Secrets That Save the Day When Dad Works from Home

posted in: homemaker, mother | 7

My husband has worked from home for over 5 years now. The novelty has worn off and we’ve established our patterns.

We’ve been married for over 17 years and get along quite well. We are, for the most part, on the same wavelength, and understand each other’s mindset, manner, and methods. We can (and do) tease each other, and we naturally pull together to accomplish desired ends (both being IxTJ personalities helps).

So working from home was a smooth transition for our family, and one my husband was eager to make. He loves his commute, staying in his own space, and eating all three meals at home.

Every work-at-home family will need an arrangement and understanding that is an appropriate expression of the couple’s relationship and personalities. Plus, the actual job involved and its requirements also play a factor. My husband has flexibility in his hours, but still must be around to interact and work with his team – it’s rarely solo work. That means he also needs quiet not only to think, but to be able to converse with his coworkers. Did I mention we have 5 kids, all of whom have piano practice time?

Over the years, I think there are 3 things I’ve learned that make it possible for my husband to work from home while we also homeschool.

So here are my logistical and attitudinal tips for managing a home when everyone – including Dad – is home, all day long, with different agendas to accomplish.

Tip #1 – When your husband works from home, dedicate space and time for him.

My husband works as a software programmer, so he has a thinky job and also one that requires him to be teamed up virtually with coworkers off and on throughout the day. At the same time, not only do we have five kids, but four of them are serious piano players. The piano is going hours each day.

So when we were thinking about where his home office might be when he took his first remote job, it was clear: the basement bedroom that has two doors to shut between the main level noise and his space.

The home office is not off the main living area where motion, noise, and clamor are nearby. He’s tucked away out of the traffic flow, in his own little basement hole. It has a full window; it isn’t really a hole. However, it is cut off from the rest of the house, which makes it easy for our normal daily doing to not be disruptive – usually.

He also works typical hours because that works for him and for the company he’s with. So even though he’s at home, and he pops up to refill his water bottle or grab a cup of coffee, we all count him “at work,” and leave him alone (the kids definitely do; I am the one who has to remember not to be interrupty just because I want to vent or escape).

Tip #2 – When your husband works from home, don’t be territorial.

The hardest transition to make with a work-from-home husband is an unexpected territorial reaction. We’re used to having the home as our domain all day, without interference.

When we can do our thing all day, then tidy up just before our husband gets home, it gives us a deadline to pull things together – and maybe permission to let things slide more than necessary in between.

With no such deadline, it’s hard to have the same sense of “end of day,” or the relief of “reinforcements have arrived” as your husband walks in. It’s a new dynamic to figure out and work through.

Now my husband sees not only the end of the day (and, honestly, often either the house or myself or both were a mess anyway), but also all the in between. There is no polish to put on – just like getting married means our husband sees us without makeup more often than with, working from home means he’s party to the whole crazy reality of homeschooling life.

That being the case, he might have input. After all, this is not only his home, too, but now his workplace as well. It’s not like he has no right to “interfere.” Seeing the actual situations when he comes up, he might have different opinions about what to do for school or schedule than when all he knew was what he was told.

When our husbands work from home, it’s the next level-up challenge to pull together as a team and not be defensive, territorial, or offended when sharing life in an even more intense and constant way. Embrace it. Grow with it; don’t fight it.

Tip #3 – When your husband works from home, embrace sanctification.

This goes hand-in-hand with the above.

Rachel Jankovic uses the analogy of our family life being a rock tumbler. The more children, the more little rocks bumping around in there. Add Dad into the mix and the rock tumbler speed intensifies – not because it’s harder, but because suddenly there’s another perspective to be had – it’s actually a good thing.

I might be losing my cool during a math lesson, hypothetically of course, and my husband walks up the stairs with his empty coffee cup. “Problem?” he asks.

Blink. Blink.

Well, actually, no, there shouldn’t be.

Big breath.

Particularly in homeschooling sons, having Dad at hand for reinforcements has been invaluable. Merely saying, “Well, if you want to argue about it, you can do so with Dad at lunch,” is often enough to elicit a resigned sigh and resumed work.

What I wasn’t expecting was that the same was true for myself.

As my husband saw more of our middle-of-the-day-muddle, I realized when he was away all day he only got my version, my story. I could – and did – clothe my complaints and frustrations in reasonable-sounding justification via chat. Now that he is home, he sees and concludes for himself. I have to give up the control – and the pride – of being the only diagnostic perspective.

Now I have extra motivation to keep up my self-control, not yell at the kids, and not lounge in my room with a novel or my phone during school hours. I, too, sigh and resume my work instead of losing my cool. There is more accountability now for everyone, and that has been a good thing.

How about you? Does your husband work from home? Share your tips in the comments!

7 Responses

  1. Jen @ Bookish Family
    | Reply

    This is great advice for me even though my husband doesn’t work from home full time. He is a college professor so he both works from home during off hours and is often home during our “school days” because his schedule of breaks and need to be at the office is different and sometimes flexible. I’ve gotten better at #1 over the years, but I struggle a lot with #2 (and #3). I appreciate this perspective and it is definitely something I want to work on in the coming months (and years)! It would just be so much easier if you said I got to be in charge at home all the time :-) Clearly I need to let go of this!

  2. Candice Dennis
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    Boy this is spot-on! My husband has worked from home for two years, now. At first I couldn’t figure out why I felt so unsettled with it. Then I realized that it was because I no longer was totally in control of all the daytime decisions. It has been good in many ways, but also hard at times because the opportunity for conflict increases the more time you spend together! I appreciate the rock-tumbler analogy: it’s all about growth and sanctification.

  3. Sarah
    | Reply

    My husband has been working from home for five years now. We love it. People tend to think we are crazy, all 6 of us being home all day. We also live in a 1000 square foot home, with one bathroom, so that makes it even more interesting. There are definitely some downsides, but having him around all day certainly has it’s benefits. It’s hard to keep the children quiet when he has a meeting, but he gets to see and play with the children more, which they all love. I think your tips are great, I’m not sure I have much to add, other than you need a lot of patience. It takes time to get used to your husband being home all day. Also, patience through different seasons, keeping babies and toddlers quiet can wear you out!

  4. Amber Vanderpol
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    Great advice! My husband has been working from home for 10 out of the last 12 years (he rented an office while we were building our current home and we were living in a tent, then a trailer, then a tiny apartment, then with his parents). I’ve struggled the most with #2 over the years – especially when we were beginning and I only had a 4 yo and a baby. Even still, I have to be careful not to ambush him with a question or a comment when he’s just venturing out to get more water or use the bathroom! I wish we could give him a space that is more separated from the main living area – he’s in a bedroom, but with our open floorplan he really doesn’t get any sound privacy. I’d love to build him an office on the property, because I think trying to tune out the noise of the family is more tiring than he realizes… but it hasn’t made it high enough on the priority list yet. And yes, trying to keep things quiet (or maybe just down to a dull roar) is tiring for me too!

  5. Imelda
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    Wow, very impressed, ladies! My husband was at home for the first six years of parenting and I can only describe it as a hellish nightmare on earth. Looking back at it I realize that our codependent marital dynamic, my complete and total lack of organization, and the constant atmosphere of crisis — my husband’s company stopped paying him and then he got lymetick disease and was so debilitated from it that he was unable to find a better job — so him being at home, with his office right in the middle of the house so he could hear everything and was constantly popping out to attend to the children if he heard them peep while I was in the bathroom, assuming I had abandoned the family or something, was largely a matter of having a constant audio stream of him yelling at his boss because another paycheck bounced — ahem! Wow. Hell on earth. — anyway, during those years we just simply did not have the marriage to pull off the constant proximity. It was just too much. Ahem! Well! I believe I have demonstrated some post-traumatic stress. ANYWAY. The point is, we have moved, he has steady employment now, no paychecks bouncing, and I am better organized, and we have our codependent marital dynamics under some control or are at least working on them. But I’m still incredibly happy on Monday mornings when I can wave him a cheery goodbye and covertly do a little tap dance. So! My hat is off to you all!

  6. Lynn
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    As a dairy farm family my husband doesn’t work from home because he worked from the barn, etc but that does mean he’s “home” all the time. The biggest thing I’ve learned is flexible as really he can work 24/7 and everyday looks a little different as to if & when he comes for a meal or anything else. It all depends on the weather, # of cows or calces, if a cow is in labor, if it’s planting, harvest or hay time. But we love that the kids can work with him & us and so school, work, play, and the rest of life doesn’t have clear lines all the time.

  7. Lauren Scott
    | Reply

    Oh, this is so great and timely for me! My husband just started working from home two weeks ago. It’s an answer to prayer in so many ways, but it has been an adjustment.

    I laughed at number two, especially. My husband has planned his break time to coincide with our morning school break, which is awesome because we get to see him…BUT one day last week I had definite independent plans for my break time and he had plans for us to work together on something. We had to figure out that communicating clearly about expectations for that block of time is going to be important!

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