This Work-From-Home Mom Did the Math on the Reality of Work/Life Balance

With her kids in school, this mom thought her home-based business would really take off. But she soon realized the math didn't add up.
Juliette Borda

When my younger child started full-day kindergarten, I was elated. I had finally found the Holy Grail of work-at-home motherhood: two kids out of the house, in the same place, for free, seven hours a day. Think of how much I could build my business in 35 hours a week! Well, except for the fact that their school ends early every Friday. Okay, 32 hours a week. Bring on the extra freelance projects. I’m ready.

But I can’t take phone calls or tap away on my laptop during drop-off and pickup. That shaves off another two hours. Still, 30 hours is a pretty nice chunk of time. Except that I love yoga. I often write about fitness, so it’s important to keep up with the latest classes and techniques. Hmmm…there goes another three hours a week. It’s kind of work time though, right?

Since I’m my own boss and the kids’ school is nearby, I feel obliged to volunteer. I picked a job that’s essential (transforming the cafeteria into a music room, then back into a lunchroom, twice a week). It also seemed like a time-efficient choice, requiring only a couple of hours. No worries. I can definitely get my work done in 25 hours.

Of course, I prefer to go to the grocery store, the dentist, and such without my kids. And when I get home, I might as well throw a load of laundry into the washer and get a stew started in the slow cooker. I need to be around when the plumber comes to fix the toilet, which clogged when someone (no names) used half a roll in one sitting. Also, I have to drive my older child to one of her frequent orthodontist appointments—you know, at the practice that’s 30 minutes away and only sees patients from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on school days. So what are we at, now? Maybe 22 hours a week. Okay, no worries. I’m getting to it. Promise.

The kids have an administrative half day this Wednesday (at least it’s only once a month). Parent-teacher conferences mean two more days off, twice a year. But that’s what playdates are for, right? Even accounting for the time needed to whip up a pot of mac ’n’ cheese, slice some apples, and referee the occasional argument between my kids and their guests, I might manage a couple of productive hours on those days.

Once you factor in holidays, winter and spring breaks, and caring for my kids when they’re sick, I’m down to an average of 17 hours a week—less than half of what I had anticipated. Apparently I didn’t learn enough about time management in school (though I wonder if there’s truly a formula for cramming 48 hours’ worth of responsibilities into a single day). I’m hardly the first mom to figure out that juggling a career and a family is a constant challenge. Still, I love my job and the flexibility it provides me. 

Now, if I could only figure out what happened to all the extra money I thought I’d be saving when I stopped paying for their child care. Yoga isn’t that expensive.

Parents Magazine

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