On Motherlode today, Lisa Belkin raises the question of whether working from home really allows parents to spend more time with their kids. I often tell people that I “work from home,” though that’s a bit misleading since none of the work I’m currently doing am I getting paid to do. And, unfortunately, that means I let household chores and childcare take precedence over doing things that might actually earn me money. But that’s been my choice and I’ve been keenly aware of it. And sometimes, I do manage to crack down and do a lot of work. The last two weeks have been like that for the most part. Back when I worked full time, I often brought work home with me. In theory, because I was staff and not faculty, I could shut down at 5 or 5:30 and not think about work again until 8:30 the next day. After all, there were no classes to prep or grading to do. Even before I added teaching to the mix, there always seemed to be things to catch up on. I would check email because I hadn’t been able to all day or I’d tweak a web site or check on a Blackboard account. And that made me miserable. At first I did those things because I was still interested, fascinated by my work and so I’d continue doing it when I got home. But I think doing it eventually led me to burnout, and people started expecting me to be available 24/7. And when I was available to them, I wasn’t available to my family. It sucked all the way around. I eventually instituted a no-checking email at home rule, to the point of even having to email people the next day and say, “I’m sorry I couldn’t respond/take care of your issue, but I don’t check email from home.”
Working at home is only the answer if you can draw the line between work time and family time. And that’s hard to do for many people. So what do you think? Can we gain work-life balance by working more from home? Or are we kidding ourselves?