Tell someone you work at home and they get jealous of an image that looks a bit like this: You in pajamas, television blasting in the background, surfing the Internet, chatting with friends and getting paid for it. The funny thing is, what I just described (minus the pj’s and perhaps the television) is more likely to occur in an office environment than at home. While I’m at it, let me bust some other myths about work-at-home parenting.
8. We can work when the baby sleeps. This was my initial thought. I also thought I’d give birth naturally and breastfeed. Cute ideas, really well intentioned. Too bad the other guy in the equation, a.k.a. my son, didn’t agree with the natural birth, the breastfeeding, or anything else including the napping bit. As the parent you are in control… of another human being. Ever try to control another human being’s sleep cycle? No? Then don’t try to schedule your work by it, either.
7. We can work whenever we want. Sure, if we want to get paid. Most work-at-home folks don’t get paid time off and, contrary to popular belief, we still have deadlines to maintain. Chances are, if we’re working at 2 a.m. it’s because we finally got 15 minutes of quiet to ourselves to finish a project due in a few hours. Think: All-nighter in college, only this time you have more than one paper to write.
6. We can focus on our work with zero interruptions. Speaking of college, you’re not just pouring over books or pounding out a word count, you’re also on call in your primary role as parent. You learn a new way to multitask that involves pressing the pause button and returning to your job anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours later. And when time is really tight, you learn how to address one task with one hand while wrangling a kid with the other. How’s that for having 2 bosses breathing down your neck?
5. We can get so many other things done. When I worked in an office I used to think of how many other things that needed doing at home: The laundry, the dusting, the cooking, the cleaning, the errands. If only I wasn’t tied to a desk! HA! Try being tethered to the baby sitting next to your desk and then see how much you can get done in a day. Which reminds me, there’s currently a load of laundry sitting in my basement that was supposed to be thrown in the washer. Six hours ago.
4. We take long lunches. I haven’t eaten breakfast today. My old work colleagues are constantly bugging me to come out to lunch with them. “Bring the baby, he’ll nap, it’ll be fun!” Sure, but when he’s napping, I’m working. And the idea of doing anything “long” fashion with a baby is absurd. You’re talking about a tiny human who is occupied in 15-minute increments. Which is how my brain has learned how to function and how my stomach has learned to digest. Want to lunch with me? Let’s set a date when the hubby is home and I get out in something other than a tired old t-shirt and sweatpants. And I hope you dig PBS Kids conversation, because Big Bird is my new work friend.
3. We get tons of family quality time. Right now I’m training my baby not to nap on me. He’s going along with it rather well, but I think he’s developed a secret hatred of my smartphone and my laptop. I see it in his eyes when I set him in his car seat. He thinks I’m taking him outside to go for a walk, but when he realizes that we’re going to sit out back in the shade so mommy can do some work, his expression changes from joy to betrayal. Why are you touching that black thing instead of me? My husband and I finally decided to hire a cleaning service because we realized weekends were being spent juggling a baby in between us while we got chores done, leaving no real time for the three of us to spend together. Work is work and work has got to get done, whether or not your baby understands and whether or not you just want to cuddle with your cutie.
2. Everyone respects the fact that our primary role is that of parent. Hahaha, no. How many times have I not answered the phone because I’ve been changing a diaper, feeding or cooing my little one to sleep? How many emails have I answered by pulling off to the side of the road while driving around a cranky baby? How much work have I turned down or chosen not to pursue because I have to be available to my little one?How many times have I foregone sleep or family time because I hate saying no?
1. We save tons of money on child care and outside help. Okay, this is partially true. At least in my case. I’m fortunate enough that I can be the primary caretaker of my son, but not every work-at-home-parent is that lucky. One mom I know ships her 2 under 2 off to daycare three days a week so she can do her job. In fact, most women who work from home eventually employ some form of child care service either full or part time. In our case we elected to get help with the cleaning so I could focus on the kid. Either way, most work-at-home parents will rely on some form of help at some point.
Not going to the office may save you a commute and the need for a fancy wardrobe, but the reality is that now you have two full-time jobs to do, not just one.