In general, I am incredibly, over-the-moon happy about the fact that I get to be a work-from-home parent. Being a freelance writer and author is a life that offers wonderful flexibility, the chance to spend copious amounts of time with my kids while they are little, and the ability to work from nearly anywhere in the world. Also, I don’t have to wear real pants. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
However, there are certain disadvantages to being a work-from-home parent that other people don’t necessarily realize. If you’ve ever thought of living the dream and working from home with your kids, let me tell you, it might not be how you’ve imagined it.
Here are the four worst parts of working from home while parenting:
1. You are the boss of your time. One of the best parts of freelancing is also one of the worst. While flexibility was the primary reason I chose this lifestyle, it also swiftly taught me that being wholly in charge of my own schedule is a big responsibility. I am constantly struggling to set and keep the work hours I want, and too often find myself up against a deadline and keeping a very unhealthy schedule. It takes a lot of focus, dedication, and self-discipline to work from home, and I only sometimes have those qualities.
Eventually, I found that tracking my time helped to cut down on my procrastination (and super late nights), but I don’t think there will ever come a day when it’s not a struggle to be my own boss. Especially when I could be taking my kids on a hike instead of being stuck inside due to my own work procrastination.
2. You’re there– but you’re not really there. Being a work-from-home parent means having to switch seamlessly between mothering and writing, which I can tell you from experience is simply not possible. In fact, our brains really can’t switch back and forth or multitask without making mistakes or taking longer to complete the task at hand.
My work suffers from all the interruptions from my kids asking for milk or wanting to play or simply feeling the need to disrupt the intolerable silence of my work hours. Then, my mothering suffers too. I feel guilty for not being able to give them my undivided attention when I’m right there, and when work is looming on the horizon during family time, I know I’m not giving them my best self. It’s tough to find balance between work and life when the surroundings never change.
3. Distractions are everywhere. Even when I do manage to get some closed-door writing time when my husband is home, it’s often hard to find the wherewithal to actually get my butt in the seat and do my job. I am suddenly hungry (and could easily wander in the kitchen to get a snack) and remember all the million things I need to do (which I could do right now, real quick, before getting down to business) and inevitably, I will find that my seat is suddenly really uncomfortable (perhaps I should research desk chairs right now, so this doesn’t happen again). Sometimes, I really wish there was someone sitting behind me ready to prod me with a taser every time I open Facebook or go down the internet black hole doing “research” for half-formed story ideas.
While there are some things I can do to minimize distractions, like not working with my phone next to me, or blocking Facebook on my computer, working from home always offers the lure of distractions.
4. No one thinks you have a real job. Despite my work-from-home position being a full-time job with a full-time salary, not many people in my life seem to believe that this is true. Or perhaps they believe that I make the money, but that I don’t really have to work when my schedule says I do. While it’s true that I am always capable of switching my schedule to accommodate my priorities, it sucks being the parent who is always expected to drop everything, or to have friends and family not respect my work time.
Even with all the sour parts of being a work-from-home parent, I can’t say I’d ever want it any other way. While I sometimes envy the fact that my husband gets a quiet commute (and quiet workday and lunch break), I also realize I’m very lucky to have witnessed all of my children’s first steps and heard their first words while maintaining my career. I don’t take it for granted, even though it comes with some downsides.