Guess the most common thing someone says to me when I say that I work from home. Go ahead: do it.
No, while I frequently hear “Can you teach my wife how to do that, too?” which implies that just anyone can do this line of work, that’s not what I hear the most.
It’s this, the infamous but paraphrased “How cool! I wish I could do that, it would be so much easier” or “I wish my wife could do that, she’d love a chance to work in her jammies and still take care of everything at the same time.”
That’s when I start laughing. And I don’t mean just a giggle, but sort of a cackle.
Let’s get real. Working from home is no party and it’s certainly not the fun that most people would think. That said, it is most definitely the best way for me and for many people, but let me give you a glimpse into what a real day in the life of a WAHM (work-at-home mom) is like.
The alarm goes off early. Gotta get a jump start on the chores for the day, or I’ll be doing them at lunch. Throw some laundry into the machine, wipe down the bathroom counters, make sure the waffle maker is hot and batter is ready. Have first cup of coffee.
Wake up the kid(s) for school. Get breakfast made and get kid happily out the door while enjoying sitting with him while he eats breakfast. Do this all while wearing running clothes so I can sneak in a quick 3-4 miles while still having time to shower before I start work.
Get second cup of coffee. Work. Take phone calls. Answer emails. Run up and down the stairs numerous times to answer the door bell; sometimes, it’s delivery people (bloggers get a lot of packages) but sometimes it’s a solicitor who can’t read the No Soliciting sign or one who tries to convince me that he’s not selling me solar panels, per se, just introducing me to them. Shut door. Let dogs in and out. And in and out. All the way through lunch, at which point I move the laundry to the dryer, get meat thawing for dinner or get a batch of bread dough made, taking pictures the whole time for a future blog post. Dust or do some other chore you do a couple of times a week. Water the herb garden, potted plants and orange tree. Oh, and maybe actually eat lunch. Or put that all aside until night time and go run an errand, like a trip to Sprout’s, Trader Joe’s or Target. Good times, good times.
Work more. More calls. More emails. Answer the door more. Take a quick glimpse at personal cell phone, on mute the whole day because you don’t have time to get distracted by non-urgent calls and/or texts and make a mental note to try and catch up at night. Order printer ink, since you are on the hook for that yourself since you don’t have an office printer to use. Write a list of things you have to do the next day for work. When child/ren get(s) home from school, check in how the day went, ask if there are notes that need to be signed/read, serve a snack, look at the homework, ask about grades, give hugs and back to the office until work is done while he does his homework and then plays a video game.
When work is done, fold laundry and check in with kids if they’re too quiet. Get dinner started. Pour a glass of wine. Finish the bread you had rising on the counter all afternoon; clean up the overflow as it leaked from the container as it rose almost too much because you forgot about it. Get little dude ready for Tae Kwon Do and when they head out, squeeze in a quick weights or Pilates session. Or just lay on foam roller or inversion table thinking about how much you have to still do and how you really ought to be in the kitchen running back and forth from the stove to your laptop as your write blog posts, read more of your next cookbook review project and put more promotions into CoSchedule. If you’re on the inversion table, put aside those thoughts to grab your tablet so you can read up on the day’s latest news in social media, marketing and blogging. Think of at least six more business and/or blog tasks you need to do and ruin the relaxation attempt of the inversion table by getting stressed that you might forget those items so try to type a OneNote addition while upside down.
Put together tomorrow’s school lunch. Serve dinner. Watch the husband clean up while putzing around on Twitter and seeing if you missed anything on Facebook and then be sorry you checked Facebook because the drama is too much at the end of a long day. Think about how you really have things to do but you’re not feeling it. Write up the To Do list for the next day and review your Google calendar. Do some web research. Move to the couch to watch recorded TV with the husband, pile of social media books next to your laptop in your corner of the world’s biggest couch and work on your blog editorial calendar. Catch up on texts and personal email. Run around on commercials getting other miscellaneous things ready for the next day, like any outfits you need for events or the briefcase or your extra purse so you can focus on holding your notepad and not your normal suitcase aka bag. Put grocery/Target lists in your bag so you don’t forget.
Finally move upstairs, plugging in all the electronic equipment to charge for a busy tomorrow. Read books on your tablet, tap your Fitbit Flex to start sleep mode and hope you fall asleep before having to stop to add more things to your To Do list.
Sound like a fun, relaxing day of work? I once had a stay-at-home mom tell me that at least I had days off, because stay-at-home moms never get one. Uhm, mom is mom, right? I still have to get all those things done that SAHMs do around my work. And wherever you do it, work is work. An industrial office, a home office, Panera or the front seat of my car, work is still work. And if I take a day off from work, it’s rarely for vacation but for kid stuff or things you can’t do while working.
There are perks, don’t get me wrong – I don’t have to buy as many work clothes, I spend a lot less on gas for the car and I don’t commute 4-5 hours a day. I think I get more work done without all the interruptions and distractions. It can also be very isolating, some days there is no ‘real’ talk with other adults and there are always a couple of people who tend to think that because I’m at home, I can do things for them because “they work” or I can just do my work whenever I want, leaving me plenty of time to talk on the phone or text or whatever. I think work-at-home moms (WAHMs) almost may work more, because we want to be sure there’s no misunderstanding that we really are working.
My tips for making a work-at-home experience work for you?
- Set office hours. Make sure people know them, and stick to them. If not, people won’t respect them.
- Say no. Better yet, say “No, I’m working.” If you want to help, say “No, I’m working until <insert time.>”
- Put your personal phone on mute and don’t answer your house phone unless it’s an urgent call, which means that caller ID is so worth it. Use it.
- Make your home office a sanctuary, a comfortable place to be, even if you have to spend a little money to do so. A chair that doesn’t hurt your back, a source of music or a TV, a desk with plenty of space, and a décor that’s relaxing enough to enjoy your time without distracting you. A candle, gifts from the kids, whatever makes you want to be there to do the work, go for it.
- Don’t answer the door unless it’s an expected delivery or repair man. Or your wi-fi company there to see if this time, the 48th visit, is the magic one, the lucky charm in a long list of “repairs” that will fix the frequent wi-fi and television service outages.
- Get ear buds. You may have to work through your development replacing something underground right outside your office window or a kid may have friends over.
- Work from the coffee shop or café now and then. The change of scenery is invigorating and the food comes pre-made.
And enjoy it! I thinking working from home is the best of both worlds. What about you?