I google ‘working from home with baby’ and the first image is of a calm mama, hair immaculate, baby in a carrier on her chest as she happily taps away on a laptop perched on a pristine kitchen counter.

I am that woman. I skillfully multitask, answering emails as I prepare scones, all the while balancing a smiling baby on my hip.

Except I’m not. Only in my far-fetched dreams.

I take half an hour to send one email. The squirming baby in my lap alternates between tugging at my boobs in search of milk and trying to slam all keys on my laptop at once with porridge-sticky palms. Placing him onto the floor and waving toys at him elicits blood curdling screams. I make a phone call and he tries to drown me out when I open my mouth, chews the cable of my headphones and pulls at my messy hair when I take it from him. I step over the remains of this mornings breakfast, navigate my way around the laundry and my emails as the older brother urges me to draw with him.

I don’t work like that very often. Working from home only works for me if I can be in a space separate from my children for a few hours. Otherwise it feels like neither thing gets done right-the quality of work and parenting decline in tandem as the children become more aware and impatient with my distracted state. I hear tales of parents who do conference calls while their young child contentedly does their colouring on a fun-size desk alongside theirs and I think, they are either lying, or deploying sedatives.

To create this space to work (both of us work from home a lot), our three year old goes to preschool in the mornings and the baby to creche two mornings a week. The rest of the time we split the minding  between us. This requires a level of planning and scheduling hereto unprecedented in my life. We check in on a Sunday to review our schedule for the week, making the necessary adjustments to allow for work trips for meetings. Ah the romance of marriage and kids… instead of making plans for date nights we make sure to plan our work meetings and calls around the other’s schedule in google calendar.

It’s wonderful though, isn’t it to be able to work from home?

I can earn a living and never have to be far away from my kids. These boys made of giggles and milk and porridge and and cheese. My joy, the lights of my life. I can take a coffee break and get a cuddle and a kiss, unlike in most office where cuddling on coffee breaks in usually a no-no.

But it also means I am within earshot of the frustrated cries of a 1 year old.

Give me back that old battery. I want to suck on it!.. AIEEEAA.. but I WANT to pull the cat’s tail. IT’S NOT FAIR…

I can work in my pajamas and slippers if I want to (mostly yes to the slippers, no to the pajamas). I can wear yoga pants on a conference call. I can even do yoga while on a conference call. Haven’t tried that yet, I swear.. but there’s probably a market for it.

But it means I have no excuse to get spruced up for work. I used to enjoy the ritual of getting my work clothes on, a little bit of makeup and hair done, and feeling ready to face the day. Goodbye mother-me, hello worker-bee. Alas no more. Usually I shower, and often my clothes don’t have food on them, but it’s a far cry from my work wardrobe heyday.

I don’t have to commute. No waiting in traffic for me. No inhalation of bus fumes in Dublin city centre. No risking my life crossing the luas tracks on my bike. No sir.

But I miss that space between work and home. I miss the transition into work eased by music in my headphones and a coffee in my hand as I cross the Liffey towards temple bar and onto Dame St. I miss the walking-home anticipation of a toddler rushing down the hallway to greet me when I step in the door of our apartment.

I work at home and I work for myself so I can work when I want, as long as I get the job done. I can work while the baby naps or in the evening after both kids are in bed. I can work extra in the evening so I can take the morning off when the sun shines.

But then it’s harder to switch off when your office is where you live. You can work when you want but maybe it means you’ll be thinking about work all of the time.. maybe I can answer that last email in between dinner and bath time… or when the kids are occupied in the playground..

There are no distracting office colleagues with booming laughs or unnecessarily loud personal phone calls taken at their desk. No silly office gossip.

But then there’s no silly office gossip…

You can decorate your space just as you like but you have to do all of the cleaning yourself. And let’s face it, who has time to do the work, mind the babies AND keep a pristine house? Seriously… who?

The bloody cleaning. How can you focus on work when there’s all the cleaning and the washing and the cat-litter-needing-changing and the wet towels on the floor and the yoga blocks (aka building blocks for a three year old) screaming at you?

I’ll trade you some yoga classes for cleaning if anyone want to come do that for me…. Anyone?

My computer is broken and for maybe the first time in my life, I appreciate IT support. I have to pay for my own printing and automatic double-sided is a luxury of the past.

Also for some reason in my last office there was an almost-constant supply of chocolate (yup.. living the high-flier professional dream).

I have to buy my own chocolate now. But I’m struggling on with these working from home challenges and I think I’m managing ok.  I even get to work outside in the sunshine sometimes.. and that alone could be a reason to work from home. If I can figure out a better screen glare solution than an umbrella over my laptop.

And if anyone wants to send me chocolate please feel free…

and I’m serious about the yoga/cleaning barter.

One thought on “Working from home: the dream and the nightmare

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