Monday, March 13, 2017

One Year of Being a Work-At-Home Mom WAHM

I've been a work-at-home mom (WAHM) for over a year now (approximately 14 months!). When I began, I didn't know if I could do it. Honestly, I doubted I could. I searched the internet for personal stories and blogs of professional women who carried on their careers while working from home caring for a child. I found very few examples. That was my main motivation for starting this blog.

My biggest surprise: being a professional WAHM became a lot easier as time went on! I thought it would get harder. I was convinced that I'd only be able to pull off being a WAHM for a little while, but then I'd need to hire part-time childcare. I was wrong. I have yet to need to leave my child in the care of anyone aside from my husband while I work. In fact, next week will be the first time I'll need to drop her off somewhere for a couple of hours while I attend a breakfast meeting.

The newborn days were a difficult adjustment as a new mom. But even in the hospital a few hours after birth, I was catching up with industry news on my phone. Because the little one was so tiny and content to cluster-feed on me, I found it easy to balance my arms on a pillow and type away on my laptop while she fed or slept on my chest and lap. I even took her to an industry networking event early in her life when she was happy to stay wrapped to me, feeding or sleeping away while I networked.

Being a WAHM doesn't mean I was always at home. When she was 5 weeks old, my husband watched her while I attended a local two-day workshop. A couple months later, I left the baby with my husband and attended a two-day event out of town overnight. A few months after that, I took the baby with me to attend a multi-day conference out-of-state. If my husband couldn't watch the baby for in-person business meetings, I'd take her with me. She came with me for two university campus visits, a local conference, and a few business dinners.

My WAHM life transitioned when she became mobile. Even with babyproofing, I worried that she'd harm herself, go after the cats and get scratched, or get into something I hadn't even thought of. But with proper planning and experience, those fears went away. Except for the cats. It took her a long while to learn not to pull cat tails.

Once she learned how to play independently, around the same time she started taking her first steps, WAHM life eased considerably. She became more aware of her toys and how to use them. She became fascinated by everything and less reliant on me to entertain her. She discovered her love of rattles and music-making. She practiced her steps. She enjoyed boxes. As long as I was in the same room with her, I could work for hours with few interruptions. She kept herself busy.

Sometime around her first birthday, she started getting really into movies and TV programs. Curious George was her first love. I could put any of the Curious George movies on and she would watch them in awe. She'll watch TV on and off all day long, while playing with toys and wandering around the living room. Netflix in particular has given me the freedom to work all day at home and be very productive as shows play one episode after another. I can even leave the room for up to an hour to take a business call and know that she'll be just fine when I return – a luxury I didn't have previously!

But even to this day, my most productive time is when the toddler is asleep. I particularly love nighttime, from around 10 PM to 1 AM, when the house is asleep, I'm not getting emails, and I can work uninterrupted. Naptimes are similarly good times to work, but my daughter is not a long napper. With as independent as she is now, it almost doesn't matter whether she's napping or awake. With enough food, entertainment, and love, she's a happy little girl content to play mostly by herself day in and day out.

I primarily work from the living room couch where it's easiest to watch my daughter and where I'm most comfortable. Some people really need an office space with a desk to feel productive, but I'm not like that. I can work from pretty much anywhere. I've worked from bed when I've been sick. I've even taken business calls from the tennis court while out hitting balls with my little girl chasing after them.

I've also seen advice advocating business hours while working from home. I don't find that necessarily, either. I love the flexibility of being my own boss on my own schedule. I take the time during the middle of the day for personal appointments, playdates, and the occasional lunch out with my husband. I like the blend my personal life during traditional business hours, so it's natural for me to blend my professional life during traditional personal hours. I'm a night owl, so evening work sessions are convenient for me. The only time I cut myself off is during family time: meals, outings, or even just hanging out as a family at home. Because I love my career, I don't mind working on projects during the weekend if I have the time and motivation.

One piece of advice I do follow is to dress properly every day. I always make sure I shower every morning, even if it's late morning. I may not wear a bra at home, but I'll always be in some clothing I could answer the door wearing. I try to wear a little make-up every day, though I don't always succeed. I may work from my sofa, but I don't lounge around in pajamas all day.

Working from home isn't for everyone. Even before I was married, I knew that I worked very well at home. Before I created my own company, I worked for a company that rarely required me to go into the office. Working from home without and with a kid is very different, but because I was successful with the former, I hoped I would be successful with the latter. And so far, I have been.

Situations change. My daughter is a very easy child. Perhaps she'll become more needy as she grows, more talkative and demanding, or develop a medical condition that requires more of my attention. Perhaps adding a new infant in the mix will make things much more difficult. Perhaps I'll land a client that requires me to leave the house more often. But for right now, this is working for me and my family. And I'm grateful.

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