Chloe

How do you separate ‘work time’ and ‘family time’ when you work from home?

working from home with children

The look of letting down the one who means the most to you.

Last week, after spending all morning trying to send just one email in the midst of a very demanding toddler episode, I closed my eyes, counted to 10 for a final time, gathered up my children and took them out of the house. We ended up in a cafe, where I hoped that the lure of a sugary treat would bribe Arlo long enough for me to concentrate on this one email. It didn’t.

The other day, feeling massively guilty that I’d not been very available to Arlo lately, I decided that for one whole day, I would set aside all work, and do EVERYTHING he requested. Including about 5 repeats of his current favourite demand – which is that Rory and I sit on a specific spot on my bed and watch him bounce up and down (I HAVE to sit down, I am not allowed to get dressed, put make up on, tidy, or do any other tasks whilst this is going on). But the day ended in tantrums just like usual, and I was left deflated and at a loss.

Yesterday afternoon, after tantrum upon tantrum every time I tried to sit at my computer, we made a deal. A desperate attempt to claw myself back some lost time. I sat on the sofa with him (for the fourth and final time that afternoon). Except he forgot the deal and I wasn’t allowed back on the computer to do my work. Stern words were had. And then he broke me with “It makes me feel scared when you shout at me”.

In my mind, I had planned a slow build up to getting back to work. But it seems to have snowballed and I’m juggling as fast as I can.

What do I want? To be enjoying my time with my babies. To focus on them. To have fun. To not let these days pass us by and then realise that I didn’t make the most of it and I’m never getting that back.

What do I want? To figure out how to make Arlo HAPPY. To stop feeling like he constantly wants more from me but I don’t know WHAT exactly.

What do I want? To earn enough money so that I’m not thoroughly depressed and unable to do anything, like last winter – enough to go for coffee, pay for public transport, go to the odd baby group here and there. To have enough money to pay for petrol and baby wipes when needed. To continue to stop Sam from having to go into the red at the end of the month. To be able to buy things for our family when needed without having to justify to Sam that ALL decent children’s coats cost around the £30-40 mark these days. To be able to keep us afloat during the bad months.

What do I want? To be able to do photography without it inflicting on my time with the boys. To be able to just be a mum, to concentrate on being really good at just that ONE job, to remove the need to earn money. To be able to do the things I love (photography, blogging, being a mum) without any of it feeling like a chore.

What do I want? To press the pause button and have everyone go at my pace.

Every night I go to bed with a mental to-do list swirling around my head. Emails marked to read tomorrow already entering my mind, because I know what they say before I read them. People that I HAVE to respond to because they’ve already chased me up to check I received their original emails.

Every evening, I dump two strung out children upon Sam as soon as he walks through the door, hurriedly listing my justifications for why the email I’ve been trying to send all day needs to take priority over the washing up. At any one time, there are always two things that I should be doing.

Every morning, I write the to-do list down on paper. I start the day feeling productive. Optimistic that I AM in control of this stuff and I WILL get stuff done. Then as the hours tick by, the to-do list with nothing crossed off starts to mock me. It’s like I’m setting myself up for a fall for even assuming that I can get any of this done with two small children around. And then worst of all, I start to feel resentful that nothing is getting done. Resentful towards people who really can’t help it at all.

Every day, I feel like I’m not doing a good job of being a mum.

I don’t want to be feeling like that. That’s the last thing I want to be feeling. I want to be seizing every moment with my children, not getting angry at silly to-do lists. But it’s not that simple when you need to make money, is it?

I feel like people assume that working from home is the best of both worlds, but in reality, especially if you can’t afford childcare, it often feels like the worst of both worlds – no dedicated time for your children and no dedicated time for your work.

How do you make quality time for your children when you work at home and there is no option for a distinction between ‘work time’ and ‘family time’?

Answers on a postcard, please.

Sorry About The Mess is a personal lifestyle and family blog. documenting the life of London blogger and photographer, Chloe. This is our family story.

Comments (12)

  • I know this feeling!!! Working at school, running half of Tom’s photography business, and taking care of the house, garden and Holly – it’s hard!!! and I only have one child!
    I find that as soon as I start to mentally beat myself up the day ends up in a downward spiral. I have to keep thinking optimistically and only set myself achievable targets.
    Last week I was determined to clean the whole house, design an album, update the blog and do some baking with Holly. I didn’t really do any of it. Then I end up staying up till midnight trying to get it done when I should really be in bed getting enough sleep to see in the next day.
    I wish I had a pearl of wisdom to offer you that would fix it all… but I don’t. You are doing a good job, you’re raising two beautiful little boys.
    Keep going and keep your chin up!

    Reply
    • I definintely think you are on to something with only setting acheivable targets – I find I get the most stressed when I optimistcally put loads on my plate and only one thing gets done.

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  • Economise – you don’t need to spend £30-40 on coats, make charity shops your friends. Second hand is fine – in fact you’ll be doing your boys a favour – lowering their expectations making them less likely to get in a financial mess in the future. You’ll also be able to put them first, by spending real time with them.

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    • I wish it was just a matter of cutting down costs on clothes, I’d still need to earn to help cover our basic bills. We live to a very structured budget, my mention of the clothes was mostly to illustrate the aspect of earning my own money that I miss the most when I’m not earning – always having to answer to someone else when money is needed for anything. That being said, I could utilise charity shops more for clothes and shoes.

      Reply
  • I’m afraid i don’t know the answer but if you do find out let me know. I’m in a very similar position to you; i have a just turned 3 year old and 7 month old and have just started taking on freelance work from home.

    All the things you worry about i do too – i spend more time that i would like shouting or fobbing off my 3 year old as he just wants to race cars with me all day. I often feel like i am in a permanent state of anxiety and wish i could just concentrate on one thing at a time.

    Sometimes i just want to run off on my own to get some peace and headspace for an hour – but you can’t can you.

    re. the money aspect i got a great padded coast form M&S for this year for only £16 and for previous years i usually get them off ebay. Second hand kids stuff is usually great quality as they grown so quickly! x

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    • Permanent state of anxiety – that’s how I’ve been feeling for the past month. I really need to talk myself into sticking to a realistic workload rather than trying to go at full pelt and taking on everything that comes my way. I think that’s really the only way when you have small children at home.

      Reply
  • Oh if there’s ever an answer to the balance between parenting and the need to earn an income I don’t think it’s going to fit on a postcard!

    It sounds like you have two things going on, one is the need to find working time while being primary carer for Arlo and Rory, and the second is the joys of parenting a two year old.

    I’m sure you’ve considered all of these but just in case the first thoughts that come to mind are a Mummy co-op (essentially one Mummy watches all the children and the other one works and then swap), or possibly seeing if someone like The Prince’s Trust could help sub some childcare as part of your new business start up costs. I’ve had to work from home while parenting occasionally and frankly I don’t think it can be done with a two year old, they’re just too high need at this age (or at least mine is), and I usually end up doing everything after she’s gone to bed.

    If late nights are the answer, can you separate yourself geographically, either behind a door or by going out so that you’re not tempted/pressured into home things when you’re supposed to be working.

    And as for your lovely boy, it sounds like he’s having a hell of a phase at the moment. We went through something very similar with Kitty after Elma was born. She’s never been jealous of Elma but she was cross about sharing me, and that manifested in a need to control everything, and mischief if she felt our attention had been diverted for even a moment. It passed, as phases always do, but not without moments of shouty Mummy! We tried to give Kitty limited choices and as much advance knowledge and control as we could – I think I read somewhere that this is the age at which they realise how little they can control which seemed to make sense to us.

    I’ve probably just waffled inanely at you so I’m going to zip it now, but not without sending hugs – this is tough but you will figure it out.

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    • Yes, thinking about it I think it is two separate problems (one being a two year old going through a particular phase). With Arlo, it’s all centered around his ability (or lack of ability) to control me at the moment. He doesn’t want anyone else. I think he senses a separation from me, what with preschool, my work bulding up, and maybe Rory too, and he doesn’t like that he can’t control any of that. Hopefully the phase will pass soon. No option to separate myself geographically, but looking into the childcare swap type of thing might be something to consider.

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  • As I think everyone else who has commented has already pointed out, I think finding balance is a tricky one. And I suspect the solution would look different for each family. I think toddlers are particularly hard to keep happy if you are trying to get ANYTHING else done. Mine has days where he will look at me with puppy eyes and say “please not now mummy” if I so much as pick up my phone or iPad to check emails, he’s really working out how to push my guilty mummy buttons. But then I suspect that’s toddlers all round, they are all about finding ways to get your attention, however that may be. I think the hardest thing is that they are impossible to reason with, so whatever you offer in return for some thing, they can’t understand why they have to trade something they want for something you do.
    I hope you can find a solution that works for you and for your boys. And you are absolutely not a bad mummy, you’re doing a great job. Juggling two is tricky! x

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    • He’s starting to get the reasoning idea, but it’s very early days and like you said, most of the time he just doesn’t understand why his wishes don’t always come first. I think I have to accept that there wikll be times when it’s easier to work, and times when it’s not.

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  • Yep I have no answers but I’m in exactly the same situation. I have a list whirling out in my head at ALL times of all the things that need doing and that makes me stressy and unable to enjoy the time with the kids which I hate. I feel like if I got on top of my list then I would feel free and able to enjoy my day more but I don’t think I will ever be on top of my list so I need to just find a way of accepting and doing the best I can. It would help if J actually went to bed in the evening, or if his first teeth would actually make an appearance instead of making him just cry all day! I guess it will get easier in time, maybe! x

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