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  • It's Time to Stop Saying 'Sa Bahay Ka Na Lang Pala?' to Any Mom

    Having a corner office or a 9-to-5 job or is not the only measure of success in women.
    by Hanna Fernando-Pacua .
It's Time to Stop Saying 'Sa Bahay Ka Na Lang Pala?' to Any Mom
PHOTO BY iStock
  • There seems to be a constant comparison between the "working mom" and the "stay at home" mom. I belong to the in-between: the work-from-home-mom. I am sure the other "in-between" moms will agree: It is a glorious sweet spot where we get to enjoy the best of both worlds, yet also be challenged with the worst!

    Around a year and a half ago, I was part of the traditional workforce who goes to work every day. For eight years, I had a 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. job in a fancy office. I wore dresses, and heels, and makeup. I got to travel and speak in front of people, and I loved my job! Looking back, it was a glamorously busy life.

    Amid that busyness, however, I found myself always wondering if I could do so much more. I longed to spend quality time with my kids and also wanted to have time to write about things other than my job. I was stifled with the fixed office hours and felt like I should be somewhere contributing and experiencing more.

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    The desire to get out of the office job increased when I was met with a complicated pregnancy. The situation urged me to slow down and examine what I wanted in life. After a lot of thought and prayers, I was blessed with an opportunity to work for a non-profit organization (NGO) and hold office at home. What an ideal situation, I thought. I looked forward to not having to wake up to rush to the office and having more time on my hands.

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    A few weeks into my new job, I realized that the work from home arrangement was not as perfect as it seemed! I was constantly faced with guilt feelings of being home physically but not really being mentally present for my family. The nagging thought of unread emails and unfinished to-do lists never goes away. Here are some of my personal highs and lows:

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    The highs of a work-at-home mom

    More time for the kids

    I have an 8-year old boy and a 22-month old girl. Being able to bathe, feed, and play with my baby throughout random parts of the day is terrific. I can savor her milestones first hand. For my school-aged kid, finding mommy home after a long day at school is a dream come true.

    Flexibility

    I don’t have to cram all errands during the weekends. With enough discipline and time management, I can do errands throughout the week (during off-peak hours to avoid the crowds) and still accomplish my work deliverables. I can do the groceries, take the kids to the pedia, or attend that PTA meeting without taking a work leave. My husband also has crazy work hours (he is in the military), and now I appreciate the fact that I can arrange my schedule to be home whenever he gets free time!

    No daily commute

    With the current state of Philippine traffic and public transportation, I am thrilled not to have to face it every day. Now that I am working from home, I need not worry about travel time. Less time spent on the road means more time doing productive things.

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    The lows of a work-at-home mom

    The kids are always there

    For the kids, it doesn’t really matter if I am working or not — it just means that mommy is at home! There is always someone needing something or showing me something. It is very challenging to remain focused after several interruptions throughout the day. I am hopeful this will get better when they get older.

    Setting firm work and home boundaries

    Back when I was working in the office, except for some exceptional days, my work day usually ends at 6 p.m. I shut off the computer, call it a day, and spend the remaining part of the day for “me” time or quality time with family and friends. Working at home has made it harder for me to set boundaries and know when to shut off. I find myself checking emails during family movie night or continuing to work way past my bedtime.

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    Neglecting self-care.

    Since I am in my "home office" all day, I hardly see the need to fix myself up. Sometimes my only concern is how to hide the laundry from view during a video conference! It also takes a whole lot of effort to stand up and get myself to exercise and burn the calories from snacking too much. I think it affects my self-esteem, and this is why I sometimes “dress up” for work even if I just stay at home! I also meet friends for lunch or coffee, just so I don’t forget about my face-to-face social skills.

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    The highs largely outweigh the lows, and I am not about to return to the office-based status anytime soon. I know that these challenges can be addressed by changing my mindset and my way of doing things. I am privileged to have strong support — my parents and our trustworthy yaya help get the kids and the chores out of the way throughout the day. I am also grateful for colleagues who understand the challenges of working from home. Kids showing up during video conferences is actually a regular occurrence, and I feel that no judgment is passed.

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    I do get the occasional comment that goes something like, "Sa bahay ka na lang pala, kailan ka magwowork ulit?" Uhm, I DO have a job. That’s why it’s called work-from-home! I admit that this gets to me sometimes. There is still this long-standing belief that successful women are those who spend hours at the office and sacrifice family life to build their careers to claim that corner office.  

    Well, let it be known that we, the women-working-from-home, the "in-betweens," do have careers, too. We do have our respective corner offices (we can even choose a different corner every day!) and get to face a different set of challenges. Successfully juggling this home-based career and family life help mold us into stronger and empowered moms!

    Hanna Fernando-Pacua works for a U.S.-based non-profit that facilitates grant-making to NGOs based in Asia. She usually works from home, but she can also do it at a nearby coffee shop, or while waiting in line at the doctor’s office.  

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