Work-at-Home Dad Manifesto – things to know before ditching the cubeMike Spohr
Ever feel like your work life resembles the film Office Space a little too closely? Even if your daily grind isn’t as excruciating as the one depicted at the (thankfully) fictional company Initech, you’ve likely fantasized at one time or another about what it would be like to work from home. And why not? The prospects of doing your work while sitting on your couch in your Star Wars pajamas is very alluring. But is being a work-at-home dad really as wonderful as it seems?
As a work-at-home dad myself, I can tell you it has a lot of wonderful benefits, not the least of which is spending more time with your kids and less time making awkward conversation with the weird guy from accounting. However, before you stomp into your boss’ office and announce your intentions to start working from home, you should realize that while working at home definitely has its advantages, it isn’t all home, sweet work-at-home.
You’ll Miss “Punching The Clock”
One of the best things about being a work-at-home dad is that your days of breaking your neck to make sure you get to work by nine a.m. are over. The work-at-home dad makes his own hours, which means if you want to start your day a few minutes after nine, or even at ten or eleven, you can!
Even better than getting to start your day whenever you want is getting to take a break whenever you want. Feel like pushing your work aside to watch Maury reveal the results of a few paternity tests? Go for it. No one is looking over your shoulder to tell you to get back to work.
And that is one of the hardest parts of working at home. To be successful, you must be very disciplined. If you start later, you must work later. And those breaks to watch a little television? You must keep them short because if you’re not careful a few minutes with Maury can easily turn into a lost day with Maury, Tyra, and Wendy. Though it may be hard to believe, many work-at-home dads find managing their own time very difficult, and grow to miss the structured environment of the office and “punching the clock.”
You No Longer Have One Job, But Two
Close your eyes and imagine yourself working in your office or cubicle. It’s quiet and for the most part free of distractions, right? Well, the work-at-home dad rarely ever experiences that kind of a focused work environment because he has to do two jobs at once – the one that brings home the ducats and the more rewarding one as dad.
As father to a seventeen-month-old toddler named Annie, I cannot expect to lose myself in my assignments for hours at a time as I did when I worked in an office. Successfully doing my other job as Annie’s dad means I must bang out my assignments during her often frustratingly short naps and between diaper changes and meals.
Sound less than ideal? There’s more. Annie isn’t content with just getting fed and changed. She is also very insistent that I read baby books to her (often the same one dozens of times a day). I could, of course, put off doing this until I finish my work, but I’ve found that spending a few minutes here and there to keep your kid happy is worth it. Believe me, trying to work with a grumpy baby tugging on your leg is not easy.
The hardest part of doing these two jobs at once though comes during the many business calls a work-at-home dad must make. When I first started working at home I once spent the entirety of an important conference call pulling faces at Annie to keep her from crying. When the call ended without Annie having interrupted the proceedings, I was very proud of myself. That is until I realized I couldn’t recall a single thing said on the call.
Thankfully, I’m now good at making funny faces while listening at the same time. That kind of ability to multitask is crucial as a work-at-home dad.
You Will Miss The Weird Guy From Accounting
Hard as it may be to believe now, many work-at-home dads miss interacting with the adults at work including the weird guy from accounting. This is because the work-at-home dad spends most of his time with his kids, and precious little with anyone who can legally vote. It doesn’t take long for some work-at-home dads to go a little stir crazy.
Luckily, there are things you can do to combat these feelings. Though spending the workday in pajamas sounds fun, you will feel more productive – and be more productive – if you shower and get dressed before you start working. And take a break to go out for some coffee. A short chat with a barista will remind you that you aren’t missing much by working away from adults.
So Is It Worth It?
Despite all of the challenges mentioned above, you should definitely consider the possibility of becoming a work-at-home dad if it sounds good to you. To be able to spend more time with your kids, and to play an active part in their lives all day long, is invaluable. Annie, for example, took her first steps in the middle of the workday, and I got to be there to see it. That was awesome. And since I’m being totally honest with you, I was wearing my Star Wars pajamas at the time, which was pretty awesome, too.