Nov 5, 2008

Working at Home & Isolation

What happens when your husband lands a new job 100 miles (and more) from all of your friends and family just before you give birth to your first child and quit your full-time office job to move that far away with him?

You run the risk of people acting like you live on another continent altogether. People hardly come to visit. Over the years friends have even reverted to e-mail contact rather than telephone calls. Let's face it, talking on the phone with little ones is challenging on a good day, and since I became a mother later than most of my friends, once they achieved telephone-talking-with-ease status they then entered the overscheduled-child phase, which to this day does not afford anyone spare time. Still e-mail contact. Sigh.

Now compound that situation with working at home in a digital/internet era....practically no adult interaction/contact. My life literally consists of upstairs, downstairs, school, and the grocery store. You can throw in the doctor and dentist outings and only 1 sport each per child.

It is isolating enough that when my mom called at the last minute to invite me to travel to Illinois and camp out overnight in freezing temperatures to try out for Deal or No Deal, I actually jumped at the chance - it was actually appealing! Luckily, the folks at the Pier let everyone who could fit inside into the building so we wound up non-sleeping warmly on the floor of a public building with complete strangers. We met some funny folks and did have a good time. (Didn't make the show though). My husband was dumbfounded that I said, "It sounds like fun. Why not?" As soon as I said it and knew the weather forecast, I knew I was truly a desperate woman with a skewed perception of fun these days.

As a work-at-home mom whose job is computerized, including most communication with clients, you take chances to get out whenever they present themselves whatever the opportunity.

I've made new friends in this city, but I am forced to keep my distance somewhat, for my own sanity. The downside to being a work-at-home mother is that it is a rare person who understands that you have a real job to do and that you still have deadlines. If they could stop asking me for bogus play dates at my house wherein they arrive and announce as they wave goodbye they will be gone for 6 hours to another city or quit copping out on the kid swaps we've tried to plan (I keep their kids for 2 hours and they keep mine for 45 minutes or can't do it), I'd probably have more of a life, but that is not, nor has it been, my reality in the 10 years I've been working at home unfortunately.

You get the requests to let so-and-so's child ride the bus home with your child until they can pick them up 2 hours later from those you hardly know because they merely heard you work-at-home and must therefore just simply be at home, whether it be due to an older sibling's appointment for which they don't feel 2 or more children should be pulled out of school early, or not being able to greet them at the busstop for any reason, to the parent who is trying to accommodate the child who just simply does not wish to attend their sister's cheerleading competition or sports event and hearing a mother of a boy making a play date with your daughter while saying "Every Wednesday we need him to have a play date due to *this reason.*" Hmmmm, a/k/a free babysitting service. (Just FYI, if the play date is with your middle-child daughter who has a "cool" older brother, there is nothing but trouble, as that child will inevitably ignore what was supposed to be his playmate as he gravitates toward the boy stuff and older boy). It can get really astonishing the requests you receive with no attempts at hiding the true motives behind them, but worse, with no real consideration as to how this request will impact you. (You might not know it moms, but we're onto you!) It drives me absolutely crazy when a parent allows their too-young children to play with mine on days I have hired a baby-sitter to help me out - I still can't get work done worrying about whether or not my sitter can appropriately tend to my kids, let alone the 3 extra small ones who don't belong here, and on my dime picturing the other mother accomplishing her dish washing, laundry, or simply having an uninterrupted telephone conversation with her friends).

Don't get me wrong here either. I do readily do things out of the kindness of my heart such as snatch up the neighbor's older 4 children under the age of 6 just so that she and her newest baby can nap together, etc., but I have to do those things when I am able to, not because other people think I am able to or should be able to. I'm the first one to offer to take a child, even if it is inconvenient in someone's time of need, but I don't consider your schedule, other child's appointment, or your social life a time of need. When one of my children has an appointment, they all come with when there is only one parent available. I once sat here with 3 children down the street whose parents had to rush to the hospital to have a baby. This was no problem for me. I was happy to do it. It became a problem, however, on this school night, to learn that grandma and grandpa were also at the hospital rather than caring for these children. Couldn't they see that all of these children were going to be exhausted for school the next day, as it was now 11 p.m.? Couldn't they see that because they couldn't get to sleep due to the excitement (their children and mine at the novelty of a sleepover on a school night), that this was setting my work back hours and that I would have to stay up later to get it done? The answer is "No." The work-at-home life seems a breeze to outsiders.

For me it got to a point where I knew not to answer my phone, that I had to outright say "I'm sorry, but I can't because I have to work." and NOT buy into the child-swapping ideas with just anyone. Funny thing is, out of all these people, those who only required my friendship to serve their purposes no longer call at all and are therefore not a true friend. Because I can't tell who these people are or are not in advance, I have to keep my distance.

It is important to take into consideration that a work-at-home mother does have a job to do and that while you think she is always available, she is not. A work-at-home mother would LOVE to be your friend because she craves adult interaction due to her isolation, if friendship is all you expect or demand of her. Talented at juggling, time-management, prioritizing, and sacrificing is the work-at-home mother, and she will be there for you, and even offer to be there for you, whenever you need it or could just use a helping hand regardless--if you don't abuse her. She could certainly use a helping hand herself some days.

Has this been your experience being a work-at-home parent? How have you dealt with those who just don't understand? How have you dealt with the isolation or how do you combat it?


  1. I'm not a work at home mom, but I'm don't buy into the child swap thing either. I'll help out when needed, but I hate being obligated. I HATE that mentality!

  2. I'm with ya on that one Angie, and good point.