Four years ago, my newspaper career came to a crashing halt. Just a few months shy of its 150th anniversary, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver shut its doors, and, after helping publish the final edition, I packed up my reporter notebooks, AP style book and piles of papers and went home.
And I stayed there.
With two daughters in daycare, I decided to start a freelance career, turning a spare basement room into an office, giving me the flexibility to spend precious time with my babies, while still writing and editing. It was awesome. Unless it wasn't awesome.
Things I loved: being able to volunteer in the pre-K classroom, pick-up after school, chaperone field trips and host play dates; getting to spend the afternoon at the park/botanic gardens/zoo/movies; having the flexibility to time my trip to the gym to coincide with The Daily Show.
Things I didn't love: the isolation, feeling guilty that I didn't have the laundry folded and the carpets vacuumed, feeling guilty that I didn't have a fancy, healthy dinner on the table, feeling guilty that I was spending too much time working and not enough parenting -- or too much time parenting and not enough working. Are you sensing a theme here?
The thing was, as fortunate as I am to have been able to spend all that time at home, being a sort-of-stay-at-home-mom who actually did work at home just wasn't working for me. So, with my youngest in kindergarten, I decided it was time to head back to the 40-hour a week office life. I was afraid my kids would be upset, but my daughters told me they were proud of me (swoon!) and wanted to go shopping with me for new clothes. "Does this mean you'll wear something besides yoga pants?" my oldest asked. And here I was worried they'd be upset at the change.
I've been back at the 9-to-5 grind for a couple of weeks now, and, this might sound crazy, but I kinda love it. Here are five reasons why:
- I'm forced to shower and wear clothes that aren't made with Lycra. As a work-from-home mom, this was my routine: Roll out of bed, throw on sweats and sneakers, slug coffee, check email, make breakfast and lunches, run kids to school. Hit the grocery store, work, go to the gym, more work, pick up kids, chauffeur to soccer, check email, make dinner, maybe shower before Glee starts, check email, work. Try being a stay-at-home or work-from-home mom for a few months and you will never, ever question how "those" women spend their days again. Now, I get to wear the cute heels and fancy clothes that have literally been gathering dust in the closet. I'll even throw on earrings or bangles and not wear my hair in a ponytail every day (some days, yes, let's not get ridiculous). Oh, and mascara? Lip gloss? Hello, old pals. My kids can't believe how fancy Mom is.
- My house is actually cleaner. When you're working at home, you would think you'd be able to stay on top of household chores, but you'd be wrong. Just because you're home, doesn't mean there's time to mop the kitchen floor. Or empty the dishwasher. Or change the sheets. Now that I have an after-school nanny coming to my house each day, my pride ensures that the house is presentable each night before I head to bed. Embarrassment is a powerful motivator, my friends.
- My evenings are freer. As a freelancer, I often had to finish up work after the kids were home from school, so I'd either feel like I was neglecting them ('Um, here's a Gogurt and a bowl of popcorn -- why don't you watch that Sponge-Bob episode for the 14th time while Mommy finishes up this story?"). Or, I'd wait until they went to bed ("Oh, hey, honey -- I remember you! Maybe we can talk on Sunday. Gotta work!"). Now, when I get home just after 5:00 p.m., I'm home. We go over homework, we read, last night we built a fort. Tonight, my husband and I might even watch a movie. Crazy!
- I can still fit in a few workouts a week. I had sort of forgotten that full-time jobs come with lunch breaks which you can use to exercise. Before heading back to work full-time, I'd just fit in my gym time in whenever (which, of course, made it easy to skip). Now, I have less workout time, but I'm forced to use it wisely. I hate speed intervals, but they work. (Plus, not being just a few steps from my kitchen at any given moment can only be a good thing.)
- I'm more organized. I've always loved a good to-do list, but now I'm a scheduling machine. Lunches are planned. Clothes are decided the night before. Homework is in the backpacks. Play dates are set up days in advance. Dinner menus for the week are decided by Sunday. No more three-times-a-week trips to the supermarket. My calendar should seriously be considered a work of art.
The truth is, whether you work at home, are a stay-at-home mom or work in an office, there's going to be great things and not-so-great things about it. It's figuring out the right fit that will tip the scales in your favor. For me, being in a creative setting around adults during the day makes me happy. And, you know what? That's OK. It's pretty fantastic, in fact. But, I will confess, I do miss you, yoga pants. Let's hang out this weekend.