I envied moms who could stay at home with their babies. So when the opportunity came for a work at home job for me, I felt that it was an excellent opportunity for me to finally shift from the corporate world and create what I felt was my ideal life. The bonus part was I am still able to contribute to our family financially and don’t give up my career, all while caring for our daughter.
The expectation was high, and I’d picture myself playing with my daughter all the time. Being present to all her milestones. All day every day, I get to be there for nap time, bath time, meal time, and more play time. Home cooked meal. Organized and clean house. I got to sleep extra hours because I don’t have to get up way earlier to commute because of the damn traffic.
More time on almost everything that I could think of. More time to focus on my family, my kids, myself, and all the things that really mattered. Exactly what I wanted. It was the perfect daydream, and I couldn’t wait for it to happen.
But, the reality of working at home with my kids is not that easy and is mentally and physically challenging. I am thankful to have the chance to work at home, while rewarding & priceless, there are some drawbacks to it.
The reality was very different. The mindset transition from working in the office to working from home is something I didn’t fully grasp until I did it myself.
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE TO BE A WORK AT HOME MOM
Expectation: Improved Work-life balance
Reality: You Never Leave Your Workplace. Working from home means literally doing my work in my home. Setting work-life boundaries when you work from home is pretty odd. Though I have a fixed working hour (6 am to 3 pm), I can’t literally shut myself from everything once my shift starts because I have kids to tend to.
It’s totally different when you work at home. Even if I have my designated workspace, I am still mainly in my workplace 24/7. There were days I can’t stop thinking of my work-to-do lists, and it’s stressing me out. I sometimes couldn’t curb on working late night just to finish everything I probably missed.
When I was still working in an office, it felt so good to finally end up your week and walk out of the office and leave all the cares behind. While when you work at home, there is not much difference between weekdays and weekends.
I still look forward to Fridays and weekends. But because that means to catch up with my laundry, house cleaning, waking a tad late (late means 7 am – 8 am or 9 am if I’m a bit lucky my kids haven’t woken up yet). I am only relieved with my work commitments. Then come Monday, repeat!
Expectation: Countless hours of free time.
Reality: I also thought I’d have more free time for myself and the kids. But that is not the case. And because I am working at home, the hours spent at home leads to more chores than I could possibly imagine. I didn’t even realize that staying at home would result in more household chores.
I forgot that we need to eat so I must cook for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And that the dirty dishes must be washed after eating. And oh, yeah, the cooking part, washing the dishes, working at home with a baby become almost impossible.
Expectation: Wonderful moments with my kids every single day.
Reality: Time to connect, time to enjoy each other, just lots of enjoyable TIME together. This is my most anticipated part of working at home. I thought I’d have more time with my kids, but it was almost impossible if I’m all caught up with my work commitments and household chores.
There is a thin line between, being with them and being present with them. Because you know the term “present” means giving your full and undivided attention. Just by being merely staying at home with them doesn’t count.
Because you really have to spend time and connect with them. I might be able to provide for their needs, feed and take care of them, but that doesn’t just end there. This sounds rude, but I have to schedule quality time with them. And, inevitably, I struggle with guilt most of the time because I have to set aside time for them.
Expectation: I would be less tired and stressed.
Reality: I am the nurse, chef, house cleaner, diaper changer, lunch partner, stylist, entertainer, laundry girl, shoulder to cry on, coach, cheerleader, teacher, playmate, supporter, friend. I have more titles at home than I could earn in a lifetime at work.
As a mom, you have no vacation leave. You’re always on call, and getting sick is not even an option. Mom burnout can happen at any time.
Expectation: My Kid Will Entertain Themselves
Reality: “You just let them play while you are working.” This statement is entirely impossible and laughable. My two girls are really demanding, more demanding than my boss. They are demanding about me paying attention to them and playing with them.
And almost every time I am on a conference call, they would instantly cry and do some stuff to get your attention. Talk about spilled milk or water. Just a few minutes of focusing on my work, you’ll see our walls covered with crayons and pencils. Your toddler was pulling your shirt from time to time just to get your attention.
So much of the time, I struggle.
But here is the thing…
I am at home with my kids, and that really, really matters.
When I’ve spent too many late-night hours just to catch up with the household chores, spending extra time on my work commitments, and then spending the whole next day overwhelmed.
It’s okay because I am home with my kids. I hope that they’ll remember the days that I am here with them at home. Though I have an ordinary busy day, I can always make it up to them and spend the rest of the day by just mere cuddling.
What I learned is that no job is perfect.
Being a work at home mom isn’t about how much easier it’s going to be working at home than any other job. It’s about recognizing that everything worth having takes hard work. And there is no easy way to almost everything.
Whether it be your a work at home mom, corporate working mom, or a stay at home mom, there is no easy way.
It is absolutely okay to have days that are less than ideal.
It is okay to screw up every now and then.
It’s okay to have an impromptu stay in pajamas all day because you are all caught up you haven’t even showered.
It’s okay if the house is a mess you haven’t even taken your lunch.
It’s okay if you are sleep deprived and tired due to endless late-night hours just to spend a little extra time for myself.
Later on, when they’ve all grown up, I’d have more time with myself, perfectly cleaned house, stress-free life, more sleep, and me-time.
But right now, the important thing is, I am home with my kids. That’s the goal.