It's all about trying to make deadline before dinner time.
2020 marks my fifth year as a work-at-home mum, something I consider to be both a privilege and a challenge.
I never planned to be a work at home mum. Before my first daughter was born, I worked in recruitment and HR roles, but it was an industry I didn't really want to go back to after I had my first daughter.
I'd gained a post-graduate degree in writing, something I'd always been passionate about, while working full time, and 5 months after my daughter was born, I was doing paid writing work.
Before I knew it, I was a professional content writer. I've had another daughter in the years since I first started and have had the opportunity to watch both my children grow; take their first steps and utter their first words, which is something I may have missed if I had returned to a job that required me to be in an office.
But...if COVID-19 has taught us anything in 2020, it’s that work at home mums don’t have it any easier than those who need to work on site. Homeschooling as a result of COVID-19 and having to navigate online lessons for my school-aged daughter while entertaining her toddler sister, and trying to do my own work was crazy. Whether you're a freelancer or running your own business, you don't feel like a "girl boss" when your kids schedules are running your day.
But even before COVID-19, working from home came with some unique challenges. It's hard to explain what these are without sounding ungrateful, because many mums with jobs that require them to be on site every day (nurses, teachers, supermarket workers) can't work from home and miss their children. Some women even change jobs or go back to study to be able to work from home.
But as I write this, the house is a mess, there are groceries to still need to be put away from my morning grocery shop, Mount Washmore is out of control in the laundry again and Miss 4 is asking me why headphones are called headphones.
My eldest daughter is in school, but my youngest only goes to daycare one day a week, so I only get around 5 hours of uninterrupted time to work. There will be a time when both of my children are both in school and I am afforded a little bit more time, but until then I will keep working as I normally do.
Normal at the moment is chaos and disorganisation, despite my best attempts to keep on top of things. I struggle to set boundaries, especially with my children. I see their little faces and I melt, giving in to their every need.
We built our home with the office located right outside the kids’ playroom so I could work while they played. I can't believe I thought that was a good idea.
The reality is as soon as I go into my office, they want to follow me, and spin around on the office chair, sit on my lap and draw a picture with the printer paper, dig through the stationary and when I’m finally engrossed in work, use the big red PAID stamp on the wall. For every 2 minutes of writing, there’s 10 minutes of tidying and wiping the walls.
I try to avoid starting anything unless my children are engaged with an activity that doesn’t require too much assistance from me.
If there is something I can’t put off, I make sure they are organised with an activity or watching a movie before I start. Sometimes, it’s just easiest to give them the iPad for half an hour to get a break and get stuff done. I'll often have to give up for the time being and come back later when everyone is settled or busy.
Some nights, I am exhausted and all I want to do is crawl into bed, but I’ve got deadlines to meet, so I push on and get it done. If I simply can’t, I get up early and do it before the kids wake up instead.
It used to be even crazier. I had a year of breastfeeding my second baby while holding her steady with my left hand, and typing with my right hand. My husband worked interstate the following year and there were countless times that I let the kids stay up late watching movies, just so I could catch up on work.
On top of all of these challenges, working from home often comes with the mental load of parenting - all those little things that need to be done to keep life going. Organising appointments, taking my girls to swimming and gymnastics, organising birthdays, going to school events, making sure they have clothes in the next size up and the hundreds of other small things that need to be done.
Since becoming a mum, I've come to the conclusion that negativity and guilt seem to go hand in hand. If I was working out of home I would have the same challenges of trying to keep the house clean, work and juggle all of the things on our social calendar. The only difference is when I am at work I would be away from my girls, missing them and feeling guilty about it. If I'm going to feel guilty about working no matter what, then I'd prefer to be at home where I can soak up as much time as I can with them, when I'm not at my desk.
Despite the challenges, I absolutely love what I do. Motherhood is already exhausting without questioning every single decision you make. I'm contributing financially to our family, I spend a little bit of quality time with my kids each day and I've never missed any of their milestones. I wouldn't have it any other way.