Being a work at home parent comes with its own special kind of guilt. You are physically there with your children but mentally you are somewhere else entirely. There are days when you work to the sound of cartoons running in the background all day and you worry that you are seriously damaging your children for life by not providing a more stimulating environment. Then, because you are preoccupied with worrying about your children you feel guilty for not being a more devoted employee.
When I quit my full time teaching job to work at home and be with my son during the day I had no idea what a steep learning curve I was in for. I neglected to realize that the main difference between working at home and working in an office is location. The work is still there, but you have the added task of keeping your children happily occupied at the same time.
As children get older and become more demanding of your time, they learn to employ the guilt tactic. 4 year olds are absolute masters of this. I always know when I have been focusing too much on my work when my 4 year old comes in with that look he has that melts your heart and makes you feel like the worst mom in the world at the same time and says “Mommy will you play with me. I’m not having any fun because you aren’t playing with me.”
Priorities get a little muffled when your work and your family are in the same place. There is no true end to the work day. You can’t just pack up and go home at the end of the day because you are already home. Since there always seems to be one more thing on your to-do list, work has a way of taunting you until you sit down and finish it. When you are trying to choose between finishing an important project and building a Lego tower it’s easy to get confused about which one is more important. The logical side of our brain tells us that work is always more important that play, but the pleading look of a child who just wants their mommy tells us which activity really has the most value.
Working at home is not without its perks. I have the best lunch companions that I could ask for. I get to be there as my children learn new things and watch them truly become friends with each other as they play during the day. My children get to be in their own home each day with their mommy close at hand if they need me. In the end, I am the one who gets to decide how I balance work and family. I get to be the one to choose whether or not I put in a few more minutes of work or build the Lego tower and I hope that down the road, my children will remember that I choose them, because they are the most important work in my life.