Is working from home as an engineer possible with two kids under three years old? I’ve recently decided no – it’s not really possible for me without a nanny or someone to help out with the kids at home.
If I’m the sole care provider to my children at home, then while they’re awake they need most of my attention. So that leaves me only the time before they wake, during their naps, and after they go to sleep to work. But I also need that time to take care of myself and my home. I need to do things such as shower, do laundry, prep, cook and clean-up meals during the day, and also some personal relaxation time is important to me.
If I want to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night, then I need to be in bed by 10:30pm and awake by 6:00am everyday (Ok, let’s be honest – this never happens, but let’s pretend I get my goal sleep for this scenario). My kids wake up around 7:30am so I have about an hour to an hour and half between my wake up time and their wake up time in the mornings. In this hour I have to shower, get ready, make and prep breakfast (and sometimes lunch) for the family, eat my breakfast, clean the dishes, unload the dishwasher, and then I can finally start checking work emails. By that time the kids are awake I’m lucky if I’ve at least had time to catch up on all my work emails and organize my work that needs to get done that day.
The kids need most of my attention during the day. Between feeding them, playing with them and running errands, there isn’t much free time to do work. Luckily, I can usually get about 1-2 hours in the afternoon when both kids are napping at once. I use that time to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. I put on multiple loads of laundry, reply to emails then get to work. I’m always surprised how much work I can get done in a short focused period of time. When I have quiet time at home with no distractions from co-workers or kids I can get so much more work done than I’d even get done in the office. But always right before I have a chance to finish up my work for the day, one of the kids is awake and crying…and my nap time peace is over.
After nap time we’re usually busy straight until bed time. My husband and I sometimes go to the gym (and bring the kids to childcare there), or we go to t-ball practice or swim lessons with my son. Then I have to cook dinner, eat, clean up, and read books and play with the kids before bed. I’m lucky to get my son to bed by 8:30 pm on a good day. That leaves just under 2 hours before my optimal bedtime. I can use that time to do more work, or to relax – watch TV and catch up on personal emails and social media. I would always choose the latter if given a choice because I’m too drained from my long day to focus on difficult engineering problems. But some days there is so much work needed to be done that I don’t get to relax and I have to keep working for another hour or two before bed.
Over the course of the day, I have a total of 5.5 hours max when I’m not watching my children. That’s 27.5 hours per work week – but clearly I don’t spend all this free time working. Realistically I am able to spend about 2-3 hours max per day working at home, which is only 10-15 hours per week. That is not enough for most engineering jobs.
Towards the end of my six month maternity leave I was given an interesting option. My work was offering voluntary severance to eligible employees. I was beginning to realize I would no longer be able to work from home, so I would have to spend all of my part-time work hours away from the kids in the office. Also, my previous babysitters are no longer available, so I’d have to find a new nanny or daycare for my children. And, the asset I work for is in the process of being sold, so there’s a chance I might be laid off in 6 months anyway…so all these things made my decision a no brainer – I took the severance.
As of today, I am no longer a working mom. I’m still deciding if this makes me happy or sad. Right now it’s definitely a bit of both. I am so happy, grateful, and humbled to be able to stay home with my children. I am sad to say goodbye to my co-workers and friends, and to put my career aspirations that I’ve spent 11 years building on hold.
Will I ever be a working mom again? Definitely.
Will I ever be an engineer again? I hope so.
Am I crying ugly tears as I write this post? Yes.
Are they a little bit of happy tears too? I think so.
Am I going to enjoy a nice bottle of wine with my husband to celebrate this huge change? You betcha! 😉
I plan to have several more posts on this topic. I want to really dive into why I chose to leave work to stay at home with my kids, if I’m happy with this decision, and discuss my future plans and personal goals.
I hope you will follow along with the upcoming posts on my transition from working mom to stay-at-home mom. Let me know if they are helpful if you are also facing similar decisions.