Finding Balance As A Work From Home Parent
I feel incredibly lucky to be in a position where I can work from home. Being present in my child’s everyday life is really important to me. I really respect how complicated individual childcare and work situations can be and at the end of the day, we all have to do what makes the most sense for our particular family. It’s not a general thing and it really isn’t something that any of us have a right to speculate on. We do what we have to do.
My particular line of work has meant that for the most part, I am home with my child. I work in the evenings when he goes to bed and I spend a couple of hours a week outside of the home. During this time my son is in pre-school. I feel blessed that we have been able to make it work for our family.
I think it’s important to be upfront and honest about the realities though. I often think that my friends who work full-time have an image of me lying on the floor crafting the day away. I wonder do they have visions of me baking and promoting messy play at every available opportunity when the reality couldn’t be further from that.
The truth is that when you are working from home it can be a little bit challenging to enter or leave work. The very nature of the set-up means that you never really feel like you are in one or the other. It can feel like a confusing middle ground somewhere between work and home. One minute you are chopping vegetables and folding laundry and the next you are glued to your laptop or on a work phone call. You have to find a way to merge your home-self and your work-self to make it all work. That can be quite challenging – particularly if you are self-employed.
When you are in work there are strict parameters and structures that you adhere to. You sit down and work for X amount of hours per day, you take a lunch break and you come home. It’s not the case for everyone but your work tends to stay in the building that you do it in. You can leave work and switch back into home-mode. You might even be fortunate enough to feel no stress, pressure or guilt outside of those working hours.
When you are working from home in a self-employed capacity every hour can feel like an opportunity to be productive. The more productive you are the less you work and the more you earn. For this reason, there can be a strange pressure upon you to always make the most of every pocket of time that comes your way. In many cases, this goes hand in hand with guilt that may be a result of putting your child in front of the TV or giving them more treats than you should, all in the name of the peace and quiet you need to get the work done.
Domestic life is a strange arena also. You are literally surrounded by all of the chores and jobs that need doing and yet you have to develop the ability to ignore them on many levels. The will always be something to do and you would never nip out of work to go home and pack the dishwasher, would you? It’s unrealistic to say that you won’t do a few things around the house while you can though. Sticking the dinner in the slow cooker or putting on a quick wash does not take much time but knowing when to stop is a skill that must be acquired.
Sometimes I look back on my best days work-wise and feel the burden of guilt associated with how little I interacted with my child that day and how much my house is falling down around me. Something always has to give and I think it’s fair to say that the perfect balance just doesn’t exist.
And then come the days where you thank your lucky stars. The random sunny days that you can pack up and head to the beach knowing that you’ll be spending the evening working but happy to have the option. The days where you can take advantage of the “good drying” and accept deliveries at any time of the day. They bring you back down to earth and help keep the balance.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.loveofliving.ie.