Many modern families are migrating toward new and unique ways to manage a work/life balance. The old-fashioned view of a working family structure, where dad kisses his wife on his way off to work while mom stays behind and looks after the kids, in many ways, is still prevalent as the ideal functioning family in society’s eyes. However, parents are quickly chipping away at the cookie-cutter stereotype and molding their lives to a more family-friendly, personalized way of living.
Instead of the dad who grabs his briefcase, heads out the door and rides an elevator up a tall, corporate building into his office space, you find more dads who simply walk down the stairs or across the house into a home office to work.
More and more dads (and moms) are taking on the role of work-at-home parent, but like any work/life balance, there are definite pros and cons that come along with daddy working from home. Life for a work at home dad and his family might be different than what you imagine, so let’s shed some light on a few interesting realities for families with work-at-home dads.
The kids have no boundaries. When kids are in the house while dad is working from home, it’s hard for them to maintain boundaries between when dad is “at work” and when he’s “at home.” Because there’s no defining barrier where dad physically leaves the home, kids often still revert to wanting dad or seeking out dad at various times throughout the day. As time goes on, kids adapt and learn that when dad’s in his office space, he’s working, and it’s important to respect that. However, there will always be a time or two throughout the day where the kids manage to slip away and bang on the office door in hopes of seeing daddy. Usually while he’s on a very important phone call.
There can be some great benefits. The great thing about dad working from home is that it opens up several more efficient options and time-saving possibilities for mom. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or working mom, having dad at home working allows for more flexibility with your schedule and the kids. When one of the kids is sick or mom needs to run an errand over nap time, having dad at home allows for a much higher range of possibilities and support to get things taken care of. Another great advantage for the entire family is that dad can be around to enjoy the kids when he takes breaks, eat lunch with the family or even help out around the house off and on throughout the day (hint: throw in that load laundry laying on the floor).
Separation of space must exist. Much like the kids difficulty with boundaries when dad’s working at home versus when he’s not, maintaining separate work/life spaces can easily become a blurred area for parents, too. When dad works from home, it’s easy to bring the laptop into bed or continue working into the evening because there’s not a concrete time where work shuts down and he must physically walk out the door to drive home. This can make it difficult for families to create a solid balance and can even cause some friction if work and family time start to blend together. It’s important to create separation and boundaries and stick to them to fully utilize the positives of working from home. It’s often most beneficial (and less confusing for the kids) when dad has a designated space for working that doesn’t bleed into other areas of the house. It’s also helpful to set times to start and stop working, even if it means setting an alarm. This way it’s easier for the whole family to keep a healthy balance with dad working at home.
Mom doesn’t always love it. As a mom, you may have little things you enjoy by yourself throughout the day on occasion – whether it’s a TV show, a bath during the kids’ nap time or even just the opportunity to be alone at some point during the day. And many times it’s just nice to knock out general chores without another adult in the house to keep tabs on what’s going on. When dad works from home, especially for stay-at-home and work-at-home moms, it can often feel like you’re losing those small, sacred times to yourself or like there’s no time apart from your spouse. In general, moms truly enjoy having dad around and more involved, but sometimes, we just want a break. In which case, it’s important to remember both mom and dad make an effort to get out of the house and still take time to be on their own.
Work-at-home dads can struggle with the same emotional conflicts as work-at-home or stay-at-home moms. When dad works from home, separation of space and setting boundaries becomes key to not becoming stir crazy. It’s not uncommon to hear of stay-at-home or work-at-home moms struggling with feeling disconnected from the outside world, losing touch with themselves or even just complete boredom, but surprisingly work-at-home dads can run into the same struggle. This generally stems from feeling cooped up and not setting aside time to get out of the home. Regardless of whether you’re mom or dad, if you’re spending your entire day (working or taking care of the kids) inside of your home without a change of scenery or connection with other peers, it can cause some inner struggle. That’s completely normal. Take steps as a family to get out of the house but also as individuals to socialize with friends or attend events outside of the home.
What’s your family’s ideal work/life balance?