Working moms work a lot—and, contrary to popular belief, just because some work at home doesn't mean that they've got it easy.
In fact, a Welch's study suggests that working moms clock in the equivalent of two full-time jobs, working an average of 98 hours per week when family responsibilities are considered. This means that the average working mom typically begins her day around 6:23 a.m. and doesn't call it quits until about 8:31 p.m.
A flexible work schedule, like one that allows remote work, is important to 70 percent of working mothers, according to the Pew Research Center. But just because some working mothers work from home doesn't mean that they're not still churning and burning. There are pros and cons to working with the children around. Saving money on commuting and childcare costs and being physically there with the kids (even if not mentally present) are benefits, but juggling work with parenting at the same time inevitably leaves little space to fully focus on one or the other.
That's why one FGB'er, EdesRozsa, took to the community board to ask other work-from-home mothers how they handle it all.
"How do you both work from home and take care of the kids?" she asked.
Her sons four months, 11 years and 15 years old. Her job is 100 percent remote, which means that she works from home. But, while at home, she also has to tend to family responsibilities. Recently, her husband and baby got sick — and she soon followed suit. Meanwhile, her older sons are starting school, which means they have to attend open houses and shop for their supplies and uniforms. Her oldest son is getting his permit and she needs to help him practice driving. She's dealing with her father, two states away, who needs care. And her in-laws are "dealing with stuff," so she's dealing with their stuff, too. Her infant doesn't want to sleep in his crib, but rather only in her arms. And she's always busy running back and forth between school and doctor's appointments.
"How do you get your family to respect that you are actually at work?" she asks the community. "How do you convince the big kids not to bug you every three minutes while they're home on summer break, or right when they get home from school? And what do you do with a toddler or a pre-schooler? What are your best tips, ladies? I'm desperate!"
As they always do, FGB working moms are chiming in to offer her their best advice on how they personally manage a work-life balance while working from home. Here's what they have to say.
1. Isolate yourself in a home office.
"I had a separate room with the door and, when it was closed, they could not come in," FGB'er BostonG says. "I would suggest hiring a sitter, as I was never able to work and watch my kids. So someone came to my house while I worked in our home office."
2. Treat it like an office job, and set boundaries.
"Treat is as if you would an office job," FGB'er L A White says. "Make set hours and stick to it. Set firm boundaries. If you are on a conference call, they are quiet. As for the four-month-old, daycare is the only way, unless you plan to work only while they are sleeping — and that will make for a cranky mom. Having the baby home on the occasional sick day is fine, but if you hope to be productive and successful, you need to set boundaries and treat it no differently than an office job."
FGB'er Patty Raymond Turner recommends even putting physical boundaries up.
"A few of my friends have a 'Working, Do Not Disturb' sign they place on their home office door," she says.
3. Hire a sitter and/or send the kids off.
"From a manager perspective, if I have a remote employee with young kids, childcare is a requirement," says an anonymous FGB'er. "A person cannot concentrate/focus on the job they need to do if they are also taking care of a four-month-old. I had to let a remote employee go because she wasn't answering email, phone calls or IMs in a timely manner, and the work was not getting done. She also had four kids ages six and under in the house, who I suspect were eating into her workday."
Another FGB'er, EmpoweredGirl264966, agrees that a sitter situation is necessary. She explains that it took a while for her family to understand that work time for her is work time. She has a dedicated home office space, and they are to stay out of it during the day. But she also keeps her children busy or makes sure that there's someone else to care for them while she, herself, is busy.
"[You need] daycare, a sitter or the other parent 100 percent responsible for any children under five," she explains. "I have been 100 percent remote for five years. I have an eight-year-old son. I start my days early so I can get work done before he gets up. I sent him to a preschool that was four hours a day and was only three minutes from my home, so drop-offs and pick-ups could be accomplished in 10 minutes. During the summer, I sign him up for camps... When dad is off... I usually don't sign him up for stuff so dad can have time with him... During the school year, he is in school most of the day, and I have him in an afterschool class once a week to give me even more child-free time."
4. Prioritize work first, which requires making arrangements.
"Working from home is not meant to be done in lieu of daycare," says an anonymous user. "I work from home full time, but my child is grown. I started working from home when he was 11. The occasional snow day is one thing but, generally when working from home, you are expected to work first. Those hours belong to your employer. Blowing off your work without taking PTO to handle your father/your kids' open houses/etc. makes employers suspicious of all of us. On the other hand, if you have some sort of piecemeal/pay by the task/etc. set up, and the hours don't belong to the employer, then you need to decide where your priorities are and follow them."
5. Don't try to do it all yourself.
"I was remote for about three years and thought I could do it all and you just can’t, honestly," says FGB'ers Jackie Perez_111. "At some point, your well-being will suffer, and then burn out begins. It’s not a fun place to be in. I ended up having my cousin watch my then-one-year-old four days a week while I worked, and I then had the flexibility to be present one day with the kids and house/errands in another."
6. Ask for help.
"Ask for help!" FGB'ers Jackie Perez_111 adds. "Voice your concerns and how you want to feel and what you need from your spouse and older kids to make this a happy environment for all. Plan the month out, and then divide and conquer. Take time to prep clothes and/or meals ahead of time, so you can free up more time."
7. Work odd hours, if possible.
"I worked from home when my kids were young one to two and a half years old," says FGB'er Gail_. "I used to get up around 4 to 5 am to work until they woke up, and then work during their naps and for a few hours after they went to bed around 8 pm. Luckily mine was project-based, and I didn’t need to work only during scheduled work hours though."
Getting up early seems to help other mothers, too.
"What helped me was getting up early in the morning and getting in full work clothes — hair, make-up like I was going to the office," says Melissa Negron. "Sometimes two uninterrupted hours equal six at the office. Check for urgent emails and ignore emails for the first hour. And no laundry, dishes, picking up. None of that. And like the other ladies said, hire someone to look after the baby."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.