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Working from Home: The Balancing Act

Working in your Livingroom or Living in your Workroom

by Sabrina Paradis  |  4595 views  |  6 comments  |        Rate this now! 

After I had my second child, determined to have more time at home, I went to my boss at my supposedly working-mother-friendly company and told him I needed to work from home at least 2 days a week or I’d need to find a new job. He told me he’d be happy to be a reference.

A friend and mother of three took me to her company where they were actually promoting work from home as they ran out of office space. In my first week, I got my computer, my printer, and my remote access codes and off I went - to my living room. With a preschooler and a toddler, every inch of extra space was overrun by toys and we hadn’t bought our house with a home office in mind. Nonetheless, I was determined to make this arrangement the perfect blend of motherhood and work. The first few weeks were great. I jumped out of bed and didn’t worry about work outfits. I took my daughter to nursery school in yoga pants and spent a few extra minutes chatting with the stay-at-home moms since I didn’t have to rush to the office. One day I even put a roast in the oven at 4pm, had a virtual meeting at 5pm and had a hot family dinner on the table by 6pm. The perfect blend of work and home life was jelling.

But then things started happening, namely that I was home all day and I had to work. I’d come home after nursery school drop-off and the house would be calm but my computer would be flooded with emails and blinking meeting reminders. Once my printer jammed and I spent an hour trying to fix it since no IT guy could simply appear from down my hall before the report was due. Another day, I had an irate client on the phone and with nary a colleague in sight, I was emailing into oblivion for some help while picturing who over at headquarters was at lunch or at a meeting or if anyone was bothering to read my emails sent with High Importance!

Another time, I had to lock myself in my bedroom for a conference call and ignore my babysitter’s struggle with my toddler’s temper tantrum over the absence of ketchup on the chicken fingers. My daughter’s new favorite pretend play game became “office time” where she held my Blackberry to her ear and took on a creepily pleasant voice asking her imaginary caller if they received the data. Whenever I sat at my computer after dinner, my toddler would come over, pull my hand away from my desk and scream. My home life and work life weren’t blended, they were pureed.

About the Author

Sabrina Paradis is a freelance writer, who works full time from home in the healthcare industry and lives with her two small children and her husband

Read more by Sabrina Paradis

6 comments so far...

  • I confess, I have "locked myself" in my older son's bedroom on a conference call while my four year old was in the other room watching television. But you know? It's fine. He learned there are some boundaries, and I still get my work done while providing a cozy home environment for my kids. Summer is rough, but in the long run, I wouldn't trade in working from home. Either way there are struggles- leaving the kids each morning to work outside of the home; working at home with the kids around all day; or taking a long hiatus to be at home with the kids. Great article Sabrina!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Rosanne Rust on 30th August 2007

  • Being a work-from-home mom too, I can totally empathize with this story. We live in a tiny rowhouse and my office is in a corner of my bedroom. I often wish I had a bigger house and more this, that or the other, but I am thankful everyday that I can be at home and raise my daughter while using my skills to bring in some income and stay in the industry.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jennifer Prevette on 28th August 2007

  • "...she held my Blackberry to her ear and took on a creepily pleasant voice." LOL I can just see this!

    You describe and analyse the issues very well. Great article!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 17th August 2007

  • Great article! I can completely empathize - I wonder how many people like us have also perfected the "art of the telephone mute button" to drown out the housekeeper-driven vacuum cleaner making a rare pass through our home offices. And then there is the never-ending stream of interruptions - door-to-door salespeople, well-meaning neighbors, deliveries, etc. I have had to park my car down the street on occasion so it would look like nobody was home. I wouldn't change it for the world, though! I breathe clean (well, at least, fresh-from-the-outdoors-near-LAX) air all day, snack on un-packaged food from my fridge, commute a whopping 3 feet from my home, and can simultaneously negotiate a deal while completing 6 loads of laundry!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kelly Watson on 15th May 2007

  • Sabrina, Your piece made me laugh out loud. I'm home 1 day a week and in the office 4 but I completely empathize with the boundary dilemma. Thank you for articulating it so perfectly!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Suzanne on 9th May 2007

  • Sabrina, what a great essay! As someone who is about to make a change from working full time at an office - and hating many things about it - to working full time from home, I really appreciated what you wrote and I think it helped me set some things in perspective. The thing is, I think no solution is perfect - being at an office all day does not give me much flexibility to be there with my daughter, but at the same time, I am able to get a lot done and be devoted to her when I am home. When I will work from home, I know that I will enjoy some of the things you wrote about - pijamas phone calls! - but I also worry about setting work/life boundaries. Thanks for sharing this.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 6th May 2007