When people find out that I’m a work at home mum (WAHM), their reactions are predictable:
“Wow, you are so lucky!”
And they are right – I am lucky. To be able to do something that earns an income while giving me the flexibility to be available for my kids is great.
I save hours in commuting, get to attend school events, be with the kids if they are sick and don’t have to pay for outside school hours care etc.
It also enables me to work at times that suit me personally and in the comfort of my own home.
It is most people’s dream, especially as a parent, and probably as close as one can get to that mythical work/family balance.
However, the reality of life as a WAHM isn’t all coffee dates and mooching around in my slippers – although I do confess these are some of the highlights.
Here are some home truths (pun intended) about being a WAHM:
1. Working from home is isolating.
As much as office politics can wear you down, being around other people definitely has its upsides. As an extrovert, I get my energy and inspiration from others so it can be hard slog flying solo some times. Having someone to bounce ideas off or share the frustrations of your industry with can be very helpful. Plus, I’ve met some of my best friends through work and really miss that social aspect.
2. You are never truly at work and never truly at home.
The lines between work and home constantly blur. When I’m working I’m often doing jobs around the home in between, like putting on washing, organising dinner or wrangling kids. When I’m doing those household things, I’m always thinking about the list of “real” jobs I should be doing at my desk.
It can also be really hard at times to be professional when you aren’t in an office environment. Many a phone interview has been interrupted by my demanding 4 yo wanting to say hello to the person on the other end!
3. The kids still feel like they get a raw deal.
The older kids now roll their eyes when I say, “I can’t do <insert game, outing, project here> with you right now, I’ve got work to do.”
In fact, they have said to me many times that they wish I’d get a “proper job”. They don’t understand that if I had a job outside the home, they would see me much less, plus I wouldn’t be able to do the many things I actually do for and with them, like pick them up, help at school, take them to extracurricular activities etc.
My 4 yo just doesn’t get the concept of mummy being in the house but not available to cater to her every whim. She goes to kindy three days a week and while I try to get everything done on these days, often there is something to finish off or attend to on her days at home. Then there’s the added degree of difficulty if she’s home sick for days on end, as is the case at the moment.
Have you ever tried to concentrate with a 4-foot wriggling anaconda sitting on your lap? Right now, as I type, she is swinging my chair around, demanding her eleventy billionth snack for the day.
4. It can be hard to stay motivated.
When it is rainy outside and you’ve got a good book on the nightstand, you need serious willpower! I also have to turn off social media to reduce distractions but I still manage to fall down rabbit holes in the interwebs on a daily basis (in the name of research, of course).
5. You work hard for every cent.
As a freelancer, no one assigns me work, I need to chase it. That in itself can be stressful, as can the fluctuating income that comes along with it.
I have also had work from home arrangements when I was an employee, and I found I had a tendency to work well over my paid hours because, a) you feel you need to prove yourself and b) because of proximity – the “I’ll just quickly do this and get it out of the way” mentality is an easy trap to fall into.
These are just some of the downsides to being a WAHM. But as I said, there are much worse situations to be in and some simple strategies, plus a hefty dose of self-discipline, can help a lot.
However, I still don’t think being a WAHM is for everyone. I will relish the opportunity to do it while my kids are young, but I know the wider working world awaits me and one day I’ll gladly go back to a “proper job”.