Working from home has definite pros and cons — sure you can lounge in your sweatpants and shoot off emails from the couch but it’s also hard to draw the line between your personal life and your career, add kids into the mix and it’s even more challenging! Telecommuting, flex schedules and remote jobs are rising in popularity every year – and it can be a great opportunity to pursue your career while still being home with your kids. In this new Mama Notes series we’ll be chatting with different mothers who are making this career choice work – we’ll hear hacks that work, what’s difficult about this work set up and advice for how to achieve balance and success while working from your home. If you’re interested in sharing your story email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m from Arnold, Md. and still live there with my family. My husband and I have three kids, ages 6, 9, and 12, between us (we’re a blended family). I have a journalism degree from the University of Maryland, and I’m the managing editor for eSchool Media, an education technology news site. My job consists of reporting and writing news stories for our various websites, promoting our content on social media, and building partnerships with organizations in the ed-tech world.
I started working from home about 3 years before I had kids. When I had kids, it was a huge bonus to not have to pay for daycare when they were little.
My children are in school now, but they were home with me full-time until they started preschool. My parents live about a mile from us and they help out with the kids a lot–my dad is retired, so if I have an important conference call or something else that conflicts with school pick-up, my dad is always willing to help. Sometimes I think my kids prefer my parents’ house to ours…
When my kids were toddlers, it was more challenging to get work finished. I made sure they had routine naps, and even if they didn’t sleep, they had “quiet time” in their rooms. That gave me the chance to meet deadlines, make phone calls, and finish up projects. If I had something really important to finish that day, I’d make sure I had a couple special activities on hand that I knew would occupy my kids for a bit. It wasn’t always easy–working from home with toddlers can be really tough!
I think it’s easy to feel like you must have a perfectly clean home when you work from home, because, after all, you’re already at home to clean, right? It seems like there’s always cleaning to do, but that takes me away from my job and deadlines. To balance the desire to clean with the obligation to work, I’ll take 10-15 minutes every couple of hours to do “fast cleaning” – start laundry, load the dishwasher, or clean the kitchen. The little things add up to a relatively tidy house at the end of the day, and I’ve still met my work deadlines.
My biggest challenge is to NOT work outside of normal business hours. When you work at home, even after you’ve worked a full day, it’s easy to grab your laptop and answer emails for 15 minutes after dinner, but 15 minutes can easily turn into 1 hour, and you miss valuable time with your family or you work late into the night. I think having a physical separation between you and your work can help–I keep my laptop in my office and don’t sit on the couch/in front of the TV to work, for instance. I’m less tempted to work “extra” hours when my work laptop and work phone are on my office desk.
Google Calendar is my friend! I probably overdo it with phone alarms and calendar reminders, but they help me keep track of doctor’s appts., birthday parties, sports practices, when school library books are due, when I have to send in items for various school events, etc.
Before I log off at the end of the day, I do two things: I make sure I’ve read/answered all my emails, and I make a list of 3 priorities for the next workday. It helps me start the day organized and stay on track.
I totally unplug! I power down my work devices and don’t use my personal phone or personal email for a few hours. The kids choose a movie and we make something fun for dinner. I’ve found that simple time together is the best way to relax. We always make fun plans for the weekend, but Fridays are just for being together with no pressure.
I just finished The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. Next up is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid–my friends have raved about it so I’m looking forward to starting it.
I grew up loving Ferdinand the Bull, and it’s still one of my favorites to read to my kids. Matilda, by Roald Dahl, was my favorite as I got a little older.
I also love the book Someday, by Alison McGhee and Peter Reynolds, although it’s a kids book more suited for adults. It makes me cry each time I read it. It’s a bittersweet look at the bond between a mother and her child throughout the years.
I think we as moms are always too hard on ourselves. I don’t think anyone feels like they have the work-home balance figured out. We’ll likely always feel guilty about something. As a work-from-home mom, you’re kind of in both worlds–you’re part of the working mom world because you have professional obligations, but you’re also in the stay-at-home-mom world because you’re physically at home. It’s tough to juggle your kids at the same time as your work. It can be easy to feel guilt from both sides and let both professional stress and child-related stress wear you down. My tip would be to try, as much as you can, to go easy on yourself and give yourself credit for what you do. We are so lucky to be able to have a career we love while we’re also at home building memories with our babies.