Working from home – dreaming the dream or living the nightmare?
Flexible working hours? Freelancing? Allowed to get crashing on a cosy bed at 11am when your friends’ spines are already stiff on the office chair? Midday napping and other luxurious unthinkable treats? Aaa, no…You’d better go and get a reality check. Self doubt, self pity and blue days of mental breakdown have often been replacing the true satisfaction I got to achieve when I finally learnt how to embrace it all: glorious motherhood and flexible working.
Working from home may sound like the 8th wonder of the world, a wild dream come true, a luxury experience served on a golden plate, next to an expensive china cup of freshly brewed coffee served with all buttery croissants delivered by a Michelin French chef himself, straight from the corner restaurant with a delicious view of the Eiffel Tower. Well, at least this is what many of my friends and, I bet, my own husband think; to him working from home must look like I am treating myself to a spa day Monday to Friday when he’s at work. I simply wake up, no need to shave or put on a tie, and as a miracle I even skip the tube rush hour madness. But working towards embracing the flexible hours dream is still a far more complex subject as it doesn’t exactly have to mean you’re not working from an office, but it should all be in the ‘how’ and ‘when’ you do your work.
I personally feel I have been forced to start thinking about working on my own after realising the office hours mixed with a rougher London daily commute would never allow me to pick up the child from the nursery at 5.30pm. Not to mention I struggled with the idea of having to take a 1 year old to the nursery for 8 full hours, therefore which job would have allowed me pick him up at 3:30pm? Not many…Working from home can be as mad as rushing towards your office when both your train connections have been delayed and the alarm has been playing you up. Not to mention when nursery dropping must become a rigorous part of a new routine you’re trying to survive. But after joining motherhood and two years of trying to create a job position from scratch while looking full time after a child entering the terrible twos stage, it seemed the only sane choice in order to have more time around the tiny family I luckily managed to create.
Nonetheless, my question is why is it still hard to find work that works around our families, now we’re actually living in the age of the ‘cloud’? I know things are due to change, we witness brave and so needed projects such as Mother Pukka‘s flex appeal campaigns which are the medicine the big employers out there need to swallow asap in order to solve a challenge they have been facing as they’re loosing talent (many of us are simply not able to return to our old positions and they are faced with a high staff turnover). But working from home, especially attempting to create my own business had been tougher than any jobs I held so far. Is there a structure to it all? Maybe not just yet, so here is my truth about working from home in case you’re thinking to take the plunge…
Procrastinating the heck of it
I am by nature NOT the most organised person. I have a tendency to work on several things at once, and the brainstorming continues even after going to sleep. There is though no way I could fight procrastination, truth is it’s getting better now but in the early days of starting to work from home, especially when holidays were approaching, the festive mood was rather glorious and Pinterest breaks were easily taking over. I’m still surrounded by the same four walls as in my old office, but the room is not swirling with people, nor buzzing with fax machines and there’s no one humming Spice Girls’ Viva Forever on Friday afternoons. There’s only one cold screen and myself and occasionally a voice or two on the other side of the wire when I’m conference calling during a nappy change…
Or even triple. Running an entire household is not really a piece of cake, even when I manage to ditch a trip to the supermarket for an Ocado order, everything requires time. And I could use three more hours to the 24 that seem to fly like the wind…There are days when I’m not just a mother to a poorly feeling baby while having to work (the nursery bugs are pure bliss, aren’t they…), while having to cook three meals a day and have emergency snacks ready, pack lunches, clean, iron, arrange playdates, create/ plan activities, food shopping, make plans for the weekend etc, etc, often without even a real cuppa break in between because emailing, conference calling, writing, social media, content creating for clients and networking are taking over. I have to remind myself I am also a wife (and the wifey’s list of duties is endless, isn’t it?), friend, daughter and lots of close ones have their own expectations from me.
The zombie nursery drop off
While most mums at my son’s nursery (although rushing to their work place early morning after dropping their freshly groomed offsprings), look rather composed, quite ravishing and professional in their designer suits – same suits I’ve ditched for a lazy pair of Sweaty Betty leggings – because deep down I still hope that my working out will would hopefully hit me one day due to cool sports gear – noot! – my messy bun, Crocs and buggy tees are the obvious proof that I’m still working on creating a healthier working from home routine…:))
What to do?
Well, after the complicated early days stage of breakdown, self doubt and self pity I already mentioned, I realised the secret towards success is to 1. worry less. I’m now focusing on the fact that I am supposed to be extremely grateful for the chance I’ve been given – able to create a set of skills I can now use helping brands grow their social media and PR while growing a beautiful mums’ community through AllMumsTalk and empowering their businesses ideas through AllMums.Shop (soon to be launched) thanks to my husband’s continuous support and guidance (and his constructive nagging on those days when I fail to focus on priorities – yet taking it as a wake up call!).
2. Set up a dedicated office corner.
3. There’s no dress code when you work from home. But give up loungewear (still working on persuading myself to do it daily, but every time I do it, I notice a better work performance).
4. Block out distractions. Obviously poorly feeling babies would need constant care and attention, but your Facebook page doesn’t need too much TLC so have your notification OFF. The same treatment goes to the fancy gadgets that may disrupt your focus.
5. Learn how to deal with social isolation by compensating through attending social events, playdates or a regular dinner out with friends.
6. Some days it’s rather useful to switch to a coffee shop or library surrounding.
7. Remind yourself there are serious boundaries between your personal life vs work. Whenever you’re able to respect them, do it. When not, don’t be too tough on yourself, it’s the beauty of the flexible hours program you’re successfully working on that allows you to reschedule and replan work around your family.
8. Possibly the most important tip, remind yourself why you chose this path and do not forget your priorities: for me priority no 1 is my family and work is the one that must gravitate around it and not vice versa. This is the main thing I kept failing at but I like to believe I’m still learning and hopefully once the second child arrives I’ll be more prepared…and not let chaos take over!
So yep. These are the lush days of working from home. A constant battle with myself, a ‘stay awake for 2 more minutes’ kind of genuine wish, one that sometimes ends up in procrastinating the heck of it. Some days I have to keep the garden door open and let the cold keep me alert through conference calls. Some days are easier. Some are satisfying. But we’re only going forward…
Thanks Bloom & Wild for the delightful flower arrangement which I must say it was a huge distraction from work because the blooms were silently asking for mental compliments and constant gawking, yet goood incentive for the creative hard working pixel! Goes rather well with the Ikea splash of colour creative office – I still need a desk, but so far a high back green armchair and a yellow footstool are doing the trick for creating freelance content and writing articles!
Thank you Style by Definition for my outfits (check out this cool multi label showroom for more inspiration, it’s been set up by lovely Sidonie, London mum and fashion guru) and Tao & Friends for my toddler’s!
Photography: talented London maternity and family photographer Anna Pawleta
What’s your story and how are you coping with work as a mum?
Got any more tips for working from home mums?