On Being a Work-From-Home-Dad: 8 Quick Observations

For the Buffaloes, our lives recently, “Got flipped, turned upside down.” My wife was offered an excellent opportunity to work for a YMCA camp in northwestern North Carolina. We could not turn down this:

We packed up and moved from Raleigh to Wilkesboro in March, and subsequently, I flipped from bringing home the bacon, to frying up the bacon. 

I’m calling myself a work-from-home-dad. As a freelancer, I continue to write digital marketing content for small businesses and marketing firms, but I do so from home while watching our 11 month old daughter. After a month of working from home, I have made some observations:

1)      Staying at Home, with Children, is Not Easy

It is not that I ever believed staying home with my daughter would be easy. When my wife stayed home with our daughter, I heard frightening stories. Tales from curious cunning calamity, to freely flung feces, gave me pause. Now, I am uniquely qualified to say that staying home, with children, is not easy work.

And I only have one.

2)      With Children, Time Moves Faster at Home

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.

-The 10th Doctor, Doctor Who, Blink

The time vortex is at 2-X when I’m working from home while watching my daughter. As a natural procrastinator, it has never been more important for me to plan projects to maximize work moments.

3)      Planning Must Meet Flexibility

Working from home favors no personality type. Work-From-Home moms and dads must dance on top the balance beam of planning and flexibility. Besides diapers, food, and grumpy moods, I must be willing to play when she wants to play and work whenever she affords me the opportunity.

4)      She Must Know Who is More Important

I prefer to start and finish a writing project in the same sitting. It is difficult for me to take a play-break before I have reached a stopping point. However, my eleven month old knows nothing of deadlines and stopping points. She only knows that sometimes she is bored of playing by herself and wants me to join her.

It is okay to set up boundaries between my work and my play time; however, she also needs to know that she is more important than work. I try to demonstrate that by:

  • Taking short breaks to speak to her even while she plays.
  • At various times, physically closing my laptop and interacting with her.
  • Planning and spending one-on-one time with her during the work day.

I do not mean to suggest that I have found the right balance. I expect it all to change as she begins walking and speaking. I would love to hear from you about your experiences balancing work with play.

5)      It is OK for a Child to Entertain Herself

For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Sometimes I feel pretty lame, writing away while my daughter entertains herself. At the same time, she will entertain herself. She has a lot of fun. She is learning to imagine. As far as I can tell, it is actually a good thing for her to play by herself, as long as she recognizes that she is more important than my work.

6) Equipment is Key

Though in some ways I would benefit from a bigger screen, I have found that a smaller laptop affords me the ability to effectively watch the baby. Using Evernote on the tablet allows me to have my notes and outlines open, without to change back and forth between windows on the laptop.

The laptop stand is the centerpiece of my workstation. It’s an IKEA piece. If I have to intervene and stop the kid from pulling the dog’s tail, it slides out of the way easily.

Yes, that is indeed David Crowder on the screen in the background.

7) Nap Time is Golden

This speaks for itself.

8) Get out of the House

We are lucky, because this is our backyard: 

We make some effort to go outside every day. Whether it is a walk on a greenway, a hike on the trails, working from a coffee shop, or simply sitting on the porch, we are intentional about not allowing work to keep us inside all day.

I will post more observations in the future, but in the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Comment below with your tips and observations about working-from-home while watching young’uns. re...