Oh, you work from home? How lovely! You must work in your pyjamas, get to have your hair done in the middle of the day AND have time to cook tea. SO jealous!
When I worked in an office full-time, I was one of those people who turned misty-eyed at the thought of spending the day in my PJ’s, tapping away at my laptop while sipping freshly brewed coffee.
After being made redundant while pregnant with George, the opportunity arose to do the work from home thing and make a go of my freelance copywriting career. It was a now or never moment. I was actually really excited that I could finally try and make my career work for me and the family, too.
Why I Work From Home
I wanted to prove that I could be a good mum and progress my career. Although a big part of it is that while I love being a mum, I missed having a part of my life that belongs to me. Since I was three years old I’ve wanted to write, so when I had to down tools for maternity leave, not writing for a while felt really unnatural.
Nearly two years on, working from my dining room table hasn’t always been smooth sailing. There are moments when I think I have mastered the perfect work situation but there are also many times when I long to be back in an office and chew the fat with my colleagues.
Yet I know that in order to get where I want to be, spend time with the children and not take out an additional mortgage to cover the childcare costs, working from home as a freelancer is the only way to get that balance.
The hours are long and irregular. You have to sneak in five minutes here or there to respond to emails or make a phone call. You aren’t able to switch off when you are being chased by a deadline and you are the one who is on call when your child gets sick and can’t go to preschool.
Binge-watching Netflix in the evening is a thing of the past and you feel constantly guilty that you’re letting someone down or missing something important. Plus there’s that damn ironing pile that grows day-by-day – so much so that you just put it back in the washing machine so you don’t have to deal with it (please say that’s not just me).
Distractions are rife, even with your best intentions to shut the world out for a little while. I’ve had my kids start screaming in the background while I’ve been on the phone to a client, who – to my complete gratitude – was very understanding and saw the funny side.
It’s happened to any parent who works from home – who can forget the amazing interview with Robert Kelly whose kids burst into the room while he was on camera. He’s a hero to working parents everywhere!
Then there are those people don’t take what you do seriously. They view working from home as a frivolous or indulgent little side hobby and make a point of asking when you are going to go back to a ‘real job’.
You need a lot of dedication, perseverance and organisation to make it work. As a writer, I often cover subjects outside my knowledge so I need to thoroughly research ideas, conduct interviews, then draft, edit and proofread vigorously. This can be very difficult in evenings after I’ve been at home with the children all day, up since 6am and mentally and physically exhausted.
If like me, you are unlucky enough to not have a dedicated office, then your desk is probably a shared space where people eat, your kids do arts and crafts and where the washing and random stuff is dumped throughout the day.
It’s a battle to maintain a clear workspace. I try to work from coffee shops when I can, and if I can’t then I always clear the table for ‘work mode’. I’m also keeping a close eye on Right Move.
The Good and Why Businesses are Missing Out
There are many positive points to being a work from home parent. I used to get irritated at the number of pointless meetings that ate up a lot of my time. The routine of my day was often dictated by my co-workers. I still have meetings and phone calls, but they are better scheduled around my work and deadlines.
If I have solid few hours ahead of me, there is a good chance I’m going to be able to get my head down and use my time wisely.
I can pick my son up from preschool, be there for special moments and spend some quality time with the children. If the sun is shining and I’m having a slow work week then I could take my son out of preschool and get some fresh air.
The hours in which I work are completely flexible and I am certain that I would not get this degree of flexibility if I were employed. I have also become a lot more organised and self-sufficient. I get more done in an hour that I would if I were in an office and I have developed an ability to shut out the noise and chaos around me so that I can get the job done.
I can start work early in the day, take a few hours off in the afternoon to pick the kids up and then carry on after they have gone to bed. Anytime I would have spent commuting is now when I work. If I have my youngest with me then the hours I work are spread a bit more erratically throughout the day and dictated by nap times, but I always get the job done.
I really believe that if businesses were more open to flexible working, they’d benefit hugely from the ready-to-work and highly-skilled parents who are disciplined, focused and productive with their time.
Honestly, I do feel lucky to do what I do and to be able to do it from the comfort of my own home. I don’t want to pretend it’s easy because it isn’t, but I know that until the children are both at school that this is the way it will be for a while. And for me, that is just fine.