Work-at-home moms have definitely reaped the benefits of technology. With my trusty iBook, my office is wherever I can get a wi-fi signal. I am always only a phone call or an e-mail away from the office. And meetings? No problem. Conference calls have been the norm for decades. But, are there downsides to working at home? I think so.
Working from home with a toddler underfoot has been hard enough, but now that it's summer and all three of my children are home, I am overwhelmed. I spend my mornings fielding work e-mails, making phone calls and doing other lawyerly stuff like research and writing while the children have grand pirate adventures and overdose on whichever kids DVD they happen to be into at the moment (right now, it's Cheaper By The Dozen 1 and 2). I break for lunch and some time outside with the kiddos, but all the while I worry that I may miss an important work e-mail, so my laptop and phone are never too far away.
When I worked before and went into the office, it was a nice respite from family life. There was a definitive, bright line: between 7:30a and 4:30p were working hours. All the other hours were free/family time. When I was pregnant with Olie, I slowly transitioned from working in the office two days per week to working at home full-time. The change-up was difficult, just like now, because the office required I be available by phone during my working hours. I didn't have a cellphone or a laptop so I was pretty much home bound. But, with Lizzie at preschool all day, I really did have a quiet space in which to work.
Now, I'm frantic and short tempered because my workspace is never quiet - it's punctuated by Steve Martin singing about a man named Finigan - and I feel unproductive and lazy, even. I want more work, but I'm afraid of taking on too much as I still try to balance being at home with my children with doing the work I need to do. I'm actually thinking about getting a summer nanny for a few days per week just so I can go into the office and have "face time" (the horror!); networking is not an outdated concept for those of us in the legal trenches.
Like a lot of other women, I am steeped in the Gen X notion that women can have it all. Look at me! I say to any woman who has doubts about her own potential. Three children, law school, and a job! If I can do it, surely you can but, honestly, most days I do well to keep my head above water.