What It Really Means To Work From Home

All my life I knew that if I ever became a mother, I would be a stay-at-home mom. To be truthful, I never thought I would actually be a mom –  or at least not until  I was at least 35, had traveled the world, and perhaps earned a law degree. But here I am with three children and no law degree at age 28.  And, I must add, much happier than I could have ever imagined.

Not only did the child-free thing not turn out the way I planned, but the work thing has gone in a slightly different direction.  I am one of those strange creatures known as a WAHM, or work-at-home-mom.  Some people would say that’s not a “real” job, but it is. I work forty hours per week, just like everyone else, I have deadlines and superiors (who, fortunately, also happen to be very awesome people). I’ve even been hesitant to place myself in this category for a few years, but I am, in fact, a working mom.

The reasons my life took this turn are for another day, but suffice it to say I’m glad it didn’t work out the way I had planned. Because at the end of the day, I love working from home. I really do get to have my cake and eat it, too, and it’s wonderful.

But don’t get me wrong: being a WAHM is also an immense challenge. It is perhaps most difficult insofar as it requires two things: absolute, unrelenting discipline and patient, serene flexibility. When women (and men) ask me what it’s like to work from home, I have a hard time emphasizing these two ends of the WAHM spectrum. So let me give you a few examples of how these two principles play out in everyday life:

Discipline

  • Waking up before anyone else in the house to do an hour of editing because it sets you ahead for the day
  • Structuring each day carefully in advance so you know exactly what you need to accomplish in order not to get behind – using lists, excel sheets, menus, copious amounts of Post-Its, whatever it takes
  • Not being distracted by housework to the extent that it interferes in your work
  • Not being distracted by work to the extent that it interferes in your family life
  • Pulling yourself away from the computer screen even when you have tons of work left to do
  • Not putting a movie on for your kids’ entertainment and, instead, finding creative outlets for them during the day
  • Not being distracted by your flirtatious baby boy (okay, I don’t usually succeed at this one)
  • Setting aside time for meetings and other time-bound work matters
  • Saying no to social activities, even when technically you don’t have to be “in the office”

Flexibility

  • Not letting a catastrophic child-induced accident ruin your attitude, workflow, or carpet
  • The same goes for unexpected things that come up at work (although thankfully those don’t usually threaten the carpet)
  • Dealing patiently with bad internet connections and malfunctioning computers (very frustrating when you work online)
  • Taking time to read your kids a book even when it’s not on “the schedule”
  • Throwing “the schedule” to the wind without a care when your children need you
  • Instilling the same flexibility in your children who – let’s face it – will hear the words “I’ll be there soon” quite frequently

In short, when you work at home you have an infinite amount of freedom and an infinite amount of responsibility. Responsibility to your children, your work, your spouse and other family members, your friends who want to hang out with you since you’re at home all the time. And perhaps most importantly, responsibility to yourself. Because when you are homemaker and working mom at the same time, you can burn out twice as fast. And we all know, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” (And I think that goes for the Papas, too.)

So if you think being a WAHM sounds like paradise, you’re right. But it’s paradise you have to work for and seek out intentionally at every moment of the day, and that means it can easily become paradise lost. In fact, if you are or are thinking about becoming a fellow WAHM, it is best to remember the words of Mr. Milton himself:

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Do you work from home? If so, how do you make it…work? 😉

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