I officially work from home and my husband sort of does for his job too. I own a writing and editing business and only take on clients with work I can complete in the confines of my home office (with an occasional quick trip into the field to gather information for news stories). My husband is a sports online producer for a large-market newspaper and he works evening hours, with an occasional day shift. He is able to do all his work from home as long as he has Internet access and the right television stations. When there are meetings he must attend or colleagues he needs to plan with in person, he clocks his hours from his office desk. For the most part he is home with us though. So instead of one parent, we have both working from home parents.
The 2010 U.S. Census shows that 10 percent of the American workforce puts in hours from home at least one day per week. Of those workers, nearly 5 percent work primarily in their homes. A Stanford study from this year
revealed that U.S. households with two working parents almost doubled from 25 percent in 1968 to 48 percent in 2008. There are no official statistics on how many parents work from home but just in our circles alone, there are many. The Census and Stanford statistics emphasize a larger movement toward balancing careers and family life from one location: home.
The dynamics of a marriage where both spouses work in the same place that they raise children, scrub dishes and relax are different than marriages where both parents work outside the home or one parent stays home full-time. Having two working from home parents comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.
Here are a few observations based on our family experience of having working from home parents:
When You Are Both Working From Home Parents…
|What my morning looks like
Domestic duties blur.
On the days when my husband is in the office, I know it is up to me to get the children fed, dishes washed, laundry done and house looking decent before bedtime. When we are both home the responsibilities are not as easily defined. If we are both busy with work, we may walk past a sink full of dishes 20 times before one of us finally caves. In theory, we try to split up chores based on each other’s schedules. So if I am working from 9 to 3, he is in charge of keeping the house in shape and attacking projects like piles of laundry during that window. There are times that I log off in the late afternoon to a toy-strewn house and breakfast dishes still sitting on the counter. And vice versa. Between taking kids to school, picking them up, going grocery shopping, dropping the car off at the mechanic, squeezing in a trip to the gym and the thousands of other little things that pop up, the domestic basics can easily be overlooked. Particularly when both adults in the house are also trying to earn a living.
My husband has zero tolerance for messes though so shirking domestic duties usually happens on my end, I admit. It would seem that if both of us are working from home parents and are physically in the home more often, cleanliness should be at an all-time high but it is a constant battle to keep up, just as in families with two parents who work outside the home.
|A typical work interruption
As much as we try to keep our work schedules segmented, we both have unpredictable occupations. For example, last week I had scheduled a marathon writing session for the hours the older two were at school. I had extra assignments and had fallen behind because of back-to-school craziness. That morning he told me he had an important phone call he needed to be on from 11 to 12. I had all of my work carefully planned out, down to the minute, and taking away an hour meant several tasks would go uncompleted. I knew he had to be on the call though. Particularly since his job is so cool about him working from home, when he is asked to do something outside his normal work hours, we oblige.The newspaper industry is still in a lot of financial turmoil too so when he is requested to be part of a project or on a committee, he (and I) want him to be able to say “yes.”
The flip side of our setup is that sometimes I need to be on a call or gather info for a news story during his work hours. There have been more than a few times when we both have felt our particular work priority should take precedence and we’ve had to find a compromise. It helps to remind each other that having a lot of work is a blessing and that in the big picture, our scheduling conflicts are few and far between.
Accountability is high. You know that feeling you have as a parent when your husband or wife walks out the door for the day, and though you’ll miss him or her, you are sort of relieved? I love my husband and like that we spend so much time together. But it’s a lot of work too. When he is here, I had better not fool around playing Candy Crush on the couch when I’ve been complaining that he hasn’t given me enough to time to get my work done this week. I’m a “let’s do the the dishes once every day” sort of gal. When he’s here, I know I need to have the breakfast dishes done before noon (to be fair, he is often the one that ensures that by doing them… but still…). I have to parent like someone is watching because someone is. I have no excuse not to get in my daily run if he is here. Should I always avoid work procrastination, stay on top of household dirt and get the baby up from her nap the moment I hear her chatting (instead of 10 to 15 minutes later)? Yeah, probably. But I admit that I slip a little on all fronts without that extra set of adult eyes on me. He makes me better at so many things by being a constant presence. It has just taken some getting used to after several years of the single mom mentality.
|I want to brush my teeth RIGHT now!
When my friends ask where I find the time to work, maintain a blog and wrangle four kids, my answer is simple: My husband. There is no way in the universe that I could have the work/family/writing/exercise routine that I do if my husband didn’t work from home too, and on a shift that is opposite from mine. I’m so spoiled that when he does leave for 10 to 12 hours at a time, I’m resentful. How could he leave me for so long? Doesn’t he know how hard it is on me to handle this all without him? How can he be so selfish — commuting alone with the music of his choice then having good times all day with his friends in the office while I’m trying to keep four kids alive and respond to client emails with a baby on my lap? I get so accustomed to relying on him that I’m angry when I’m thrust into the role of stay-at-home mom
for a short span.
In truth, his commute is usually a long, frustrating one with plenty of traffic and toll booths. When he is in the office, his time is so short that he works furiously from the time he sits down until it is time to go. He sees his colleagues and friends but it is no social hour. The time he spends battling traffic on the way home is time that I am hearing about the adventures the kids had at school and I am taking them to the park to enjoy the ocean breeze. It takes a lot of effort to remind myself to be thankful that he has a good job that also pays our health insurance. He could have to be in the office 40+ hours per week — so a day here and there should be met with gratefulness on my part. I still get cranky but I’m working on it.
All in all, both of us being working from home parents has been an amazing way to spend the first few years of our marriage. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend together when we dated long-distance and so being around each other so much now is really quite lovely. We eat breakfast together. We eat lunch together. We eat dinner together. We are both here to witness the milestones of our kids and greet them when they get home from school every day. When the older ones are in school, and the baby is napping, we can cuddle for a few minutes on the couch or take care of things that we are often too tired to address at night (if you know what I mean). We pass the buck back and forth, and back and forth again, when it comes to chores, kids, working out and actual work but it all manages to get done and neither of us is stressed.
For couples who enjoy the social aspect of an office setting and need that individual time, having the dynamic of working from home parents may seem like a bad idea. People who like boundaries between their job and their home life would also fare better to stay in a traditional work setup. But for people who don’t mind a few domestic interruptions throughout the work day and are okay seeing their spouse all day, every day, a double work-from-home arrangement is ideal. As in all aspects of marriage and parenting, just remember that a little compromise can go a long way.
What experiences have you had with both working from home parents?
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