What it’s Really Like to Work from Home As a Mom

But the dream doesn’t always mesh with reality. Take, for instance, that fantasy of being able to sneak out and grab lunch with a friend or splurge on a mani-pedi. I can count on two (unmanicured) hands the number of times I’ve actually managed to do that. Because first of all, I actually do have to get the work done (and I really want to go above and beyond so my boss doesn’t think I’m napping on the job). And second of all, I don’t often have someone to grab lunch with, since my friends are all working. Though I have to admit, those times that I do manage to take 15 minutes to read to my daughter’s class are a pretty awesome deal. 

And then there’s the pajama-clad-yet-working fantasy. There have been times when I worked in my PJs—like that week when my back went out and I couldn’t move out of bed, or those evenings when I’m toiling away into the wee hours. But most days, I have to drop the kids off at school or camp or do some other outside-world task before I sit down behind the computer, so I at least throw on some shlubby T-shirt and jeans. 


And that’s if my jeans actually fit, because as any work-from-home mom will tell you, being that close to a well-stocked pantry doesn’t do wonders for your willpower. Yeah, my old office jobs came with the requisite birthday cakes or doughnuts and that 4 p.m. siren call from the candy-stocked vending machines. But I quickly discovered that working from home means that it’s all too easy to stress eat your way through a supersize bag of chocolate chips (or, ahem, the remainders of your birthday ice cream cake) when you’re on a deadline. And that’s why I’ve gained (and lost) the same 25 pounds several times over the past decade.

The other problem with working from home? Your at-home to-do list keeps haunting you. I find it impossible to ignore the running toilet, the mountain of laundry, the overflowing trash bin. I’ve become a master multitasker, who folds laundry or loads the dishwasher on conference calls—and unfortunately, as the “person who is home all day,” I’m often found working on my laptop in the service department lobby while the car dealer changes our oil, or calling and dealing with the plumber to finally fix that goddamned running toilet. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it. Everyone seems to think that since I’m home all day, I’m not actually working, and I’m available to help them out all. the. time. And while I’m cool with the occasional “drive me to pick up my car from the repair shop” request, asking me to pick up the sick kid with 104-degree fever (seriously!?!) seems to be a bit much. 

And of course, the other problem with working from home is that I am home—and far too often, one or more of my children is there, too. Sick days, snow days, one of the bazillion or so holidays and half-days (my kids’ school takes most of November off)—it means that there’s someone there that you really do want to spend time with, but that pesky work gets in the way. And so, I’m often scrambling to find something fun for the kiddos—and hoping and praying through every conference call that there isn’t a sudden “Mom!” in the middle of my presentation.

But I’m not really complaining. Working from home may mean that I’m often up long past everyone’s bedtime finishing a report or throwing those last few sentences on my story. But the ability to flex my hours to suit my family’s needs, to save all that commute time, and to work on my own terms—it’s worth every bit of craziness it brings.

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Photo: Getty


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