Stay at home Mom and work from home Dad
I’ve been asked this; How do you make it work? You are a stay at home mom and your husband works from home so how does it work?” Enough times that I think I need to answer it, and, I think I have an answer.
I had this fear of it ‘not working’ too. This amorphous fear that we would bother Lars or we would be loud or we would have to tiptoe constantly. I worried that I would be second guessed or judged because he would walk in right when one child was pouring paint on another while the third was naked and dancing in it (not a real example). I also worried that the kids would go to ‘daddy’ if they didn’t like what mean mommy was telling to do or not do.
This is a pretty common situation and getting more common. When I worked in an office there were plenty of times people ‘worked from home’ and it was often code for ‘I’m doing the minimum for work while I slack off’ Personally when I worked from home and felt I had to PROVE I was working and actually got tons done and I know I’m not alone with that. Anyway, more jobs are offering the perk of working from home and that ‘perk’ means that you get the opportunity to work 24/7. I was SURE there must be dozens of essays or posts on this topic but I googled (and binged actually) and found a big fat nothing on the topic. Maybe my search string is wrong or maybe nobody else wonders but someone asked me so here is my answer to the question.
1. Create a defined office area with a door – we transformed our lowest level into the office. Before I stayed home his office area was in our middle level (4 level split) and we liked that it was in the ‘middle’ of everything and that is great for playing games etc on the weekend but not working.
2. Pretend your husband is not there – I imagine that when he goes down to the office that he is just gone. I never call to him, or ask for help. I also don’t tell him where we are going or say good-bye. The exception to this rule is if he comes out to see us. ** when we were talking about me staying home one of my big reasons was to get to know our kids more, and, I think he can have the same opportunity on a smaller scale by interacting at lunch time or a random little break here and there.
3. Set a time to ‘come home’ – When I came home with the kids from daycare that was the ‘end’ of Lars’s working day in the past. Now we had to agree on a time that he would emerge and be ready to parent. For us that is 5pm and if he does not come out by 5:15 I might inquire if he is busy or just lost on the internet. This end time gives me the info I need to plan around things. I also try very very very hard not to do the cliche throw the kids at him and run – I only think I’ve done that maybe 4 times in 2 years. I try to give a 15min buffer and then say what I’m doing like “I am going to start kid dinner” or “Lets go to the store”. Co Parenting is a nice thing, I prefer to have the whole crew together then divide and conquer and 100x better then timeshare parenting.
Working from home is not for everyone. Some people are too distracted by things gong on but fortunately Lars is a focus fiend. There has been a time or two that he had a conference call that was not on mute and some coworker may have heard that someone went poop and needed their bum cleaned, so, he needs to be aware of ways to make working from home work for him.
1. Say goodbye just like your leaving – tell the kids when you will be ‘home’ and if there are any special things for the evening to look forward too (swim lessons etc).
2. Try to keep in the office. If you wander around the house on a call you will get noticed. Not that you need to sneak around the house but be mindful of what is going on when you stick your head out and if everyone is in the kitchen think about if you have time for a quick interaction or not. This might sound crazy but if you were in an office and you had a meeting in 5 min and you saw a gaggle of chatty co workers gathered by your preferred coffee spot you either avoid or interact fast.
3. Use the mute button always. Make sure your phone has one, learn it, use it. Good for at an office too really. Ignore all sounds of mayhem, your wife will not thank you if you swoop in. If there is noisy mayhem we have found that a quick text or phone call to say “hey, your shaking the ceiling fan loose down here, can tango class move?” works better.
Why working from home and a stay at home mom actually mix well.
1. Daily meals together. If the mom can actually swing getting everyone sleeping/resting at a good lunch time then yippie! Lunch together! Like a mid day date! Provided your start timing works, dads can have breakfast with everyone before they say “goodbye” and that helps mom not have to handle 3 kid meals solo. With no commutes there is an extra 30-60 min reclaimed in your day that you can spend with your wife and kids.
2. Random interactions. At most office jobs you will often find yourself talking to a cube neighbor between projects or calls or meetings. It isn’t cheating to surface for a quick interaction with your family~ If you really can’t leave your desk all day, even lunch, your job is crazy!
3. You can cover for your spouse 10x more easily. Not that I recommend mom’s using naptime to run errands because dad is physically in the house AT ALL. (see rule#2) However, it is standard that a few times a year you need to go home early or work late to let your stay at home wife go to a Dr apt or something and you miss half the day for the 1 hour event. If you are working from home no extra driving and you only really miss the work time she is actually gone, and, you can still check in on work during that time if the kids are being calm and happy.
This general plan has worked for us for over 2 years with our kids growing from newborn, 2, 4 until now with a 2, 4 and 6 year old. They are good kids but they are not silent. I go out every day for our sanity and we have a good scheduled nap from 12-2:30. I’m not making any judgement calls on if you should stay home with your kids, or, work from home BUT I do want to say that it is not as daunting a combo as I expected. I hope if you find this by google it lets you know that there is a way 🙂
ps. I use the terms Mom for at home parent and Dad for working parent but it could be the other way and work just the same.