The Joys of Working From Home

Working-From-Home

DING! It’s hard to tell which notification just came through over my phone, above the noise of Monster Math Squad and the rat-a-tat of my fingernails on the keyboard. All I know for sure is that I have about six million more things to do today, and only have time for about three and a half before the evening bus runs, bringing home my 12 and 13 year olds. And then it will be on to homework and supper preparations, and then bath time and bed time, with more than a moderate amount of refereeing all the kids thrown in for good measure. If I’m lucky and determined enough, I might even squeeze in a bite to eat while it’s warm, and a hug or even a kiss from my husband when he comes home from work.

“Momma, do you need to check your emails?” sing-songs my adorable four-year-old with widened eyes. Bless him. He probably knows more about the notifications on an iPhone than any adult in my circle of acquaintance. He should; he hears them enough. Now if only he were capable of answering any of them.

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I had thought when I decided to work from home that it was the best idea in the history of EVER. “What’s not to love?” I said to my oh-so-naive self, three years ago. I get to have a career that I love, bank a paycheck, stay home with my babies, set my own hours, be here when the kids need me, keep my resume from going stagnant while still not missing a moment of these precious years with the lights of my life…It’s the perfect solution!

I’ll pause right here and be really, really clear: Working from home is fairly fantastic, and I wouldn’t trade a second of it for all the salt in the ocean. I know that I am extremely lucky to be working from home. I love my kids, I love my job, and I love our life.

But let me explain to you why it’s not so perfect…

I work from home with a four year old. I could probably just stop right there, and if you have ever spent any quality time with toddlers or pre-schoolers while trying to complete a NON-child-related task, I’ve pretty much said all you need to hear.

Back in the early days, I tried to set up a home office in the spare bedroom. YES! I said to myself. I’ll set my stuff up in here, away from the TV, away from the kids, where I can have some peace and privacy, and get some REAL work done. That lasted about a month or so. No matter how much I wanted it to, I just couldn’t schedule myself a block longer than half an hour away from something that needed done, and I really can’t get anything meaningful accomplished in 30 minutes. I didn’t want my toddler unsupervised for ten minutes, let alone hour blocks! And so I thought to myself, I’ll just work while he’s napping or playing or watching TV. Newsflash: They don’t nap forever. They won’t play by themselves forever. And there’s only so much TV that I can conscientiously allow him to watch at a time. And so I resolved that I’d work sporadically during the day, while spending time with the little one and doing housework, and then quality time with the rest of the family in the evenings, and just get the bulk of real work done at night after everyone goes to bed.

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And here we are. I haven’t had a date with my pillow before 2 or 3 am in over a year, and it’s usually closer to 4 am, although I have been known to still be up when the birds start singing. I subsist on caffeine and nicotine and Google Drive. I can’t remember the last time I spent any meaningful amount of time in bed, erm, doing laundry, because my husband has to get up early to go to a “real” job. We get sitters and we have date nights, but I really miss going to bed as a couple. Sleeping or not, there’s comfort in not bedding down alone every morning as the sun comes up while everyone else is getting ready to start their day.

Need I even mention the friends, family, and neighbors who think that working from home is synonymous with having loads of free time to do whatever, whenever you choose? Or these precious gems:

What do you DO all day?
Why do you stay up so late?
Can’t you just do that tomorrow?
If I were home all the time like you, my house would be immaculate!
I wish I got to sleep as late as I wanted!
I wish I got paid to sit at home all day!
Must be nice to get to work in your pajamas!

…Ok, I’ll give you that last one. That shit is pretty sweet. I have been asked by my kids why I’m putting on nice clothes and makeup, only to reply to them that Mom has a video conference for work and doesn’t really want her boss to see her looking like the ‘before’ picture in a makeover shoot.

Working from home is not some clever euphemism for lazing around at home with the cherubs while still drawing a salary. If you want to get paid, you have to churn out real work, just like at a “real” job. I work real work and I get paid real money and it takes real effort and real time to accomplish this real task. Just because I don’t have to drive across town to an office building and punch a time clock doesn’t mean that I’m not a productive member of working society. And just because my sleeping hours aren’t ‘normal’ sleeping hours doesn’t mean a damn thing either (Do people throw that at night shift workers? I just don’t get that, and never have. I work my work hours and I sleep my sleep hours just like anyone else; it just happens to be in a different time slot than the norm.).

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I could probably go on and on, but the bottom line is that while it all seems like the best of every world, I still feel like I’m failing something somewhere, trying to do too much all at the same time. I can’t fully focus on my child as much as I think I should, because work needs to be done; I can’t fully focus on my work as much as I think I should, because my child needs my attention; and both need to take a time out when the dryer buzzes or we won’t have any clean towels at bath time! I’m just always on the clock. And, although I do feel like I’m always slighting something because of the hectic mess that is my life, I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive on chaos and wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I actually had any real downtime.

Oh, wait. Yes, I would. Sleep. It’s called sleep, if I remember correctly. It rhymes with “heaven” and tastes like cotton candy. I’m sure I’ll get around to that in time, but right now, it’s almost daylight- time to get everyone up for work and school and start breakfast and throw in some laundry before I call it a night. Err, morning. Whatever.

About the writer

Love Barnett is a work-from-home mom of too many kids to count, trophy wife, and emphatic wielder of the "Because I said so" card. You can find her unbridled perspective into the world of beer, babies, beauty, and baubles on her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, or if you're feeling adventurous (or bored) you can check out her much-neglected blog Momma Said NO.

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Alesha 9 months ago

This. I remember the first time my daughter’s teacher realized I actually work…she said “I don’t know why I thought you were a SAHM.” To which I replied that yes, I am there to drop my child off and pick her up everyday, but I do have a set schedule. And just asked to be kept up to speed on what was needed/expected as room parent (because, you know, no one volunteered).

I am quite willing to take time off for projects and such when I’m allowed to (due to call volume, holidays, etc) and when given enough notice. I’m glad to be able to help out and my daughter is thrilled that I’m there for events and projects, but it is weird. Most of the other parents don’t seem to know quite what to make of me. Ah, well. I never did fit in, anyway

Kelly In Tacoma 11 months ago

This is my life to a T! I started working from home just a month before I had my 6 1/2 year old (followed by his brother 17 months later). I would not want to work in an office again, but the stress of juggling everything but feeling like nothing is getting done and I’m running out of energy and the guilt takes over when I put my family off and the lack of sleep and seeing the dishes and laundry waiting for me while I’m working and the constant kid-fights and refereeing..and…and… It got so bad I actually started going to counseling 1 1/2 years ago and it made a huge difference in how I was seeing everything and gave myself a break – realizing I was actually doing TWO full time jobs – SAHM and working full time, since my kids did not go to daycare. I was able to prioritize daily/weekly/monthly chores and not feel like a failure when I couldn’t do it all.

This year has been what I have been counting down for – they are in full day school and I am able to get work done when they are gone, squeeze in some housework, and still have some time for ME.

Kuddos to anyone who is out there trying to juggle both worlds and know there is an end in sight. Now to worry about summer vacation – in 9 months. 😉

Theresa 1 year ago

I am a stay at home mom. I wish I could find a little part time work from home job yo bring in a few extra dollars. Unfortunately, the “jobs” I find seem to be a scam.

Adrian 1 year ago

I remember those days. I worked from home when my son was little and it was definitely crazy-making. The good news is that they still seem to turn out just fine. He’s 15 now and not a scratch on him. But do give yourself a break sometimes. Guys don’t do this – they are able to just let things slide – we’re the crazy ones who insist on absolute perfection in everything. Be more guy-like and give yourself permission to take a break now and then.

Deanna 1 year ago

Don’t kill me but I would LOVE to work from home-by the time I come home from my office job after a long day and then long commute-I only have time to feed her and bath her and then put her to sleep, which can be as early as 9 or as late as 11. So only a couple hours with her. I had weekends off and two days was not enough to catch up with housework! I really need to figure out a way to work from home. I am sure it’s hard but very rewarding!

Christie B 1 year ago

Gosh, yes. Thank you for writing this. I have been trying to run a small Etsy shop while taking care of my little one (she’s now almost 3) and take care of the house, and it just doesn’t really work the way I imagined. I thought I would play with her, teach her, etc, for a while, then she would play on her own and I could get some work done before going back to playing with her. Nope, she does everything she can to sabotage anything I try to do that doesn’t involve her. Literally. She crashed my first laptop and tore off a lot of the keys. If I try to photograph something, she runs away with it. I used to get in some work while she took her nap, but guess what? She doesn’t nap now. To top it off now I am supposed to be trying to start doing transcription on top of all of this. I can’t even make a (sane, easy to understand) phone call with her around, so the idea of trying to concentrate on insurance jargon with her hollering “I did a tooters! Mommy, look at me! Look at MEEEEEEE!” is just crazy.
From what I can see, sometimes you can either watch your kid, clean your house and cook, OR work from home successfully. It just depends on the situation. And yeah, it drives me nuts that I get treated like someone who just loafs around all day. If the dishes are piled high, I’m a bad housekeeper. If I’m still in my PJs at the end of the day, I’m being a bad wife and a bad example to my little girl. If I actually manage to get some work done, I’m being a neglectful mother. I really wish people would just lay off the judgment; it helps nothing and just adds to the stress.

Anita Davis Sullivan 1 year ago

I do some of both- 2-3 days at home, 2-3 days in the office and travel sometimes too. I LOVE my days of sweats and unkempt hair, but then now also love my office that much more. The biggest thing I don’t miss on the home days is the horrid commute!

Michele Migues Shadrick 1 year ago

Yep, I work at home. I worked for 4 years with my daughter home. She now attends Pre-K. Thank you, Baby Jesus! I love her very much but you really can’t get a lot done when they are home with you.

Kim Smits Foster 1 year ago

So true! I already worked from home when my son was born, so I thought I was sooooo lucky! But, It was so hard! I started to envy people who worked in an office because they could actually get their work done! I had a home office, but when my son started crawling, I moved my laptop and files to the dining room table. When he started walking I realized that I couldn’t give him the time he needed and I couldn’t give my job the time they needed. So, I quit my job. After taxes, I wasn’t making enough money to justify driving myself crazy trying to do it all!

Dorothy 1 year ago

I understand about sleeping in the morning hours. I work third shift and we home-school so my kids stay up late and we all sleep in. People are appalled!

ScottCynthia Shepp 1 year ago

Exactly… My life in a nutshell. Freelance fiction editor with a 2,8, and 9 year old. My job is 24-7-365.

Love 1 year ago

Oh for sure! The look on a teacher’s face, when you have to decline something by saying, “I’m sorry, I have to work” when they know you work from home?! It’s a priceless mix of confusion, consternation, and doubt, with a little RUFKM thrown in…

Cindi Patton 1 year ago

You forgot to mention the volunteer activities that you’re expected to take part in–especially at your older kids’ school–because you work from home, i.e., don’t have a “real” job! I was willing to volunteer for some things because I COULD set my own hours (and work evenings and weekends instead!), but I have gotten very tired of feeling like one of a handful of moms who are expected to do ALL of the volunteer work. When my youngest heads to high school next year, I will just say NO. I’ve done my share. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have PTA work to finish on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Cindi Patton 1 year ago

I know this wouldn’t be for everyone, but I interrupted my career to start a home daycare when I was planning to have another child. I made some money–not a lot, because I ran a small daycare–but it still helped with the bills, kept me from having to pay someone else to watch my kids, allowed me to do things like laundry and cooking for my family while “on the clock,” AND I got to focus on MY kids along with the others in the daycare. We also developed some lifelong friends for both the family and my youngest child. Once my youngest went to school, I allowed the daycare to fold (as the kids got older, they dropped out of daycare one by one), and then I started up my own freelance editing/proofreading business.There are years in THIS business–the one I went to college to learn–when I don’t make as much as I did in the peak of my small daycare business! Just a thought for those who are struggling. :)

Tina Frisina 1 year ago

I started studying from home 6 weeks after my second baby was born (first born was 3). Why my husband supported that post partum crazy idea I dont know. The plan was to study full time and finish it 12-18 months then start a business from home. The reality was, it took 2-3 years to complete part time and made me realise working from home was not going to be possible in my situation. To be fair though hubby works away, I was also working a casual job outside of the home AND my daughter decided not to sleep for the first three years!Lol oh well, lesson learned in why its important to not take on too much! I now work full time when hubby is home and school hours when he is away OUTSIDE of the home and it is the perfect balance!

Katie 1 year ago

I work from home full time, but I work a job with regular 8-5 hours and must be available within those hours, so my daughter goes to daycare. I get a lot of questions like, “Why does your daughter go to daycare if you’re home all day?” with some folks (especially older white men) who get really insistent that I shouldn’t be paying for childcare if I’m at home, as if I’m falling down on my *real* job (motherhood) if I’m outsourcing the childcare. I’d like to see you take a 2-year-old with you to work all day every day and see how much you get done. Just because I’m at home doesn’t mean I’m not working! It’s nice not to have a commute, and it’s really nice to be able to work in my pajamas, but it gets really lonely, and people are really disrespectful of my time because coworkers and clients assume that because I work from home, I should be available at all hours of the day and night to do work, and people outside of work assume I should be available any time because I’m clearly not working a real job if I can do it from home. I look forward to the day when I can get back to an office.

Dacia Quince 1 year ago

Awesome read. I work from home two afternoons a week. The rest of the time it’s 8am to 5 pm @ the office. My husband works from home day in day out. I don’t know how he stays sane. Anyhow, thanks for the post, I can relate to a lot of the feelings about it never being enough and longing for sleep. And, I would not have the first clue what to do with downtime. Wait! I’ve got it! Cancun, with the hubby, blackout curtains… Sleep galore.

Laura McNelly 1 year ago

I looooooove this article. Sums up my life 100%!!

Audrey Velderrain 1 year ago

Yessss.

Laura 1 year ago

Yes!!!This is exactly my life. I always feel like I’m only one in the world with this life-style, so this is an amazing/comforting read for me. Love this!

sammie 1 year ago

Story of my life!!

I have a 4 year old and an almost 1 year old. I work while nursing the baby, when the baby naps, and I’ve been known to bring my laptop everywhere with me because IF both of my kids fall asleep in the car, I will grab a coffee, pull over and work through their nap. It’s insanity, but it works some way, some how.

Helen Lupton 1 year ago

Especially like the “gems” … I’ve think I’ve heard most of them … and “so you’re not actually working today then …”

Violet Russell 1 year ago

Exactly!

Sandie Carmona Maldonado 1 year ago

I am so grateful I can work from home but DANG! This shiz is hard!!!!! Dont need comments from people who think just because i am not in an office i can just relax in between calls.

Maggie Pulley 1 year ago

Yep. The best and worst of all worlds all at the same time!

Crystal Kelley 1 year ago

Exactly! I’ve often said it’s the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds at the same time. It’s a struggle.

Crystal Kelley 1 year ago

I’ve worked from home for 6 years and been a full – time student for the past couple of years and have a 6 and 4 yr old. This hit home for me SO much. Happy to see other people that can relate!

Pamela Gray Mueller 1 year ago

I’ve worked p/t from home for the past 15 years. While I loved the flexibility, I also knew that I couldn’t do justice to either my job or my kids with them around. I was lucky enough to find a wonderful day care provider and we set up a regular schedule. That was the only way to keep it from taking over my life. Kids at school/sitter = work. Kids at home = I’m off. They are older now, so no sitter and I’m back f/t, but they’ve learned to respect my office boundaries. It’s crazy but well worth it if you can make it work.

Erin Wallace 1 year ago

I have a newborn and have this EXACT problem… :-/

Erin Wallace 1 year ago

Thank you!! Took the words right out of my mouth! 😉 Hence, why I am working on a Sunday morning as well…

Kristen Andrews McClure 1 year ago

I’m happy to have some company in this area. I have felt so alone at times. There was stuff for stay at home moms and stuff for working mom’s but what about those who do both?!? Finally… now tell me how to get everything done in 24 hours

Anita Kendrick Hoghaug 1 year ago

Yep.. Exactly!!

Gina Calcagno Mongelli 1 year ago

Wow, all you have to do is replace the authors name with mine, and it’s my story exactly!

Jessica Rondello Quesnel 1 year ago

I could have written this article…

Kelly DiTullio 1 year ago

I have two kids so being on the phone in a quiet area would be difficult :/

Kelly DiTullio 1 year ago

Wish i could find a legit work from home job..no start up fees would be great. And i don’t have a land line phone which alot of them require

Traci Konkol Gossin 1 year ago

Working from home is HARD. Took me 3 years to find a balance but I Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Brittanie Evans 1 year ago

I’m thankful to be able to work from home, but it sure isn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be.

Patricia Gonzalez 1 year ago

I am so grateful to work from home. It’s a balancing act often, but when I think of the cost of childcare and the fact that I see my kids as soon as they get out of school every day, I count my blessings.

Amanda Bird 1 year ago

This is my life. Sometimes it’s nice to hear that I’m not alone.

Sara Sacks 1 year ago

I’ve worked from home for almost 12 years- the best.

Michelle Levi Moran 1 year ago

So true

Jen 1 year ago

THIS all over. She sort of touched on it, but one of the main things about WAHMs is the blurred lines when it comes to work/life balance. I feel I’m always on call when it comes to everything…kids, clients, housework. It’s chaotic for sure, but I just don’t think I could ever go back to working in an office again.

Amanda Arkow Wagner 1 year ago

Yep.

Shannon Dove Crosby 1 year ago

I like when people say that I’m “off” on my work from home day. Even had people try to drop their kids off for me to watch. Uh no people still on the clock- just happen to be in sweats all day!

Kayla Gallivan 1 year ago

I have never worked from home, but I have gone to college from home and this sounds similar! It was easy when my daughter was an infant but once toddler age it — nightmare.

Stacey Lewis 1 year ago

So very true!

Ester Joyce Venter 1 year ago

Love this – sounds exactly like my life !!!

Mikki 1 year ago

I can completely empathize with this (ahem, lol). Working from home is freaking difficult. Trying to balance everything with children is sometimes the most daunting task there is. And while yes, it is an awesome opportunity, I think people assume it’s a lot easier than it actually is. Trying to focus on a project with a 4 year old asking for something every 5 minutes is impossible, but we do it because we have to, and we rock at it 😀

GiggingSoul 1 year ago

Yes! Just yes. I work from home, but HAVE to get things done before 7pm because I have to call people with “real jobs” in order for my commission paycheck be anything at all. I’m always stressed- there is always something that needs to get done. The kids ask “why don’t you want to play with me?” and it breaks my heart. I’m always saying “Mommy will play with you in just a minute, I am working” and minutes add on to minutes and sometimes hours. If I need to call someone it’s “Quiet down!” or “Stop screaming!” and my Mommy Guilt is taking over my life… the only upside is that we don’t have to pay for daycare now that I’m working from home, but I think we may need to use those savings to take care of the nervous breakdown I’m bound to have…