This post is sponsored by BBVA Compass but all opinions are my own.
Sometimes I try to imagine what my life would be like if I had never started working from home.
What would I fill my days worried about? What would my parenting look like? How happy or not would I be? Would we be able to afford our current family size, doctorate tuition, and lifestyle?And I have no idea, because my work-at-home business of running this website has transformed our life in phenomenal ways, and I know, for a fact, that the decision to turn my hobby blog into a source of income was the right choice for our family, and the vehicle by which we escaped poverty.
As I fast approach the 4-year mark of that decision, I see the countless reasons why it was meant to be, and that it was truly inspired of God for me to start focusing on creating my own business, from nothing, when I did, into what it is today.
For years I struggled with my role as a stay at home mom of twins who was unemployed. My decision to stay at home was less of a choice than a product of our financial and logistical situation, as was evidenced again and again as I applied to various jobs. Nothing ever really worked or made sense financially.
I hated not contributing to our family’s income though, as I enjoyed working (and had since I was 12), and we desperately needed more income. I also felt isolated and lonely as a stay at home mom many times.
But, I also felt somewhat guilty for feeling like I needed a break from my precious infant (and later toddler) twins. I, like 60% of Americans, believe that what is best for children is to have a parent at home.
I don’t know that I ever really wanted to be a full-time stay-at-home mother forever though, despite how romanticized stay at home moms are in the 21st century. Being a mother of a large family was always the plan for me, yes, but, I never really knew what I wanted to do for employment later on, which is part of the reason I majored in art.
The good news for me and the more than 70% of mothers with kids under 18 who work, is that there are a surprising number of benefits both to mothers who work and to the children of those women, despite what our guilt often leads us to believe.
That’s why I appreciate Working Moms Mean Business. They encourage working mothers with stories of other working moms in many stages of career and parenting; and how they successfully combat the problems associated with working and mothering. Their ebook Mom Guilt seeks to dispel this false perception we mothers often take as reality: that we are short-changing our children and family by going to work, as well as short-changing our employer or career by spending so much time with our family.
In addition to the 50+ page eBook Mom Guilt, BBVA Compass partnered with Emma Johnson, a personal finance writer and blogger of Wealthy Single Mommy, for a 10 podcast series, which features interviews with successful working women discussing their careers, the challenges of being a mom in the workforce, being the primary breadwinner in a relationship, and more. I made sure to listen to the Momprenuer podcast as I feel like it best describes what I am: my own boss and business owner.
And it’s good for me to take the time to listen to podcasts about working mom guilt because I face it myself. Even though I often consider myself a stay at home mom, like 62% of all self-described SAHM’s, I also contribute income to my household.
People seem to assume that I don’t work, as I am always with my children (and we homeschool) as I run errands or even go to the gym. Upon hearing that I work from home, running a blog of all things, many individuals exclaim that it is the perfect solution, as I get to spend lots of time with my children and still earn money for my family. The best of both worlds, they say.
And while that is true is many ways, working from home is actually much harder than I pictured it to be. Many other work-from-home-moms agree with me too, regardless if they pick their own hours (as I do), or work set hours for an employer.
Why Working from Home is Hard
My friend and fellow blogger Herchel of Gym Craft Laundry said:
Working from home is so much harder than I thought it would be because my husband and my kids don’t view my work as they would a “real” job. My husband also works from home but since his job contributes more to the household income it is given priority. Sometimes it’s difficult to get uninterrupted work time in because they don’t consider what I do work.
And this was very true for me as well as when I was in the beginning stages of turning my blog into a business! I spent hours and hours learning and implementing new things yet made little to no money in the beginning. It took making a real income for my husband to really see that my time spent on the computer wasn’t just “fun.”
Another blogger friend of mine, Tova Maren of Mama in the Now said:
Working from home, to me is nearly impossible, except for when everyone is asleep, in school or simply have left the building. When I am home, I have piles of laundry staring at me (please don’t judge), stacks of untouched to-do lists and it is really hard to prioritize my “work” over household management items when laundry and silly things like dinner affects everyone around me – my unfinished work only stressed ME out.
Another blogger Vikki Evans of Family Travel with Ellie expressed similar sentiments about household tasks needing to be completed in order for real work to be accomplished:
Working from home is harder than expected as I think you need to be super strict with yourself and your time management – otherwise the distractions are endless.
If the children are at home I literally cannot work as the guilt is all consuming – I can’t get past it, even if they are happy doing their own thing for a bit; I feel like I should be with them and giving them my attention.
When they are at school I have to make sure I got up early enough to get the household jobs done before the school run (washing, lunches, slow cooker) so those jobs don’t creep into my quiet ” working time”.
All this said I feel very privileged to be able to enjoy the flexibility that comes with working from home.
Because my children don’t go to school, daycare, or preschool, nor do we have parents or family handy to babysit for us, it is really hard to have work hours, where I am 100% focused on work, because I feel like I need to give more attention to my children, but my work is always here, on my phone (email and social media) and on the large desktop computer in the corner of my living room staring at me! (We live in a small apartment.)
I don’t have quiet time during the day much if, ever. And that’s hard, because I’d love to listen and participate in live webinars, broadcasts, and podcasts, nor can I host my own (unless I find childcare).
This means I stay up late into the night, when my house is finally quiet, to do the bulk of my work, which leads to far less than the requisite 7-8 hours of sleep for women of my age. Plus, by the end of the day, my brain is shot from childrearing and housekeeping, which makes meaningful work more difficult. Add in a baby or older child who wakes up at night, and the sleep exhaustion is intense. Oh, and sitting for hours and hours on end isn’t great for my health either, nor is the constant access to the kitchen for my waistline.
Working from home also means I don’t have a specified studio (maybe some women do, but I certainly don’t) to set up my products for gorgeous photos to put up on my blog or Instagram. I have to film and shoot during the daylight hours in order to get the super important natural light coloration, so I am left juggling an expensive camera, a tripod, and four small children touching the items in the shot, or trying to film a video.
And if you are like many moms working from home with set hours (as opposed to me), you may be more like Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying who said:
Many people assume that working from home means you can STOP working at any time, so they expect you to be able to chat, run errands for them, pick up their kid from school, etc. You become the default person to reach out to simply because you’re “around” (never mind that you’re actually busy when they’re making these requests). This means not only are you getting interrupted more frequently, you’re also having to validate your work hours to people who would not question them if you worked outside of the home.”
I am totally guilty of doing this to my friends and family who work from home too. Working from home, even if for an employer, often brings about flexibility and so people can take advantage of your time because “you’re home.”
In all cases of working mothers, battles feelings of inadequacy in all areas of your life is a real struggle, despite how awesome we often are at all we do. I recommend picking up a copy of Mom Guilt (it’s free) or listening to some Working Moms Mean Business podcasts and educating yourself on some of the research out there that shows your kids are doing just fine spending time bonding with other caregivers and adults, engaging in unstructured (aka unsupervised) play time, and learn how to overcome your feelings of guilt.
At the end of the day, children want parents who aren’t stressed rather than simply wanting more time with their parents.
So, stressing about how my life, my home, and my finances would be different if I didn’t have kids to worry about and could focus solely on my job (and my husband/home) or stressing about how I would be a better, more engaging and fun mom if I didn’t constantly feel the need to work to earn money to support our family, even though I would give up doing something I love, is not doing me, my work, or my kids any good.
I make the conscious choice every week to focus instead on how far I’ve come, and how it’s okay if I don’t grow my blog business as fast as another blogger. My life isn’t theirs; my priorities and living situations are different, and if I never become a six-figure blogger, that’s okay too.
I still have the best job ever and the greatest kids I could ever ask for. That should be enough.