In part three, I’ll be sharing some more of my experiences from behind the scenes as a stay-at-home mom, as well as a peak into what it’s like for moms who work from home and work part-time. As always, I’d love to hear from you, too. What your experiences are, and anything you would like to share with other moms. Keep the conversation going in the comments. (Note, these perspectives were collected pre-COVID.)
“What is your biggest struggle?”
For work-from-home mom Emily she says: “Turning off work on all fronts at the right time. Leaving work closed off on the weekends. As everyone will tell you, balance is a tricky thing, especially when it’s literally a step away.”
While I myself stay home full-time and homeschool, I also have a (very) small business on the side plus hobbies such as writing, and coordinating field trips for my daughters homeschool co-op. My biggest struggle with balance is finding time for myself or for relationships outside of family. I feel as though it takes a tremendous amount of effort on my part to line up a babysitter just so that I can go have dinner with a friend. I also feel the lack of my own identity because I am so immersed in my kids lives. I am thankful for the small work things that I do have, that are all my own.
“What’s the biggest reward?”
Emily says, “while nothing is more rewarding than being with your children, I still love that I was able to save tons of money on daycare expenses, sick days, and now summer camps.”
Anastasia: “Flexibility. As a ministry wife and mama, I have many things to tend to that make holding a normal 9-5 plus those responsibilities very hard.”
I’ll admit that sometimes it’s easy to overlook the rewards of being a full-time stay-at-home momma. When I am giving my kids my all, and often being met with attitude and constant messes in return, it’s hard. But, at the end of the day, I am so grateful that I got to witness every small and big milestone in their lives. I’ve got to spend countless hours of quality time with them while they’re at home, and I am the biggest influence on who they are becoming.
“What are the tricks for finding balance?”
“Organization is KEY! I have three calendars, one that stays on the counter for my husband to see that I highlight particular times during the week when I have conference calls so that he knows he might need to stay home an extra hour in the morning or take my toddler to his office for a few hours. A calendar on my phone that sets all work meetings and a personal planner in my purse for all things not work related. I also make a weekly old school list on a pad of paper of things that need to be done for work and cross them off first before I do things like sew on Girl Scout patches. Setting hours is crucial, my kids know that while I’m here for them I am also working until 3 pm. After school hours belong to my family. I find that getting dressed in ‘work’ clothes really helps when I’m missing out on the days of socializing with adult colleagues.”
“I’m strict with my work hours. I set those expectations with my clients and with myself, then follow through. This makes me more efficient during my working hours and more present during my time with the kids. It doesn’t always go smoothly, but I work hard to keep that separation.”
“I embrace the fact that I cannot do it all. It forced me to re-examine how household tasks are delegated and I had to ask for help to create a better balance. I plan my week out in advance and try to leave 4-7 p.m. free to be present with my children and husband and start my day a little earlier than the rest of the house so I can meditate.”
A strict bedtime is crucial in my house, so that on the days my husband is home, I can spend uninterrupted time with him, or if I’m home by myself I have a couple of hours after the kids’ bedtimes to get my own work done, read, or just binge a junk t.v. show.
“When does quality family time happen?”
“We eat dinner as a family during the week. Always. Weekends are for family time as well, both my husband and I are off Saturday and Sunday so we do all that we can together with the kids on those days. Friday after school is treat day and once the days are warmer, we usually grab ice cream or snow cones and eat them at a local park.”
“Fridays. It’s hubby’s day off (though sometimes we end up at students’ games – but really enjoy those times too) and we tend to make it ‘family excursion day,’ where we explore a park or the Riverwalk and then head to the store for groceries and a movie night at home.”
“Life gets so busy, it feels like we have to actively make time to just be with each other and enjoy the company of our little family. We tend to make this happen around dinner time. I grew up sharing family meals every evening and I cherished those times to connect with my parents and brother. We’re trying to instill the same with our young family. I also really love the late afternoon hours where I’m home with the boys after school; we take little adventures to the park, make a quick grocery run for dinner, or hang out in our backyard. It gives me a sense of balance to have that time with them after work.”
“What do you want other moms to know?”
“You do you mamas!! Having the means to manage home and bring in some cash is amazing for my family but may not be what your family needs. If you want the opportunity to work from home, research what area you are wanting to work in and honestly—be willing to take less up front to build a profile as a remote worker. (My first role was an intern and now I am paid a small monthly fee from that client, and a very nice hourly wage from my other clients but that has taken me 3 years).”
“All moms are working moms. Period. I’m all about supporting one another and lifting each other up. So, let’s do more of that! Everyone’s way of parenting is uniquely his or her own, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate each other and learn from one another.”
“I have been lucky enough to experience a work life in various ways (full-time WM, full-time SAHM, etc.) and feel each has its benefits and challenges. I believe we are all trying our best in the moment we are in, and extending that belief to all parents is helpful.”
“If you could change something, what would it be?”
“I have already implemented the change some, but signing out better. When I first was interning I was plugged in 24/7, and now I am realizing how important setting the phone and computer are for me, my guys, and for the companies I work with. I am better when I take time ‘off’ even if it’s not a full day.”
“I am working on sticking to a schedule on my SAH days; many times I use these days to catch up on paperwork and it takes away from the time I want to have with my youngest— every text, email, report adds up. I am learning to shut things off.”
“Any final thoughts?”
“I don’t know if you know this but ministry does not pay the big bucks, so going into marriage I always knew that there would be a need to have some kind of additional income flow for our families. For much of our marriage before our little guy, I worked full-time and supported part-time ministry gigs and have had to give up jobs I loved because ministry took us to a different part of the country. We had our little guy 6 days after our 9 year wedding anniversary—so to say we had waited a long time for him is an understatement. When I started thinking about work when we got settled in our new location, I also started thinking about the fact that I knew nothing about the childcare options in that area and that jobs in that area did not pay a wage to also have a sitter for my son. Being able to work from home is like a dream come true—that doesn’t mean it’s a dream boat and super easy but it allows us to live the life we live and me to feel fulfilled.”
“There is such fulfillment I get from serving others and my profession allows that, which is amazing. That aspect made it easier to go back to work but my heart ached. After all the school and degrees, as well as being raised with a mom that worked 60 hours a week, I didn’t expect to want to be a SAHM. But I did! Life away from my children did not feel natural, so I had to put trust into care takers and take the leap to meet our family’s financial needs. Almost 3 years later, I am proud I conquered the FOMO and have found joy in the balance.”
“I do feel guilty, it didn’t hit until my first was about two, but I hate that I have to pick between my laptop and a sweet nap. I took a full 12 weeks maternity leave with each kid and never once picked up my work computer. I let three months of emails slide and it didn’t matter. I do love my job, I know how blessed I am to have the option of working from home. Will it ever be perfect? NO.”
*Many thanks to all the writers on our team who contributed to this series. Shanti Day, Emily Ferguson, Danielle Edwards, Lizzie O’Connel Perez, Anastasia Huffman, and Kimberley Maldonado.