I’ve been a work-at-home mom since before I even delivered my first daughter.
During my last semester of college, I started a new job as the College Outreach Program Coordinator for the non-profit group Feminists for Life, working on helping students set up pregnant and parenting resources on their campuses. (Yes, it was as cool as it sounds!)
Since I worked at home in some capacity before my babies arrived on the scene, in a way it is second nature to me. My day ebbs and flows around my work and I can admit, when I don’t have something work-related to do during the day, I start to feel panicky and sort of like I’m drowning in a sea of clingy children, toys, and mysterious stains that even Magic Erasers can’t fix. (Found one today on the fridge today, in fact.)
Although I also work part-time as a nurse (and have always done so), since Jake was born I have been working very hard and steadily to make the transition to working at home as a writer. The past three months, I have met my financial goals and I’m just about to the point where I feel comfortable saying that I am supporting our family by working at home. Yay!
Between working at home and the hospital, my hours sometimes vary to only a few a week to over full-time; it just depends on what’s going on at home, what projects I have with writing, and let’s be honest–how broke we are at the moment.
I love, love, love the flexibility that working at home has provided me as a mom. Honestly, there are some days when it is so crazed and I feel so awful for being home but not “present” with my children 100% of the time that I want to pitch it all and work a “normal” job where I can just work and not focus on a bazillion other things, but after doing this for over 6 years, I can honestly say that the trade-offs are well worth it for me.
There is nothing better than those little flashes of joy that I get to experience throughout the day being home with my children–an impromptu hug from Jacob, catching the girls reading together in their room, the simple happiness of sitting out in the warm sun together. And then of course, there’s the practical aspect of it too. With young children, it seems like someone is sick every other week. I just can’t imagine how many days I would have taken off of a “normal” job if I didn’t have the flexibility that I have.
I know how frustrating it can be to hear about other people who have “made it” as a work-at-home mom. I’ve wondered it myself–how the heck do they do it? How do they manage to get dressed and host dinner parties and make enough money to live while entertaining the kids? I know how it can feel to dream about the ability to be home and support your family, so I’ve rounded-up some of my best WAHM tips from my experience juggling babies, pregnancies, breastfeeding.
1. Make no apologies. A job at home is no different than an “outside” job. Make no apologies for having to turn down plans or to make time for what you need to do. Most importantly, don’t apologize to yourself for not doing everything for your kids. This is a job, plain and simple, and you wouldn’t be with them at all if you worked outside of the home, so give yourself a break.
2. Nap time = work time. Period, the end. Oh, believe me I know how tempting it is to “just change the laundry real quick” or to “just put those dishes away real fast.” Trust me, I know. I also know that without fail, every single time, you will get sucked in and then when you eventually do glue your butt to that chair? Be prepared to hear the faint whimpers of a baby waking up.
3. Embrace the morning. I am not a morning person. Seriously, I have a really hard time getting up in the morning before my kids, especially Jacob, who usually wakes up around 7 a.m. But some mornings, you just have to do it or the work doesn’t get done.
4. Your time is an investment. When I first started freelance writing, it was so hard at first because there is such a huge time commitment involved without any financial return. I felt incredibly guilty for “wasting” time coming up with article ideas, drafting article pitches, and contacting editors without any guarantee that all of my hard work would even translate into cold, hard cash. In my mind, if I was working, I needed to see immediate results, especially because I had a job readily available as a nurse where all it took was clocking in to make some mula. I had so much self-doubt and guilt along the way, but now I can see that all of that “free” time was 100% necessary. You need to think of the early months–or even years, because after all, most of us are doing this part-time, right?–as an investment or heck, even an internship. No one starts a career full-fledged from zero without some sort of sacrifice. The majority of business owners are told to not even expect a profit their first year and that advice definitely holds true for you too as a WAHM. You are a business owner and you need to treat that time in the beginning as an investment. I promise you, it will pay off eventually. Don’t give up!
5. Create your own work environment. Perhaps the most challenging part of working at home for me has been creating and setting my own work environment. And by that, I mean, primarily in creating work expectations for the rest of the family. For instance, I’ve found that when Ben comes home from work, he is all ready for “rest and relaxation” mode whereas I’m geared up to hand the kids off for a break and finish up some work tasks. At first, this was a huge strain on both me and our marriage, until I realized that I needed to lay a few ground rules. Now, I rarely work first thing when he gets home and if I do have to, I give him plenty of warning and time to decompress before asking him to take over. I’ve also really had to work on the older children to let them know that Mama will tell them if they need to let me work. Most of the time, I have an “open door” policy and they are free to wander in and out of the office or ask me for whatever they need; sometimes though, if I need absolute concentration (which, admittedly is rare), I will tell them, no guilt allowed, that Mama needs a few minutes to work and they need to play nicely. It took some work to get to this point, but setting boundaries and work times and expectations from the beginning will really help.