So today is Thursday which is the day that my employer lets me work from home for the day. It’s also a day that I have The Toddler with me rather than her go to nursery. It’s meant that we can keep the nursery costs down (they ain’t cheap!) and I get to spend more time with her in the week. I know that I am very lucky to have an employer that does this but I reckon you’re sat there thinking “yeah but how much work do you actually get done?” Well the answer is…quite a lot, but it’s a juggling act. Read on to find out how our day works…
So what do I actually do?
I work for a big software company in Brighton making sure our customers are happy and getting them to use the products in a clever way. This means that I do most of my business from my Mac and by phone when not in meetings so in effect can be anywhere. The work can be a mix of calls, online demos and a lot of email support and discussion. Customers also expect to be able to communicate in working hours so I can’t do all of my work before The Toddler wakes up and after she goes to bed, I have to find a balance.
I find that panning the week from Monday onwards really helps so that I don’t have in-person meetings on a Thursday. I get all of them done on the other days of the week. I also spend Wednesdays really catching up on any project work that needs uninterrupted time, so that I can spend the Thursday dealing with any questions surrounding that.
What do my working hours look like?
We get up at the same time as usual and I get dressed like I am going to work (maybe without the make-up) as that really helps me feel like I am about to do a day of work. We’ll then have breakfast and see Daddy off by 8.15am and then we may have a quick walk to the coffee shop so that I can caffeine-up and really get the day started. Back to the house and Cbeebies goes on for a bit (Justin’s House is the saviour here) whilst I put some interesting toys out in the living room (now playroom for the morning) and then I camp out on the living room floor (as being sat on the sofa warrant lots of “MUMMY MUMMY”) and get my morning’s email done and chat to colleges over IM to discuss any needs for the day.
During the morning I may have to do a couple of calls, so I will head to kitchen and out my headset on and dial-in whilst there is TV watching going on. More often than not these calls are usually informal and friendly as I would schedule anything too heavy during the morning, however if she’s being a little Tasmanian Devil then I often start the call explaining that they may hear a small child in the background as I am working from home. No one has ever complained about this and I think it’s because I have always been upfront about it. When she runs in screaming “MUMMY MUMMY SOCK!!” it usually elicits a few laughs. Like I say, I don’t have any “heavy” calls during this time.
Afterwards I head back into the living room and we hang out for a bit and have a play and they’re some snacks to be eaten (“Cheese??”) I can usually do around 2.5 hours work like this in morning. Before she dropped down to one nap, I used to be able to put her to bed around 10am. When that nap dropped you could hear me from around a hundred miles away screaming “NOOOOOOOO!” but we just had adapt the routine. We’ll play for a bit and then head out for a walk too if the weather is nice, getting back for some lunch by 12pm and then she sleeps around 12.30pm.
Once the nap hits it’s ALL SYSTEMS GO and I work like an effing machine! Bam, bam, bam go the emails. “Trouble accessing? I’ll get that sorted for you…”, “here’s a proposal for getting more customers…”, “yes, you really should watch this video of a kitten playing-” NO! NO PROCRASTINATION! THIS IS THE HOUR OF POWER! Then I hear the usual “Mummy!!” and it’s back to us not work mode me.
In the afternoons, I take her to an amazing creche round the corner from where we live called OfficeCreche that let you pay as you go and book the time online. You can also use the very lovely shared working space, so The Toddler plays downstairs and I work upstairs in lush surroundings. We usually head there for a couple of hours in the afternoon and this time is usually when I have more serious-ish conversations, take part in webinars that need my full attention or get some really tricky work complete. It’s only two hours and they fly by quickly but it’s cheaper than putting her in nursery for the day or afternoon and I get that extra time knowing that she is having a grand time not far away.
Then it’s back home and we make dinner together, have a play with some toys, she will help me do a few chores or we sit and read. It’s core Mummy/Daughter time and although I am able to check emails and messages on my phone and deal with them briefly, this times is ours.
Once she’s had dinner, bath and is in bed I’ll head back downstairs and spend the evening finishing work in front of the TV with a cuppa. I have timed this several times because I am a project management geek and on average can get around 7 hours work done on these days.
Sounds amazing! What’s the catch?
Well dear reader, this routine has not just sprung up overnight. I went back to full time work in another job when she has 8 months with the same deal of working from home one day a week. The was a tougher as I had to commute to London from Brighton on the days I worked in the office and bend the flexi time so that I finished earlier to do nursery pick-up two days a week. It meant that I spent EVERY EVENING working. I had clients in the US and Japan so had to be available to do serious calls even on the day that I worked from home and from very early to very late at night. I couldn’t really plan around them as it was project work that meant we may need to speak at very short notice. One client I had regular call even got to know my daugher over the weeks which was lovely but it still was a big pressure to get the job done.
I added the time up that I was seeing my very small daugher and it was 42 waking hours out of a possible 84. The time we sent together in the week was all about getting up and dressed and either me saying goodbye me having to do nursery drop off and pick up. She was knackered from full days at nursery and I was a zombie as was doing all that with broken sleep in the night because she might have a cold or teething and a full-time job that was slowing becoming a 60 hour week and I spent every waking hour working. Dad was working full on days on the days he wasn’t looking after her so wasn’t even seeing her until the weekends and generally we were all a bit fed-up.
I left my job in the following spring and found my lovely local job which is 10 minutes walk away and all of a sudden I had oodles of time! I slept in later; no more rubbish trains to London and coincidentally, husbands business had started to take off and he was getting more local work. They also agreed to flexi time and what with me practically killing myself to delivery massive projects with a sub-1 year old in my old job, it was surprising easy to juggle everything this time round. The extra time really helped and I’ve become so more more focused than before so getting the job done is easier.
When she starts talking more I may have to plan those calls carefully and she has a tendency to waddle over and close my laptop when she wants attention which is really annoying sometimes, especially when I am in the middle of a really imortant cat video (JUST KIDDING!) but to be honest I probably needed to walk away for bit. Setting her up with her own workstation really helps as well so that she can be “just like mummy” and chatter away on her toy phones to her own customers.
It’s not forever. I am more than aware of that, but I am hoping it will work until she is 3 and then we can get some help with the free hours allowance at nursery and put her in there for a couple more days a week. For now it works really well (especially with just one kid) and I hope that I can help encourage awareness that flexi time can work and celebrating employers like mine who support it. I know it’s hard and I know that some of us don’t have jobs that they can run from their computer or need hours of time uninterrupted to get something done, but we should all push for it.
Ultimately I am just chuffed that I get to spend extra time with my girl and she seems to have fufilling day at the same time. By seeing exactly what Mummy does for a living, I am hoping that she will see the benefit of work and a career.
Oooh this post got all serious and “mum’s rights” at the end but if you DO want to try and improve your own situation or are just a normal human that wants to see fairness in the workplace, you should sencourage your employer to sign the Commission for Equality and Human Rights ‘Working Forward’ pledge here: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/pregnancy-and-maternity-workplace/working-forward