I work 40 hours a week at a large weather company and I love it. In stark contrast to when I first became a mom, I don’t feel badly about being away from my three kids. When I had my first child — my daughter Violet is now six — I was a busy executive producer of a local news station. My husband worked in construction part-time and cared for her the rest of the time. I was resentful of him spending more time with her than I was able to and vowed to find a way to be home more. I nabbed a gig writing for Babble shortly thereafter and after a year of writing furiously during every spare moment I had, my writing income surpassed my income from working in local news. Once I became pregnant with my second kid, I quit TV news to focus more fully on writing.
At first I felt like I was living the dream. I was a work-from-home mom who never had to be away from my children. I mistakenly thought being there 24/7 was the hallmark of stellar parenting. But as any work-from-home-mom knows, working from home can end up being more stressful than working full-time or being a stay-at-home-mom. Because guess who takes the brunt of your stress? Your kids. You’re constantly torn between work, keeping house, and telling sweet, inquiring faces you don’t have time to play. Ever tried writing an article with a baby screaming? Have you ever attempted to type one-handed while breastfeeding as another kid zombies out in front of Dora the Explorer? It was awful.
I was so stressed I eventually started taking my kids to daycare a couple days a week — only to have the guilt of dropping them off become equally overwhelming. The whole reason I worked so hard to be able to write for a living was to be at home with my kids and here I was carting them to daycare. I thought I was a failure then, but I don’t anymore.
Over the past five years of being a freelance writer I’ve realized a couple things. For me, working from home isn’t “living the dream.” As I wrote six months ago, “I thought I felt bad leaving my daughter for ten hours a day but now she was old enough to climb up next to me and ask me to read her a story. Try telling your kid no, 20 times a day. It’s brutal. You end up feeling worse for having to ignore them than you would if you were gone at a job all day.” I also realize not having anywhere to be and not socializing with people throughout the day wasn’t the greatest for my mental well-being. I enjoy the camaraderie of working with people. (And we mustn’t underestimate the allure of the sexy healthcare now available to me.)
While I certainly miss my kids, I understand now that it’s crucial for me to be out and about doing things in the world so that I’m a better parent when I am home with my kids. It’s nice to miss my kids as opposed to telling them “No, mama’s busy” 30 times a day. I had to learn it the hard way, and it may not be the best choice for every woman, but I understand that working outside of the home is good for me. Not only that, but I can now show my kids that mom is important and has a job at a flashy office building, something they didn’t realize when I sat around in yoga pants and a greasy bun typing on my computer all day long.
Of course, there’s always a downside. For example, I wrote this on my lunch break while hoovering a sandwich. But hey, I can’t win all battles. And in the end, maybe that’s the biggest takeaway of all.