Summer Sunday: Confessions Of A Telecommuting Mom
I’m not supposed to complain. Everybody wishes they could work from home, right? No office, no commute, no drama. But telecommuting when you have young kids around presents its own unique set of challenges.
I know some people will understand—parents who have done the circus juggling act of trying to balance work and kids—but your boss will never get it. They live in Seattle, or New York City, or some other urban area where the background noise on the conference call is the wailing of a siren instead of a wailing child. They do not know where the mute button is on the phone or the Skype screen because they’ve never had to find them in a moment of desperation. Their break time involves watercooler conversations instead of coercing a child into their clothes or making snacks or keeping up with the Sisyphean task of laundry.
Multitasking as a mom working from home is a whole different ball game, and one that I would lose if it weren’t for the precious moments of peace provided by the iPad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working where I hang my (many) hats, it’s how to do ten things at once. I can do research and writing while I’m stirring something on the stove. I have participated in a conference call while sneaking out for a hike with the dog, pushing a child on the swings, driving children to and from camps or playdates. I’ve mastered the art of making my muted conversations with my kids seem like thoughtful pauses in the conference call chatter. I’ve attended to the knock-on-the-door interruptions from neighbors who don’t understand that I’M WORKING and I don’t really have time to jump-start their car. I’m sure the people I run into during the day think I must be on my way to yoga or Zumba class or the gym, because I’m always in yoga pants or workout clothes. But working from home requires versatile wear for whatever turns up. If you want to be a stay-at-home, income-earning ninja parent, you need to dress like a ninja. At some point in the day you will probably have to break into a run and you won’t want to be in a dress or cute shoes when that happens.
I have my priorities in order. I know that my number one job is “mom.” This sometimes means staying up until the wee hours of the morning on the computer preparing deliverables, or getting up obscenely early to answer emails and finish stories. I have crayon scribbles on my business envelopes. I have bags under my eyes and I have taken about one-third fewer showers than I should have. My house usually looks like a trailer that got tossed around in a tornado. But ultimately, the sacrifices are worth it. I’ve been able to earn money and stay on a wobbly career track while still having the flexibility to pick up a sick child, attend a preschool concert, and read bedtime stories. And while I envy the people who have an office life or a true workspace and a singular focus, there is no place I’d rather be than home.
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