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Working at home, with the kids

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

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When you hear the label work-at-home mom, do you picture do you picture a woman who works from home and also happens to be a mom or do you think of a woman working at home while her kids are there? The label is up for grabs for anyone who wants to use it, and I certainly wouldn’t say that one definition is any more accurate or difficult or heroic than the other, but I will say, having now done both, that they definitely can be different, and at times vastly so.

I kind of hate the image I chose to accompany this post because the idea that “working mother” equals “woman on a laptop while holding a baby” is a misguided and/or uninformed interpretation of how many versions of work-at-home motherhood there are out there. And yet…here I am, the lady on a laptop while holding my baby. (We do not, however, wear matching outfits that also coordinate with the giant arrangement of fresh flowers giving a “pop of color” to our sparkling white kitchen. Right now, for instance, I am wearing green plaid pajama pants that belong to my husband, and the baby is wearing oatmeal in his hair.)
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How do you switch out of work mode and into mom mode?

Categories: the home office, time management

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When my son was an infant, I had a thirty-minute office commute. When he was a toddler and I switched to working from home, I still had a fifteen-minute drive to daycare. For the two months my husband was out of work (”WAS”! HE GOT A JOB LAST WEEK!), my work day would blend right into my mom day because when the boys got home I’d still be sitting at my desk trying to eke out a few more moments of daylight productivity. When my son bursts in the door (his current bit is to announce loudly, “Hey Dad, where’s that nice lady who lives here?”), I just as often greet him with a hug as I do a “Just a minute, I’m almost done, no, you can’t sit on my lap, not right now, don’t touch that, stop, just a minute, JUST A MINUTE.”
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Isolated WAHMhood

Categories: the home office, working from home

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There’s a lot of advice out there about how to stay connected to the world if you spend most of your days in charge of a small person who calls you Mama. Join a playgroup! Frequent library storytimes! Sign up for mommy-and-me music classes! Join baby bootcamp! Start a blog! All this in the name of forming contacts with other parents of small children, presumably as much for our own sanity as for our kids’ social development. But what do you do if you’re home all day without your kid?
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What’s your mom uniform?

Categories: the home office, working from home

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Okay, I admit it. I cheat at the Working Closet. (You know, the Flickr pool fashion parade version of Work It, Mom’s original “Working Closet” blog?) The basic idea is for members to upload photos of their work outfits, but beyond that, you can make it whatever you want to make it: a record of your wardrobe, a chance to show off your personal style, or, if you’re like me, an incentive to put some effort into what I wear to the office.

And that’s where I’m cheating. I only go to the office proper one day each week, and my Working Closet contributions only ever reflect that one day–the day I actually put on accessories, style my hair, and consider whether my shoes go with my belt go with my purse go with this decade. But the days I’m working from home? It’s all sweatpants and sweatshirts and sweaty armpits because I can’t be bothered to shower unless I’m actually going to go somewhere. It’s not a pretty picture, and certainly not the type of thing I’d submit to a public Flickr pool.

I’ve heard it said many times that mothers have much to gain from getting dressed each morning, whether that means shower/hairstyle/accessories or just changing out of pajama bottoms into some “nice” (or at least clean) yoga pants. One theory has it that changing clothes can help us change our mindframes; getting dressed can signal that it’s time to get down to business, whether that means wrangling kids or back-to-back conference calls–kind of like Mr. Rogers trading his shiny shoes for his canvas ones and his suit coat for a cardigan, only in the opposite direction.

I have all sorts of excuses why it’s easier to not worry about my appearance when I’m at home (it saves time, it means less laundry, it means less chance my son will use my pantleg as a napkin or drive his matchbox car across my favorite leather boots), but I’m starting to think I need to step it up a little lest the scales of Chic v. Slob tip irrevocably in the latter, sadder direction.

What do you wear when you’re working from home? Do you make a special effort to get dressed for the day, or do you just roll out of bed, grope blindly for the nearest pair of pants, and shuffle your way into the home office in your bunny slippers? Do you have a  WAHM mom uniform, and is it stylish or sloppy or somewhere in between?

The best advice I ever got

Categories: child care, maternity leave, the home office, time management, working from home

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While I was pregnant (and even before), I read a lot about the experiences of pregnant working women and, in particular, how they handled the Big Question: whether to continue working, either inside or outside the home, after the baby was born, and if so, in what capacity. Following maternity leave–six weeks? sixteen weeks? a whole year? however long it takes to pull your pants up and log in to your email account?–what were the experiences of women who went back to work full-time immediately, eased back into 40-hour weeks gradually, switched to part-time permanently, switched careers entirely, started working from home exclusively, or became stay-at-home moms, either putting their jobs on hold temporarily or giving them up completely? An analyst by nature, I knew that if a “right” answer was out there, I’d be able to find it, by golly.
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Do You Let Your Home Life Affect Your Home Office?

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

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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…
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Home Office—The Reality

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

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Remember that post in which I speculated about what my home office would look like after the baby was born? Well, now that he’s here, I’m living proof that no matter how much you try to plan out and prepare for your post-baby life, you never know what challenges will arise.
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Building the Home Office

Categories: maternity leave, the home office, working from home

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As I wind down and wrap up my work in the office before maternity leave,* I’m relishing the daily excuse to spend a few minutes here and there to simplify and declutter my space. I’m purging old files, organizing the keepers, and reassessing how much crap I really need to have on my desk at any given time. (Pencils: yes. Rainbow slinky: no.) It’s not nesting, per se, but it has a similar vibe; I’m cleaning out virtual instead of literal cobwebs, applying some metaphorical elbow grease to long-neglected messes, and trying to impose as much order as I can before things get really chaotic.
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