“Yeah, but you don’t have to sit in traffic, so it doesn’t count.”
“You must love spending all of that time with your children.”
“It must be nice to have such a flexible schedule.”
“It must be nice to be in your pajamas all day.”
These are just a few of the comments I have heard over the years when I tell people that I work from home. While some of the above comments may have a bit of truth to them, depending on the job you have as a work-at-home parent, they are still a bit insulting. All four of those comments completely diminish how hard I work at my job. It’s almost as if the person saying them is saying, “Yeah, I know you work really hard. Wink, wink.” Call me a work dork, but I am proud of what I accomplish at work. So, passive aggressive comments that insinuate that I don’t work that hard because I’m not physically in an office are actually pretty offensive. There are tons of mommy wars between stay-at-home moms and working moms, and I don’t really want to be a part of those wars, but what about the work- at-home mom?
Don’t get me wrong-there are some really wonderful benefits to working from home, such as being able to start dinner immediately after work, rather than making a meal after sitting in an hour’s worth of traffic. There is also the awesome ability to drop my girls off at their nightly activities like gymnastics or theatre, rather than constantly missing things like that because I get home from work too late. There is also the fabulousness of living in Florida, rather than in the Northeast where our home office is. Looking out my windows and seeing sunshine and palm trees each day does wonders for my mood if I’m having a stressful moment. Having access to food in my kitchen, rather than on-the-go meals makes having healthier breakfasts or lunches a possibility. Having peace and quiet also plays a huge role in my productivity. I don’t have anyone standing over my shoulder waiting for me to finish up on what I’m doing so that they can be next in line to ask me to do something else (yes…this really happens in an office environment). I also don’t have any office chatter going on all around me, or various smells of random lunches being heated in the microwave (don’t you hate when people bring fish into the office?). So, yes, there is an ample amount of reasons why working from home is great. This blog post is not meant as a place to complain about working from home. I simply want to inform people that my job isn’t fluff. It’s hard, and the work I do matters just as much as if I were in a physical office.
Usually upon learning that I work from home, most people assume that I have a sales or consultant-like type of job where I make my own schedule. This is completely not the case. I don’t have scheduled hours, but I typically work from 8am to around 5, 6 or 7pm. Sometimes, I stop working at 5pm, only to go back a few hours later. My schedule depends on what is needed at work, and I am on call pretty much all of the time. Just as people who physically go into the office every day, I don’t work around my life. My life works around my job. And I don’t say that in a negative way. I am just trying to explain to those who think my life is easy peasy, that working from home has the same requirements as working in the office. And if you are neurotic like I am, it can sometimes be even worse.
While working from home definitely has its benefits, one of the biggest pitfalls, in my opinion, is my fear of not being readily available when someone needs me, which makes me feel guilty about taking breaks. Over the last year, I have forced myself to start taking breaks, but that is a whole different topic (hmm…maybe even something to consider for my next blog post). Another pitfall is getting lost in the weeds. Working from home makes networking and reaching out to team members, business partners or clients essential. You need to remind them that you are there because you aren’t a physical presence in the office. Because I worked in the office prior to telecommuting, I’ve never had a huge issue with this because most people know who I am. But it’s still important, especially when dealing with new faces, to introduce yourself via phone call and explain what it is that you do and how your role can benefit them. It is also really important to speak up during conference calls, because experience has shown me that if you aren’t in the room, people almost always forget that you’re there.
Working from home also requires a ton of discipline. If you aren’t paranoid like me, then sure, throwing a load of laundry in the wash at lunchtime isn’t a terrible thing. But if you don’t have much self-control, or if you are a social media junkie, or if you are susceptible to ADHD-like behaviors, you might want to nix the idea of working from home. Staying focused is imperative and distractions can be more amplified when you are alone in your own home.
A note to those who think I sit around watching movies with my children all day, this is also not the case. My children have never known a life where I went to work in an office. I have worked from home since my oldest daughter was about two years old. So, if they are home while I am still working, they know that they are never to enter my room. They also know that they aren’t allowed to yell or scream. The term “inside voices” has a completely different meaning in my home during my work hours. From the time they get home from school, they are aware that they need to do their homework, make themselves a snack and fend for themselves until I open my door. Granted, I have really amazing children who have never caused me a moment of stress when it comes to working while they are in the house. I am never worried that they are going to barge in while I am on a conference all, or that they will start playing the tambourine while I am in the middle of doing something that requires my complete attention. But I also attribute that to the fact that this lifestyle and my expectations of their behavior while I am “at work” have been ingrained in them from a very young age. They truly don’t know anything else.
Having said all of that, the point of this blog post is this- the next time someone tells you that they work from home, don’t automatically assume that it is luxurious or that they have it easy. Flippant comments that might not mean any harm may actually wind up coming off as hurtful. I promise you that we work just as hard as those who commute to an office, we truly value our work, and for the record, we don’t sit around all day in our pajamas eating bon-bons.