The complexities of working from home while being a parent

If money wasn’t an issue, would you choose to work outside the home or be a stay-at-home parent?

Life’s pretty hectic for parents these days as they attempt to juggle it all and growing expectations make it even more so. Illustration: iStock

Life’s pretty hectic for parents these days as they attempt to juggle it all and growing expectations make it even more so. Illustration: iStock

 

I was somewhat sorry to see the back of the recent Easter holidays. The usual mayhem unfolded over the course of the fortnight as I attempted to juggle deadlines and interviews with children whose first question each morning was “what are we doing today?”

The usual complaints followed at the suggestion that gale-force winds and torrential rain might mean the playground was not the best option that particular morning. And the usual promises, bribes (and dare I say – even threats) accompanied requests not to disturb Mum with toilet tales or explosive rows while she had an impromptu discussion on the radio.

Because among many other things, that’s what juggling working from home while being a parent involves.

But school holidays, along with adding an additional challenge to the mix, also bring great freedom. And sometimes, all it takes is a weekend that’s free from frantic preparation for the week ahead to truly appreciate this.

Insurmountable task

In this house, I’ve accepted that laundry is an insurmountable task. It’s been many years since I’ve seen the end of the laundry baskets, so Friday evenings are typically about prioritising uniforms lest they disappear into the oblivion of the upstairs basket, never to be seen again – or at least until the child has well and truly grown out of them.

Weekends during school term involve doing the food shop for the week, purchasing replacement stationery and overdue project necessities, and attending matches and training. In between that there are birthday parties to attend and presents to be purchased, the unpredictable to accommodate, and the more infrequent commitments that Sod’s law dictates will always occur on a particularly manic weekend.

It’s all rounded up with the modern day equivalent of Glenroe on a Sunday night – the making of school lunches and the wondering “was that really our time off?”

The Easter holidays meanwhile, in between the frazzled moments, saw me reply to playdate invitations with “oh any day suits, sure we’re free and easy this week – and any time is grand either” while Sunday evenings were spent lounging on the couch instead of hunting for lunchbox lids. Because there was time enough for that.

The comparison makes you wonder if we’re really living “our best life”.

Life’s pretty hectic for parents these days as they attempt to juggle it all and growing expectations make it even more so. Curiosity got the better of me recently as I wondered how many of us are achieving that “perfect balance” – so I posed a lotto-type question across all my social media.

“If money wasn’t an issue, would you choose to work outside the home (full-time or part-time), or would you choose to be a stay-at-home parent?

My very non-scientific survey yielded a great response from parents only too willing to share their thoughts. But not everyone was content to do so publicly. One dad feared his company’s reaction if he saw a preference to work part-time voiced on social media. Another dad feared he’d be considered lazy because of his “unmanly” desire to become a stay-at-home parent.

Jen Hogan and the children.
Jen Hogan and the children.

Insufficiently maternal

One mother feared a public lynching if she dared express contentment with her situation as a full-time working mum. The very notion, she feared, might paint her as insufficiently maternal.

The final tally spoke volumes however, as many parents expressed that all too familiar frustration with the shortage of time they experienced during the working week and the spill-over into weekends. If finances weren’t a concern, 46 per cent said they’d prefer to stay at home while 49 per cent said flexible part-time working was the preferred option – though for many it just simply wasn’t available. The remaining 5 per cent of respondents were happy with the balance they were achieving as full-time working parents.

A simple question of course cannot take into account the complexities and intricacies of any individual situation, but there is a degree of comfort in knowing you’re not alone. There are others who are also striving for that perfect balance and who also never get on top of their washing!

For now, we are where we are, in my case with boundaries often blurred and never quite enough hours in the day. All the more reason to take full advantage and enjoy the lazy evenings that homework-free days bring, with no next-day school preparations to boot. So that’s exactly what we did.

Of course it’s all fun and games until Sunday arrives and you remember that you haven’t seen the five-year-old’s school jumper in two weeks . . .

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