After I had my second child, determined to have more time at home, I went to my boss at my supposedly working-mother-friendly company and told him I needed to work from home at least 2 days a week or I’d need to find a new job. He told me he’d be happy to be a reference.
A friend and mother of three took me to her company where they were actually promoting work from home as they ran out of office space. In my first week, I got my computer, my printer, and my remote access codes and off I went - to my living room. With a preschooler and a toddler, every inch of extra space was overrun by toys and we hadn’t bought our house with a home office in mind. Nonetheless, I was determined to make this arrangement the perfect blend of motherhood and work. The first few weeks were great. I jumped out of bed and didn’t worry about work outfits. I took my daughter to nursery school in yoga pants and spent a few extra minutes chatting with the stay-at-home moms since I didn’t have to rush to the office. One day I even put a roast in the oven at 4pm, had a virtual meeting at 5pm and had a hot family dinner on the table by 6pm. The perfect blend of work and home life was jelling.
But then things started happening, namely that I was home all day and I had to work. I’d come home after nursery school drop-off and the house would be calm but my computer would be flooded with emails and blinking meeting reminders. Once my printer jammed and I spent an hour trying to fix it since no IT guy could simply appear from down my hall before the report was due. Another day, I had an irate client on the phone and with nary a colleague in sight, I was emailing into oblivion for some help while picturing who over at headquarters was at lunch or at a meeting or if anyone was bothering to read my emails sent with High Importance!
Another time, I had to lock myself in my bedroom for a conference call and ignore my babysitter’s struggle with my toddler’s temper tantrum over the absence of ketchup on the chicken fingers. My daughter’s new favorite pretend play game became “office time” where she held my Blackberry to her ear and took on a creepily pleasant voice asking her imaginary caller if they received the data. Whenever I sat at my computer after dinner, my toddler would come over, pull my hand away from my desk and scream. My home life and work life weren’t blended, they were pureed.