Dear Working Mother,
Last Wednesday, Elaine and I had the pleasure of having lunch in Dublin with Office Mum, Andrea Mara.
When we first started our little community we trawled the internet looking for other resources available to working mothers. We didn’t find a lot. But we did hit on OfficeMum.ie which has kept us entertained, educated and encouraged in our mission since.
Andrea, like many of us, is a working mother and is trying to find that perfect balance. This week she shares her thoughts on why working from home makes perfect sense for us busy mothers.
The Working Mother
7 Good Reasons to Try Working From Home
Working from home: no to mascara and high heels; yes to school runs and family meals, and best of all, reduced guilt.
Lots of people work in jobs that are not compatible with working from home, and plenty of others are prevented by unconvinced employers. But if you have children, and have ever considered working from home even one day per week, below are seven good reasons to try it:
- It eases the GUILT
Working mother guilt is alive and kicking, curling its tentacles around the anxious hearts of office-bound mothers everywhere. Working from home can help – being at home means seeing the kids during the day, and with a little bit of poetic licence, it’s almost as good as not working at all, at least from the child’s perspective – which is what counts when we’re talking about guilt.
- You can have meals with your kids
On a work-day I’m gone for ten hours and have no family mealtime. When I work from home, I get to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with my kids, without doing any less work or getting any less pay – what’s not to love! Well, assuming you like eating with your kids. In fairness, as I pull my toddler’s hands out of my dinner and argue with my six-year-old about eating peas, I do wonder about the merits of this one.
- You can do the school run
Anyone who does the school run every day might not see this as an advantage, but when you only do it occasionally, it’s a BIG DEAL.
It’s a chance to connect with your child’s school life in person every now and then; to see the teacher; to meet other parents, and most lovely of all, to see your child running into school, (hopefully) smiling and laughing. And it’s a chance to pick up a coffee – the lack of good take-away cappuccinos is one of the disadvantages of working from home.
- You can put on a wash
Now, I know people who think that working from home is code for having a two-hour lunch break watching Home and Away, and I’m not advocating lending any credence to this stereotype.
But, there is always time to put on a wash, or carry some laundry upstairs or spend a few minutes tidying away the pile of clothes that’s been sitting in the corner all week.
These tasks don’t take any longer than the time spent at work waiting for the kettle to boil or walking to the water cooler or standing by the lift or chatting to colleagues.
I get a lot more work done at home than I do in the office, so I don’t feel bad about a few minutes here or there putting on a wash (and if my boss is reading this, I’m only joking, I am at my desk morning to night).
- You don’t have to wear a suit
Or put on lipstick. Or wear high heels (unless you want to). I’m not suggesting that you work in your pyjamas (though I’m sure many people do) but you don’t have to dress up, and if you’re not leaving the house at all, anything above basic grooming is sort of a waste of precious time isn’t it?
- You don’t commute
A no-brainer advantage to working from home, but one worth emphasising. A two hour daily commute becomes two free hours to do whatever you want if you work from home. When it’s busy, spend it working. When it’s not so busy, spend it with your kids. Or if you really want to, catch up on Home and Away – your time, your choice.
- You get loads of work done
People who work from home used to say to me “It’s amazing how much work I get done!” and I used to think “Indeed. I know you have to say that, but you’re really watching sitting on your sofa watching Loose Women”.
But now I’m a convert – you do get so much work done. There are no interruptions, no time spent walking to meeting rooms and waiting fifteen minutes for other people to join the meeting, there’s no long walk to get a coffee and no stopping for chats.
That last one is the reason that I wouldn’t like to work from home every day – I’d miss the chats; one day a week is enough for me. But it’s a productive day, and a mutually beneficial arrangement for employer and employee.
There are some downsides – it can be lonely if there are no meetings, it can by worrying if your IT connection fails, and awkward if your children burst in excitedly when you’re in the middle of a call.
But on balance, it’s hugely rewarding for all the reasons above and many more.
My loveliest moment so far was hearing my six-year-old stop outside the room in which I was working – she knew not to come in, but I heard her blowing a kiss to me from outside the door before continuing on her way. I thought “This is working”.
Andrea Mara has three small kids, one tall husband and one office job. She writes at OfficeMum.ie about being a parent, being a mother working outside the home, being a woman in the workplace. She’s just trying to keep her balance. Follow her tweets @office_mum or find her on Facebook.