Working from home is a lot more work.
At just six days old, Cienna was barely more than 6 lbs. and rarely made a peep.
Since then, my talkative 8-year-old girl has more than made up for her quiet infancy, but it hasn’t erased my memory of her sleeping serenely the first time I had to say goodbye.
Various circumstances ensured I had to work, so three days after we returned from the hospital, I was back in a newsroom.
And it was a great newsroom, full of great people. But it was hard to reconcile having a heart caught up in both black and white and a bassinet.
I spent 45-minute car rides to and from work crying and exhausted, still reeling from three hours of sleep the night before (and the night before that). And once I was home, I held Cienna in a rocking chair, reading to her, singing to her, turning my favorite Beatles’ songs into her favorite lullabies.
But, honestly, the hardest part of being a working mother was having stay-at-home moms judge me for it.
They said kids were better off having a full-time mother. And I thought they sat around on computers and phones all day, gabbing with their friends.
I eventually learned we were both wrong.
Almost four years after I had Cienna, my oldest son Ty was born by emergency C-section. I was laid up a little longer than expected, which ended up turning into an unexpected eight-month maternity leave.
I was ready for the pace and camaraderie of a newsroom, the witty exchanges and foul language.
While I loved having time to bond with my kids, I missed the refuge of my desk chair—even if it was simply because it wasn’t near a basket of laundry.
I had also achieved an up-close view of being a stay-at-home mom. With Cienna in preschool, I met many other moms like me. And I was sure of one thing: being a stay-at-home mom is harder.
By the time I had my third child, Dimitri, I took a typical three-month maternity leave. And when I resumed working, I mainly worked from home. To my surprise, working from home was even harder than being a stay-at-home mom or working mom. It was the worst of both worlds.
When you’re a work-from-home mom, people think you’re not working. They invite you to do things, wonder why your house isn’t clean, and your neighbors will find it odd that you go onto a patio in 20-degree weather to take business calls.
But convincing my three young children the importance of remaining quiet while I interviewed school board members was a fruitless effort. So they got the living room with a kind neighbor, and I got the cold patio.
I remembered those days this week. More importantly, I remembered how I survived them.
Here are some of my tips for braving those busy days:
-Have a plan. Plan out your work day. Make a schedule for both you and the kids. Have set nap times and meal times, and take on your most important tasks while they sleep.
-Pack lunches. Have all of your lunches ready to go the night before. If you were on the clock in the office, chances are you wouldn’t have time to stop and cook meals for all of you. Don’t do it if you’re working from home either. It will take up an hour of your day. So, keep it simple, and brown bag it. If you really want to make it fun, go to the store and let the kids pick their own lunch boxes. With back-to-school sales going on, this is a great time of year to do that.
-Make reading corners. Have your children pick a favorite corner in the room where you often work. Decorate that space with pillow pets, blankets and their artwork. During the moments when everything gets a little too loud, tell them it’s time for their special reading corners. Let each of them pick a few books and guide them to their spaces. My kids often fell asleep in their reading corners. But on the rare days they didn’t , I asked them to draw me pictures that would show what happened in the stories.
-Become friends with their favorite TV shows. I’m not suggesting you use a television as your babysitter. But it’s OK to maximize the time while they watch their favorite shows. In our house, those shows were “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Phineas and Ferb,” “iCarly” and “Spongebob Squarepants.”
-Clock out. When you work from home, it’s easy to forget the day is over because you never leave your workplace. But you have to pick an end time.
Oh, and wine helps, too.