Working mom balance: working from home vs. commuting

In the world of working moms, there are a lot of different ways to balance work and family life. For me, the right balance is something I am constantly attempting to reach. Ultimately, my choice is to see my #1 priority as my family and my home, and work falling somewhere below that. I do not have a great desire to achieve in my current career. I go to work, I do as good a job as I possibly can, and I leave it at that. I don’t want a higher position, more responsibility, or greater recognition. What I want is a paycheck. That is just me – some women (possibly all of them) are definitely more ambitious or enthusiastic about what they do for a living.

Since becoming a mother, there have been two models of work that have been available to me at my current company and position: the working from home model (WFM) and the commuting model.
I have been working from home since Little Sir was born, only going in to the office 1-2 days a week.

Recently, as our company has expanded, rebranded, acquired other companies, and changed our leadership personnel and methodology, we have been encouraged to migrate more to the commuting model.

I’ve told a few people about this upcoming change and how it gives me anxiety, and a few times it seems to me that the person I’m talking with does not understand why the WFM model would differ from the commuting model. What’s the big deal? In both models I still have a nanny taking care of my child all day, right? Well, that is true, but I would like to go into more detail regarding the differences between working from home and commuting to the office, as it pertains to our particular household.

The work environment
Of course everyone’s job requirements are different regarding the length of day and length of commute. Right now the shift for my job is 9 hours long with a 60 minute lunch break. The nature of my particular position is that we must send an email when we are leaving for lunch and we must be back online 60 minutes later. Without going into extensive detail, the 60 minutes is pretty set in stone. Any longer, and there is additional burden placed on other members of the team who are also waiting to go to lunch.

In the WFM model, although the shift is 9 hours, I am not “on duty” until exactly 9AM (which is when the nanny arrives) and I am “off” at 6PM (or near then – 6PM is when the nanny leaves). During the 60 minute lunch break, I can run to the grocery stores near our house and get groceries, unpack them, and get back online. The same for running to Target or a drugstore for various other things. Or, I can use the time to put laundry in the washer/dryer or to chop up vegetables for dinner that night. Frequently, when I get up to take potty breaks toward the end of the day, I will set a pot of water to boil for noodles or I will put something into a pot to start cooking.

With the commuting model, there is an additional 30 minutes driving either way. Therefore, in a commuting situation, I am away from home a total of 50 hours a week. Because I have to leave 30 minutes before the nanny arrives to commute, either my husband must go in to his work later to wait for the nanny to arrive at 9AM, or we must pay the nanny extra to come in 30 minutes earlier.

In the commuting model I cannot use the 60 minute lunch time to do much of anything home-related. Sometimes I do go to a Target or Big Lots near my workplace, but full-out grocery shopping is not possible due to limited refrigerator space at work, and of course laundry or food prep can’t be done at the office either. Most frequently, what happens in the commuting model is that I get home at 6:30PM, my husband has been home for 30 minutes because the nanny left at 6, my son is getting bored and frustrated, everyone is hungry, and we have no groceries, so we end up having to order out or heat up convenience food. I think you guys know how I feel about that kind of nutrition.

Cost difference
A summary of the cost differences, aside from the obvious cost of gas.

  • Cost of toll ($2/day) in the commuting model.
  • In a 100% commuting model, there would be additional cost for the nanny to come in 30 minutes earlier.
  • Cost of food is significantly lower in the WFM model due to additional time after work to prep.

I have chosen to work from home these past 14 months because it sets a much more relaxed pace for my life and allows us to have a bit more time together as a family in the mornings and evenings. I have other friends who aren’t stressed by the thought of the commute like I am, and who do a much better job of balancing in a commuting model than I do. If you are one of these moms, feel free to share your tips and tricks for anyone who might be reading. Hopefully these insights can help other working moms find an environment that works best for them and their family!

5 thoughts on “Working mom balance: working from home vs. commuting

  1. Galit Breen says:

    hang in there, mama! i think change is hard no matter what it is. you have every right to feel the mama angst. i am such a homebody that when i worked outside of the home- the drop offs, the day care, etc was too much, too stressful for me.BUT i’m a firm believer that you can make ANYTHING work. good luck! i’m sending all of the mojo i’ve got your way! xo

  2. jes says:

    Believe me, you are NOT the only one who views family as #1 and work as a paycheck. I like my job and my employer, but I’m definitely not career-ladder-climbing focused. At all. That said, I understand your anxiety over commuting. Have they said you need to do it every day, or are they willing to compromise a little with your schedule?

  3. J says:

    Right now it is looking like they are going to let me continue working from home 3 days a week for at least the next few months, so I am glad about that especially in this last trimester 🙂

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