When people first find out that I work from home, I think the assumption is that I don’t have a “real job”. It’s not until I explain what I do that people start to get it. One of my friend’s moms actually said, “Oh, you have a business…I thought you sold Pampered Chef or something!”
Nope, don’t worry-you won’t be getting any “party invites” from me.
I thought today’s post would be a fun way to pull back the curtain on what being a work from home mom looks like for anyone who ever wondered or considered it as an option.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
When I left teaching and decided to turn my part-time job into a full-time design business, I was really naive as to how working from home would play out. (And completely clueless to the fact that raising a two-year old was a totally different ball game than caring for a newborn.)
Being a parent is amazing. Owning a business is exhilarating.
Both are exhausting.
Trying to manage the two roles kind of feels like an uphill marathon while juggling roller skates with someone telling me to sing the national anthem…in an Elmo voice.
DOUBLE THE JOY, DOUBLE THE STRUGGLE
Thankfully we have an amazing babysitter who happens to be a close family friend where Gemma goes three days a week. Still, working from home is a 6-day a week gig for me at the moment, so the lines of home and work are pretty blurry most days.
Both Stu and I work from home. So when he’s not traveling and I’m not at a job site, sometimes we can sit and drink coffee at 10:00am on a Tuesday morning while Gemma plays in the back yard.
We chuckle at the irony of all of being home together in the middle of a work day…before diving head first back into work 10 minutes later. This is the reality of our life. I would say we are definitely still learning how to make this work for us, but here’s my take on things going into my third year.
Laid back work attire. As in, I wear yoga pants as often as humanly possible. Since Decor Coaching sessions happen via FaceTime, I do put on a pretty shirt and slap on some make up…But I still wear yoga pants.
No commute. I definitely do not miss waking up in January to cold Missouri mornings and cursing at my heater all the way to work.
Sleeping in. Until 6:45am. (Because when you have a kid, your concept of “sleeping in” radically changes.) BUT if I was driving into work and dropping Gemma off at the sitter, we’d have to be up at least an hour earlier. Amen to an extra hour of sleep!
Double duty. This is actually a slippery slope that I’ll address more later, but if done carefully I can do rotation for the laundry in between meetings and client work. (To be clear, the piles of clean clothes will sit on the couch until later that evening…or the following week.)
Tax write offs. We get to write off several expenses like our internet, phone, and even a portion of our square footage on the house since it serves as two office spaces. We use this online tax calculator to factor these deductions into our tax return.
Lunch at home. When Stu is in town, we try to break at the same time and eat lunch together. This is really nice.
Flexible schedule. Most times I do have control over my schedule. This is handy when unexpected things pop up, and it allows me to be home for Gemma’s therapy sessions (speech and OT, but that’s a whole other post.) However if we deviate from the schedule I set, that means a lot of catch up work on my end that usually ends up happening around 2:00am.
Shared space. When work gets hectic, it shows up in my home. When home life is busy and the house is a wreck, inevitably it spills into my work. (Sometimes physically but almost always mentally.)
Multi-tasking…and “multi-failing”. At times this can be a perk, but mostly it is a danger…I’ll do a puzzle with Gemma while also checking my phone to see if my client’s piece of furniture arrived. I’ll schedule a coaching session while grilling chicken (and then end up burning the chicken.) Or have the robot vacuum running in the background while I work, so I at least know some of the weekly cleaning is being taken care of.
Turning work off. When you aren’t physically leaving a work place, it is hard to shut down from “work mode”, especially if there are things left undone at the end of the day. (Which is most days.)
Recently I started doing something to remedy this…I decided I needed a signal to end the work day. When I’m “done”, I’ll put on Pandora to a happy play list. It’s like a little trigger to tell my brain when to turn off for a few hours for family time. I think it’s actually helping. (That and some days I pour a glass of wine.)
Lack of a professional community. The one thing I desperately miss in teaching is the fact that there was always someone with more experience you could run to for feedback. Working from home can feel isolating at times. Even though I am in touch with clients everyday, it’s not the same as having a colleague who can help you brainstorm or troubleshoot.
(I did recently join a couple awesome Facebook groups for women in small business like this one, which has been a great support.)
The late hours. Brutal truth? The person who gets the least of me these days is Stu…After family time and once Gemma’s in bed, most nights I run back to my computer to tackle unfinished work. Some nights we’ll unwind with a drink and Netflix, but not often enough.
The further I get into this work at home business, the more I realize how you almost have to be aggressive at preserving family time. Balance is an art and a science, and I haven’t quite found it yet.
Not sure where I heard them, but these pieces of advice are powerful and keep coming back to me…
1. In work, hustle and don’t hold back.
2. With family, be completely present.
*My goal in 6 months is to TRULY take a full weekend off and not work evenings. This feels like a pipe dream right now, but I’m working on some new aspects of Decor Fix that will hopefully make this a reality soon!
MISCONCEPTIONS & THE REALITY
The following statements were actually said to me (some more than once) by people I know. I have to try really hard to smile and be sweet when well-meaning people imply how “easy” my life must be since I’m a work at home mom.
#1: “Oh, you work from home? You must have so much free time.”
The reality is that I have zero “free time”. (What mom does??) I am trying to raise a human being who would rather eat cookies than vegetables and hoard her toys instead of share them. And I’m sure most toddlers are no different.
Add to that mix prepping for client meetings, going to client meetings, replying to emails, sourcing, researching how to create an invoice and sending invoices to clients and then keeping a record, blogging, marketing, or brainstorming new aspects of my business and there is a lot to juggle.
Anything beyond parenting and working takes deliberate planning and time away from something else I could or should be doing.
Disclaimer: I am in “hustle phase” in my business right now and know that it is not a sustainable lifestyle for the long haul…My goal is to have a lot more “white space” in my life by this time next year.
#2: “Oh, you work from home? You must love getting to spend all day with your baby.”
Even with child care on most weekdays, I still feel scattered. On the days she is home with me, I am torn in two directions. I either feel distracted and not able to focus on work, or like a terrible mom at how often I have to use Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood as my “babysitter”.
I feel like I could do better in both roles.
Mom guilt + business owner guilt= ATOMIC GUILT BOMB
#3: “Oh, you work from home? It must be nice to keep the house clean in between your work.”
Bahahahaha! The person who said this clearly did not know me well at all. The complete opposite is true. When you leave your house for a job, there is no one to make a mess at your home! When you are home twice as much, there is twice the mess.
This is what my dining room table looks like at this very moment…Yesterday we had a photo shoot at the house, and I’m pulling accessories for two installs this week. This is our only table, so it has to wear many hats. This week it is a prop table.
So we are eating meals on the couch right now…
And sometimes the TV is on. #dontjudgeme
PS-I know the rug is way too tiny for this space…The last one was stained beyond repair, and I dragged this one from storage. So rather than a bare floor, this teeny tiny rug was awkwardly asked to do the job someone twice his size should. (Even designers have rooms in their homes that make them cringe.)
This picture and the first image in post taken by the lovely Meg White.
In closing I’ll say this…working and motherhood are both incredible privileges that I enjoy. Home happens to be where both of those roles play out, which is why it is so crucial that our home is both a place that functions well and brings us joy.
Our living room needs to house spontaneous dance parties and long-distance conference calls.
Our dining table needs to allow for potlucks and act as a workspace during a busy week.
Our mudroom has to be both an office and “toddler art studio”.
At times working from home is stressful and complicated and messy, but I’ve come to realize that most of the good stuff in life is.
Q: What about you? Are you a stay at home mom? (Bless you.) A working mom? (Bless you too.) A fellow WAHM? I’d love to hear your story! How do you balance everything?
Bravo; you nailed the dichotomy of wfh moms perfectly!! And now I need to go fold laundry, prep for a client meeting and start dinner. Simultaneously.
Hahaha! Thanks, Meg. Our workdays could basically be twins.
Carol @ CAD INTERIORS says
LOVE this!!! You spelled it all out PERFECTLY!!! I could go on and on about all the “oh you work from home” comments and inferences … I think I’m going to print out your post and frame it for everyone to see/read when they come into my home! 🙂
YES! It’s amazing what most people assume running a design business looks like. I’ve seriously considered responding to the next “Oh, how lucky that you work form home” comment with, “Oh yeah, I just sit around all day looking at fabric samples and eating bonbons.”
Heather – I’m a long time reader but never have commented. I have to say I love the flavor of your recent posts and how truly honest they are. I love reading blogs but lately have been letting them belittle me and make me feel as though I don’t measure up in many ways. Just like you had posted about recently. So it’s a nice change to see that the lives behind the blogs aren’t always perfect and easy and pretty. That you are real people too with struggles just like the rest of us. I don’t work from home, but I do work full time with three young children and have to deal with guilt and difficulties associated with that. So I could still relate with your post today. Anyways, just wanted to thank you for letting us see the good, bad and ugly.
Kelly, thank you so, so much for taking the time out of your busy day to share your story. I’m writing this blog for people like YOU, like me, and like all of us who appreciate beauty but have messy and imperfect lives. I’m so glad you can connect and hope you know how much it means to me that you choose to spend even a few minutes of your busy day here!! (Three kids? You are a saint:)
Knowing you aren’t alone is so refreshing! I’m in a similar place. My business has taken off (yay!!!!), but for the first few years it just kind of dribbled in here and there. I could drop everything and work on orders easily. Now orders are consistent, I’m a mom to 2 (8 yr old & an 8 month old), and I educate our 8 year old at home. My husband recently told me that I worked too much. After resisting the urge to punch him in the face, I walked around the house wounded for days…… then I realized he was right! Early mornings, late nights, all day, weekends……. laundry never getting folded, house rarely getting cleaned, cooking dinner never happening. It was too much for me/us. The very thing that I was doing for my family was taking me away from my precious ones. I’m now trying to take the reigns of my own business and learn to say no, learn to say not right now, learn to say I love you to my family with a less stressed Mommy & wife. When I realized that if my little one didn’t nap long enough that my whole day fell apart, it was a wake up call. And when I realized that my husband was the one getting less of me than anyone else, my heart hurt. There is a great fear for me in setting limitations that my whole business will dry up; although that’s probably not likely, it’s still a nagging fear. Being a Mom is so hard. Being a work at home Mom adds a whole different dimension to the mix. Many of us are in this together with you! Wishing you all the best as you make the decisions that are best for you & your beautiful family & amazing business! / ps – Sorry for the “dear diary” type post, my heart is still trying to sift through how to juggle everything.
Bethany, I get it girl!!! I’m sending you an email right now to chat more…
This article was so spot on to my life. My husband and I both work from home, he travels, we have a toddler at home and one on the way, and my son is literally watching Daniels Tiger Neighborhood as I type. Thank you for sharing your experience which so many of us face. There are so many perks and I wouldn’t have it any other way but the juggle, not being able to turn it off and feeling like you’re torn in several directions is way too common and extremely stressful. I can’t tell you how many times I’m trying to spend quality time with my son and end up getting a work call and bolt, running into the garage to take the call while my son gets so confused why we were playing one minute and his mom disappeared the next into the garage. I know we’re all just doing the best we can & it’s just part of life. I’m very thankful that I am able to see my son during the day and also be able to work & get some of the laundry started (never quite done though). Your post was refreshing and I appreciate you sharing.
YES, our stories sound A LOT alike, Megan!! Man, I can’t believe how long it took me to write this post because I just wasn’t sure if anyone else would want to hear it or could relate. Thanks so much for taking time to say “hello” and share your story:)
I loved reading your post and accepting that other moms suffer the same including finding time time for the kids but rarely the husband. I would never give up working from home for anything but you’re right – balance is key. I cherish working from home where I can drop everything to attend a school play but then I need to spend weekends away to work my weddings.
How I focus – I make every moment count. I realize I am teaching my 3 kids a good work ethic at the same time I am showing them they are important to me but I need to remember their time is valuable too. Scheduling is critical in our family and teaching the kids how to manage. I have a 14 year old, 2 year old and 1 year old. My 14 year old can logically understand mom is busy but she still gets her feelings hurt when I need to miss a singing competition for work. My 2 year old loves the structure and being able to help in my business where he can. My 1 year old basically lives at my feet in my office. I even have my desk set up so I can work and breastfeed.
It’s the life I want and I wouldn’t change a thing – except maybe those niggly comments made by people who don’t work from home. 🙂
This is good advice, Nicole!! I cannot IMAGINE having three kiddos and balancing it all. You are a ROCK STAR. That’s encouraging to hear that it can work even when you are a mom with such an age range too. Thanks for stopping by and sharing today!
I loved this! This is me every day and this week I have barely been able to handle it.
Nikki, I get it! I recently read a book called “Essentialism” that SO totally shifted my mindset and is helping make changes to manage things better. It’s geared towards business (and written my a man who does not have to care for kids) but really helpful for me.
I was nodding my head through this entire post. I’ve worked from home for the past three years and I’ve tried every childcare option available. It’s always a struggle. I thought it would get better as my boys got older and my oldest started school…it just got different. New changes and new challenges. But I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I love my boys and my business. (Plus I think it is great for them to see entrepreneurship and a good work ethic.)
I chuckled when you mentioned cleaning, because that has been a huge struggle for me too. I recently started a new routine that is actually working. I am cleaning my house during intentional work breaks. Here’s how I do it: http://www.tealandlime.com/2015/04/how-i-work-and-clean-my-house-at-the-same-time/
Thank you for sharing your story and reminding the rest of us that we’re not alone in this (business or raising kids).
Thank you for sharing, Jackie!! In my mind I keep thinking, “When she goes to preschool, things will get easier.” But from the sounds of it, there are just new things to tackle then…I know that finding the balance between the two worlds is something that may take time and it will never be seamless or perfect. I do love working from home, and just gotta take the occasional chaos that come with it! Heading to your post now…
this is all soooo true!! LOL! I’ll add one more for the WAH folks who’s spouse doesn’t work at home..you ALWAYS end up the default person to get the sick kid from school, take the dog to the vet, sit on the phone to argue with the insurance company etc. then aforementioned spouse doesn’t understand why you are “still working” after the kid is in bed. Yeah. But, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Oh, I never thought of that Sabrina!!! I could see how that would be a WHOLE other layer on top of things. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing:)
Had to laugh at that last comment. Same is true if you work outside of the house and have equally demanding/paying jobs. I think if we are all honest it would be hard not to be the primary caregiver even when you really say you want to balance things.. Now the bills and laundry I would be happy to share 🙂
While B and I don’t have children, this describes us to a T. When he doesn’t travel he works from home. (Well, unless we can swap out one 2-year-old for two attention-hungry dogs…then this is me to a T).
I have loved getting to know you and working with you. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this work-from-home gig!
I also work from home and I have a 9 month girl….I sooo relate…but the question is: are you happy with this life? or would you rather go back to teaching? I think that this decision is best, although most of the time your life is a mess…
Hi Tahsi! YES…a thousand times YES I am happy with the choice to leave the classroom! I would have a very hard time going back to teaching now. Even on the craziest days, at least my work lets me live in my creative purpose and build a company that eventually will serve my family well. (Once I get past hustle phase!) Thank you for asking…I know it’s a struggle, but I keep telling myself that each choice has its own struggle. However, I think it’s SUCH a personal choice and would never tell someone to just “jump in and do it”. The price is high, and each of us need to realize what will truly be best in our unique situation.
Lisa Taylor Whitley says
Confession: I was soooo excited to find your blog because it’s one of the best ones out there and I have to be picky about what I spend my time reading because I’m a stay at home mom with two small children. However, I was a bit disappointed when I realized that you don’t post regularly. But after reading your story, I’m surprised you have time to blog at all!! Thank you for such great work.
Oh Lisa, I SO wish I could blog more often, but my income is based on my work with clients and not blogging. I will say that this is a crazy summer, and within a couple months I will at least be blogging once or twice a week. (Fingers crossed.)
I sure appreciate you spending ANY of your precious time on my blog. Good for you setting those limits…I never fully understood the value of time before booming a momma!
Cindy Lin says
Love the pics! You guys are so cute!! <3
Thanks so much Cindy!!
Beth of designPOST interiors says
Oh, Heather this pst made me laugh and shake my head going YES!! My juggling act lately has left me no time to read all the blogs I love, including yours 🙁 I am taking a minute to catch up and I am so glad I got to read this. I am always torn between the hustle and the white space. In all honesty, in professions like ours it is really easy to hustle forever if we aren’t deliberate. I love the idea of turning on music as a signal each day. I need to look into that FB group- is it just local people to you or all over? And we need a chat again soon!
YES-the hustle vs. whitespace is seriously the struggle of this life phase for me. I’m emailing you about the FB group right now…
Oh, my! You get it!! It is so nice to see somene who actually gets the struggles of a WAHM. I have worked from home for 7 years, first as a child care provider, now as a VA and blogger. The struggles and challenges are real, and something that most people just DON’T get!
My biggest struggle is homeschooling while working from home. My kids have never been in daycare, so it is hard to get up, get work done, and break away from work to focus on school and parenting.
Hi Misty! Yes, I think it makes all of us feel so much better to know others are struggling too. You home school too?? Good gracious, woman. You are a rock star!
Without being totally stalker-ish I have to tell you that I am 1000% on board with this post, and your blog in general. I’m a former wedding planner who just moved into a new home, had a baby (she’s 7 mo now) and am starting to dip my toes back into freelance work. My hubby also works from home and we are figuring out the new day-to-day dynamic. It is so, so comforting to know that all these dilemmas I am having are shared. For example how to wind down at night — last week I set my computer to automatically shut down at 10 pm to force myself to log off! (I have 9 minutes left right now, ha) Friends assuming all I do is “play” all day — AND some of them not understanding why I obsess over decorating the home. This is our first house and where we spend so much time. It is something that we worked hard to achieve together as a family. It doesn’t need to be PERFECT (pretty sure that whole notion disappears with baby anyway) but does needs to be functional, inviting and aesthetically happy for my creative brain to function. Thank you for the guidance and honesty! Looking forward to reading more.
Thanks for sharing your story, Gina. I get it, I get it, I GET it! I’ve been right where you were…I launched my biz from part-time to full time when my daughter was 8 weeks old. (CRAZY TOWN.) I just want to encourage you to stick with it. The first year of juggling baby + business was for sure the hardest. I think finding a balance was tough for me because I really had to create boundaries around work and family. (Not easy to do when it’s all happening in one spot!) Also I’m writing a post on the Myth of a perfect home” and you hit the nail on the head with your comment!