Reflections From a Work-at-Home Marriage:
5 tips for couples who work from home
In June, my husband and I made over our lives. He left his college teaching job to start writing full-time. Meanwhile, I shifted the focus of my freelance writing from essays and short assignments to researching and writing a full-length book. And, to top it all off, we packed up our lives in Ohio and moved to Connecticut.
With all of these changes, this summer was one of adventure, discovery, and – yup – stress as we simultaneously tried to navigate the streets of our new town and the realities of our new lives as work-at-home parents. We’re only three months into our grand experiment, but we’ve already learned a few things about making working at home work for two parents and three kids, six and under:
1. A Room (or at Least, a Desk) of One’s Own
With the exception of our kids’ afternoon nap time, my husband and I rarely work at the same time. Because of this, we had planned to continue sharing a single desk as we did in our old house, but I leapt at the chance to squeeze another desk, bookshelf, and filing cabinet into the bedroom. Being able to leave my work spread out in my own space makes it much easier to pick up where I left off and to work in the small chunks that I sometimes need to. (It also forestalls discussions of who spilled Coke Zero on whose notebook…)
2. Who’s the Boss?
Because I haven’t worked full-time since our oldest son was born in 2007, I’d assumed the position of Household CEO. I did the grocery shopping, paid the bills, managed our finances, made doctor’s appointments, and ferried the kids around town. When we first arrived at our new house, my inner control freak held on to these responsibilities even though neither of us now has a set work schedule. Even though my husband is an eminently competent and responsible person, I’ve been really bad about letting go of some of these tasks, but an essential element of our new lives is figuring out who’s in charge of what and then trusting the other person to get it done. (Without nagging or passive-aggressive reminders…not that I would ever do such a thing…)
3. Do What You’re Doing
I may be the worst multi-tasker known to (wo)man. Probably my greatest challenge as a mother of three is that I find it nearly impossible to do two things at once – even if those two things are as simple as, say, making a PB&J for my daughter and listening to a client voice mail on speaker phone. (I know, I know, I’m pathetic.) Even though, for me, multi-tasking means doing nothing well, the flip side of that is that I’m really efficient when I’m focused: I get work done quickly and knock out household tasks so that when I’m with my kids, I can really be with them, laptop off, iPhone stored.
4. Weekly Check-ins
Every Sunday night, my husband and I sit down to talk about what’s on our calendar for the coming week. Taking into account regular activities like school pick-ups and weekly community softball and one-time events like birthday parties and client phone calls, we decide who is on kid duty when. Although I’ve adopted Sarah’s awesome calendar plan and my husband can see my Google Calendar whenever he wants, our check-ins help us feel like we’re on the same page about what’s on our family’s horizon for the week and give us a chance to touch base about how we’re feeling about our routines in general.
5. Date Nights
Because we’re both at home all day, my husband and I see a lot more of each other than we used to, but, because most of our waking hours are filled with taking care of the kids and working on writing projects, we don’t necessarily have any more time to connect with each other than we used to. In our former lives, we had made it a priority to have a weekly date night, but we let that habit go when we moved. A couple of months in, though, we realized that having a regular night out pays great dividends for our relationship and helps foster an environment of communication and good will for the rest of the week.
Who knows how this experiment will go or how long it will last? If we can’t make things work financially or if we’re not happy with the way things are going, one or both of us will go back to teaching next fall. But I think we’re off to a good start. We don’t have all the answers, but the answers we’ve found work for us, for now.
Three months down, the rest of our lives (?) to go!
Thanks, Kristen! You can find more of Kristen’s writing at her blog, Motherese. Want to say hi in a tweet? Click here to thank Kristen for sharing her work-at-home tips!
Want more work-from-home tips and ideas? Here’s Meagan’s series from this summer, with everything from time management ideas to some gentle get-it-in-gear inspiration for those of you who want to launch a work-at-home adventure of your own.