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