Many people work from home; some by arrangement with their employer; others as entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers or contract staff. For a working mother, the privilege of working from home sounds ideal, but it is not without its unique challenges.

Striking a balance between our roles as employees/business women and wives/mothers is tricky at best. When we work in an office away from home, there is at least a definite change of environment which helps us to shift our mindset and keep our roles compartmentalised to some extent. When working from home, the demands of home and family need to be managed and accommodated all in a day’s work. 

I recently joined the ranks of people working from home, thereby allowing myself the flexibility to be available to my family when they need me, whilst still earning a living. The change has certainly transformed my life for the better, not to mention the benefits to my family, but it has not been without its challenges after 30 years as a workaholic in the corporate world.

After dealing with the obvious challenges of finding work to do from home, equipping myself with the necessary infrastructure, establishing a work space, etc., I needed to find a balance between my work, the housework and my family.

There is an expectation that if mom’s at home all day she will do the housework every day. Some will manage that expectation; others will find ways of doing both their work and all the housework every day. For me, this decision was easy and without guilt. I decided to manage the expectation.
I then had to come to terms with the fact that my work schedule is now determined by my family’s schedule and their needs – not easy for a workaholic. I needed to accept the unproductive time spent in traffic every day collecting the children from school – I now make best use of the journey back home by using this time to chat with my daughters. I also needed to accept that I could no longer plan to work in the afternoons – I’m now a half-day work-from-home mom.

My work day starts when the kids leave for school and ends when I leave to collect them after school. My afternoons are filled with other moments, for instance, the constant calling for attention; Ma? Mom? Mommy? Ma.., Ma.., Ma.., and this from teenagers, not toddlers!  Moments when I would like to change my name from Ma/Mom/Mommy to something they have never heard of and cannot pronounce!  Any plans to work would be thwarted by their constant interruptions, causing me stress and frustration. I must admit that I did try to work in the afternoons, with disastrous consequences. Thankfully, I learnt the lesson and stopped what I was doing before I ruined the friendship. Was that not, after all, the reason why I decided to work from home in the first place; to be there for them if they needed me?

I have no doubt that the novelty of having me at their disposal after school will wear off eventually and I will be able to continue with my work. Until then, I surrender the rest of my day, willingly, lovingly and devotedly to my daughters, my best friends, whenever they need me. I allow myself the privilege and indulgence of spending time with my young ladies. I commit every precious moment to memory, for these moments are all too soon gone.

Work-from-home Mom was written by Barbara Pistolesi and published on Women Inc, the complete resource for the working woman. Women Inc offers articles on entrepreneurship, management, personal effectiveness and issues beyond the workplace (www.womeninc.co.za).

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