Working From Home vs. Working From Home as a Parent

Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash
Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

In the summer of 2008 my company ran out of space at my office so my boss asked me if I would mind working from home. I said no though I would miss the amazing view of the Pacific Ocean just feet from the window.

Santa Monica Bay Rainbow

I had already setup a Windows Terminal Server for the people that spent a lot of time traveling to clients. I had access to everything at the office so there were no challenges technology wise. I forwarded calls to my cell phone and was set.

I loved it. I was more productive than ever. I was also more relaxed due to not having a commute as well as having the physical buffer from the bit of office politics that every company has. I enjoyed it so much that I kept working from home after we downsized a bit in November of 2008. (That was an interesting time. I took a trip to India that month with a new assistant in line to start when I returned and when I did not only was that off but a few other people had been let go. I think they all rebounded quickly though.)

I’ve continued working from home since even as my home life has changed with getting married, having two kids, and moving from my rent-controlled apartment to a house half the country away. Of those changes the only one that has had any effect on my daily routine is the kids.

Working from home is completely different than working from home with kids.

That is true whether or not the kids are physically at home with you. When you have children they are ever present in your home. They can be loud, demanding, and sweet as candy (which they might be demanding). And for the most part they can’t be ignored. They are always in the back of your mind even if they are playing quietly in the next room.

Another way they leave their presence is, as soon as they can walk, leaving a wake of toys and crumbs (good practice for venturing into forests). Without having a separate office with the door closed I would feel compelled to clean all of that up before starting work as physical clutter (a polite term for mess) makes it hard for me to concentrate.

Clean Desk

I’ve always worked more than the forty hours a week required of me (sometimes a lot more) and one thing working from home enabled me to do was to make sure that my best waking hours were spent on productive tasks (the morning commute killed that). Now getting the kids up, dressed, fed, and driving them to daycare has undone that. I love dropping the older one off though.

Working with the kids in the house can be even more challenging. Before my wife went back to work full time after the birth of our second child the older child only went to daycare two days a week. My favorite part of the day was when he came into my office to say hello following his naps. My least favorite part was the six to ten times he got up and came in after he was put down for his nap but before he fell asleep. (I’m becoming convinced that the bedtime story where the child falls right asleep is a Hollywood fantasy.)

On the other hand I did get to see them when I took a break for some food and was able to look out the window to see the older one playing in the backyard (at which point I would give anything to go out and play with him rather than return to my spreadsheet).

I’m learning that organization and adaptation are some of the key traits of being a busy parent. Your obligation to work comes after your obligation to your family and it is a difficult juggling act. Both under one roof has unique challenges and rewards.

I still love working from home and wouldn’t voluntarily return to office life.