My husband and I became parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had both been working from home for approximately nine months and established a solid routine. We felt ready to welcome our baby into the mix, feeling comfortable in our “new normal.” We became work-from-home parents who enjoyed happy homeostasis. That is until his work called him back into the office. Now, I alone am the work-from-home parent.
If there’s one thing that all parents can most likely agree on, it’s that parenting comes with its unique set of challenges. And every parent faces their own set of challenges specific to their life situations. For me, being the only work-from-home parent has come with burdens I would not have predicted.
Before I continue, I need to establish that I love working from home. I love it so much that I never plan on returning to a traditional office. But nothing—or at least nothing I have ever experienced in my 28 years—is perfect. As a society, we talk a lot about increased screen time, isolation, and a lack of boundaries between home life and work life. But what we don’t talk about as often is what working from home looks like when you’re a parent. Or how responsibilities may differ between parents and caregivers if some family members work outside the home. Here are some challenges I have faced as the only work-from-home parent in my household.
My Morning Routine Has Gone Out the Window
Before becoming a mother, I had an extremely regimented morning routine that perfectly catered to my lifestyle. It included a morning workout, coffee, shower, skincare, and makeup routine. But, as most moms can relate, that routine has crumbled.
In the mornings, my husband has to get ready to physically go to work. This means that while he’s working out, showering, shaving, and packing his lunch, I’m changing diapers, heating milk, and chasing around our angelic (but exuberant) toddler. Of course, I could also opt to work out and get ready in the morning like I used to, but to do so means waking up before the rest of the household. While this does happen on occasion, most mornings, I am, frankly, too tired to make the effort.
Instead, getting ready usually happens in 10-minute intervals between Zoom calls. I brush my teeth at 8 a.m. I apply mascara before my 9 a.m. meeting. Very rarely do I start my work day feeling 100% ready to tackle the day.
I’m On Duty—Always
Because our home is closer to our daycare and because my work-from-home job offers its employees a flexible schedule, I’m the on-call parent. If our child is sick, I pick them up. If the daycare provider took a (much-needed and well-deserved) day off, I’m the childcare. If we forget to send our child’s pacifier, hat, or diaper rash cream, I’ll be right there. While being on-call may not manifest itself into a physical task every single day, there is undoubtedly a mental burden.
While being on-call may not manifest itself into a physical task every single day, there is undoubtedly a mental burden.
Allow me to mention how thankful I am that we’re able to send our child to daycare in the first place. I salute those who hold down a career while keeping their children home or single parents who are always on-call whether or not they work outside their home. You’re amazing!
One Job Runs Right Into the Next
I never thought I would miss my commute. Ditching it was, in fact, one of the reasons I wanted to work from home. But there are days—oh, are there days—when I would appreciate even the most aggravating commute.
Because my child’s daycare is only a 3-minute drive from my house, my day job runs right into my evening job as a toddler parent. Most days, I stumble away from the computer—feeling almost hungover from the exorbitant amount of screen time—and head straight to my car. Then, less than five minutes later, I am facing my second full-time job as a mom.
There is no time to decompress. There’s no time to mentally separate my work day from the impending evening. Everything runs together into one big jumble, and there are days when I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel with no end in sight.
But, I Keep it All in Perspective
I recognize that my situation is a pretty mild parenting plight. As I said before, I wouldn’t trade my work-from-home life for the world. What makes all the challenges worth it is that both my husband and I get to work jobs that we enjoy. We’re able to send our son to daycare. And someone is always home should he need us.
I’ve also become highly appreciative of the days my husband can work from home. My mornings are calmer, my mental burden lighter, and my son—who loves having us both around—is generally happier. Sure, some days are challenging. But there are breaks. And for that, I am thankful.
While preparing for our second child, I often reflect on how far I’ve come in my parenting journey. While the grass may look greener on the other side from time to time, I’ve come to understand that no parent has it “easy.” As I stumble through the challenges and frustrations of being a work-from-home parent, I do my best to focus on the positive. I take heart in knowing that I’m not the only one working each day to better establish boundaries between work, life, and self in our post-pandemic world.