What it’s like to telecommute when you’re a mom
I telecommute. This means I work at home as a remote W2 employee, in contrast to a “work-at-home mom” (WAHM). Technically, I suppose I am a WAHM, but not in the sense that most people think of, in that I have a (direct sales) business. Nothing against direct sales because I did it for a while, and it was fun, but for several reasons I am no longer part of that scene. And freelancing is something else, too.
The upside of telecommuting
I am sure everyone who idealizes the telecommuting gig already can guess the upside, which includes saving time driving, getting dressed, doing hair and makeup and saving money on gas, clothes, extended childcare, and lunches out. You’re right about all that. You don’t have to miss work if there’s a snow day or sick day. You might just work a little more reactively than proactively. However, when you telecommute, there are a lot of other things that happen before you can start your day job or that compete with your day job. The line between home and work can become blurry.
Parenting comes first, literally
I get up early every day with my high-school-aged sons (6:00 a.m. or earlier) to make sure they manage their bathroom time (since they
are too modest (?) to won’t share) and eat.
My youngest’s alarm begins going off at 6:15 a.m. It usually continues until I send the dogs or his brothers in to rouse him, or I find a break in the morning routine to go upstairs and nudge him out of bed. Sometimes I have to pick him up and hold him until his legs touch the floor and are ready to support him, at which point I propel him out of his room towards either the bathroom or the breakfast table. One of his brothers is usually already gone by the time he gets up.
Of course, these are tasks that any parent might do — no surprise here.
As an aside, my kids are old enough to forage for their own breakfast. I do it because I can. I want them to remember their mom being around for them during their childhoods. After all, the fact that I have kids is the primary reason I work at home and won’t be shattering that glass ceiling anytime soon.I chose to telecommute because I want my kids to remember their mom being around for them during… Click To Tweet
Now for the downside: the invisible work. (Before we move on, actually, just a quick note. When you telecommute, you need to take extra care to be “visible” or accounted for at all times. This means being available, participating in meetings, being positive, and setting your instant messaging / voicemail / email autoreply appropriately.)
The invisible work
What you might not think about is the “invisible” work that moms
who telecommute do on a daily basis.
Okay, wait. We all do this, whether we telecommute or not.Click To Tweet
The challenge for telecommuting moms is to be sure we set a boundary around that invisible Motherwork (and Wifework, if you’re married. If you’re not married, I already know you do it all because I spent many years as a single mom: it’s exhausting. You ROCK!) and our day jobs. Yes, it’s definitely possible to do laundry or grocery shopping during your work day (totally invisible tasks unless we’re out of something: cereal, crackers, or socks) during a conference call or lunch…
Noticing and remembering
…what I mean by invisible work is all the noticing and remembering we do, as well as the little un-obvious things above and beyond making breakfasts, lunches, signing forms, and packing and shipping the kids off to school…things that might remain undone if we didn’t do them. In my house it includes
- Shutting the faucets off all the way (On any given day I might walk into the kitchen and find a slow stream of water running out of the kitchen sink.)
- Jiggling the handle on the toilet (Before we got new toilets, the one in the upstairs bathroom needed a jiggle after almost every flush. Even though I rarely used that toilet, I was the one jiggling it 99% of the time.)
- Closing the shower curtain and shutting off the bathroom fan
- Shutting off lights and fans in hallways and bedrooms
- Blowing out candles
- Closing doors: front door, garage door, door between garage and house
Usually, I get all that done before I sit down at my desk, but there’s plenty of other invisible work that adds up to rob time from my day job if I’m not careful.
Throughout the day I might have to
- Manage service professionals (like the oil burner fix-it guy or our friend who has been renovating our bathroom since late September), since I’m here anyway (At least I don’t have to take time off from work to do this.)
- Do errands, e.g., bank and post office, since I’m here anyway
- Let the dogs in and out and in and out and in and out, since I’m here..
- Schedule things
In the afternoon
- Remember that pizza in the oven because no one else is remembering
- Shut the oven off
- Shut the freezer door all the way
- Take the kids to those things I scheduled
All I can say is it’s a good thing I am around all day to make sure
- The house doesn’t burn down
- We don’t heat the great outdoors
- Our food doesn’t spoil
- Our water bill doesn’t go through the roof
- Nothing gets unnoticed or forgotten
- People get where they need to go
Worth it to me
Even with the blur between my job and the invisible work and the fact that I often have to make up time in the evenings (not to mention significant financial tradeoffs), it would take a lot to get me out of the house and back into an office.
Do you telecommute or wish you did?