Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective
Working at Home

Creative Commons License photo figure credit: Inferis

*Work being defined here as something you get paid for. Everything else I do daily (child rearing, cooking, cleaning) is, of course, gratis!

I probably have the ideal job situation, well certainly for me anyway. I have a Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering, and got my Professional Engineer’s license just prior to giving birth to our first child.

A while back a co-worker and I discussed the possibilities of working together in the future when he started his own company and I wanted to be able to stay home with my children. As luck or timing would have it, he was ready for his first employee as I was ending my maternity leave with my former employer. I may have been able to work out a part time schedule with employer at the time, but this was the opportunity to work exclusively from home, indefinitely. It was an opportunity that does not present itself to everyone and I am blessed to be able to stay at home, while still significantly contributing to the family finances. It also gives me the chance to exercise my brain so I don’t get mommy brain (which I have anyway, but at least this way I’m still sharp with the calculator!) This job has given me the ability to work from home and make great money. At the same time I can stay home with our daughter, which has always been a goal for our family.

For over a year I have managed to work a 20 hr week and care for a our child. Aside from a few weeks here and there. I typically work while our daughter naps and then after MITBeta gets home from work or after she is in bed for the night. She has been very good about sleeping (we did have some rough patches but I’ll save that for another post!) She has recently transitioned to one nap in the afternoon and I can typically get about 2 of my 4 hours in at this time. Since she just made the switch I’m hoping it may get a little bit longer, but for now I’ll take what I can get! I do have a little desk and coloring station set up downstairs in my office, but I haven’t really had a chance to test that out. I think she is still too young to be able to sit and entertain herself in one spot while I get anything productive done.

The other day I got to thinking about the pros and cons of being a work at home mom. It came up because I became annoyed by the opportunity for MITBeta to get a nap in after work. I suppose the reason it upset me is because it’s tough to work from home. It’s obviously a huge blessing to be able to work in my field, from home, and set my own hours, all while bringing in a healthy income. I can choose to work 4 hrs/day or do it all in a few days. Up until now I have never really asked anyone for help so that I can work unless I have appointments outside of the house. I’ve been lucky and have been able to get my work accomplished and still be able to do what I want to do in the evenings and weekends. As the months have passed we have had to re-evaluate and change our expectations.

Recently we switched from my company’s health insurance to MITBeta’s. This has removed the pressure to work the full 20 hrs every week. I try to work between 15 and 20 hours and have been averaging around 18. Although we lose some money this way, the pressure is eliminated and which may have been the hardest part of the being a work at home mom. Imagine the idea that you need to work, and have to constantly make choices between housework and “real” work. I think I’d rather do “real” work most days!

In the near future, it might be time to re-evaluate the situation. We do have a mother’s helper that is in the neighborhood that I could use for a few hours a week, although with summer quickly nearing an end, that option will go away. But more importantly, I realized the other day that we need to budget in time for me into our weekly schedule in the same way we budget savings into our financial budget. Unfortunately when you have to work while your child naps you don’t get much, if any, downtime. It’s amazing how much downtime there is at a desk job! So in order to maintain my sanity, since working at home means I can be working at all hours of the day, night, and weekends, I need to carve out time for myself each week. I think this will go a long way to helping me to be a more productive mom and employee.

Here are some Pros and Cons, as I see it, of being a WAHM:

Pros:

Flexibility to attend playdates, appointments, and lunches with Daddy and grandparents, the ability to run errands in the daytime when the stores are less crowded, able to personally care for my daughter and attend to her hourly needs. This last one has allowed me to breastfeed until my daughter was 19 months old and hopefully will also lead to quick potty training, but I’m not holding out too much hope for that one yet!

Cons:

No down time, always either working, watching the baby, doing housework or cooking. You need to work some evenings and weekends to make it work without outside help. You feel guilty about hobbies (reading, scrapbooking) while you still have work hours to complete for the week.

I think that as long as I can maintain my sanity I will continue to love working from home. It’s important to stay flexible and treat each week as it comes, but I have enjoyed it so far and hope to continue doing so in some capacity for many more years and children to come!  I will keep you posted as we experience this journey first hand and live with the ups and downs of generating income while child rearing, all from the comfort of home.

What about you? How do you handle child rearing and budgeting time for yourself? Do you work outside the home and if so how does that change the dynamic?

Reminder:You still have 1 day to get your entries in for the Don’t Feed the Alligators Giveaway!

4 Responses to “Working at Home - Balancing life as a work* at home Mom”


  1. jbardhan Says:

    i have nothing helpful, insightful, or interesting to say. i just like reading what you and MITBeta write. please keep it up!


  2. Jenn Says:

    I can totally relate!! Until I had my second child I worked 1 day/week at home and for the most part it was great. As my son got older I did have a babysitter come to the house to gaurantee I’d get a certain amount of time in during business hours and the rest of my time was filled in around naps or at night etc. Now with 2 kids I only work 4days/week. I knew with 2 kids trying to work at home without a babysitter would be tough. I was right. Since I’ve been back to work there have been a couple occassions where I have had deadlines and needed to get some work done on my day at home -it’s comical, but doable just not something I’d want to do daily! All I can say is thank goodness for laptops and wireless connections!

    All in all I think I prefer my new schedule - 1 day at home and 4 in the office it helps with keeping the two separate. The spillover is unavoidable especially since I work with my husband but I try to keep it minimal. My office time has to be much more productive, I find myself needing to catch up occassionally at night or in my “free” time, and of course I would love more time at home but realistically this is working for us for now. As for “me” time or time with my husband - right now there isn’t much of that unless one of us is about to go postal and needs a break - we’re working on that….


  3. MITBeta Says:

    Thanks to JB and Jenn for checking in!


  4. Michelle Says:

    GREAT post! As usual!

    I think time for yourself is VERY important. I have made sure I have gotten this since my first child was born. But, the most amazing benefit that has come out of that, was an unintended one. The relationship my children have with their dad. He does not babysit our kids. I don’t ask permission to do things. They do not come to me solely for their needs. We are true co-parents. And I think it mostly came from my insistence on having time for myself!


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