Working from home: what it’s really like

Cutest office buddy EVER!
Cutest office buddy EVER!

When I went back to work at six weeks postpartum, it was tough. I know it’s hard for any new mama when they return to work, especially at six weeks. For me, I was diving right into the regular work life, meaning with my commute, I was away from my LO for 50 hours a week. Not ideal. But after doing that for a month, I switched to my new work schedule. That was July 15, so it’s been more than three months now with the new schedule. I work mostly from home now. Most Monday mornings I go into the office for our staff meeting, and on most Thursdays I go up to the university to teach a journalism class. Other than that, I do most of my work from home, working 30 hours a week.

When the opportunity first presented itself, it seemed like a no-brainer. Being away from Ellis for 50 hours a week, or working 30 hours a week from home? It came with a pay cut, of course, since I was only working 30 hours a week instead of 40, but the money we’d save on childcare, gas, etc made it not so much of an overall loss. And I can mostly work on my own schedule, meaning taking advantage of nap times and getting some work done in the evenings and weekends too.

One of my first thoughts about the new schedule was the benefit of getting more sleep. Oh, sleep! Having to get up, showered, sometimes do my makeup, feed Ellis, then the 30-35 minute drive to work to be there by 8:30 a.m. meant that I was a deeply sleep-deprived every day at the office. The constant lack of sleep made me feel sick, like it hurt deep in my bones. With taking care of the baby, getting him to bed around 8, then trying to finish things up around the house, make and eat dinner, etc, we usually get to bed around 1. And we’re waking up a couple times in the night to feed and change the baby, so by the time I got up for work, I was running on 3.5-5.5 hours of sleep most days.

My new schedule meant I didn’t have to get up early, get showered right away and commute. I could sleep in a bit! I’m still not all bright-eyed and fully rested with eight of sleep, mind you, but much closer at least! I get enough sleep to function properly and not hate everyone so much. So that’s nice.

But when I went into this, I was thinking, Wow! I’m gaining 20 hours back into my life with this new work schedule. I had all these plans and fantasies of being able to take a break to go run, do yoga, sit by the pool while I worked. Ha. Yeah right. I wish.

Working from home has not been all sunshine and rainbows like I’d dreamed it’d be. With all the stop-and-go, I never finish my work by the time my husband gets home around 4:30. At that point, he finishes putting things away, etc and usually takes over Ellis duties around 4:45 or so and entertains him while I get some more work done for another hour and a half or so before we get to dinner. Then after dinner I work more.

As far as the mechanics go, I work a lot during naps, after bedtime and after my husband gets home. I’m very grateful that my dad comes by one or two times a week to help with Ellis before heading to work, so I can focus on getting some work done. And when Ellis is awake, sometimes I can get some work done with him next to me on the play mat, Bumbo or jumper (depending on his mood).

Ellis and my dad
Ellis and my dad

That’s my typical day, and that’s just trying to get an average of six hours of work done in a day. I’m usually too busy trying to get caught up on work to take a break to go to yoga or go for a run or hit the gym. Although with all the work stress, I need those workouts and endorphins now more than ever. When I am able to go to the gym, it’s after I’ve gotten Ellis to sleep, and I eventually make it to the gym around 10 or 10:30. Just enough time to squeeze in a short workout, never as long of a workout as I’d like. I’d stay longer, but the gym closes at 11. I’ll talk more on my postpartum fitness journey another time.

One big glitch in my work situation is that my workload was never lightened. How was I supposed to get the same amount of work done in only 30 hours from home that I was getting done in 40 hours at the office? Thus the stress. Constantly feeling like no matter how hard I work, I can’t get it all done. I’m falling behind, drowning with no one to throw me a life preserver. You would think most moms cry a lot when they’re pregnant, or maybe right after the baby’s born. Not for me. I cried so much more in these last few months than I have in over a year. I hate trying so hard to just end up feeling like a failure.

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but that’s the truth in what my work life has been being a work-at-home mom these last couple of months. I’m sure this isn’t the case for all WAHMs, and I think it would be a lot more do-able if I didn’t have to work so many hours and if I had less on my plate.

I don’t want to complain. Because despite the setbacks, I do feel very lucky that I get to stay home with Ellis and still bring in an income. Even though working 30 hours from home and taking care of a baby can be overwhelming at times, I am still very appreciative that I get to spend this time taking care of him instead of sending him to daycare. I know every mom does what’s best for their family to make it work. And for me, this is what I feel is best for us, even if it has difficulties of its own. I wouldn’t want to trade it and go back to going into the office full time and being away from Ellis 50 hours a week again. Getting to be here with him makes it all worth it for me.

Anyway, so that’s a glimpse into what working from home looks like for me. For other WAHMs, how do you make it work? How many hours a week are you able to work from home?

Going back to work

Since many of you don’t know me, let me preface this with a little information about what I do. I am the publishing manager at my job. I’m in charge of our magazine, brochures, maps, rack cards, printed and online publications and editing anything else that needs my keen eye.

My first day back to work at 6 weeks postpartum.
My first day back to work at 6 weeks postpartum.

The office is 30-35 minutes from home. So when I started back to work at 6 weeks postpartum, all things considered, that meant I was away from baby about 50 hours a week. It was rough. At least we timed it right, so my husband was home with him (he’s a teacher and has summers off). That made it a little easier rather than having to drop the little man off at daycare at 6 weeks. It still wasn’t easy though.

The night before I went back, I sat there holding my sleeping son while I cried. On the drive to work the next day, I fought more tears, feeling sad and guilty that I would be away from my baby all day. All WEEK. By the way, no one told me this. DON’T start back to work full-time on a Monday. TERRIBLE idea.

Jumping right back into a full week was SO hard. Then when I got to work, I tried to hurry over to my desk quietly and avoid talking to everyone as best I could. I knew if I started talking, I would start crying. And they don’t get it. They’re just excited to see me after being gone the last 6 weeks. They don’t understand that I love them and love my job, but right then I hated them and hated that I had to be there. Not that it’s their fault that I had to be there, but it’s hard to be rational at times like this. My chipper officemates were eager to chat me up and welcome me back, but I just wanted to get my coffee and sob at my desk. Then my sweet friend from upstairs came down to welcome me back. No words. Just a hug. She knew exactly what I was going through. I really needed that hug, and that empathy. And then I scurried off to the bathroom to cry some more.

It seemed like the longest, most awful day ever. Luckily I convinced my husband to pack up the baby to come visit me at lunch. Noon rolled around, and I got to eat some comfort food with my husband while I breastfed the baby (one less time to pump!).

After what seemed like an eternity of catching up at work and pumping, finally it was 5, and I got to go home. I practically sprinted upstairs to lay down and nurse Ellis. He really missed me too and took his time soaking in the snuggles while he nursed. A sweet little baby is simply the best thing to come home to.

Here’s what my schedule generally ended up looking like. I would generally get to bed around 12-2, then wake up a couple time at night to feed Ellis, so by the time I had to get up for work, I was running on 3.5-5.5 hours of sleep every night on average. I usually cannot function on less than 8 hours of sleep. This lack of sleep was completely depleting me. I felt sick, like aching in my bones, like some kind of zombie. I’m sure many moms with newborns know the feeling. During maternity leave I slept much better, since I could sleep in to make up for sleep. But work hours don’t work like that. So that’s the sleep deprivation I was struggling with.

Tasty lactation treats made with chocolate chips, peanut butter, oats, chia seeds, honey and brewer's yeast.
My tasty lactation treats! Click for recipe.

On top of that, it was hard to feel like I was getting enough work done. Depending on what time Ellis ate last, I would need to pump 2-3 times while I was at work. I hate pumping. I imagine no one likes it. But I found a way to make the time go by faster and maximize my output at least.

After all this, I’d eventually get to come home and spend about 2 hours with Ellis before he goes to sleep. Then the weekends always manage to be so damn busy, we can’t get a chance to just slow down and breathe and just relax as a family. Before I knew it, it was Monday again, and another long week at work.

That’s what my life was like for about a month. It was hard. Then I switched to my new schedule, where I get to work mostly from home at 30 hours a week. It’s amazing getting to be here with my baby boy, but working from home has its own struggles that I’m still trying to figure out. I’ll go into more detail on what working from home really looks like in my next blog.

What’s your work/mommyhood situation like? If you went back to work, when did you go back? What was it like going back to work?