I am a work-at-home mom, or as many call it, a WAHM.
Just a sneak peek into my life and you may assume I have the best of both worlds: the stay-at-home mom (SAHM) and the work-at-home mom (WAHM).
I get both freedom and flexibility. The ability to be fully present with my kids. An identity outside of parenting. My skill-set and education are being used daily, and I don’t have to worry about either “going to waste.” And I get to bring in some money to help with our finances. What’s not to love?
The WAHM Myth
Working from home plays into the myth that I can do it all and have it all. But the reality of working from home is a lot more complicated than meets the eye.
For starters, you know that whole flexibility thing? It also means that I often don’t have regularly scheduled office hours and have to cram my work in wherever it fits into the family schedule.
I can’t tell you how many articles I have written from my phone, one-handed, while nursing a baby who’s refusing to nap. Weekends, holidays and vacations? Honestly, I don’t even know what those are anymore. For instance, I’m writing now on a Saturday night after we took the kids Christmas tree hunting in the mountains, I fixed dinner and got them ready for bed, while my husband went out to Home Depot to grab flooring for a home project. I’m pooped. I’m ready to Netflix. I don’t have that luxury. The tension between meeting deadlines and parenting four children means I work when I can. And that often means working late into the night, when I’m already fried from parenting because that is when I have kid-free time.
Speaking of office hours, I seriously miss having an office.
So working from home SOUNDS amazing: Put in a load of laundry. Start your work. Hear the buzzer, switch out the loads, then get back to work. Pause momentarily to get the roast in the slow cooker. Make headway on both work and housework at the same time. Genius!
Except working from home means I’m constantly pulled in a million directions. My open-concept house does not allow for a door to my office, which means that the house is constantly calling for my attention – and often, my kids are too. In order to make significant work progress, I ignore my dishes, and the dryer, and the vacuuming and all the things that threaten to derail my focus. And often, my work has to take the back burner, even when I can’t afford it.
There are more days than I care to admit where I feel jealous of my husband who goes to an office for eight hours a day. I often wonder how productive I might be if I could just leave my house. And sometimes, I do. It turns out Starbucks makes for a pretty amazing temporary office on days when I simply cannot work from home.
It’s not like being a SAHM at all.
I can’t tell you how often I feel like I need to explain to people why I need daycare for our foster son when I stay at home. Or why I simply don’t have time to volunteer for the PTA, or go to our local mom’s group, or schedule regular playdates. I get that my time is flexible – but it is also so crazy, crazy full. Every time I make time for coffee with a friend or a playdate or spend extra time grocery shopping, I have to make it up somewhere in my schedule.
And I’m pretty sure SAHMs don’t have to feel the crazy guilt when their babies cry because they have to fly out of town for yet another business trip. Or the guilt when their husband comes home from work exhausted, and they have to throw all the kids at him and head to Starbucks because they, too, must meet a deadline.
And working at home sometimes totally likes being a SAHM.
Throughout the years, I’ve been able to be home with all my kids during the day (minus the last few months with our foster son). I’ve been present for all their big milestones. There are more days than not when I don’t get a shower until midafternoon. I do the carpool thing, and the meal-planning thing, and the laundry thing. I’m around when the school calls and my daughter has another fever and needs picking up – and I never have to call in sick when we have appointments to attend. I know what sleepless nights, living off coffee, and just needing a moment where you’re not needed by your kids feels like.
But to be honest? Sometimes I’m jealous of moms who stay at home and don’t have work responsibilities. And I’m jealous of moms who put their kids in daycare and have the normal 9-to-5.
I know, I know. The grass is always greener. But I absolutely have my moments where I wish that the only things I had to worry about that day were laundry, meals, and parenting (because can we just be honest? That right there is more than enough!). Sometimes, that sounds like freedom to me.
And there are other days where I enviously eye my fellow friends who go to an office, where they do not have to play Mom AND Worker at the exact same time, who can compartmentalize their lives just a little bit more than I can, and who are not expected to volunteer, and bake those cookies, and host that event because it is obvious that their schedule just won’t allow it.
But obviously, being a WAHM is a choice I have made.
And like all choices, there’s good and bad. And while I have my moments where I wish for a different way of life, while I have moments where I get so frustrated by the way conflicting priorities pull at my attention, I also realize that my way of life is quite simply a privilege.
I get to extend breastfeeding my baby without ever having to take time at work without pay so I could pump.
I get to be the one who does school pick up and drop off, and attends their daytime events without using up vacation time and clearing it with the boss first.
I get to have the time to make home-cooked meals, and go grocery shopping at off-peak hours, and yes, even sneak in a mid-day nap with the baby every now and again.
I get to engage my thoughts in something other than parenting or tending to the home, and I get to create something with those thoughts that are not undone the moments my kids make a mess in the home.
I get to make some income on the side.
So yes, I get to be a WAHM.
It’s not harder or easier than the lifestyles of my fellow moms, the SAHM and the WAHMs — just different.
Working while also parenting from home is not always easy, and it certainly doesn’t mean I have it all. But it does allow me to meet my personal goals and my professional goals, albeit often imperfectly.
And at the end of a very long, tiring day, I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish – just as all of us moms are. It’s just that my end of the day oh-so-often involves me, my laptop, and a cup of decaf coffee until the wee hours of the morning until my baby starts crying. And then I put the work aside. And the labels aside. And get to just be Mom.