parent opinion

"It's an ongoing battle of starts and stops." The double-edged sword for mums who work from home.

Recently, I had some mums ask me where they can find remote jobs because they thought it would make their lives easier. 

I’ve been working from home for the past two years and although it makes some things easier, there’s a lot more to it than staying in your pyjamas all day. 

So, when my friends ask me what it's like working from home with kids, this is what I tell them.

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Drop-offs and pickups are more convenient but…

The mornings are less rushed because I don’t need to put make-up on, pick an outfit, scarf down breakfast, pack a lunch, fill my coffee thermos and leave with enough time to avoid traffic on my commute to the office.

Now when I wake up, all I do is brush my teeth and wash my face. Then I take my time to get the kids ready. It’s less chaotic because I can walk my kids to school and know I can start work immediately when I get home.

Once I’m home, all I need to do is turn on my laptop and I can begin typing. Sometimes, the article I’m writing or the email I’m drafting is already on the screen and I can continue where I left off.

Because we live within walking distance of the school, my husband and I will take turns picking up the kids. As a result, I’ve been hitting my target step count regularly.

However, the drop-offs and pickups eat into my work hours. Although I don’t need to leave work early or arrange for someone to pick my kids up, those 10-minute walks to the school and back add up. 

In addition, once my kids are at home, someone still needs to keep an eye on them.

You can work at home, but can you separate the two?

Working at home has created less of a separation between my two lives. I’ve noticed an increased desire to catch up on things that never get done when the kids are at home.

My office is in the basement, and my desk is beside our washer and dryer. In the corner of my eye, I can see the basket of clean laundry taunting me to bring it upstairs. Then when I bring it up, I’m tempted to fold and put clothes away. That takes me at least 10 minutes depending on how many balled-up socks, inside-out shirts and Superman underwear and pants combos there are.

Once I’m done, I’ll come downstairs and notice the dirty counters in the kitchen. I’ll do a one-minute wipe and then the dishwasher will beep. And I’ll feel the urge to put the dishes away. All those minutes that I spend doing chores cut away at my workday and before I know it, I’ll only have an hour or two left before I have to pick up the kids. I’ll feel guilty and will want to make up the time somehow.

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Some nights when we’re eating dinner, I’ll get a notification on my phone about a work email. Because I can easily head downstairs to respond to it, I’ll often go.

After I finish what I need to do, I’ll start opening up other tabs. I’ll invoice a client, update my income spreadsheet, or write a couple of ideas down. A half-hour will go by and I’ll hear my kids asking where mummy is. I’ll run upstairs to finish my ice-cold dinner.

You no longer need to pack a lunch, but what about dishes?

When I worked at the office, I packed my lunch the night before. It made mornings easier because I could grab my bag from the fridge and I’m off. There were nights when I would forget, so when the morning came, I would either scramble something together or end up buying myself a sandwich from the cafe downstairs.

Now, I rarely spend money on lunch because my fridge is only a few steps away from my office. I have the luxury of cooking myself a warm meal and enjoying it while catching up on Netflix during my lunch break.

Listen to The Quicky where the hosts speak to an employment expert to find out whether you as an employee can demand that your improved work-life balance remains in tact. Post continues after podcast.


However, more eating in means more dishes to wash and put away. I like to have coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and lemon water throughout the day. And the dishes pile up. We’ve been running the dishwasher much more frequently since I started working from home.

Lastly, working from home also increases toilet use, heating costs, and electricity bills. That means more money and more time spent cleaning bathrooms.

You still need childcare.

In the beginning, I thought I could work while my kids run amok at home. However, I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to get anything meaningful done. My kids constantly invade my space and interrupt my train of thought.

As soon as I try to accomplish something, I have to stop because someone’s crying or it’s eerily quiet. It’s an ongoing battle of starts and stops that leads nowhere but a few unfinished sentences.

Ultimately, for me, the benefits of working from home outweigh the drawbacks because of my lifestyle and where my priorities lie. I’d much rather have the flexibility and comfort of my home over the rushed mornings, restrictive office attire, dreaded traffic, and packed lunches.

Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP is an author, wife and mum of two. She writes stories to empower individuals to talk about their feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them. You can find more from Katharine on her  website or podcast, or you can follow her on  InstagramFacebookTwitter or  YouTube.

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