The Fantasy vs The Reality of Being a Work-From Home Mother

I have shared before that in late 2009 I made a calculated decision to walk away from my job as a newspaper reporter to focus on my website, Black Girl with Long Hair, full time.

Back then I entertained fantasies that I would blog from coffee shops, or take random weekend trips to New York for a change of scenery. I mean, I actually remember telling this to people.

4 coffee-shop-less years later, I can say that successfully working from home has more to do with being self-motivated, disciplined and organized than with working from quixotic locations.

When I got pregnant in late 2011, I was worried that throwing a baby into the mix would mess up my work-from-home vibe. And as I did my research on it I remember one mother saying that it was actually harder than working in an office. And I have to say that I agree.

Let me break down the fantasy versus the reality of working from home while taking care of a baby:

The Fantasy
You and your baby will have plenty of time to bond

The Reality
You will be teaching your baby about independent play and how to self-soothe.

I often feel guilty about how much I have to tell my son, “No”. No he can’t bang on the computer like he sees Mommy doing, no I can’t hold him because I’m working, no he can’t be in my office space while I’m there. I blogged yesterday about Noah’s nursery and how it is a separate room. This is necessary for me because he needs his space, and I need mine during the work hours.

The Fantasy
You will spend time every day outside of the house, going to museums and parks and other cultural attractions

The Reality
You will not get out of the house that much

And this is for two reasons:

1. The fact is that there aren’t many baby friendly places to go. The park? The only thing there for infants are the baby swings. The museum? Your baby will spend all his time in a stroller or a baby carrier. The same goes for the supermarket or even on a walk. While it’s good for babies to have a change of scenery, the fact is that home is the best place for them to play and explore. It’s a safe space designed specifically for them. Of course this changes as kids get older, but if your baby is not walking and under 12 months, sticking close to home is your best bet.

2. You will be too busy to get out of the house much! Because you are working. When I did my post on the things I failed and succeeded at in my first year of motherhood, I mentioned play dates, swimming lessons and gymnastics lessons as regular things I do with Noah. And there is a reason for this. The play dates provide him both a change of scenery and a safe place to play and explore, and the lessons provide a set and dedicated time for us to leave the house. Otherwise, sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

The Fantasy
You and the baby will go visit your hubby at work

The Reality
Uh, nope.

It would take me an hour in traffic to get there and back, plus there is no parking by my husband’s job and we would have to find a baby-friendly restaurant in the financial district, where he works. We can just wait till he gets home.

The Fantasy
The house will stay clean because you are at home.

The Reality

So what are the advantages?
To me, the main advantage is that I don’t have to pay for day care. To be totally honest, that is the only one I can think of.

Studies have shown that kids raised by working mothers do just as fine as kids raised by stay or work from home mothers, so it’s not like Noah is getting a ‘leg up’ or anything.

The other advantage is that I’ve learned to be even more disciplined and time efficient with my work, to make room for the unpredictability that comes with having a baby.

When Noah was first born, my work output suffered horribly. But in the months since, it’s dramatically improved.

So, is it ever romantic?

Well, it has its moments. Last week, I was feeling low and I could tell that Noah, taking his emotional cues from me, was feeling kind of off too.

“Let’s just get out of here, ” I told him. So I shut off the computer, loaded him into the car, and we spent the afternoon at The Garfield Park Conservatory, looking at plants.

He would crane his little neck back as far as he could, to see the plants that were really tall, then glance back at me with a look that said, “Are you seeing this Mommy? This is incredible.”

Those moments do happen. And they are beautiful and I treasure them.

But they certainly don’t come as frequently as I’d like.