The Ugly Thoughts of a WAHM Part 2 – The Nasty on Childcare for Working Parents

In our last installment, we established that all mothers tend to judge each other from time to time. Okay, you’re right - you don’t, but the rest of us at least recognize that the thoughts cross our minds from time to time. I think I might be worse than most because I deal with the product of poor home lives more than most adults (I teach at-risk high school students in a public, alternative high school.) But back to the topic at hand - work-at-home moms are just as naughty as the rest of the moms out there, but we also get to specialize our criticism for other moms (and dads) who work at home.

In the last post, I addressed two comments I’ve heard or maybe – not admitting anything – have thought to myself from time to time. Today, we take on a doozy – childcare.

“What’s the point of working at home if she’s not taking care of her baby herself?”

There is a fine line for work-at-home moms to find the right balance for all that we do. When you work at home, you’re closer to baby (or babies) and yet you still have to find time to work. Some situations (the easy baby who sleeps a lot and plays easily alone for decent stretches) make it easy for mom to work for hours without childcare. Other situations (any toddler) make working during his waking hours a definite challenge. As discussed in comments here before, having a baby with colic or special needs cancels out virtually ALL work time while baby is awake.

Balancing working full-time or almost full-time and parenting usually requires some form of childcare. It is what it is. Of course once you realize you’ll need some sort of help, you’re on the next level of “Balance My Insane Life!” where you try to determine how much childcare and what kind you need and how much it will cost and is it really worth it. This, of course, is up to each mother to decide, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself the object of questions about your choices:

“Can’t you just work around baby’s schedule?”

“Why even be home if you’re sending her out?”

“Is this what’s best for the baby?”

“I thought you were home to be with her more often?”

When you’re confronted, you can ignore the questions or you can respond with your own situation and philosophy. I’ve seen a nice comment here on this blog already about the quality of the time together is better when mom and baby have some time apart. It’s also true that older babies need socialization with other children so why not use that play time to work? Whatever – it’s your choice how to handle it.

Personally, I opted to focus on my kids when they are with me and awake and work only when they are sleeping or hanging out with dad. I was feeling too split during the daytime and realized that compartmentalizing my time for work and….my other work let me focus on the kiddos when they needed Mom most and left me free to not think about cramming  in the writing until it was “work time.”

Does this limit the number of hours I can work? Sure – but I make more in 18 hours a week than I do teaching. I can live with it until they fly off to college some day and I feel like retiring from the classroom.

Plus with two boys under five, there was no quiet time in my life for more than a quick comment or email check anyhow. It works for me, but it’s a sacrifice of “me” and “us” time at night that might not work for you. I will say that both adults in my household work online at night, so we can flirt and chat via IM from about three rooms over – I realize that we are not normal, but at least we’re brilliant.

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Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

7 thoughts on “The Ugly Thoughts of a WAHM Part 2 – The Nasty on Childcare for Working Parents”

  1. Ah, the myth that “writing from home” means you are also magically caring for your child at the same time! Yeah, I had one easy baby who took 3 hour naps…out of the three. Once they’re mobile, forget it. the reality is, you’re either focused on your business, or you’re focused on your kids. The worst-case scenario is trying to kind of do both…both of which you will then do badly. My sister recently gave up with her 4 underfoot and rented a room in a friend’s house where she goes to do her legal writing.

    Nothing makes my kids crazier than me trying to just file a little something. If I go near my computer while they’re home, shouts of “PRINT ME OUT A COLORING PAGE MOMMY!” soon ensue.

    To me the advantage of working from home is you gain back the commute time — which for me used to be about 3 hours round trip — and that becomes quality parenting time instead. Also hopefully you’re happier generally because you’re doing something you love.

    But you still actually have to work! You are really still a mom who is doing paying work. You’re not able to just hang out with your kids full time, any more than if you worked in an office.

    Yes, we juggle — I personally tend to log an 8-11 pm work shift a lot of days — so that we can minimize the childcare hours we need…but somewhere in there, we gotta work!

    • I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you can’t do both well. Children do reach a point where they can play a bit better by themselves, but if I use every quiet moment to slam words into a laptop, my work sucks and my kid feels ignored. As it is, I do things around the house while they are awake. I can’t write while they play, but I can paint walls or put pictures in frames because they can “help” me with it and we can keep up a running conversation while I work. But if it involves brain power (unlike the manual labor stuff and small tasks), it waits until their day with mom is done. They get lots of attention and my work gets lots of attention. It’s a shame mom doesn’t get as much…LOL

  2. Hi Rebecca,
    Agree with the comments. You forgot to mention that no matter how quiet and occupied they are, the moment the phone rings, they’re arguing/crying/have hurt themselves or just have a vital question to ask! I have been at home with both my two, but I prefer to separate out work and Mummy time. I don’t think there’s a better way of doing it.
    I chose my childcare carefully and feel that both children benefitted from the social interaction, but I was lucky enough to be there for them if they did fall ill. If one of our children fell ill then it was my temporary supply teaching job that fell through rather than DH’s regular job.
    I try to ensure that I have enough time to catch up with writing should the worst happen. This means I am wary about taking on too much, but that’s how I choose to play it with a younger one and a pre-teen.

  3. I’ve always laughed at the “work around your child’s schedule” one. The only way I can do that is by working late or working early in the morning. Even when my son was taking a nap, I could never concentrate fully on writing anything but a grocery list. I was always worrying about him or worried that he might wake up soon and I wanted to finish what I was doing. All I could manage was a quick session of checking email or maybe some researching. I’ve read comments from those who can work during the day while they’re children are around, but I can’t do that. I keep remembering the horror stories of child neglect from a parent (or parents) that got sucked into some online gaming site or fantasy play- while the child sits hungry…

    I’m not saying that’s what happens, but I can’t help but think it sometimes. Instead I get up at 3 am and start my work day. I found out that it’s the perfect time for me because it’s so nice and quiet. I work until my son gets up. Then I’ll work when he goes to school or goes off to spend the day with a relative.

    • I do the opposite – now that it’s summer, I sleep until my children get up and I work until about midnight just about every night. I don’t like the feeling I get of trying to do more than five minutes of this or that when the boys are up. I wrote this comment while they play trains, but am now on my wait to serve up the blueberry muffins for breakfast. LOL

  4. thanks for covering this.

    I always found working with certain ages near impossible, and other ages fine. The thing is it goes in and out of possibility. Newest infants: maybe, 6 month old, no, 9 month old maybe, 12 month old, no.

    Funny, it keeps going with ages, too. For some reason my kids are at that age where they will leave me alone to vegg in front of Wii/TV. Well, great right? No! That’s not ok! So I remove myself from work in order to get them moving. Last summer, though, they were happy to be self-directed, outside, digging in the dirt.

    So it comes and goes, comes and goes.


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