Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reflections on Being a Work-At-Home Mom

When I we first made the decision that I would work from home while our kids are young, I had all sorts of fantasies about how I would spend my time.

If I was at home, that meant I could chaperon field trips for school, volunteer in the kids' classrooms, attend daytime events and conferences at school, do activities with the kids like going to the zoo or crafts or gardening or baking, stay on top of household chores and cooking, run errands during the day, be available for homework help and supervision, not have to worry about finding childcare during school breaks and sick days, and save money on babysitting and childcare.

Now that I've been in the work-at-home (WAH) game for eight years (!!), I have mixed feelings about it.

Some of my hopes and dreams for this arrangement have certainly proven true. We have needed far less day care and general child care than we would have if I worked full time. However, I have found that I've needed to make use of babysitters and preschool some of the time, both for my kids' sake and my own. It's hard to get work done with kids in the house, especially when they're toddlers! I tell anyone considering going the WAH route: you WILL need some childcare, so work that into your budget!

Now that I have two elementary school-aged kids, all my plans to help out in the classroom and attend field trips are totally out the window. I discovered that I simply don't want to do those things, even though I theoretically could. Having two little ones still at home with me is part of the problem, because I can't really have them in the classroom with me, but even if I could obtain care for them, or even if they're welcome at a particular event, I tend to avoid volunteering. I also do need some hours at home to get my work done.

I have in the past made an effort to go out with the kids to the park, or take them out for lunch, or set up playdates with their friends on occasion, especially during school breaks. But, I find that I am very set in the routine of working at home. I like to work during the daytime hours as much as possible so I don't have to stay up late working after they're in bed, so I avoid multi-hour outings at mid-day, which is my most productive work time.

I don't like doing crafts. I do like to cook and bake, and I have started including my older two in those endeavors. Baking, especially, offers great lessons on measuring and math, and they seem to enjoy the process. Cooking is a very valuable skill, and they may as well start learning it now!

I do like to run errands during the weekdays. Stores tend to be less crowded, and if it gets done mid-day on Wednesday, then we have weekends free for other things. I do laundry during the day, too, which is super convenient.

Most importantly, though, I am home. If my son gets sick at school and needs me to come get him, I can. If there's a half-day, or conferences, or an early dismissal at school, I'm here and can easily go pick them up. I don't have to scramble for childcare if there's a blip in the schedule, like week-long conferences or the odd day off. I pick them up from school every day and can supervise homework. I can do doctor's appointments during the day or immediately after school, leaving early morning and evening appointments open for parents who have longer work days. I can and do attend their class plays and book fairs and other events.

The biggest downside to being a work-at-home, as opposed to stay-at-home, parent is that my kids don't really get the attention they would get from me if I were not working. Similarly being a work-at-home, as opposed to work-out-of-the-home, parent means my kids are hanging around the house doing nothing instead of being engaged at daycare! It's a bit of a stuck-in-the-middle feeling.

When you work at home, naptime is precious!

If I take time away from my desk to be with the kids, I feel guilty that I'm neglecting my work. I feel pulled toward my computer so I can get more done, bill more hours, earn that paycheck. But if I am sitting at my desk working, I feel guilty that my kids are in another room trying to entertain themselves. I am impatient with them when they interrupt me for needs and wants, and I don't like having to ignore them for stretches at a time so I can finish up my work. It's very difficult to find a balance.

I love my job and the flexibility it offers so that I can be home. But I know that the fantasy I had, of being available to my kids, just isn't the reality I'm living. I'm in a funny in-between place, and it's hard to define my role.

Being at home means I get to see moments like this, when the toddler found a hat and just had to wear it!

I do tend to believe, though, is that my kids will remember that I was there. They'll remember being picked up by (or coming home to) Mommy every afternoon. They'll remember being cared for by me. They'll know I was doing my best to give them what they need while meeting my own needs and the needs of the family as a whole. I do sometimes wish I had a regular office job and they were all in school or daycare all day. I do sometimes wish I didn't have to work at all and I could be a full-time stay-at-home mom. But I think either way I would be in some way less happy than I am now, in this funny in-between place.


  1. Wow this resonates with me so much. Since the birth of my third son a year ago, I've worked exclusively from home but have reduced my hours from 20 weekly to now just a few, all because of this constant struggle and guilt that I feel with my focus being so split between work and the kids. With three under five, I'm really struggling and am getting close to closing the door on work entirely! I'm a CPST as a hobby and am considering training to be a lactation consultant...and I am also a massage therapist.

  2. You can make $20 for a 20 minute survey!

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