The pros and cons of being a work-at-home mom
Working from the comfort of home sounds like a walk in the park, but as these work at-home-moms will tell you, it isn’t all comfy slippers and lunchtime naps…
I’ve been working from home as a freelance writer for seven years. While it does have its downsides – you can never escape the looming pile of laundry, your only co-worker is the cat and Christmas parties are a snooze – I would have to think long and hard about taking an office job again. It would mean giving up the flexibility I have to be there for my kids when they’re sick and needing to look office-ready every day. Oh, and office politics? Eek.
Whenever I discuss the pros and cons of working from home with other work-at-home-moms (or WAHMs), they get quite tetchy when the subject of how “easy” it seems to outsiders comes up. It’s like traveling for work – it seems super-glamorous until you do it yourself and realize it’s just work in a different setting.
So, I decided to give a voice to all the hard-working, underappreciated WAHMs out there by asking seven of them to share the best and worst aspects of juggling two demanding jobs under one roof. Here’s what they said…
“I have a much better balance between my work life and my personal life since I’ve been working from home. There’s less chaos and running around like a chicken with my head cut off.”
Natalie, associate for a consulting organization and kick-ass mom to a 12-year-old boy
“The freedom, the independence, avoiding traffic and office politics, wearing PJs to work, having your own kitchen next to your office (although that could be considered a con too!), and naps.
Jenn, freelance editor and writer and supermama to a five-year-old boy
“It’s been great being at home with the children. I feel like I’ve made the most of them being little and I’ve been there every step of the way. Plus, I don’t have expensive child-care fees and I have the flexibility to work, do day-care drop-offs and go to doctor’s appointments when I want – all the stuff that would be really hard if I worked from an office and had to juggle child-care arrangements. I also like not having to commute, ask for vacation time or worry about who will take time off if the kids are sick.”
Katherine, freelance writer and amazing mama to a three-year-old boy and a 20-month-old girl
“The best part of working from home is being available to your kids (but this is also the worst as you’ll see in my ‘worst part’ answer). Also, no commute. There’s no time wasted in a car or on public transportation.”
Jo, social media editor and ninja mom to three kids aged 13, 10 and 7
“My kids don’t go to before or after school care because I’m able to drop them off and pick them up. I can exercise whenever I want, do grocery shopping and go to hair or nail appointments, which means that we get two full days off on the weekend.”
Caroline, lawyer and superhero mama to four kids aged 15, 13, 8 and 5
“The best parts are getting to take breaks as often as I need (I love going for swims in the pool during the day in summer), working from wherever I want and saving money on office attire.”
Kara, principal at a creative and marketing agency and multitasking mom to a five-year-old boy and an 18-month-old girl
“No day-care fees and not having to go to an office where there’s always some judgment on not being able to work normal 9 to 5 hours – or in my case, in media, it’s more like 8 to 8. And finally being able to work in my PJs!”
Amy, social media manager and cape-wearing mama to six-month-old twin boys
“People – mostly your husband and son – don’t think that you really work, so you’re stuck doing all your work in less time because you need to manage the drives, activities, contractors, and all the rest.”
“The finances (including keeping up on taxes and putting money aside for retirement), the lack of adult interaction, the lack of consistency (in workload and income), the fact that anytime someone is off work they call you because you must be free and lazing around watching talk shows, fighting your own battles because you never have a coworker or manager looking out for you, and having to buy your own office supplies!”
“It’s like working two jobs! I’m a full-time mom, but I also somehow squeeze the equivalent of three days of paid work into the evenings and during naptime. My 20-month-old daughter is still with me all the time, so if she doesn’t sleep or she’s sick, my work time goes out the window and I end up working every evening (which happens a lot). It’s relentless and I feel like many people don’t really take it seriously. They say, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky you don’t have to go to work!’ but I feel like I work harder sometimes. Also, you don’t get paid vacation days or any real time off – I recently worked nearly every evening during a week away. There also isn’t the ‘rest’ that many parents get at work – time away from the home, time to have a coffee with colleagues, and so on. I’m at home all the time, which can get monotonous and means that I rarely have time away from the children. If I had to do it all over again, I would make the same choice because I know these early years fly by and I would’ve hated to miss them, but I’m also really starting to want to be back in an office part-time after nearly four years at home. It’s definitely not the easy choice despite what many people seem to think.”
“The worst part – just like the best part – is being available to your kids. The expectation is that you’re there to cry to, give comfort and even serve up meals. I find myself asking my kids, ‘Could you get Dad to serve dinner from work? Would you call Dad to cut your cheese for lunch? Your dad is here – ask him.’ Also, drop-ins. Those folks in your life who refuse to believe that you work. I’ve been known to hang a ‘Work in Progress’ sign on my front door. And because my kids have told school that mom is working from home, I get a call every week: ‘Your daughter left her lunch at home, could you drop it off?’ I have to decline because: work. Finally, there’s the expectation you put on yourself. The housework piles up and because you’re home, you put it upon yourself that you should have it all done.”
“The feeling that I need to do all the housework because I’m there. When I make myself a cup of coffee, I put on a load of laundry. During a conference call, I sweep the floor. When I stop for a bathroom break, I empty the dishwasher…”
“The worst part about working from home is finding the motivation to get out of the house and take decent lunch breaks. It’s harder to separate your work life from your personal life and to leave work alone once the family gets home at 5pm. And you have to make a special effort to interact socially with other people.”
“It can be a bit lonely – I miss the socializing. And it’s hard to concentrate or meet deadlines with the unpredictability of having young children who might be fighting naps, teething, and so on. Even though you work from home, I highly recommend putting your kids in day care one day a week and meeting up with colleagues for coffee or just getting out of the house.”
Top tips for being a productive WAHM
Afraid that a Netflix marathon is the only thing you’d manage to accomplish every day if you worked from home? Here are six tips to help you stay focused and productive.
- Shower, get dressed and put makeup on. No one ever took over the world in their PJs!
- Send the kids to day care. You’ll get so much more done if you don’t have a child begging for a snack every four seconds
- Ignore the housework. Putting on a load of laundry before you start work is fine, but don’t get sucked into the trap of spending half your day tidying and cleaning. Walk straight to your desk and ignore it all until later. (Apologies to all the neat freaks!)
- Embrace the to-do list. Start each day by writing down a detailed but realistic list of all the tasks you need to accomplish by the end of the day. Don’t stop until you’re done.
- Take some time out (but not too much). Some WAHMs forget to take any breaks and eat lunch at their desk, while others pop out for coffee dates and yoga classes a little too often. Set an “at your desk” schedule – 9am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm – and try to stick to it.
- Take vacations. You’d never accept to work for a boss who refused to give you any time off, so don’t do it to yourself. Schedule your vacation time several months ahead and give your clients plenty of notice.