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Thoughts For Thursday: Lessons Learned From Working and Staying At Home

November 11, 2010 · 33 comments

in Parenting, Personal Finance, Thoughts For Thursday, Work

I have had one job my entire career, but have had different iterations of the same job.

I started out as a computer programmer in 1991 (which had nothing to do with my major).   I worked in an office full time for 3 years, and then I had my oldest son.  I then switched to working 3 days in the office and 2 days at home. I then had a daughter 2 years later and a son 20 months later. After my third child, I had no intention of going back to work, period. However, they struck a deal with me: 16 hours a week, exclusively from home.  Sounded good. However, those 16 hours grew into 24, and it was getting hard to balance working and being a mom with 3 small children at home.  So, after a year of that arrangement, I quit completely and we began to rely on just one income.

Are you bored yet?  Wait, there’s more!

Seven years later, they called back wanting help for a project.  I could work from home and part time.  That sounded like a good deal since all my kids were in school and I had quite a bit of time on my hands.   That lasted 3.5 years, in which the economy tanked, and I stopped working again.

Flash forward 9 months, and that is where we are at now . As some of you know, I returned to work last week, part time and from home.  So far so good. But what I want to share with you is not about my exciting work history.   It is more about what I have learned over this 19 year journey…

Throughout my career, I have been a full time working mom in an office, a full time mom working partially from home, a part time mom working from home and a completely stay at home mom. You could say I am an authority on being a mom who works and doesn’t work.  The following are snippets of what I have learned along the way:

  1. If you are a stay at home mom, do not for one second feel guilty about not bringing in an income.  My first few years I felt awful that I wasn’t contributing to the household income.   That is the last thing a SAHM should be worried about.  I handled all the finances, household repair appts, shopping, errands, doctor appointments, etc- not to mention raising the kids.  You cannot put a price tag on the value of performing those roles.  (Yes, I know studies have shown that stay at home moms really should make bazillions of dollars every year, blah blah blah.)
  2. If you are a working mom, don’t feel guilty about not being with the kids.  As long as you are providing a safe environment for them and giving them a lot of love and care when you are home, things will be fine.  My only warning is that I would be somewhat concerned if you are leaving teenagers home alone to their own devices day in and day out.  Encourage school sports or other activities that will keep them busy and hopefully out of trouble.
  3. If you work from home, remember to separate work and home.  I have a very hard time with this myself, and I am   really trying hard this time around to make sure the computer is closed at 3:00 pm, period.   (I do know there will be exceptions to this rule though, but hopefully they will be few and far between.)   Emails can wait, and helping the kids with their homework and spending time with the family is way more important to me.
  4. Remember, you will never be the perfect employee or the perfect parent, so don’t demand either out of yourself.  Do the best you can in the time allotted, and give yourself a break.

In the end, what I am trying to say is that we are all human.  It can be very hard to be a parent who works or does not work.  Both situations come with their own challenges.  I have learned so much going through so many transitions that I take a new approach each time that I either go back to work or stay home with the kids.  It has actually been quite healthy for me, as I have come to appreciate different sides from so many situations.  I am hoping that this time around with work I can really find a great balance of home and work, because last time, my balance was somewhat skewed at times.

Do you ever struggle with a work/home life balance?  Have you ever gained a new perspective from either staying at home or changing jobs?

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