I enjoy working from home—I get to do what I love (writing), get paid (yes, English majors make money), and keep my professional network active during these intense years of raising young kids. That said, working from home comes with its own set of difficulties. Not the least of these challenges is feeling a little invisible, a little tribe-less; I'm not fully a "working mom" with a closet full of heels and the day care on speed dial. I'm also not fully a "stay-at-home mom" with the associated schedule freedom or routine. Like many other areas of my life, I find myself somewhere in the middle as a work-at-home mom.
Since I've felt tribe-less at times, I wanted to help other work-at-home moms feel less isolated. I reached out to a few other moms who work from home and asked them to share their insights, strategies, and secrets for staying sane and getting work done. Here's what you should know about working from home.
It's Easy to Get Distracted
Many moms who work at home don't give up their primary caregiver job, and because of this, there's always something as pressing (or more pressing) than your email inbox or upcoming deadline. Blow-out diapers and toddler tantrums wait for no one. Every mom I interviewed listed this as their greatest hurdle. "My biggest challenge is distractions around the house," says Lindsay Koch, a photographer who stays home with her two sons. "I try to not let home chores and things that need cleaned interfere with work but I have a tendency to be a squirrel."
A Lot of Work Happens in the Margins
There are serious perks to not working the 9-to-5 grind, but there's one major drawback: your work time can get squeezed out of the picture by plain old life (especially if you're chasing toddlers and babies or ferrying kids around town all day). Molly Flinkman is a mom of three and works from home: "The only time I have to get things done are the leftover hours that I scrape together." Nap times, after bed times, early mornings before the kids wake up—these are the shifts that work-at-home moms take on. I love what Molly added: "It's easy to get frustrated when you live in the margins of leftover time, but I'm learning, instead, that everything is better when I choose to take joy in making sacrifices for my family."
Ask any work-at-home parent and they'll tell you: for all the challenges, working at home is flat-out awesome. Amber High works from home and has a 10-year-old daughter, and says, "The best parts for me are being able to be available to our kiddo when she really needs me (she is pretty self-sufficient at 10!), and not having to fight traffic on a commute!" Other moms shared that they love never having to take a sick day, witnessing their kids' firsts, and keeping a flexible, family-centric schedule.
Advice from the Pros
Finally, I asked these moms to give me their top piece of advice for work-at-home parents.
"Create routines for yourself and your kids and then live flexibly inside them. I've got a pretty good rhythm of productivity going right now, but I know I'm going to need to reevaluate and adjust in the fall when I send two girls to half day preschool and our schedule is rocked. Flexibility is key too because so often my deadlines have to take a backseat to another demand during the day." - Molly Flinkman
"My piece of advice would be to prioritize your time to fit your schedule. I know that I get the most work done in the mornings and I'm the most focused so I work on any projects that have deadlines first thing in the morning. I also know that Hutton is in the best mood in the morning so I can get him focused on something that allows me some quiet time. Also, I have learned not to feel guilty about giving it 110% everyday. I have learned that balance is key and some days you give it 70% and some days you give your work 120%." - Lindsay Koch
"My biggest tip is to plan ahead. Try to set aside specific times for your tasks. This can be more challenging when you have littles at home, and things have to be done around their schedules. But for me, making lists at the end of each day for the day ahead, helps me rest better at night and gives me a clear picture of what I need to tackle the next day when I get up and going!" - Amber High