I’m the first to react. Kids are sick? I take them to the doctor. The electrician comes in the afternoon? I make sure I’m there to oversee the work. When things like this pop up they take precedence, leaving me to scrounge for other times to get my work accomplished. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I can relax at home because there’s always something that I can be doing.
And then there are the moments when I have to work while the kids are at home. These are the most challenging. My kids are young and want their mom to put them to bed, to cuddle them and sing them songs. I feel guilty when their dad tries to put them to sleep while I race to get things accomplished and I can hear, “I want mommy” from their room. They don’t understand that sitting in silence in a small room in front of a computer is ‘working’. Or maybe they do, but they certainly don’t care. I don’t blame them. Sometimes, being a work from home mom means I’m a work-from-a-bed-so-the kids-don’t-cry themselves-to-sleep mom.
How much can you juggle at once?
Being a work from home mom means switching mental roles minute-to-minute. Doorbell rings, baby cries, dinner on the stove interspersed with emails, blog articles, and deadlines. I’ve had my children bust down the door during video calls with my employers, and sat my kids in front of the tv so that I can finish a task for work. It’s juggling it all within the confines of the walls that I raise my kids.
Even though they don’t understand it now, they’ll look back and realize it’s for the best. I feel the guilt when I ignore the house and kids to work, but having a project and participating financially help me be a better mom, because I can acknowledge those other aspects of my identity. A book I read and reviewed recently called The Guilt Free Guide to Motherhood, sums it up perfectly when the author, Kirsten Toyne says,
What I was struck by was not the right or wrong of working versus staying at home, but rather how amazing we are at adapting to what is needed. As women we can be very creative in our ability to adjust to the demands of family life, finding spaces to meet both our family’s and our own needs. Kindle Location 1957
Tools for Working from Home
Organization is tantamount. Here are some ways I keep myself organized:
For each job, for myself, and for my husband. Perfect for sharing events and including details.
A monthly paper calendar
I found the templates online. Everything important is on the google calendar but I don’t know. I can’t get rid of my paper one, it’s just too handy for at-a-glance things and planning ahead.
To Do lists
Trello. Many of you have them for work. They are also great for personal use. Cards with checklists are great for managing big projects. Moving house? Make a checklist with ‘reserve parking spot’, ‘call movers’, ‘give forwarding address to post office’ etc.
MUST | SHOULD | COULD | WANT To do lists can get overwhelming because for every one thing you check off, 5 more things get added, and in no particular priority. ‘Buy mayonnaise’ is right next to ‘pay taxes’. This to do list is designed to de-stress. Fold a piece of paper in 4 sections, label them ‘must’, ‘should’, ‘could’ and ‘want’. The only things that go in the ‘must’ category are things for which there will be major consequences if they go uncompleted that day (paying taxes for example). If you feel like you are running in circles and not accomplishing enough, then you can rest assured that things that must get done in priority are getting accomplished and getting the rest accomplished is just bonus.
Family Check-in Action Items (see below)
A shared check-in document is a must if, like my husband and I, you have very little time to catch up and/or always forget to bring up the important stuff at the end of a long day. Ours is divided into two parts: Agenda and Action Items. The Agenda consists of topics to cover, action items get assigned to individual people. We add important topics throughout the week and then ideally go over the document once a week over the phone during a lunch break.
“We all have the same amount of hours in our day”
Divvy up your time with a week at a glance. Make a template and copy it to a new tab inside the spreadsheet for each week. Each cell corresponds to 30 minutes. Color code it and make notes for what you’ve got planned for that time, and then update it a couple times per day with what you’ve actually accomplished. Recurring things go on the template, so that you’re sure to copy them over each time. This is indispensable particularly if you’re paid hourly.
Where to find Remote Jobs?
Check out the site Power to Fly to find jobs and for additional resources.
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