Work Life Balance

Working From Home Is Not The Holy Grail I Thought It Would Be

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No mother should have to choose between work and child-rearing, though, naturally, many do. I, for one, believed things could be different. Before my children came along I’d spent years quietly cultivating a freelance career that chugged along without major incident. I didn’t strike it rich, but nor did I go bankrupt either.

After my children came along, I thought I’d finally have my moment. Working from home and being a mom? Best of both worlds, I told myself. Frankly, I was bemused by all the other mothers who struggled with their work-life balance. Why don’t they just go freelance? Then they, too, could have it all.

How wrong I was. Almost immediately after devising a dream schedule that incorporated some work, some family time and a whole lot of freedom, I started noticing the cracks. Big ones. Herewith, the five myths of freelance motherhood, and tales of my rude awakening.

Myth no.1: Freelance work makes everyone more flexible.
Once upon a time I relished the thought that I’d be able to do my banking in the afternoon, stock up on groceries when the shops are empty, be around for deliveries, get face-time with teachers.

Precisely. In an instant I became the family’s de facto accountant, gopher, receptionist and courier. Not only am I now my husband’s errand mistress, I’m the default caregiver on sick days. If there’s a workman in the house, I type under falling plaster while wiping the dust from my brow. And I clean the kitchen 11 times a day.

Myth no.2: To ease my workload at home, my husband will pitch in.
Surely my husband, realizing there were two of us now working, would be motivated to take on more housework, right? Ha! Might he make an effort to get the children ready for school in the mornings? Excuse me? Do his own bidding?

How naïve of me. The very second day of my new worklife, said husband called me up at the office where I was meeting with a client. He did this to remind me that, unless I left at that moment, I would not make it to the dry-cleaners in time to collect his shirts. Neither I nor my client was impressed.

As for daddy duty, to this day my “partner” still cannot find the girls’ underwear drawer. Nor has he ever seen the inside of the school.

Myth no.3: Freelance is a time-saver.
Compared to life at home with two babies, when work was crammed into nap times, I reckoned getting six hours a day, four days a week to think, write, plan and pitch for work was an eternity. Working from home (no commute, no time-draining meetings) seemed like a crafty, time-saving measure that would enable me to squeeze five days of work into four. It wasn’t, and I can’t. There’s never enough time. Just when I start to get a handle on my work, the phone will ring or my email will ping with a chore (see above).

Myth no.4: My workspace will be my idyll.
An office, I believed, would be just the thing to separate me from my needy children; a room with a door would equal privacy, quiet and concentration. What a joke. Once a contact I was interviewing asked if we could talk on Skype. I was thrilled – conversations are always more successful face to face. So I checked that the kids were out with their sitter, then closed my office door and logged on. Five minutes later the front door opened and two voices began to shriek. For me. The conversation became stilted. When I started to hear footsteps on the stairs I knew I was in trouble. Soon enough my office door swung open and the tiny body in the doorway (and in view of my computer) proceeded to melt down.

This has happened more than once in my house.

Myth no.5: I’ll be able to work in my underwear.
See reference to Skype, above.

(Photo: Stockbyte)