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  • Don't Think for One Second It's Easy to Be a Hands-on Mom When You Work from Home

    A work-from-home mom shares the ups and downs of balancing work and time spent with her son.
    by Rachelle Medina .
  • Parenting can be a lonely job. What helps is having a community who cheers and listens without judgment. And that's what our "Real Parenting" section is for: a space where parents can share the joys, pain and the mess that is parenthood.
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    A couple of months ago, I had to leave my full-time media job after working for 17 straight years. On my first day of liberation, my son, who is in grade school, got home and was shocked to see me sitting in the living room in the middle of the day.

    “Mom,” he asks, “Aren’t you going to the office?”

    “Me? Never!” I say.

    “Yay!” He exclaims with unbridled joy that I hadn’t seen since his last birthday party.

    A few blissful months went by, and we had days and nights when we're free to do whatever we want. And then it happened — freelance assignments started rolling in, beckoning me from my cozy nest. As I was so used to the daily hustle, I immediately gave in. The promise of extra income was welcome as I am also the sole provider of the household. Truth be told, there's also an odd stirring within me while I was holding a plate of burnt pancakes, a yearning to gain back even just a bit of what I had accomplished, career-wise, in the past years.

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    And so, I began accepting work-at-home assignments, choosing only those that I really liked. But then I soon realized that I had to set specific limitations to maintain that “work-at-home-balance,” lest the scales sway in the way of my previous full-time office schedule. I also had to keep tabs on my mommy guilt. Is there a way to balance this? It's all about setting boundaries.


    If you’re also a stay-at-home mom who’s thinking of taking on freelance work or you're planning to go into a small business, I'd like to share some things I had to do to keep a good balance.

    1. You have to stick to a specific working schedule

    The freelancer’s life allows you to work or lounge about at any time of the day, right? I discovered on the first week that this kind of attitude doesn’t really cut it if you have children and you’re running a household. 

    I eventually figured out a daily schedule, and this meant hunkering down at 7 a.m., a few moments after my son leaves for school, without any interruptions, overflowing clothes hamper be damned. I’d take a break for lunch, then move on to chores. Because it’s hard to pick up where I left off or when I’m switching from one task to the next, this type of schedule works for me. For other mom-friends who work from home and have younger children or infants, the work is squeezed in between naps, or after 8 p.m., when the kids have gone to bed.

    Another option is to schedule specific days of the week — say two or three days out of a work week —leaving the other days free. A lot of companies that allow their employees to work from home are flexible enough to accommodate this.

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    2. Carve out your own little workspace

    I once read a design article wherein an architect built a fence around his home office in the backyard so his kids wouldn’t bother him! Be it an extra room turned into a study, or a quiet spot in your dining room, having your own little workspace puts you in a productive mood and indicates to other family members that you are on work mode now.

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    Still no room for your workspace? Then look for a coworking space nearby, and ask for their monthly rates—it’s usually cheaper instead of paying the hourly rate daily.

    3. Be “present” when your child is around

    I thought long and hard about this when I caught myself shooing my son away when he arrived from school too early and kept on marching towards me while I’m on my laptop, demanding my attention. I had to remind myself why I had stopped working full-time in the first place.

    If the task at hand isn’t due that same afternoon, shut down the computer and enjoy the rest of the day with your child.

    4. It's totally okay to escape once in a while

    If you’ve been chained to your laptop, stove, or washing machine, then ditch your pajamas and get out of the house for some time on your own. Working at home can sometimes feel alienating, especially if you’re used to being around lots of people in an actual office.

    Go out with friends for a glass of wine (and don’t feel guilty—guilt is a recurring theme here), or have a solo cup of coffee in a quiet café. This is so you’ll feel like an adult with a life, and after a few hours of winding down, you can go back home and be a decent person.

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    5. Don't feel guilty about being on either side of the coin

    I always feel guilty about asking my son to join his yaya so that I could finish a really important project. On the other hand, I’d feel guilty when I’d ditch what I was writing for a few hours to bring my son to the playground (see realization number three).


    And then I realized that I shouldn’t feel bad about prioritizing one aspect for the other. If either work or child needs immediate attention, drop what you’re doing and attend to it. Flexibility is key here, and you’re the mom-boss who will implement it.

    Rachelle Medina is a mom of one and a freelance writer/editor. Before diving into the exciting world of freelancing, she was the editor-in-chief of Real Living. She now creates content that tackles home, design, and culture, to name a few. When she’s not busy, she loves visiting heritage spots and documenting the amazing drawings of her 7-year-old son.

    Want to get something off your chest? Or share a slice of your parenting journey with fellow moms? Send it to our Facebook Messenger or email at smartparenting2013@gmail.com with the subject "Real Parenting." Join us at the Smart Parenting Village here.

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