Saturday, July 23, 2016

Work at Home Mom: Reaching for the Stars, Learning how to Swim

My little girl at 7 months

When I accepted an offer to begin work at the same time we’d be packing up our house to move for my husband’s new job multiple states away, I knew I was crazy. What was I thinking!? Not that I had much choice – my start date was already delayed by my new boss’s vacation and my life isn’t going to calm down any time soon. So, full speed ahead!

I love my career. I spent 11 years studying in higher education and held multiple volunteer and lower-level jobs to get to where I am now: a mid-level expert-in-training in my industry. Since January, I had been staying at home with my baby, working from home and occasionally elsewhere on small tasks and minor gigs. I started my own consulting business and earned a little bit of money, enough to travel for business trips and conferences, but not enough to pay myself salary. I kept searching for the right client that would land me a major paycheck. Finally, I found one. I’m reaching for the stars, which is a fitting analogy if you know I work in the space industry.

The first two weeks of being a for-real WAHM felt like I was drowning in responsibilities. I’d splash and kick, gasping for air at the surface, treading water with all my might, feeling as though I could go under at any moment. The thought did cross my mind once, briefly, that maybe this was a bad idea and I should quit. But I didn’t. I kept on swimming, as our fish friend would say.

It didn’t help that the baby’s worst day since her early newborn weeks was my first day of work. I kicked off that Monday morning with back-to-back phone meetings, during which she was thankfully quiet. Then she became a miserable monster and stayed unhappy for the rest of the day. I got little done. I thought, maybe this is teething for real, then dismissed my speculation. A couple days later, I felt the sharp edges of a bottom tooth popping through. It wasn’t all in my head after all.

Getting little done continued to be a theme. I began to question whether I really could be a stay-at-home mom and work a real job that required my focus and dedication. But to be honest, my circumstances skewed my perspective. That first week, I spent far more time on the phone and in meetings with various people who were to help me prepare our home for sale, sell our home, move our belongings, house us temporarily, and help us find and finance a new home. I felt like both a poor mother and a poor employee as I spent hours and hours in personal logistics planning.

The baby, now 7 months old, is developing separation anxiety. She could be well-rested, well-fed, and surrounded by toys, but still throw a fit if I’m not holding her when she wants to be held or if I leave the room and don’t allow her to follow me. But a baby cooing or fussing into the earpiece is not a professional sound over a business call. Twice I placed her safely among her toys in the living room, then shut myself in my bedroom closet (two layers of separation!) in order to muffle her screams to make a call. It felt undignified to conduct business on the floor of my closet. I’ll have to develop a better solution.

After a minor break-down last week, I decided to step back and regroup. I’m only human. I put so much pressure on being an excellent new employee, I was placing unrealistic expectations on myself. I’m sure that my new bosses 1) didn’t expect a brand newcomer to excel at the job immediately, and 2) understood that moving is stressful and would cut me some slack. I spent the beginning of week #2 focusing on what I could do in the moment and not getting too worked up over feeling behind.

Until I actually was behind. Wednesday came to a close and I had barely worked all week. Frantically, I worked extra hard these past two days, catching up. I woke up early Thursday morning, stayed up late Thursday night, and woke up early Friday. And do you know what? I was just fine. I accomplished what I needed to accomplish. No one cared that I hadn’t fully finished one of my tasks yet, no one but me. I called it quits Friday afternoon with a task still open, and the world didn’t end.

You might recall from my previous entry that I actually scored two new jobs, one major and one minor. I had to put the minor gig on hold. I’m at my capacity at the moment. Until I’m out of this house (one more week!), I can’t take on anything else. But that job isn’t urgent and the big boss still hasn’t signed my contract yet for an “official” start, so I feel justified in delaying.

My husband and I have talked about hiring help once we move. In his current position, he can occasionally work from home. When he’s here and not in a meeting, we share child caring duties. I leaned on him Thursday and Friday while I worked hard to catch up. But when he begins his new job in two weeks, he’ll be in the office every day. I may hire a part-time nanny or babysitter to help lessen my load. I’ll play that decision by ear.

I am so fortunate – I love my job. I’m able to do satisfying work in a field I’m passionate about. My company is very family-friendly, which is what drew me to the position. It’s a small company with everyone working from home offices around the globe, some of which are also work-at-home parents. It’s a friendly, supportive atmosphere. I feel so very grateful to be able to stay home with my little girl and participate in my chosen career!


  1. I have been a work at home mom for several years now. I started my biz when baby was a few months old and have very slowly grown it since then. It was SOOOO hard to get anything done with a baby around who needed so much time and attention. When he was two I got smart and got some part-time help. Now all three of my boys are in school so I get nice solid blocks of time to work quietly. Except you know, now, in summer :)

    If you are trying to work full-time and be the full-time caregiver - it's going to be challenging for sure. I definitely recommend some childcare of some kind!

    1. Thanks for the advice! I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that you're right, doing everything on my own is really hard, and hiring help is a good idea. Especially days like today when I have phone call meetings! It would be great to have even just a couple of hours per day of solid baby-free working would help. I'm glad you found a good balance working for you! I'm going to look into part-time childcare/babysitter/nanny after we move. Thanks for the comment!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.