I created a graphic in the style of the "what the world thinks I do and what I actually do" meme. At the top is the title "WORK-AT-HOME-MOM." Top row, at left is a mother blowing bubbles with a little boy, captioned "What my friends think I do." Then is a boy embracing a mother who's holding a bouquet, captioned "What my mom thinks I do." Then is a woman with an "S" for "Supermom" on her chest, flying through the sky, captioned "What I think I do." In the bottom row, at left, is a woman in a white couture party dress, reclining in an antique chair, surrounded by extravagant pastries, having her feet manicured. The caption reads "What society thinks I do." In the final panel is a woman at the kitchen table with her laptop open and her glasses on the keyboard. She has the phone up to her ear and is attempting to shush a child who is standing next to her, ruffling her papers and crying. The caption reads, "What I really do."
When I tell people I'm a work-at-home mom, they coo, "You're so lucky! I wish I could do that, but my job won't allow me to telecommute." I nod and tell them that, yes, there are advantages. You can take a hug break, and you don't need to worry about who's watching him. You do, however, have to keep one eye and one ear out for trouble, especially when he's being too quiet.
But then again, sometimes, you have to work with someone rubbing his butt against you, insisting that he's a cat.
I'm sure many people imagine an endless vacation: spending a couple hours writing and then heading for the park. Or better yet: working at the park while my delighted child cavorts in the sunlight. On my best days, it's a little bit like that, provided you add some messy diaper changes into the mix.
The imp in me suggests I provide you with the full work-at-home mom experience. It starts with a wake-up call an hour earlier than your alarm, with a recording of a 2-year-old demanding a "baba," since apparently, it's too hot to eat solid food. While you struggle to get your thoughts together, you've also got to get both of you dressed and fed: or, in the case of the toddler, you can listen to him cry into his Cheerios until he's allowed to leave the table.
Working moms will insist they live through a similar routine every morning. But this is when the fun begins. While you're in your morning meeting, I'll bring in a 2-year-old for you to do a diaper change. You can carry the squirming 28-pound, solid boy up a flight of stairs to a changing table, where you struggle to change his diaper while he kicks your hand. Then, you may return to your meeting (don't forget the squirming boy) and attempt to continue your conversation with your colleagues.
You will get similar visits for diaper changes about once every hour to an hour and a half. About every 20 to 30 minutes, you'll also get surprise visits from the little guy, who will attempt to either: climb into your lap, stand on your foot (which apparently feels nicer than the carpet), squeeze onto the chair behind you, or physically pull your hand off the keyboard, insisting that it's time to "party."
Eventually, you'll realize that the only way you're going to get some work done is to put on a kids' video. Be prepared to watch either "Thomas & Friends" or the "Caterpillar Big, Bigger, Biggest Trucks" video on repeat.
Don't forget to take a lengthy break in the afternoon to get the little guy down for his nap. This might involve a car ride or a walk around the neighborhood in a stroller, since he often fights falling asleep.
In addition, a friend or family member will be calling you at random intervals to chat, because naturally, you are always available to talk, right? It's not like you're working or anything.
I almost forgot: here's a list of the grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning and other tasks that must be accomplished today. Don't forget to cook a nutritious dinner suitable for both adults and a toddler (the toddler will, of course, reject it, but you've still got to cook it).
In my particular case, I'm lucky to accomplish one or two writing assignments a day for Yahoo! Music and Yahoo! Television. Or perhaps that day, I'll manage to write an essay for my book of parenting essays, "Belated Mommy." Or I might work a little bit on the redesign of Wild Violet. It's a good day when I meet my deadlines or follow through on a project.
Regardless, after dinner, my husband takes over parenting duties and I head upstairs to do the transcription work I'm contractually obligated to complete Monday through Friday. I can usually count on at least one meltdown that can only be resolved by Mommy hugs. As a result, I'm often up far later than I ought to be before I'm done for the night.
Rinse, lather, repeat. There you have it, the joyous, relaxing life of a work-at-home mom. Still jealous?
Honestly, I think I need a vacation from my vacation.
Thanks to my beta reader, roina_arwen, who took a last-minute look at this and suggested some changes. Thanks to my husband, The Gryphon, a.k.a. toanstation, who helped me brainstorm ideas for this piece.