Telework and motherhood: A dream job or an impossible task?

Telework and full-time motherhood… Most people believe working from home would be just fabulous—until they’re actually doing it. ????

There’s the benefit of greater flexibility, I’ll give you that, but anyone who has supported themselves by teleworking for several years knows that without imposing strict discipline on themselves, telework will not be an effective livelihood.

There may be a better balance between work and personal life, as we are ever-present in the home. But without clear boundaries between our professional and personal time, telework will never make you a provider for your family.

There’s more freedom and independence, and we don’t have to subordinate ourselves to business conduct policies, and it’s true that you could even take a nap when you have a severe case of “post lunch lethargy” … ???? But the effort required in terms of personal organization and self-discipline cannot be underestimated.

With all its pros and cons, it’s still work. It’s just the scenario that changes.

It’s hard not to feel that we must take care of all the house chores just because we are there…! Those of us who work outside the home, will close the door in the morning, commute elsewhere and nothing changes at home—when we return in the evening, nothing is dirty or out of place.

But those of us who work remotely, we are there… we use our whole house throughout the day, we make a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, we give the kids a snack, we leave a cup here, a towel there. If we have kids, they won’t be at daycare, they’ll be at home, messing and dirtying, all day, every day.

A minute ago, everything was clean and tidy, but suddenly you have to sweep the crumbs off the floor, wash the dishes, or fold the laundry gathering dust inside the dryer. And before you know it, the only breaks you’ve taken from work were dedicated to housework.

Multitasking

Yes, we avoid the chaos and the rush of transportation and traffic, and the craziness of having to go shopping or taking our kids to school before we get to work, but in reality, working from home is like having two jobs!

The difference is that instead of leaving one to go to the other, we’re continuously splitting between both jobs throughout the day, every day. And we have to multiply ourselves, so that we can address every need—whether professional, personal, maternal, marital, or domestic.

One thing I was always told was that it would be wonderful to be able to be at home with your children, not having to pay monthly for daycare or a nanny, and carrying the kids back and forth, getting them out of bed before the sun rises and picking them up when the sun has long set…

I understand this! However, there is something I’d like to say to all those who feel this way: my son’s main complaint to his therapist was precisely “my mother is always working and has no time for me” or “she is always home, but I feel lonely.”

I was there, and always vigilant, and never let him lack anything, but it is true that I spent most of my time on the computer, working.

How would a 5-year-old understand that his mother was right there, but couldn’t give him the attention he craved? In fact, sometimes she could not even be interrupted? How do you tell a small child that (at that moment) you can’t address them, even though you’re there next to him, without them feeling neglected or underappreciated?

What about when we have a sick child, but we still have deadlines to meet and clients to satisfy or bills to pay?

The work has to be done, but our child is burning up and it’s necessary to cool him down, take his temperature, medicate him every 4 hours, feed him very slowly to make sure the food stays in his stomach and he doesn’t throw it up. And give extra care and attention, because if they are sick, they feel fragile and need love twice as much!

We spend hours caring for the children, but the work that should have been done in that time is still there waiting to be done, and we can’t just take a few days off for family assistance.

The work has to be done “today”—sometimes, a freelancer’s work is even “due yesterday”—and we have to squeeze work between those moments when our little one takes a short nap, or during the night when he has finally fallen asleep, and we give up our precious sleep once again.

Being available for our children can be both the best and the worst part of working from home. The expectation is that we will be there for them when they cry, when they laugh, when they are hungry or lonely.

I found myself so many times asking my son “Can you ask grandma to tie your shoes for you?” And this was when there was someone to delegate on, because in my early years of freelancing it was really just the two of us.

Another disadvantage is that our children’s teachers will inevitably know that we work from home and will call us at any time saying, “I need you to come to school tomorrow at 2 p.m., sharp.” And if we reply that it isn’t possible because we’re working, then we’re negligent and not interested in our little ones’ matters.

The other parents have an excuse, those of us who work at home, not so much! And how many times have teachers recruited me to do assignments for class activities because, after all, I was the stay-at-home mom.

Expectations

The worst of it isn’t even the expectations others have of us, it’s the expectations we place on ourselves:

…that we should always be able to deliver all the work on time and error-free.

…that we should always keep the house nice and tidy, because we’re there to see when it’s messy and because someone might always show up (you don’t want your guests thinking you are a slob).

…that we should always prepare and serve meals on time, after all, children need routines.

…that we should take care of our children’s health and well-being, but also dedicate a lot of “quality time” to them.

…that we should be flawless parents, who never miss a meeting and participate in all extracurricular or recreational activities…

Are you getting tired already?

I always say that the only thing we can do is to do our best, keeping in mind that if it’s true our children need us, then we had better take care of ourselves, so we are still around to meet their needs in the future.

If we do our best, aware that we’re not perfect and allowing ourselves to fail, we’ll respect our body and mind more and we’ll be better professionals and better parents. As they say: Do your best and enjoy the rest!

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