Tough Mommies Work at Home

It’s funny, really, that the toughest year of my maternal life was the one I thought would be the easiest. I spent a year finishing my Masters, teaching every day and writing every night. In my spare time I raised a toddler while I worked on growing his younger brother. That was the year before the hardest year. During those seemingly hard months, I dreamed of the easy year I was earning. I really thought I was going to be getting a terrific break as the summer rolled around and my second chid was born. I was going to be a relaxed WAHM for fourteen months.

I was delusional. Apparently I’m not alone in this sort of thinking, I’ve learned since.

Two days after I finished the mandatory internship for my Master’s degree, I had my second son via scheduled C-section. I checked client email in the hospital that night. Four days later we arrived at home and I had some blogs to write and deliver so I took care of those between feedings. My schedule hasn’t let up since.

Why didn’t I take it easy and relax? Because work-at-home mom’s don’t have sick days or maternity leave. I was fortunate to be pregnant while teaching because otherwise I would not have been able to get maternity care with insurance – a common problem with self-employed insurance that might be a problem for anyone thinking about starting a family down the road. As it was, I had to have my son on July 2 to ensure I had thirty days left of coverage after his birth because new insurance companies in Texas apparently won’t pick you or the new baby up until thirty days out, but I digress.

I could have taken a few weeks off, but as we all know, the online world doesn’t wait. My clients, who have ongoing content needs, can’t just wait six weeks for me to come back to work. They are awesome, but they are busy making money and my work is part of that. It’s a responsibility every serious writer I know shoulders. My budget would have probably fallen apart as well as I'd just lost my teaching income.  I would have lost some of the momentum the self-employed must keep up to bring in steady work on an ongoing basis.

The real work of being a work-at-home mom started almost immediately. In my fantasy life, I was writing while the baby napped. After all, my first had slept all the time and was still taking three-hour naps in the afternoon. It was going to be fine, and it was for a few weeks. But then the toddler stopped napping. So there was no more work time during the day. Three years later, I might eek out a few email responses during the day, but there is little improvement time-wise.

All work moved into the evenings where it has stayed since then and will stay indefinitely. My days then and now involve the hard jobs of mothering during the day – believe me, days with two small boys involve dirt, bugs, training potties and constant stain removal – there are no soap operas or bon-bons in sight. And then after bedtime, I write.

With each sentence I write, I have an ear cocked to the monitors that buzz around the clock to alert me to any change upstairs that will require my immediate assistance. By the time I go to bed tonight, I’ll have two snuggly boys who’ve already clambered down the stairs and climbed into my bed ready for Mom to keep the bad dreams away while she contorts to avoid being smacked in the face or used as a pillow.

But you know what? It’s an awesome life.

I might not have slept a full night in four years, and I might rely on the microwave far more than I should to feed us, but I am incredibly involved in my children’s lives. And at the same time I can afford to give them the things I want them to experience. When we travel, you can bet that trusty old laptop comes along with us to Sea World and Disney (okay, the laptop’s only a year old and a terrific shade of pink), but somehow or another I managed to make it work that year with a newborn, a toddler and huge financial pressures to resolve in a few hours a day, and today I've got it fine-tuned to a science.

I went back to teaching after that incredibly tough year because working with at-risk teenagers is a job I love as much as parenting and writing. But every summer, I’m that full-time work-at-home mommy again. I perform my mommy duties in the day and my professional duties every night, but it works for me, and I know it works for countless other mothers who are cramming two lifetimes into every day either by choice or by necessity.

I joke about my future plans of movie watching, ice cream eating and Snuggie wearing in the evenings like all of the other mommies in the world. But then I couldn’t really name a single Mommy friend who doesn’t work her tail off in one way or another during her five minutes of free time to support her family in some way. Mine just happens to be a monetary way.

And that pink Snuggie I put on my Christmas list? It will get plenty of use in a few years when the little men I’m raising are willing to sit through more than a single episode of Max and Ruby with me. It’ll be worth waiting and the lessons learned and shared in the meantime are truly priceless.

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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.

8 thoughts on “Tough Mommies Work at Home”

  1. oh gosh rebecca, i so know where you’re coming from. Its nearly midnight where I am and after spending the entire day with my toddler I am sitting here writing – i have 6 more articles to get through for the night before I can call it a day and every bone in my back hurts right now. But I have the satisfaction of knowing that my child was taken care of and loved and hugged and listed to and read to and is snuggled in bed happy. I wouldn’t trade that for anything! Its a tough life but it has its own unique rewards 🙂

  2. I think I’ve said this before, but all the writing mommas with young ones just need to hang in there! My children – 6 and 9- are finnnnallllyy in school all day, not to mention the fact that they feed, toilet, and entertain themselves and the only all-nighters I pull are the ones I choose to pull for my writing. Life gets soooo much easier, so if it’s rough, but you really want to write, DON’T give up! Stick out out!

  3. Rebecca,

    Your words ring so true and I can relate to almost everything you have said. I do however get a couple of hours during the day to get some work done when my children are in school. My children are 6 and 3 and my 3 year old has pre-school 3 days a week so a little bit of time for me. Evenings are all about writing and I have to say it is a tough life, probably more so for my husband who get neglected once the children go to bed as I am busy writing. We have come to an agreement though that Friday night is our night, mind you I do tend to slip in a few emails when he’s not looking. Yes work at home moms do have a tough life but you can guarantee that none of us would change it for anything. Getting to watch your children grow is one of the most rewarding things ever and if we had to work 9-5 we would miss out on too much.

  4. I really appreciate the angle you used for this work at home type article. I get so tired of the ones that over use the label “work-at-home mom” and make it sound as if it was their career. When someone asks them what they do for a living, they say that they’re a “work at home mom”.

    Sure, being a mom and working from home is a tough job, but it’s not your means of making a living. Unfortunately, the work at home industry is often seen as a negotiation tool to taking on lower paying jobs. “It’s okay to take on $5 an article jobs, because I get to work from home.” That bugs me. Your career is being a writer, web designer or whatever. You just happen to do it from a home office.

    Thank you for not taking that route in your article.

  5. I just stumbled across this article today and it sums up everything so perfectly for me! I thought after my son was born, I could easily work at home and take care of him. And I can do both…but not at the same time! It has been an eye opener for sure! I haven’t found the perfect groove yet but I’m working on it!

  6. Wow, this piece resonated with me! I am also a WAHM w/ 2 little boys. I have worked in my car, at coffee shops, in the school pick-up line, you name it. I, too, experienced a loss of daytime work hours when I had my 2nd baby & my 1st stopped napping. But like you said, you simply adjust, plug away & make it work. I still remember my hubs’ friend saying to me shortly after my 1st was born, “So, you writing much these days? I mean, babies sleep all the time, right?” In my DREAMS!

  7. Hey! When do moms get to watch movies (that don’t involve talking cars or soprano princesses), eat ice cream (without a toddler on your lap sticking her fingers in it) and wear a Snuggie????? How long do I have to wait?? I totally appreciated your balanced outlook on the life of a mom/writer. Just entering the freelance world myself with three kids and a part-time, outside-of-the-home job, I was thrilled to read that it can be done. And still with a sense of humour (big plus). Thanks for this encouraging post.

  8. Hi Rebecca,

    I just found thi site last nite at 2am, thanks to my self-induced caffeine-fueled sleep deprivation. It is the most professional and serious site I have seen for writers. I just got off the phone with a friend talking to her about my woes- being a WAHM with 5 kids under 9, home with me, all summer long while my hubby travels the globe in search of respectable work.

    My time management, this ethereal thing they call balance, and boundary-setting are all still concepts I have yet to achieve. I find myself working way into the wee hours only to be awoken a few hours later by bed-wetters, nightmare suffers and milk-drinkers. My biggest issue now is needing help developing a “schedule,” sticking to it, and using my limited time wisely in the pursuit of verifiable paid gigs. I think we could have a lot to talk about!

    Good to know there are other passionate writers out there that even in the face of reason and sheer exhaustion, just CANNOT STOP!


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