Work at home dad – do you feel guilty for doing your work?

GuiltThere you are – ready to write your next blog post. You have a juicy post idea in your mind that you know your readers will love.

You can’t wait to get started, but there is just one problem: you are not sure how your spouse will react when you escape to your computer and spend some time in front of the screen.

You remember clearly the last time you did this. She was very angry and ever since you have been extra cautious about upsetting her again.

To calm your mind, you tend to check up on her while you’re working – even if this means stopping your productivity for a moment.

You know that this is not an ideal way to work and your focus suffers too, but you keep doing it anyway. You try to avoid any additional fights with your spouse and the nasty feeling of guilt every time you get to work.

Yes, it’s the guilt that keeps you on your toes. Every time you start working, you feel like you are not allowed to do so. You feel that it’s wrong to isolate yourself away from the rest of the family to work – even if it’s just temporary.

You feel like you should spend time with your family and take care of errands, rather than build your business.

If you are a work at home dad and go through these emotions, then I can totally relate to you. And although it’s not a nice feeling to experience, there is a way out…

Where is the rule book?

What causes these guilt issues to rise over and over again are the lack of defined rules to play by.

If you just disappear for hours behind your computer, do you expect your spouse to feel good about it – especially if she/he has to take care of the house during that time?

Nope, I don’t think so.

This causes your spouse to resist even more to your work – sometimes even to a point when she/he wants you to stop it completely.

Also, don’t expect your spouse to be supportive towards you if she/he is not aware of why you have to spend so much time on the computer, and why you can’t spend more time with the family.

In most of the cases it may just seem that you are playing there, hanging on Facebook and not doing any serious work all.

At the same time, irregular working times may cause some resentment. Of course, it’s not possible to have fixed working times every day, but you should have at least an intention towards a regular working schedule, since it makes planning around your responsibilities towards your family much easier.

On top of that, unrealistic expectations are thrown towards you if other family members think you are available during the whole day, while in reality you are doing important business-related work on your computer.

Communication? What communication?

All the problems are caused by communication – especially the lack of it.

If you haven’t talked to your family members about why you “disappear” to in front of your computer for hours or if you haven’t decided on a common game plan for interruptions, then is it any wonder that these unpleasant feelings (guilt, frustration) and situations (fights) occur?

Nope, it’s not.

Now, if there is no communication, then it’s very unlikely that any rules are defined. Or, if they are, then only you know about them. So how do you expect others to let you work without interruptions if you haven’t defined the rules and talked with your family?

The previous reasons lead to issues as well.

First, there is the attention imbalance. Your spouse feels that you are not giving enough time for her/him and your family when you spend time on the computer.

Second, your spouse feels that there is just too much stuff that they have to take care of by themselves. This is a sure way to stress them out and cause additional and unnecessary fights in your household.

Seems like plenty of reasons for interruptions and guilt to erupt, don’t you think?

It’s time for a talk

To fix the guilt in you and the imbalance in your family, you have to start communicating openly with your family.

Talk with your spouse and your kids and let them know what is going on, why you work on your computer and why you shouldn’t be interrupted.

When you sit down together, set the rules and boundaries to play by, so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to your work.

Next, let everyone know the reasons behind the situation. They have to be made aware why it’s important for you to spend hours in front of your computer.

It is important for everyone to understand that your work should be treated like a “real job”, especially if the business is providing your family’s current lifestyle. Your job is just as valuable if you do it from home.

It’s important to remind everyone that the current family lifestyle may be at stake if you are constantly interrupted. The more you get interrupted or the more you have to check that everything is ok (because of the guilt), the less productive you are and the less you can focus on the business.

Finally, it’s important to be flexible while you work. Working from home requires certain personality traits and flexibility is one of the them. Sometimes it is just impossible to keep the defined working times when family emergencies or other unexpected things occur.

When you internalize and accept this flexibility mindset, your work becomes easier and you will become more patient about the interruptions that occur at home.

Use the following action steps to cut down the guilt that normally erupts you work. When the guilt is tamed, your work productivity will increase, you will be able to focus easier and the balance in your family will improve because the false expectations have been cleared.

Kick the guilt in the butt and keep on working!

Use these action steps as quickly as possible to tame the guilt:

1. Communicate. First and foremost, it’s crucial to talk about your work with the family.

Why are you spending time on the computer? Why do you need to be alone while you work? Why aren’t you available (except on family emergencies) for your family at these times?

It is important to talk about these topics and make sure everyone agrees. It’s also important to make compromises and come to a mutual understanding about your schedule, so that everyone can have their say (or at least be heard when the timetables are set).

With this step alone, you have cleared the majority of your guilt when you work.

2. Define the rules and boundaries. Once the false expectations are wiped out, it’s time to make some concrete plans for your work.

If your income provides your family’s current lifestyle, then it’s important to point that out. If you can’t work then their lifestyle will suffer.

Make everyone understand when you work and when you shouldn’t be interrupted. Make sure that your spouse understands this, so that there won’t be unnecessary fights over family errands.

3. Define your working times. Try to find a schedule that works for the whole family.

When you are running a business, the working hours may be long and it may be impossible to please everyone. But once again, it should make things easier to accept if there is solid reasoning behind your plans.

For example, I can only work on building my online business part-time. That’s why I tend to take advantage of any free time I have away from the family.

When others are napping, I work on my computer. I also let my wife know when I’ll be working in advance, so she knows when I’ll be focusing on other things.

Finally, I try to wake up early enough so that I have some quiet moments to build my business – once again when everyone else is sleeping.

4. Understand the patterns and track your time. An understanding of your daily patterns will help when you’re planning your day.

This is related to point #3, where I said that I tend to work in ‘free’ hours. In fact, I have kept a diary for a week about the family patterns (for example when my son normally sleeps), so that I can adjust the way that I work during these hours.

Track your days for a week and you’ll start to see a pattern to how your days are formed. This helps you to plan your days. For example, our son has two napping times: one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

I also track any recurring tasks that I have to perform every day and how long they take.

For instance, I know that writing a blog post takes approximately 1.5 hours, so it’s easier for me to place that task into a certain time block (before everyone wakes up or when my son is having his second nap in the afternoon).

To understand the time you have to work, track how long a recurring task takes (for example how much writing 5 blog posts takes on average) and then plan your days accordingly.

5. Learn to be flexible. Flexibility is one of the most important mindsets of a work-at-home dad. Sometimes there is going to be interruptions but as soon as you understand that this is part of the home environment, it becomes easier to deal with them.

Learning to act flexibly is also part of the gratitude you should feel towards your current situation: being grateful to have a family and the opportunity to work from home, doing what you love.

6. “Buy” working moments. Finally, my favourite way of cutting the guilt is to buy my working hours. And no money is involved.

What I’m talking about is doing something else, in exchange for time at your computer.

You could change your son’s diapers in exchange for one hour of time to write. Or, you could tuck your baby into bed two evenings in a row so that you can have some guilt-free time for recording that video for your blog.

Obviously you can define how you want to “exchange” your hours, but here are some other ideas that your spouse will love, too:

  • Changing diapers
  • Tucking your baby to sleep
  • Feeding your baby
  • Cleaning your home
  • Taking out the trash
  • Going out to play with your kids
  • Washing the dishes
  • Buying groceries

These are just a few examples, but you get the point. When you do your share of the family errands, it is easier to work without that nagging feeling of guilt.

Conclusion

You shouldn’t feel guilty when working, but all too often this is the case. However, it’s easy to diminish that guilt with the steps I have laid out.

It’s all about communication and making sure you find the right balance between working and taking care of the family.

When you think about it, no one wants to do all the household stuff by themselves. Your spouse is no exception. Participate that work and you’ll have one less reason to feel guilty.

Over to you: how do you handle guilt? Do you find it easy to work from home? Any tips you would like to share with other work-at-home dads?

Finally, if you liked this post, please share it or opt-in to my email list for updates and future articles.

About Timo Kiander

My name is Timo Kiander aka Productive Superdad.

I want to show how an online entrepreneur like you can improve your productivity in your online business.

Comments

  1. Brett Daniels says:

    Great post and great tips. I’m a work from home dad and this post hits the nail right on the head. I think #5, being flexible, is very importnant. I just read a great book others might like called “The Barefoot Executive” by Carrie Wilkerson. You can get it right off of the author’s website, barefootexecutivebook.com. I highly recommend it to anyone working from home. Does anyone else have any other recommendations they’d be willing to share?

  2. S Walters says:

    I know this is an article for work at home dads, and I kind of feel like an intruder here (being of the opposite sex). But I felt like I understood exactly what you were speaking about. I’m a work at home mom, and being divorced, don’t have to contend with the spouse’s issues, but have the same guilty feelings wrt my 5 kids and other family members. Being at home, they assume I have excess spare time, and the frustration that comes with interruptions is immense. And I won’t even touch on the guilt (you already did that for me). I agree that Communication is one of the top priorities here.
    Really useful and practical article you have put together here. I will be signing up for your 222 Tips…thank you for that!
    @Brett I heard about this book on last weekend’s Book Report radio show (bookreportradio(dot)com -for those interested in getting an idea of what the book is like, they have all shows archived, so take a listen) and it seemed like a valuable resource to have too. Would you say it helps with ideas on dealing with some of the issues mentioned here too?
    Thanks to both for the input!

    • Timo Kiander says:

      No matter if you are a work at home mom, you are of course welcome to my site :)

      Yep, I wanted to write about this topic, since it’s something that I have experienced. In fact, this feeling became stronger, after me and my wife had a baby.

      But as I mentioned on the article, I feel that communication is the key and when everyone is on the same line (and no false expectations), you should be working without any guilt feelings (or at least much less than before).

      Cheers,
      Timo

  3. Hi Timo,

    I can find myself completely in your post, as I am somewhat a youger version of yourself ( No saying you are old, just that I just got started :-)) . I am a work at home dad who just started his own site on time management :-)

    Anyway, going back to the subject at hand, I have an issue though that I can’t find back in your post, and for which I would like your opinion:

    As I am just starting, I can’t really claim number #2. It is quite the contrary, and while I am quite confident that it will happen at some point, for now on she brings the money in.
    While we do have a good understanding with regards to time, I have to say that the money issue do come regularly when there is a planning issue, and is a drain on my productivity.

    Timo, how did you deal with this specific situation when you started?

    GM
    my site on time management

    • Timo Kiander says:

      Hi GM!

      Currently I’m still having a full-time day job and I’m growing my (blog’s) audience, so it doesn’t make any money.

      However, I treat it as a business and my family knows that I’m serious about it. They also know that my plan is to turn it as a business at some point. I think that the same principle applies if my blog would bring our household the income and provided the lifestyle: it would be easy to justify the time spent on the blog.

      Do you mean that when you want to have time for your blog, this brings you issues?

      Cheers,
      Timo

      • Hi Timo,

        I actually quit my job to become self-employed, the plan is to earn money on the internet and doing consulting. I am lucky enough to work in a branch where that’s quite easy (well, if you put enough effort and time into it of course).

        A few years ago I tried to combine writing a blog with a full-time day job, but it was going veeeeeery slow. At some point I decided just to go for it and try to make it as a full time net entrepreneur / freelance consultant.

        So you’re right, it gives a lot of legitimity to my work on the site, but at the same I’ve got some added pressure to nake it work. It is really motivating, but can lead to tention when the money subject turns up in the discussion, you know:
        – “Me: I am not making any money and you’re buying all this …..
        -Her: That was your decision, you said you would make it work and that it wouldn’t impact our lifestyle.”

        I guess when I ll start actually earning something things will get better!

        I added you to my site by the way: http://www.feasible-time-management.com/time-management-websites.html

        • Timo Kiander says:

          Hi GM!

          Yes, building a blog while having a day job is slow.

          I also understand that it takes some time until you get your business off the ground.

          For instance, I started my blog in 2010, but only this year I have started focusing on right things (thanks to my coach). Thanks to this focus, I’m able to work on the right things (which is pretty much building my audience).

          I think that I could have progressed much faster if I hired a coach one when I started. Anyway, I’m happy with the progress I’m making now.

          But yeah … finding understanding requires a mutually set rules in your household. When your spouse knows what’s going on in your business, it helps to set the expectations straight.

          Things will get better for sure!

          Cheers,
          Timo

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