Woosh! Our toddler toilet seat whizzed past my head and across the video screen.
“No!” I hissed as my one-year- old fussed. I pivoted back to the computer and smiled at my boss.
Working from home doesn’t always feel as glorious as it looks on Instagram, #wahmlife. Especially when your daughter skips her nap and you have a conference call scheduled.
To work or not to work.
It’s the controversial question most San Diego moms face at some point in our parenting journeys. With housing prices at historic highs, more and more women are wrestling between the advantages of a second income and the pull to stay home full time.
The Glorious Solution or Tension Beyond Belief
Caught between career versus mommyhood, I thought working from home presented the perfect solution. And there are some fantastic benefits to typing at the kitchen table while baby plays on the floor.
- Pajamas with spit-up in your hair is perfectly acceptable
- Setting your hours during nap time
- No daycare!
- Did I mention no bra and pajamas?
But the downside of having your office in your kitchen is that your kitchen is also your office. As my baby grew and her naps decreased from four per day to one, the temptation to leave my laptop on while cooking dinner increased. “So how late do you plan to work tonight?” My husband would give me the look.
Boundaries and How to Create Mental Space
My man is so supportive and takes over for me many evenings and weekends when I need to cram in projects. But his question rattled in my brain.
I never plan the number of hours—I’m just always at work! Without a commute to put a 20-minute barrier between you and your office, you basically wake up at work and fall asleep there, too.
So you have to enforce personal boundaries. Although there is no physical distance between you and work, you can draw a line between work and home for both your family and your own mental health.
Create a workspace in a spare room or corner. This is where you work, and this is the place you leave when it’s time to release baby from the crib.
Or if you’re tight on space like I was our first year in a 440-square-foot studio, then choose to shut down the laptop and put the phone in a drawer. And remember that one hour of focus “in office” will produce way more than leaving Gmail open on the counter all day.
How to Know What’s Right for You
So how do you navigate this choice for your own family? Here are some questions to guide you through this discussion with yourself and your spouse:
1. Do you have childcare (grandma, babysitter, etc.) available?
I never considered this one! I mean that’s the whole point of working from home, right? No childcare necessary. Well, not so much. Meetings, massive projects, etc. Or you might need help when your spouse is busy, too.
2. Are you willing to spend some weekends catching up on work? Is your spouse okay with that?
3. Are there expenses you can downsize to make staying at home more feasible?
4. How clean do you want your house to be? You can’t do it all, my friends.
5. How flexible is the job? Because fevers or no-nap days happen.
What I Know Now
In the past two years of riding this tension between work and home, I’ve learned three things.
First, say no to guilt. If you work from home, you’re going to live with tension. When I’m working, I fear I’m ignoring my daughter. When I’m mom-ing, I think I’m a horrible employee. I can’t win. So accept it with plenty of grace. Do your best, and refuse to listen to guilt because every mama encounters it.
Next, evaluate. What’s right this year might not work so well next year. Remember to assess and change plans if something stops working. For me, working from home was a beautiful blessing during the season that my baby slept and nursed all day. But as we enter the toddler years, she needed me more than I had planned. So we’re adjusting accordingly.
Finally, you are privileged. No matter what your decision, being in a position to choose between working or not is a privilege most women in the world don’t share. Remembering this word always brings me back from anxiety to a place of gratitude.
An avocado lover and San Diego native, Alex is a maker and mother on a mission to help creative mamas find more joy and inspiration. On her blog www.SeeAlexWrite.com, she shares a weekly creativity injection and hacks for living a heartmade life. To grab your copy of her Free eBook Momtrepreneur, see her website.