I work from home.
I have three little ones, including a two-year-old who’s still home with me, a four-year-old who’s home most of the day, and a six-year-old who’s just finishing her first year of school. Every day I feel a little bit like a rodeo clown, trying to distract and entertain them, bouncing around on my tippy-toes, engaging with them as meaningfully as possible for a few minutes and then sprinting off to get something else done before they spear me in the rear notice I’m gone.
The figuring out how much of me to give my kids and my husband and my church and my house and my job so that everything is taken care of? So hard. The feeling that I haven’t found the balance yet? Constant.
And for a while, I felt so much guilt. Every night I would lie in bed and wonder, should I just wait until the kids are older? Am I missing them, neglecting them? Should I give them more of me?
I remember having this conversation with a friend a few months ago. I explained how impossible it was to get it all done.
“When do you work?” she asked.
“When they’re asleep. Nap time for an hour or so and then after bed time until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. Which means the house is constantly a mess, because I can’t figure out when to get that done too,” I replied.
“You know you can work and clean when they’re awake, right? You know you can tell them, ‘Mommy’s working right now. Y’all go play.’ You can explain to them what you do. That you are helping and encouraging people. That you are using the gifts God gave you to try to make the world a better place. That you are pursuing your dreams and trying to reach goals. THESE ARE IMPORTANT THINGS FOR THEM TO SEE YOU DO. It’s good for your children to see you work hard.”
Then she finished it off with this bomb: “Teaching your kids they aren’t the center of your world? That’s good for them.”
My kids don’t need a mom who plays with them every second, does everything for them, is at their every beck-and-call.
It’s possible to do both: love them hard and work hard. I can tickle them on the couch, make them a snack and snuggle next to them, laughing at their messy faces. I can lie on the floor with them and roll the trains over the wooden tracks with a “ch-ch-ch” sound.
But then? I can tell them it’s time for me to get some work done. I can set a timer and tell them this is their time to play without Mommy. And during that time—they can get a snack themselves; they can wipe their own bottoms (or most of them can); they can play with each other. Mom is here for emergencies only.
And then I walk away and tell myself to shed the guilt.
I’ll be honest. Some days it works really well. And some days I give up because they’re tired and whiny and I can tell it’s not worth the fight. But that’s OK. We can try again the next day.
I don’t want my kids to grow up depending on me for constant entertainment or expecting me to do everything for them. Just like I weaned them from their bottles and their pacis and their diapers, I am lovingly, gradually weaning them from their codependence as well.
A few months ago, my husband took my daughters to the doctor. While they were sitting in the waiting room, my husband looked down at the coffee table and saw a magazine lying on top of it, one I happen to write for.
“Look!” he called to my girls. “Mommy’s picture will be in here.”
Later, he told me about how they flipped through the magazine looking for my picture, and how the girls were so excited when they saw my face. They couldn’t believe I was in a real magazine.
“Is this what she’s doing when she’s on the computer? Is this one of the things she writes for mommies?” my oldest asked.
“Yep,” he replied.
“That’s so cool!” she said in near disbelief.
As he relayed the story, I felt a strange confirmation of sorts. All of those moments of doubt, all the questioning whether or not I was neglecting them, were answered—not a chance. I’m teaching them they are capable of “cool” things. That they can be both a good mom and a good [insert anything]. I’m showing them what it looks like to do something you love, to have a work ethic, to be disciplined. Sure, it’s a constant balancing act, one I haven’t perfected yet, but it’s worth it.
And I’m done with the guilt.
And work-from-home-mom, trust me, you can be done with it too.