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When my maternity leave came to an end last year, it was time to reflect on what I wanted my working life to look like now that I was a mom. Together with my manager, I decided to start working four days a week, two of those days from home. This arrangement was great and I am so grateful for the flexibility, so that on the days I work from home I can also dedicate time to my son. I am back to working full time now but still feel that I am not missing much of his life since I work from home the majority of the week.

However, where working from home is supposed to be good for your work-life balance, I recently discovered that it also has another side. A side that I didn’t want to see in myself.

The easy part of going to the office is that when I am in the office I work and when I am at home I don’t work (at least until my son is in bed). When I get home, I take the time to play with him and not do anything else. My phone goes away and I try to give my full attention to my son. However, when I am working from home, the two territories tend to overlap a bit because although I am not the caretaker on those days, I still come out of my office room once in a while to give him a hug or to see something that he is doing (or just to get a cup of tea or go to the bathroom). And that’s where it goes wrong and when I realize I have become THAT working mom, the type of working mom I didn’t want to be:

  • The working mom that is glued to her phone, because yes we can have lunch together as a family but it needs to be fast and if they call me or send me something urgent I need to be available.
  • The working mom that says “yes, great sweetie” without really looking.
  • The working mom that is happy to come out of her office to see a new milestone her baby reached but then gets impatient when it’s taking too long because she needs to get back to work.
  • The working mom that gets annoyed when there’s too much noise from playing when she has to join a conference call.
  • The working mom that sometimes dedicates all the time of the world to her son and other times doesn’t know how fast she needs to get back in that office room, leaving her son wondering whether he might have two different moms.
  • The working mom that closes the door in her son’s face.
  • The working mom that tries to ignore the knocking on that same door because he knows she’s in there and wants to see her.
  • The working mom that is distant and absent when she’s stressed.
  • The working mom that snaps, is impatient and sends her husband and baby outside just because she can’t deal with the crying right when she has to be on a phone call. 

Yes, there are a lot of perks to being able to work (partly) from home and I am forever grateful that my employer gives me the flexibility to be able to do so. But I think I need to give myself some boundaries so that when I come out of my office room for a tiny break, I am not THAT working mom and try to be present, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Tineke Franssen

Tineke Franssen is a working mom abroad that is trying to keep her sanity amongst cultural clashes both at work and at home (Spanish parents in law anyone?). When she is not in the office or working through piles of laundry, you can find her drinking wines with friends, watching Grey´s Anatomy, playing fieldhockey or writing on her blog http://workingmommyabroad.com/

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