Working from home as a parent seems, from the outside, like living the dream. You get to be with your children that you worked so hard to have, but you also get to focus on building your career and contributing to the household income.
Best of both worlds, right?
Yet most mothers in this situation battle feelings of guilt on a regular basis, struggling to find the balance that seems so elusive.
It can be easy to envy stay-at-home moms who don’t work or working moms who go to the office because there isn’t a blurred line between work and the rest of life.
Still, working from home can be a great situation for many moms, with a little effort to establish some crucial boundaries and a lot of grace.
Working from Home with Small Kids: Blessing or Curse?
When people hear that you work from home and take care of your small kids, most will meet you with a mix of awe and pity.
Some might express that they’re not sure how you do it, say that they could never get any work done that way, or assume it’s just because you can’t afford daycare. Others will appear skeptical as if you could get anything done under those circumstances.
It’s astonishing when someone’s idea of a dream situation isn’t remotely close to theirs, and there are certainly a good portion of mothers who don’t want to work from home or work at all.
The bottom line is that all mothers work hard, whether they are paid for their jobs or not, and it’s not a competition as to see who can juggle the most in what way.
Some women would feel stifled and trapped if they had to try to get work done while the youngsters were underfoot. Others would feel the same way if they spent their days at an office away from their kids.
As a mom who has juggled working from home and childcare since my first son was born in 2015, I can honestly say it has rarely felt awesome and almost always felt like a conglomeration of stress, guilt, and feeling behind on everything.
In recent years, however, I’ve struck a better balance in the work-life struggle.
Even though I still battle guilt (as most moms do), I have found better ways to shut it down and to reasonably address every important area of my life: motherhood, work, and yes — even a personal life of sorts.
10 Ways to Find Success and Minimize Guilt
While mom guilt might be a common thing, regardless of how or where you work, the ability to succeed at work and at parenting is not only possible but likely, when you find the right balance.
These 11 tips will help you assess your work-life situation and give you practical tools for improvement.
1. Stop Trying to Do It All
As work-from-home moms, we fall into a common trap of thinking that we can or should “do it all.” In reality, there is no such thing for any mom, working or not.
When we delude ourselves into believing that we can succeed at everything in our lives all the time, we actually rob ourselves of the joy of focusing solidly on any one thing.
Instead of trying to do everything, choose a few things that you do really well. In this case, childcare and work need to be two of them, of course, but stop trying to also be Betty Crocker in the kitchen, maintain a perfect garden, stay on top of laundry, or participate in a bunch of extracurricular hobbies.
Make a list if you have to. Reevaluate it from time to time, but don’t stuff it full of everything under the sun.
2. Don’t Compare Your Reality to Someone Else’s Instagram
Those Instagram moms who are seemingly doing it all? They aren’t. You’re only seeing a curated view of the things that are going right. No one plasters social media with their failures or insecurities.
Chances are, you’re succeeding at a few things that another mom is struggling with. This is life. No mother is an expert at all things, with time to spare, so stop trying to tell yourself that your Insta feed is #goals.
Instead, stop the scroll and filter your feed, if you need to. Don’t follow accounts that breed insecurity or inspire feelings of guilt because you aren’t doing what they are.
Better yet, unless social media is part of your job or is serving to inspire you on a daily basis take a break from it during the week, or go on a longer social media fast. You’ll be surprised how much noise this frees from your head.
3. Find Regular Help, No Matter How Small
Along with the reality that we can’t do it all comes the equally vital truth that we can’t do things all alone. If your partner works full-time, you still need to juggle the schedule and be sure to carve out some time for solo work as well as non-work sanity days.
My husband and I both worked full-time for the first several years of parenting (and still do), and we’ve been strict about ensuring that we each get recharge time during the week, even if only a few hours.
Additionally, find some outside help, even if it’s just one or two hours a week. Have a friend or relative stay with the kids so you can work uninterrupted.
Hire a babysitter during business hours so your after-the-kids-go-to-bed work time is reduced. Or find a daycare situation where the kids can attend for a half-day each week.
This doesn’t diminish your work-from-home status, and the extra (if brief) time without your kids will allow you to complete work meetings in peace or find time to organize your weekly schedule.
4. Do Things in Batches to Save Time
It took me awhile to jump on board the meal batch-cooking thing, because I felt like it required planning ahead time that I didn’t have.
But once I got an electric pressure cooker (Amazon) and started cooking huge batches of meat, my life got much easier and I was still able to have home-cooked meals ready for my kids.
Slow cookers or electric pressure cookers both allow for cooking several days worth of meat with only one effort and one clean-up session, and even though it doesn’t help me get my work done, it frees up mental energy on days where I have more deadlines or don’t have the energy to spend any time in the kitchen.
5. Stop Skipping Out on “You” Time
One of the worst things I do when I’m busy is to stop making time for myself. After months of this, I start to notice that not only do I lose patience more easily with my children, but my work quality suffers and I feel stressed, depressed, and burnt out.
All of which could be avoided if I hadn’t decided that 20 minutes a day for my sanity wasn’t worth it.
What you do for “you” time can vary and might be different from one person to the next. Some days it’s taking an extra long shower and not feeling rushed.
Others it’s spending that extra time drinking a second cup of coffee before I get the kids up, or choosing to read a book for fun instead of for work. It might even be scheduling a pedicure, massage, or lunch with a friend.
Whatever it is, it needs to boost your mental wellness and not directly relate to parenting or work. If you skimp on this time regularly, you’re going to find yourself on the fast track to burnout and regret.
6. Don’t Fear the TV
We’ve all seen the articles about how technology and TV exposure is ruining our kids. I’m not a fan of digital babysitters, but one thing I’ve relaxed on is the feeling that all TV exposure means I’m failing as a parent. False.
In fact, allowing a few times a week or even a once-a-day treat of a special, educational show can give a child something to look forward to that isn’t hampering their development and allows you to have a regularly expected time to get something done.
My children get to start the day off with breakfast and then an episode of Curious George, one of their favorites. During that time, I respond to my emails and catch up on any new developments with work assignments.
Instead of feeling guilt, I give my kids something entertaining and educational while also demonstrating that parenthood isn’t always about being 100 percent kid-focused.
It’s important for children to see their parents as whole individuals who have hobbies, interests, and yes — careers.
7. Motherhood Isn’t an Entertainment Role
Never before have parents felt quite the pressure to keep their kids entertained and front-and-center. Yet by turning our children into our only focus, we teach them that they are the center of the universe, that boredom is bad, and that waiting for anything is optional.
As parents, we must keep our children safe, fed, healthy, and loved. But we do not need to devote 100 percent of our attention to them at all times.
They need to learn to explore the world and ask their own questions without us on standby to give the answers. This happens as they play on their own. It also happens as they find themselves without something desirable to do.
When I am working and my three-year-old comes to me repeatedly wanting me to play with him (after I have done so for quite some time), I explain that mommy is going to get some work done and that he should find something to do.
I suggest books or certain toys, but leave the rest up to him. He always finds something to do and before long, has become engrossed in a world of his own making. This is a vital skill that will serve him long past his childhood years.
8. Sleep Helps Everything
I have probably been guiltiest of skimping on sleep because my work is in my home and I never leave it. As such, it’s hard to leave work “at work” and end a day knowing there is more to do tomorrow.
But there is always more to do, and getting myself sleep-deprived is another fast way to find burnout, a lack of patience, and anxiety.
Set a regular bedtime and stick to it, especially on work days. Don’t let yourself burn the candle at both ends and if this is a weakness for you, enlist the help of a partner or friend for accountability.
9. Don’t Pretend Everything Is Great When It’s Not
Working from home can feel like living the dream, but it can also feel like being trapped in the seventh circle of hell. When things aren’t great, don’t pretend they are.
Instead, look for proactive ways to fix the things that are stressing you out. If it’s needing more childcare, do it. If it’s needing to set better boundaries with your job, do it. If it’s needing to force yourself to have more downtime, again: do it.
I spent years living in fear that my job would fire me just for being a work-from-home mom. I thought they’d assume my priorities weren’t there, so I worked harder and longer, burning myself out to prove I was loyal and a hard worker.
Instead of fearing that my job wouldn’t treat me fairly (and one of them did not), I should’ve been proactive about finding work that valued my experience, end of story.
While being a mother is amazing, it doesn’t hurt or help my ability to do my work, and a job that is punishing me for having kids is not a job I want to be in.
10. Say “No” More
A major downside of working from home is that friends, family, and nearly everyone else assumes you’re available because you’re at home. It’s easy for your work time to evaporate in the demands of family, social, or other events.
Your work time is precious and saying “no” is a perfectly reasonable answer when someone wants you to do something when you’d normally be working.
In fact, it’s necessary. If you worked in an office, you wouldn’t be able to drop everything and the same is true for working from home — which happens to be your office.
>Working from home as a mom comes with its own set of blessings and curses, but with a little preparation and some healthy boundary setting, it can be entirely fulfilling to spend your days taking care of your kids and advancing your career.