To office-goers, working from home might seem like a leisurely affair, all yoga breaks and long lunches. Only it’s not—it’s an exercise in planning, organization, communication, and discipline, especially when you throw a kid or two into the mix. And while you can do your damnedest to make sure all runs smoothly, inevitably there are moments when #thatmomlife crashes into #thatworklife and you have to beg, cajole, bend the truth (ahem), and even hide in order to get stuff done.
Below, 19 WFH moms (including our members) spill the dirty (and hilarious) details of those times they had to go to extremes in order to take the call, nail the deadline, or land the client.
“My very first video conference call back at work after having my daughter wasn’t what I had envisioned while pregnant and planning my new work from home life. I was holding her in a wrap on my chest (she was only 5-weeks old and i now regret getting back to work so soon!) while taking the call and a few minutes in I feel a rush of warmth. At first I was confused and quickly realized she had peed all over the front of me. I spent my first meeting back to work literally covered in pee.”—Danielle Estrada, founder of Olivia & Ocean
“I was on a conference call at home when my son somehow got away from my parents who were watching him. He made his way into my office (actually just a desk in my bedroom) and for a few moments he played nicely. I remember feeling like super mom—something along the lines of how well behaved my kid is. But then he started babbling and making animal noises. Loud two-year-old mooing. For some insane reason I decided to say that I was working from a coffee shop and someone else’s kid was being sooooo loud. It was a turning point for me because I felt so guilty for making up a ridiculous story that I decided at that moment I would be proud of the fact that I was a work-from-home mom. I don’t hide it anymore and although I behave with as much professionalism as I would in an office, I no longer act like there’s something wrong with being a work-from-home mom.” —Andrea Samacicia Mullan, owner of Victory Public Relations
“Half the day I never get out of PJs, the dog often serves as my armrest, and I usually end up working from my couch instead of my desk since it’s more comfortable.” —Claire Vath, editorial director for Write Well Media, LLC
“One of my top clients is a very busy professional who likes her visits to occur without any children around. We always accommodate her but one day, my daughter ran in and managed to pull a few pieces off the racks and laid them down for the client. My client walked out of the dressing room and I wasn’t sure if she was slightly annoyed by the interruption however she previewed Ava’s selects and actually purchased one of the items! Thank goodness.” —Gina Lamanna, founder of Spool
“One time when I was on the phone with a client I went outside and hid behind a bush in our yard to get away from my two-year-old who’d starting screaming for me in the middle of my call. (Turning on a video was never a guaranteed distraction in our house.)” —Copywriter Lisa Banks
“I’ve been known to send my kids off to school with my husband, get down to work, and realize hours later that I am still wearing the bunny ears I used to lure them to get dressed! Luckily most of my calls aren’t video!” —Christine Brown, founder of Bella Luna Sleep Consulting
“When I first got my job working for Nylon Magazine (A Millennial Girls Mag – aka none of the staff have kids) – nobody knew I had a 2 year old and 6 week old at home. I was working remotely from LA creating content and sending to NY. One day I was on a 5 way conference call talking about an upcoming shoot and I was only a few weeks into the gig. My door was shut and no one had been home (to my knowledge). Suddenly my door flew open and my 2 year old came in screaming and laughing and my nanny was carrying my newborn (who was screaming at opera level octaves) who clearly needed to eat ASAP. Everyone on the call just paused, and someone quietly said, “is someone around babies?”. Then there was an awkward silence and I was like “yup, that’s on my end”. Again awkward silence I think while they tried to put the pieces together. We continued the call with my baby breastfeeding and my 2 year old running in and out of my bedroom (aka office). It later became a funny story and sort of put it all out there, but at the time, I was so mortified.” — Samamtha Gutstadt, actress, content creator and writer for SamSoMuch and Nylon Mag.
“I had a client call one morning that I knew would last about 20 minutes. My daughter was potty training at the time, so I had her use the potty, stuck her in front of her favorite cartoon, and hopped on my call. Not 5 minutes in, I see her headed to the bathroom. I was in the middle of explaining a concept to my client so I couldn’t get up. Two minutes later, she emerges, wearing only a shirt, and walks back to the living room. Still on my call, I run to the bathroom and realize the extent of the damage…wet underwear and pants on the floor, and pee and poop in the potty—but also on the floor. All the while my half-naked toddler is happily sitting on my living-room floor singing the ‘Hot Dog Dance’ from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I ended my call a few minutes later and began the hazmat cleanup of my bathroom. I couldn’t stop laughing!” —Christine Stevens, founder of Sleep Solutions by Christine
“My children will ignore me for hours, but the minute I get on a business call they start asking me for a million things in quick succession. Mommy, can I have a snack/screentime/water? I shoo them away but they persist. I end up putting the phone on mute while the other person is explaining something and scream for them to leave me alone, then lock myself in the bathroom, unmute the call and continue, oh so professionally. It happens without fail every time.” —Natalie Myers, Owner of Vaneer Designs
“My 7-year-old son loves cereal. One particularly stressful week when my husband was also working late, I let him eat cereal every night for dinner (and, yes, he had it for breakfast, too). There might have been an instant packet of organic oatmeal thrown in there, too, but suffice it to say, he did not eat a balanced diet that week. I told myself, ‘At least it’s not pizza!’” —Dawn M. Roode, founder of Modern Heirloom Books
“I was on an important call so I went to my bedroom and shut the door thinking it would help drown out the sound of my kids playing. Except that they made their way into the bedroom yelling, ‘Mommy, what are you doing? Who’s on the phone?’ I frantically pushed the kids out of the bedroom and locked the door. Bad idea. They started banging on the door screaming for me. I shut myself in my bathroom and took the call from inside my shower with the glass door closed. It sounded like bombs were going off outside. I finished the call successfully and exited my bedroom to find an entire toy box unloaded in front of the door and my kids hysterically crying. When I asked them what happened they said, ‘You locked us out so we threw all of our toys at your door and tried to break it down.’ Cool.” —Erin McDonald, marketing manager at FamilyTech
“Sometimes there is just too much multitasking! One morning I accidentally packed my son’s PJs in his backpack as a change of clothes for day camp instead of tossing them in the laundry. Needless to say, he was not too excited that he only had PJs for the water slide that day.” —Michelle Hale, co-founder of Henry & Higby
“Being so busy has made it difficult to give my kids lengthy baths on a nightly basis. There are many ‘baths’ that involve getting the kids down to their diapers and giving them a quick wipe-down with a wet washcloth and some soap.” —Gretchen TeBockhorst, founder of PRIM Communications
“I have been working from home since 2014 and we just had our first son, Jackson five months ago. I came back to work mid-August and worked out not having to take calls until after 1pm, as most of our employees sit in the Bay Area. A few weeks ago my COO asked me to be on a call with all of leadership at 12pm EST. Since my sitter doesn’t arrive until 1pm, I asked my husband to come home for lunch to watch Jackson while I took my call. He texted me at 11:30 letting me know he was on his way. At 11:45, our COO emailed and asked me to join the call as they were running EARLY (this literally never happens)! I panicked as she doesn’t know that I don’t have help before 1pm and I felt like I couldn’t say no. My son was napping and my two dogs were snoozing as well. My husband had just stepped off the subway and was at least 10 minutes away…I had to get on the call. Everything is going well, I’m talking to the group about the topics that I was covering when someone rang the doorbell! The dogs went nuts…and they’re both 70-75 pound dogs with loud barks. Then the baby starts screaming, as the barking woke him from his nap. I panicked, muted the call (in the middle of me talking) and ran into the bathroom. I shut the door and took the rest of the call from the tub. I prayed that I got service and that the dogs stopped barking long enough for me to finish the call. I was sick to my stomach. I finished the call and was shaking! I still have no idea who rang the doorbell and thankfully no one ever asked me about it. The mother-struggle is real.” —Jennifer Stewart, Talent Development Manager, PRO Unlimited
“In Kindergarten, my son’s teacher ‘interviewed’ each child about their mom for Mother’s Day. One of the questions was ‘tell me about your mom’s job,’ and my precious boy said ‘My mommy talks on the phone in her pajamas all day.'” —Robin Leon, Au Pair in America
“Once I sat in the front seat of my car in the train-station parking lot with my hotspot and computer conducting business for two straight hours…and it was productive!! I’d gotten off the train from NYC, but couldn’t go home because my children were there and I had deadlines and conference calls. And I couldn’t go to Starbucks because I needed to be able to hear and didn’t want a coffee grinder in the background. We do what we have to do to get the job done and make clients happy. Period!” —Jennifer Bickerton, founder of JJB PR
“When my son was two and I was VERY pregnant, I got an unexpected emergency client call after hours while bathing him. Instead of just admitting it wasn’t a good time, I completed the call, holding the phone in one hand and bathing my son with the other. My client never knew and I managed to solve their crisis. But looking back, would it have been so terrible to admit that I was doing mom stuff and would have to call them back? Of course not, but when you work from home, sometimes you feel like you have to work even harder to prove yourself, because people automatically think you work less.” —Ellie Hirsch, founder of Mommy Masters
“With so much going on, it can sometimes be hard to keep everything straight in your mind. I was once on a call for 10 minutes before realizing I was talking to a different vendor than I’d thought. No wonder they didn’t seem to understand my ramblings. I now try to take that extra minute to make sure I know who I am talking to before dialing in. So far, so good!” —Nanci Bergman, founder of Accent jewelry
“Working from home comes with its fair share of funny business: hiding in your car to take a call, working in your pajamas, emailing while breastfeeding, an occasional pacifier that makes its way into a customer shipment. Those things make for amusing stories and memories, but I think the part I cherish the most is that my boys get to see me working. They see my passion and commitment and understand what drives me; but they also see the sacrifices and trade-offs. They are learning about work ethic and that sometimes we all have to work when we’d rather play. And on the flip side, they remind me about balance. The other day my five-year-old son told me, “Mommy. Enough! You can’t just work all the time. It’s time for you to play with me.” When they’re right, they’re right.”—Melissa Birge, founder of Mia Tango
We would love to hear from you! What are some of your work-from-home confessions?
This post was originally published on Alice’s Table on October 30, 2017.