Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trapped! When Being a WAHM is Overwhelming

Not everyone is so fortunate to find a career they love. Long before I ever met my husband, I fell in love with and began studying and working in my industry. I knew that I would never give it up, even after having kids.

When my baby was born in December, I was surprised at how much I loved being home with her. My previous position ended right before she was born, so I took a natural pause in my career. But not for long! By the end of January, I formed my own consulting company and set out to find clients.

In July, I took on my main client. It's not strictly a full-time job, nor is it hourly. I'm an independent contractor paid a flat fee per month for services. The whole company is made up of independent contractors based in home offices around the world. Many of them are also parents who work while caring for their children. It seemed to be a perfect fit!

I was surprised and honored to be assigned leader on my first project immediately. As most projects go, it started out slow as I climbed the learning curve of a new job and a new project. Hours aren't clocked and my boss is in a time zone six hours ahead of me, so I did my work in my spare time.

It just so happened that I was starting a new job during a tumultuous time in my life. Coincidentally, my husband also got a new job that required us to move. In a very short period of time, we had to prepare our house for sale, move our belongings and pets, live in a hotel, sell our house, and buy a new house, and move in. Those life events became a full-time job, necessitating my contracted job be pushed aside to do whenever I could.

Finally, we moved into our new home. Everything was in boxes. We weren't settled at all. But I had a deadline. My job wanted me to complete my report draft within a week of moving into our new home! Of course, it wasn't their fault I was moving. They set the date months prior. But circumstances arose to make my life completely chaotic right near a deadline.

I was too busy to keep track of how many hours I worked. I barely unpacked the essentials to live in my new home. At times, I was too busy to even shower for the day. I worked days, evenings, nights, weekends, and the Labor Day holiday. I wished I had childcare but was too busy to really look into it. When I finally took the time to reach out to a neighborhood in-home childcare, she was booked. At that time, being a work-at-home mom really wasn't working for me.

I relied heavily on my baby learning independent play in the baby-safe playroom while I worked during the days. In the evenings, I relied on my husband to watch her for hours at a time in the evenings and weekends. I worked late into the night when both were asleep. The work wasn't good enough for my boss so the deadline kept getting pushed back as they demanded more and more content from me. For 3 weeks I worked myself into exhaustion. I felt like a poor employee, a poor mother, and a poor wife.

Finally, it was over. I breathed a sigh of relief, took half a day off, and tried to pick up the pieces. I was so behind on everything (and still so very behind on email) that it was hard to know where to begin. But at least I could enjoy life again. At least I could pay attention to my child again. At least I could try to settle into a better WAHM lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the chaos is only on pause. My husband's career is moving us again. On Friday and Saturday, I'll drive 9 hours with the baby to meet with my husband who is driving down today. We'll stay in a temporary apartment until we find a new home. Two more moves and another house hunt. I'm not looking forward to being uprooted again.

As if that wasn't enough, I was assigned a new project to lead at work. They gave me two days to catch my breath, and then popped my work-life balance bubble. I've since convinced them to change the deadline from December to January, but the work won't be any less.

I'm slowly admitting to myself that this isn't the WAHM-friendly job I was lead to believe. Twice this week I've been frustrated to tears with poor management and unrealistic expectations. But with my husband's career unsettled at the moment and some big debts to pay off, I'll stick with this contract as long as I can for the income it provides. I need to set better boundaries and not allow work to take over my life as it did. 

Meanwhile, I've resolved to continue my side business with whatever time I can squeeze. Being my own boss, doing work I love, pursuing my dream – that's what I envisioned when I decided to become an independent consultant. I have so many big ideas and dreams. I need to make the time to make them happen, or they never will. If I can make enough in my "side" business to be my own boss, it would be ideal.

In the future, I resolve to:
  • Work more consistently, even when tasks seem lax.
  • Take "baby breaks" when I get stressed from work to keep perspective.
  • Hire part-time childcare when work gets tough.
  • Keep my working hours to half-time (4 hours per day) unless near a deadline.
  • Work at night when the baby is asleep, but not too late.
  • Ask for help when I need it.
With these guidelines, hopefully I won't repeat the same stressful mistakes. Here's to balancing my WAHM life!

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