While pregnant, my wife and I were under the illusion that working from home full-time would be a tenable, if not ideal arrangement for when our daughter arrived. We chose to remain in jobs outside our chosen fields for the sake of flexibility and the opportunity to help my family out during a time of great difficulty. We are thankful to be spared brutal commutes, constant dry cleaning bills, and irksome meetings, while also feeling fortunate to spend oodles of quality time together during Ruby’s formidable early years. Even though I want to EARN that #1 Dad mug, I still have a strong desire to get back to full-time employment in the entertainment business. Laura, who has always been a superstar employee, is itching to work outside the home, where she can make a greater financial contribution, make more friends (LA is a lonely town if you don’t have a job in an office or aren’t hooked up in an artistic community/scene), and work in Human Resources. What’ll happen if we both get jobs outside the house? I guess we’ll figure that out when and if that happens.
Working from home has been a double-edged sword in our case. What they (who is they anyway?) don’t tell you about working from home is that it’s only as plausible as the temperament of your child, your living space, and other commitments. From day one, Ruby has had extreme separation anxiety, a buffet-style attitude toward breast feeding, chronic colds/ear infections/throat blisters, demonic teething, severe sleep resistance, and a visceral aversion to daddy’s face during 4:30 a.m. wakeups (despite all my mindfulness and self-talk about “being enough”). Ruby requires mom (and her boobs) and there’s no way around that. Laura says, “When I’m with Ruby, I feel like I should be working and when I’m working I feel like I should be with Ruby.” Even having childcare when you work from home is an exercise in feeling guilty because someone else is taking a care of your baby in the next room, which in our apartment is five feet away from our desks. If Ruby knows Laura is home, she wants her nap routine with mom, not with dad or the nanny.
On the 24/7 cycle that is our life, we squeeze our work in between scarce naps, when Ruby goes to bed until late at night, when the nanny is here, and on weekends. We work lots of weekends. In an attempt to be better parents and employees, we struggle to balance the basic needs of our life: sleep, exercise, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, caring for our two dogs, relaxation, convincing the bank that we need $100 in quarters for laundry, date nights, time apart, classes, and in my case, writing and performing. The stay-at-home parents who don’t work probably have all the same issues, sans employer accountability, but higher societal expectations regarding child rearing. No matter what arrangement you find yourself in as a parent, it’s never ideal, it often feels unworkable, it is terribly exhausting, but it is always worth it…just kidding…sometimes it sucks.
This post originally appeared on the conversation