I was not completely naive. I knew switching from a traditional job to working from home might mean working at night after the kids went to bed. But I was one of those mom’s that had not really slept since the first baby came, at that time 5 years earlier, so I had convinced myself sleep was overrated and that the house would at least be easier to manage.
For the most part, I knew what I was getting into. There were some surprises that I did not foresee before beginning my work-at-home adventure, however…
1. Sleep is not overrated; it is necessary.
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Seriously. It took about 4 months of 3 to 4 hours nights to figure out that something had to give. Sure, I could nap with my daughter, but if I could just stay awake and work I could go to bed earlier. Problem was deadlines always fell at the wrong time and I had to stay up anyway. New moms have super powers that allow them to survive on little sleep. No one told me those powers disappear when the children start sleeping.
2. Housework does not get done just because you are at home.
I knew I would still have to DO the work, but I just assumed I would be able to better manage my time and therefore stay on top of it better. What I did not expect was there to be MORE housework. More people at home for more time each day does that you know. Deadlines and serious lack of sleep did not help either. No one told me I would still stress over housework.
3. Kids equate presence with availability.
The deadlines were the main thing I did not count on in my first year of working at home. I did work while my family slept, but I often had to work at other times as well. Two-year olds do not understand why someone sitting at a computer cannot play. We did adapt, don’t get me wrong. I often sat on her bed and sipped tea from her kitchen while I was writing. I was always thankful that I could do that instead of leaving her at a daycare, but it did not make meeting deadlines or getting done in time to fold laundry any easier.
4. There are consequences to not having daycare.
When I was working in the office and my kids were either in school or daycare, I could pick up groceries during my lunch hour. I could schedule doctor appointments during working hours, which meant my children were at daycare or school and did not have to go with me. Now, we all have to go if one is sick, and if my husband cannot take a few hours off my daughter has to go with me to my doctor appointments. She has actually started going to a parent’s day out program twice a week this year, but for that first year I lived in fear of having to go for a surprise “female appointment” and having to take her with me! Part of this is due to the fact that my working from home began with a move to a new town. No family or friends makes things difficult, but that is easing up as we make new friends. It was worth it, but it was hard.
5. You still cannot do it all.
I really thought working at home would make it possible for me to do it all. Honestly, it HAS made managing work and home much, much easier, but it has not magically all fallen into place. Work still has to be done, there is still a laundry pile much more often than I would like, there are still dishes in the sink more often than there should be, and I actually have less time to shower. However, I get to pick my son up from school every day. We can head to the pool on most summer mornings, and if we want to go with my husband on a business trip little thought had to go into it. Easy? No it is not. Spectacular and worth it all? Absolutely!