I stay at home, as a mom. And I work from home, in an administration role for a financial services company. I sometimes eat lunch in my pajamas. I sometimes make calls to clients in the backyard while gardening. It is a rare opportunity to be able to provide for your family while spending all day with them. My husband is a full-time student who works in the evenings part-time and so we knew I’d have to chip in during this season. I resigned myself to putting my babies in daycare for two days a week to work but this job fell like a star from heaven and every time I sign on remotely, I say a prayer of thanks. But it ain’t all paychecks and tea parties.
What I learned as a stay-at-home and work-from-home mom.
(1) Without a schedule, my world would cave in.
I’m a big fan of routine and scheduling our day (see Routine + Scheduling). That doesn’t mean I’m unbending or run my life by the clock, but I go by a pretty consistent routine each day. Working from home means I have to. I work in the mornings briefly during their Independent Play times and again, if necessary, during their afternoon naps. I know when they’ll be asleep and roughly how long they will sleep for each day.
This is when I work and depend on that time to get things done. If I flew by the seat of my pants I’d never be able to work from home without working into the wee hours of the night. I never work in the evenings unless absolutely necessary and that is because we have a good routine going.
(2) Priorities and boundaries are key.
It is a priority that I work and that it is done well and without distraction. It is a priority that I spend the day taking care of my children and looking after their needs, emotionally and physically. Luckily, my boss is pretty much the best boss in the world and if there is sickness or emergency here I’m able to be fairly flexible. However, it means that I have to be very self-disciplined with my time. It’s tough.
Sometimes when they go to sleep for 3 hours in the afternoon, I just want to lay in bed and nap, or read a book, or do some sewing. It means I have to say no to fun stuff and yes to work stuff often. It is a privilege for me to work from home (that I do not take for granted) but it comes with a price. That price is sacrificing personal and leisure time. After the kids are in bed at 7:30 in the evenings I use that time for me. Unfortunately, I like to go to bed by 9:30pm so 2 hours isn’t very much but right now, it’ll have to do.
(3) You must learn how to mentally shift.
And quickly. I put my youngest for a nap and my oldest in her room for play time and – bham – I get work done. I sit down, knock out some reports, quotes or emails and work hard and concentrated and fast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then – bham – I go stack blocks or do paper art dolls. After my morning work we do our S-E-A-M-S activity for the day so I have to be able to do the mind shift quickly.
Shutting off used to be difficult. I’d be trying to stack blocks and worried about an email I needed to send. Recently, I think I’ve got the knack of just ignoring work until it’s time to work. It is a weight off my shoulders and allows me to enjoy my time with the kids instead of wishing I had another hour to finish my tasks.
(4) It pays to have qualifications that can be utilized remotely or on a part-time basis.
Now, if I was advising a younger woman newly married who was thinking about having children and was in a life-planning phase, I’d tell her to get an education or qualifications in something that she can do either remotely or part-time while she has young children. Particularly if she intended to have a lot of kids and was going to be at home for a while, this comes in very handy.
Living off of one income is not always easy, and sometimes being at home but feeling the crushing pressure of financial troubles really makes life harder. A friend here is a pharmacist and, while her children were young, she worked one day a week. Her mother kept her children and this allowed her to bring in some income, have a day out and a “break” of sorts, and it kept her qualifications current.
A nurse can do similar by working an evening shift or two a week. If there is not the pressure of “you have to bread-win, woman” then the mother might find it is actually a refreshing time to be around other people, maintain friendships, and have some adult interactions when the day otherwise consists of “don’t climb on that” and “stop kicking your sister.”
(5) It may be the best of both worlds, but it’s also the worst of both worlds.
At times, that is. I am so grateful for this job and say a prayer of thanks every time I work. You can take that to the bank because it’s a fact. But it is hard. Having more money, that is great. Having more responsibility, that is a weight on my shoulders. Stay-at-home moms often wish they could contribute financially. Working mothers often wish they could stay home and live off one income.
Work from home mothers often feel as though they get the best – and the worst – of both. When kids are sick, when I am sick, or worse even still – when my husband is sick – the last thing I want to do is work. When there are things happening and I don’t work for a day, it backs up. It’s life. It’s work. It’s responsibility. I wouldn’t trade it for the world because, quite frankly, we need my income to pay the bills. However, I often wonder what life would be like if I didn’t have to.
Are you a stay-at-home-mom? Do you wish you could work a little? Are you a working mom? Do you wish you could stay at home some? Are there part-time work opportunities in your field? I’d love to hear what you have to say about it!
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