Laptop – check; coffee – check; deadline – check; small child squirming on my knee – check. Not exactly the best set up for a productive bout of work. Time for Plan B. Laptop, warm-ish coffee, ever-approaching deadline – check, check, check.
Mini-me pleasure station installed in the next room featuring an assortment of drinks, sweeties (sometimes a little bribery goes a long way), favorite books, Lego and nauseating children’s songs – check. Small child standing at the door in wet pants – check. Plan C. Laptop, cold coffee, urgent deadline – check. Clean-clothed child watching favorite DVD – check.
The Life of a Work at Home Mom
I would just like to add, before I have a knock at the door from Social Services, that my children don’t actually spend all of their little lives watching DVDs or being palmed off by some work-obsessed mother. It’s just that some days there simply aren’t enough hours to do everything while the children are at school and nursery or sleeping. Cue the great balancing act.
Finding the perfect compromise when it comes to children is an absolute minefield. There are the stay-at-home mothers, which I was for 6 years myself, the going out to work mothers, and the working from home mothers. And depending on your mood at a particular moment, each can seem like a better option to the one you have chosen.
The life of the stay at home mother is not all baking and aprons and nursery rhymes. It is a wonderful thing to be able to do, if you are able to, but it can also be very isolating, and the walls of your little microcosm can start to feel like they are closing in on you. The working mother may be envied for having a life outside of the home, and for being able to have conversations that don’t revolve around toilet habits and small objects lodged in various bodily orifices, however, they do have the guilt factor, which can be a terrible thing. So the working from home mother looks, on paper, to have found the perfect balance.
She is at home with her children but still bringing in an income and has some sort of connection with the outside world. Hmmm, there are just a few snags in that theory:
Firstly, mommy being at home, to a child, means mommy is there to fetch and carry, cuddle and entertain from dawn till dusk. And that is what we would like to being doing, but those deadlines…
Secondly, children aren’t good with boundaries. Whether you have a dedicated office or just a corner carved out from the Play-Doh and coloring book mountain, it is inevitable that sticky little fingers will find their way onto your laptop and doodles onto your paperwork. And of course, there is also that well-known parenting fact that as soon as your bottom begins to descend towards a chair, a disaster of epic proportions will occur that has to be dealt with immediately – such as a shoe falling off or a marble getting lost under the sofa.
Thirdly, working from home gives the impression that maybe you don’t work quite as hard as someone who goes out to an office. As if it’s some half-hearted attempt to play grown-ups, and that really you’re a housewife with a little job to stop you from getting bored. This ultimately ends up with you balancing not only your job and the children, but also all of the housework, cooking and the jobs that you really know you should get someone in to do, but having seen a video on You Tube you feel that you are more than qualified to undertake.
How to Balance Work with Raising Kids
The time we have with our little ones is so precious. I look at my 6 year old now and wonder were this long-legged ball of nonsense and mischief came from. I’m sure when I put her to bed last night, she was snuggled up in her crib and I had to do the ‘don’t breath or make a sound backing out of the bedroom’ routine. This morning she uncurled herself like a stretching cat before starting the daylong stream of chattering.
Equally my baby girl, having turned 3 last week, has declared that she is now a “big girl” and disappears off to nursery three mornings a week without a backwards glance to her poor old empty-armed mummy. Maybe that umbilical cord is longer than I had thought. The point is, that no matter how we decide to parent, there is always some element of juggling and guilt involved. We are bombarded from all sides about parenting techniques and the potential for totally screwing your kids up if you don’t follow exact, yet, changing guidelines.
Ultimately, you have to make some tough decisions, but as long as your children’s well-being is at the center of those decisions, then you shouldn’t be able to go too far wrong, even for working from home. As for me, I am currently enjoying a slight break in my balancing act while my little girl has a playdate. I would like to say that I am now going to put my feet up and enjoy some ‘me time’ but in actual fact I am loving the quietness in the house. The piles of discarded dollies and heap of ironing are being ignored.
I have deadlines. But I sit here with a slight smile on my face, knowing that I can type away with a sense of secret pleasure because, in this moment, just this moment, I can put down all of my juggling balls, and focus on this one thing. And once the work is done, my girls will come home and I will be able to focus on chatting and playing with them. The ironing can wait!