It is often a matter of survival. In today’s economy, it can be simply impossible for a mom with several young children to hold a full-time job away from home. The cost of daycare is so high, that often a mama would be working just to pay for daycare. And in the end, after all of the numbers are crunched, and after all of the expenses of working away from home are factored into the equation, it is sometimes counter-productive to put yourself under that much stress.
On the other hand, some women want and need the interaction of holding a job away from home, and it works for them. Either way, all mamas need to do what is right for themselves and their family. But this is about women, like myself, who really, truly do work from home. It sounds so nice . . . it has a charming, almost quaint feel of peaceful, relaxing days of meaningful work intermingled with the opportunity to stop for a coffee break, pop in a load of laundry, help the kids with homework, and maybe fit in a bit of play time with the kiddos, or even take a few minutes to get in some exercise for yourself.
All of those things CAN be true. But the reality, on a day-to-day basis, is usually quite different from the image most of us have of the “work from home mom.” Of course, with some organization and structure, and a lot of self-discipline, it can work – but all it takes is one day of mama catching a cold or the flu, and suddenly everything is in a bit of a muddle.
There are some legitimate work–from-home opportunities, but I haven’t found any that work for our family. Before our girls were adopted, I worked part-time at a local community college, as well as for our country court system creating an education program for adult students who needed to complete their GED.
And even after the girls came home, I was still able to work part-time away from home, for a while in a bank, and then most recently as the curriculum assistant for a local Christian university. But as our girls got a little older and needed more help with homework, and as they got involved in activities through school, church, and our community, it became obvious that I needed to be available for taking care of the needs of our family that simply could not wait for me to get home from “work.”
So, now I work from home as a free-lance writer and editor, as well as manage my Etsy shop, Tatters to Treasures. Both of those projects are flexible, but in order to make money I have to put in the time and actually work, sometimes a LOT of hours, especially when I’m working with a deadline. The good news is that I can usually do that work at 5:00 in the morning or 11:00 at night if necessary.
The bad news is that, usually by the time I’ve done all the other stuff that is required in a day, I’m not much good for working at those crazy hours. It is a daily juggling act, trying to balance all of the things I need to do here at home (and running my kiddos from one end of the county to another, frequently needing to be in two places all at the same time!) and STILL having the time and energy to do the real work of being a work-from-home-mom.
After practicing my juggling act for so many years, here are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way:
- Realize that YOUR work is REAL work, no matter what anyone else thinks or says.
- Establish daily priorities for both your work and your family’s needs.
- Make a schedule and do your best to follow it.
- Plan times to rest and relax (this is the one I’m really bad at doing!)
- Be flexible, as much as possible, for unexpected events.
I know these ideas sound rather generic, but they definitely help me stay on-task and focused – usually. And since I no longer have toddlers or babies who need constant attention and / or make unbelievably HUGE messes (I have a teenager who takes care of that department around here!), it is a bit easier for me now to make a schedule and try to go with it. But there are the inevitable interruptions that just go with having a family.
If you are a work-from-home-mom and you are struggling to keep it all in balance, or if you are considering taking that next step toward working from home so you can have the flexibility needed for your family, perhaps you have some ideas that will help other women. We would love to have you share them with us! In the meantime, I’m going back to work on the editing job that has a Friday deadline . . . . and I guess I better get the income taxes taken care of, too, because Friday is just around the corner!