It’s almost a year since I started working at home. I was 8 months pregnant and running the risk of premature birth, so my doctor advised me to take it easy. In the first weeks, I was sitting in bed, MacBook beside me, from 9 to 5 or later. It was a full office day, except I wasn’t in the office. Then baby A. came along and I tried to get as much sleep as I could during the day. I slowed down on work and felt overwhelmed trying to balance family and work. Somewhere in between, I managed to find my happy place, and I learned how to get the best of both worlds without hurting anyone, including myself, in the process.
Most people are under the mistaken impression that working at home means you get to play all day long with the kids, sleep, laze around and squeeze in some real work whenever you have to. It’s like a neverending holiday where you get to do whatever you want whenever you want. Well I can contradict that. Working from home means discipline and responsibility. I still have to explain that I am really working if I want to be taken seriously. My mother barely understands the concept, during the periods when I’m not so busy she assumes business is failing.
That said, it will take a lot of trial and error to reach the point where you feel the harmony between family and work. At first you tend to work too much, and neglect your family. There were moments when I missed on going out because I had to meet a deadline. Most of the time it was my own fault, I would procrastinate too much. I was suddenly the master of my time and didn’t know how to use it to my best interest. I would stop in the middle of a task to check Facebook or an alert I had just received. I was interrupting my work way too many times and it was very difficult to find coherence. I would work at night or during weekends to recover the time I had wasted.
I was unable to get detached and kept mixing both work and family time. I would feel guilty in the middle of a family dinner because I wasn’t done with a task, and I would feel guilty while working because I didn’t get to spend more quality time with the family even though I was working from home. It didn’t help that my phone buzzed frequently with alerts. I felt like I was under constant pressure and I couldn’t calm down.
Now I’m finally proficient, or at least on my way to it. I’ve understood that I can only focus for so long until needing a break, and I don’t have to be at anyone’s disposal all the time. I have my own rhythm, and I’ve earned my right to follow it. I still work on weekends sometimes, because I’m in a startup and new things appear overnight, but I’m much calmer, I’m not stressed out like I was at the beginning. While there are no typical days in our family, they mainly go like this:
7.20 AM: The phone alarm rings. I leave it for 30 seconds, willing X. to wake up. Of course she doesn’t, she inherited that from me. She’s got 20 minutes to get ready before the driver picks her up, which is extremely little for a sleepy 5 year old. Sometimes we’ll squeeze in a play session with her baby sister if she’s awake.
7.50 AM: Time for the morning fun. If baby A. is awake, I’ll play with her until she needs her nap. Sometimes we both have breakfast at the same time, I make faces and she squeals and shows off her vampire teeth. If she’s sleeping, I’ll have breakfast and my morning cup of coffee while checking social media.
10.00 AM: Baby A. is fed and sleeping, so it’s time to start working. I check my inboxes (yes, I have more than 1) and reply if I need to. My mom usually comes at this hour, but if I need to start work earlier she comes earlier too. From here on it’s all work until noon.
12.45 AM: X. comes from the kindergarten. I love that we have transportation included, it saves a lot of time. I pick her up and leave her in mom’s care while I go on working, or have lunch with her and baby A. if I can spare time. We include another playing session after lunch, and then it’s nap time for everyone.
2 PM: the girls are in bed and I start working again for a couple of hours, until they wake up. My mom leaves in the meantime.
5 PM: both girls have their snack, and afterwards it’s family time. Sometimes baby A. goes back to sleep. I watch a kids’ movie with X. or she goes outside or visiting a friend with her dad. I do whatever chores are left, but most of the time my mom does them all so there’s no need.
8 PM: we have dinner, and we all play together.
9.45 PM: baby A. has her last bottle, then she’s off to sleep. X. arranges her outfit for the next day, then she goes to bed as well. Except she’ll ask all these mind boggling questions and try to stay awake as much as she can.
Of course, some days my husband feels like going out and I can never say no to that. If it’s not urgent, work can wait. Conference calls are scheduled beforehand. Sometimes I go to the office and spend a few hours there, but that’s just once a week or even more seldom. Other times I’ve got meetings lined up all day, but again, it’s not every day. If one of us had been busy for a longer while, we have a family day to reconnect. Or just for the fun of it. Or if we feel like road tripping for a couple of days, we pack our bags and leave. Being able to take a break in the middle of the week does wonders, we’ve been doing it for the past 5 years and I couldn’t live without it.
No two days are the same, except for the wake up and going to bed routine. Tomorrow I have a full day, but today’s been all about shopping and lazing around. Sometimes I can’t focus or can’t find my inspiration, so I stop working and read something instead. Or go for a walk to clear my mind. Lately I have been very invested in developing this blog, and ideas just keep popping into my head. The most important thing here is that I get work done and I do that while spending time with my family and clad in my pajamas. Remember, if you work hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen 😉