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Do You Let Your Home Life Affect Your Home Office?

Categories: the home office, time management, working from home

5 comments

Last week was my first day back at work, and for all the nerve-steeling and tearduct-sandbagging I’d done in preparation for this next big step in my mothering life, I’m suprised and relieved to report that it wasn’t that bad at all. Awkward (but not impossible!) pumping process aside, it was actually downright great to be back among the grownups. Great to shower and do my hair and brush my teeth and drive into town with a hot mug of tea, knowing I’d be able to finish it while it was still warm. Glorious! Even though going back to work would mean stepping back into a position of myriad serious responsibilities, I was thrilled to know that at least none of those responsibilities would leak on me. When I got home from the office that first evening, it was with an invigorated spirit and a clean shirt; I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. It wasn’t until my second day of work that things started to get complicated…Through some miracle, I’m fulfilling my new part-time schedule by working only one day in the office and the rest of the hours at home. Thus, my second day on the job didn’t begin with a shower and a mug of tea warm straight through to the finish but instead with a bleary-eyed stumble in slippers up into my attic workspace while my baby and his daddy slept in the bedroom below. It felt good to be so close in case either of them needed me, but, to be honest, after my first taste of eight baby-free hours earlier that week, I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t need me. At least not until my lunch break.    

Although father and son make a superb team and we’re all lucky to have Dad instead of daycare, as the hours progressed there were a handful of occasions on which cries of “Mommy!” echoed through the halls. A few times it was because the baby was hungry and refusing the bottle, but several other times it was because Simon needed a hand with something: Could I watch the baby while he took the garbage out? Could I assist with a particularly horrendous diaper change? Could I take the kid outside for five minutes so his screams wouldn’t interrupt an important business call?

My initial reaction to these requests was to give a hardline answer: No. Absolutely not. I’m working up here. I can’t help you because I’m being paid to spend these hours working on work. I rolled my eyes and huffed and puffed, and then I wondered why I was working from home at all if this was what I’d have to deal with. Why didn’t I just go to my office and be free of these distractions?

Why, indeed. Obviously, when I’m working from home, I actually need to be working, not watching the baby while Simon showers, or throwing in loads of laundry on the company dime. But, on the other hand, why am I working from home at all if not for the flexibility that allows me to be present at home, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally? I certainly can’t run downstairs every time I hear the boys having fun without me, but if Simon calls up that the baby is crawling for the first time, what am I going to do? Ignore him? Pretend I’m ten miles across town instead of ten feet above? Of course not.

Working from home is a privilege, and one not to be abused or taken for granted, but in order to make the most of it I think I need to learn how to let my home life to seep into my home office once in a while. It’s going to be a difficult process–especially since I didn’t see it coming–but I trust that eventually the boundaries will fall into place and all three of us will learn the difference between an interruption and an opportunity. Otherwise, I might as well just put on a clean shirt and head into town, since that’s the only way to ensure I won’t be bothered by silly things like my baby’s smiles and my spouse’s hugs and having a whole range of meal options instead of the sad frozen entree du jour.   

There are a lot of you out there who work from home while your kids are on the premises, so I’m curious: How do you do it? Do you try to completely separate yourself from the home while you’re working at home? Or do you take advantage of the convenience and flexibility in this arrangement and find that elusive healthy balance between work life and home life?



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5 comments so far...

  • It *can* be frustrating trying to get work done, but if Matthew or I need to really focus we lock the office door.

    It generally stays open, though, and I love that we can keep each other constantly updated with what’s going on :)

    Angella  |  April 8th, 2009 at 11:57 am

  • Well, I have the luxury (?) of being on a timer and only getting paid for the actual minutes and hours that I work — so if I want to go see the baby being cute with the babysitter, I just pause the timer and go. Of course, I don’t get paid for that moment of cuteness. But neither do I miss it.

    In all seriousness, it’s nice to be home and know that James (20 weeks old) is happy and well cared for. But sometimes not knowing that he was throwing a screaming fit would also be nice.

    Ruth  |  April 9th, 2009 at 4:51 pm

  • I only work during naptimes or after Maddy’s bedtime. It sucks because I never feel like I have enough downtime (for myself), but I love being present in her day except for the 2 1/2 days I’m in the office.

    lainey  |  April 9th, 2009 at 5:19 pm

  • I chose the work-at-home structure precisely because I want to be with my kids more than otherwise. Considering the time I save not having to get dressed and drive to and from work, etc., and not having unproductive chats with coworkers, there is no reason why I should feel bad about going downstairs from time to time as I see fit. My kid are 2 and with a nanny during office hours, but I go down when I feel my input would be valuable - such as when I notice the girls are not giving their nanny (a softie) the respect I require, or when I feel an explanation of something or other would be helpful. I go down for my cups of coffee or to get the mail, and hang out for a few minutes with the girls. I feel this arrangement helps me to keep a closer connection with the girls and it’s worth the occasional distration.

    Once every few weeks, I do go downtown to work and it is a nice break, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day.

    Due to my internet habit and the inconsistent daily work volume I need to complete, I usually work a couple of hours after the girls go to bed, and often do some work while they are putzing in the evenings. It works for us.

    SKL  |  April 16th, 2009 at 5:58 am

  • Oh, I hope you post more about this. I’m back at work now after having my first baby February 2009 and am figuring out what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not. Currently I’m at the office full time, but would love to pursue some flex options. I’ve had the same curiosities about how to really work productively while still taking advantage of the “at-home” part of the situation.

    K. B.  |  May 9th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

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