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Being a Stay-at-Home-Working-from-Home Mom, Part One

September 1, 2015

Update: Read the 2nd post in this series here.

I’ve hesitated to write this series for a long time, because I’m very aware of the fact that I have a great situation and that most of my options were handed to me. In short: I’m lucky and I know it.

But with that said, trying to do the stay at home thing while trying to do the working thing… it’s a challenge for me. During the first year, I truly didn’t know if I was up to it. I’m writing this series because it’s a fairly unique situation – to work and raise small (or older) children in the same space, at the same time – and not a lot of people have shared the nitty gritty of how they do it. There’s a host of blogs that address scheduling/entertaining toddlers and managing the chores of a SAHM. Likewise, there’s wealth of great information from high-profile photographers about keeping workdays focused and productive. But for those of us trying to work from home, in the same general space where we’re raising our kids… neither set of advice fully addressed my dilemma. In truth, I really hope this series helps someone. But if nothing else, it was a letter to myself – a way of clarifying and codifying what I’ve learned over the last four years, where I’ve failed and succeeded, and how I can do even better moving forward.

Today, for the first part of the series, I thought I’d just go ahead and address the challenges presented to stay-at-home-working moms.

Itty Bitty Time Chunks

I have 4 boys – 10, 8, 4, and 10 months. Two are in elementary school, one in preschool, and the other one pooped 5 times yesterday, took 6 bottles, and ate 3 meals (read: smeared food over his face 3 times). My days are extremely fragmented. For me, this has proven to be THE most difficult challenge – when I have 5 minutes, what will I do with it? Clear the table? Switch the laundry? Post a sneak peek for today’s engagement shoot? Or just give up and check Instagram?

Competing Areas of Focus

After writing those first two paragraphs, I breathed a sigh of relief (getting started is the hardest part!) and glanced up. Right now, I see two pairs of shoes strewn across the living room, multiple stray (always unmatched!) socks, a book laying on the floor, sofa cushions askew, lunch dishes and cheese stick wrappers on the table, and a vacuum right smack in the middle of the floor. Since I spent all morning straightening up, I’m super discouraged by these things and very tempted to get up and fix them. On the other hand, as I watched work emails roll in while I did dishes during my clean-up time, it took an enormous amount of restraint not to just stop washing, dry my hands, and reply to the urgent one “real quickly”. Of course, overlapping work and home life is a common dilemma, but it’s intensified when EVERYTHING happens in the same space. There is no escape to an off-site office.

Change of Plans

Two hour delays. A cry from a toddler just 15 minutes into naptime. The school calls to say someone left their violin at home. All right during “work hours”.

An Identity Crisis

This one is harder for some of us than others. Everyone feels the need to fit in, and this can be tricky for those of us in the middle. Am I a stay-at-home mom, with all of those societal expectations – that I’m endlessly flexible, always changing and sacrificing my plans, making myself available to watch other kids, make meals, volunteer, and pick up on early dismissals? Or am I a working mom, skillfully balancing the demands of a family and a career through discipline, routine, and an incredibly strong work ethic? Sometimes – a lot of times – it feels like I’m neither. That can be a little difficult for me.

WITH ALL THAT SAID…

THIS is “living the dream” for a reason. The reality is that, when managed well, I’ll never be both of those ideals, but I will be a little bit of both! From the time that I began this experiment a few years ago, I’ve moved from being in the worst of both worlds to having the best of both worlds. For the next installments of this series, I’m going to share some general philosophies and strategies that began to shift this from a nightmare to a dream situation. And finally – I’m going to get really transparent – I’ll share with you the nitty gritty – my personalized daily system. Hope you stick around. Let me know what YOUR situation is… I’d love to hear!!!!

 

Update: Read the 2nd post in this series here.

 

More in this series:

1. The Challenges of Being a Work-at-Home-Stay-At-Home-Mom
2. My Personalized, Flexible Daily Planner
3. Winning the Worst Days

  1. Anna Marie Arpasi

    September 2nd, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I love this! Thank you for sharing…I always see how other creatives are like “schedule time for yourself” or “have specific work hours”…I’m just over here like I hope I get to brush my teeth today. I don’t know how you do it with 4! Looking forward to move advice!

  2. Anita Yoder Matta

    September 2nd, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I’m very much looking forward to this series! I’m in the same boat, and think that life would be way simpler with a few servants!

  3. Jessica Patterson Fall

    September 2nd, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I just sent my two babies off to school, Kinder & 2nd grade, and I’m lauching a new business from home. The balancing act is real – even when they’re at school for the day. So, I’m really looking forwrad to your insight on how to find your authentic pace.

  4. Janet Reynolds Matijkiw

    September 2nd, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Love the series and let me just say I think you juggle brillantly…. 2nd, why is my little Nicholas without shoes in every picture:) Just saying! And last but not least, if you can work me in to your busy schedule, I can take a day a week to have time with my little guys and be a spare set of hands…. you could schedule some Becky time!

  5. Brittany Thomas

    September 2nd, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    You are singing my song! I work as a photographer (20 weddings a year) and I also stay home with my 6 month old and 3 year old. My husband is a police officer so his schedule changes constantly and is often unpredictable – I’ve found most of the blog posts preaching “work hours” just don’t work for us. I’d never have the same office hours on any given week!

    My office is in the loft of our house so I can literally see the entire first floor and the master bedroom from where I sit. It drives me crazy that there’s piles of mess around me and it makes it hard to focus on my work (that I do in 20 minute spurts as the kids allow) because I also feel the urge to clean. It does help to stay off social media for most of the day so I’m not wasting any precious minutes! For the most part, the bulk of my work gets done when the kids are at my Mom’s or after they go to sleep. I stopped worrying that an e-mail with a 10:30 p.m. time stamp might look unprofessional because hey, at least I got a chance to answer it! 🙂

  6. Jacy Corral

    September 2nd, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    YES YES YES. My one little is only 11 months old and I have a part time in-office job and freelance the rest of the time from home and already feel so much of this tension. Thank you for writing on this new frontier!! Can’t wait to hear more…

  7. Kim Bowman McDonough

    September 2nd, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I so appreciate this post Becky! I worked/stayed at home for the last nine years, so I understand so much of what you are going through. I was extremely blessed to stay at home but it does present its challenges. Some people don’t realize that. Most of my girlfriends would say “You’re so lucky.” And, yes…don’t get me wrong, I was lucky. The most fortunate aspect of working from home was the fact that I got to witness every first tooth, crawl, fall, laugh, walk, etc. I didn’t have to hear about it from someone else. Those memories are ones I will forever be grateful for. I’ll be honest, every now and then, I would get a little jealous of my working mom friends who got to get up, put on make-up, a nice outfit and jewelry and set off for their productive day away from her kids. Some days I had visions of chasing after their cars saying “Take me with you!”

    Then there were the everyday conveniences of not having to shower, enjoying a cup of coffee (if I could ever remember where I put it), throwing in a load of laundry here and there and starting dinner earlier then other working moms. BUT…as you know and as you stated, there are some very difficult aspects to working and staying at home.

    I am a very “schedule oriented person” and I get the sense you are too! When you work/stay at home, every day is not like the one before. Personally, for me, I found this to be the most difficult. I would fit work in when I could; before the girls woke up, during naptimes (if they took one); during Sesame Street (try writing an email listening to ELMO sing!) That’s enough to make your break out the wine at noon! I had to accept that some days would go down as “today wasn’t so bad” and then others would be “holy cow, today was a train wreck!” And I so relate with your “Identity” thoughts. I remember thinking, Am I a mom/working person, both, crazy person?” LOL! I remember looking at my computer and then down at my toddler saying “Upppppppp” and thinking “Which one needs me most right now?” Having to navigate through that battle was tough!

    Now, my girls are my kids andboth in school and I just started working in an office. I must say I feel more productive and I can count on my day being pretty much the same but every now and then, I find myself humming Elmo’s song and missing the comfort of working from home!

    Thank you for this blog! You’re doing a great job!!! Hang in there!

  8. Amy Hoover Jones

    September 2nd, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! I know so many in this situation.

  9. Betsy Dunlap

    September 3rd, 2015 at 3:27 am

    I can so relate to this! Thank you for sharing your heart. So excited to see what else you have to share regarding this tricky subject.

  10. Karli Cleaver

    September 3rd, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    I almost started crying because I felt like you took the thoughts and words straight from my head and heart and put them on “paper.” Thanks for being so authentic and sharing!
    I am a stay at home working mom. I have 3 boys {7/5/2} and we want at least one more baby, God willing. My husband is a stay at home working dad, so our routine and roles are super untraditional when people are looking from the oustide in. He owns 10 cell phone stores and is in the process of opening 2-4 more before 2015 is up. I am a health coach and coach 40ish clients a month all over the US from home. My office is in our kitchen, his is outside in a shed we turned into an office.
    Pros: both being home. Ability to be flexible {I met a friend for breakfast this morning while he watched the toddler & worked}, etc., Our boys see us living our passions. We can travel when we want.
    Cons: we never leave our workplace. We eat/sleep/breathe it. His business especially has been the cause of much stress the past 7 years and now we are seeing some light in the tunnel and feel so blessed.

    It is such a balance of everything you mentioned…being present with my kids, responding to a client, staying on task, maybe getting a shower & dressing for the day, making meals, pow-wowing and planning with the husband, and then sometimes shutting it all off and just being HERE with my family. Can’t wait for your next posts!

  11. Melissa Haber

    September 4th, 2015 at 1:13 am

    I think you know my situation 😉 I am SO looking forward to the next installments on this series!

  12. Georgia Yanez

    September 6th, 2015 at 2:19 am

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m just entering the fun adventure of being a stay at home, work at home mom, and it’s tough! Sometimes I feel like I’m absolutely insane for trying to build a photography business at the same time that I’m home with my 7 month old. I’m looking forward to your other posts, because I definitely need help with the organization, haha.

  13. Being a WAH-SAHM, Part 2: My Personalized, Flexible Daily Planner » Washington DC, MD & VA Wedding Photographer

    September 8th, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    […] To see the first part of this series, click here. […]

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    September 23rd, 2015 at 3:34 pm

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    […] The more I thought about this series, and especially after getting so much great feedback on the first post, I realized that I’m pretty passionate about the topic of balancing days and seasons as a […]

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