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The Truth About Being a Work-From-Home Mom

The following post was originally featured on The Decor Fix and written by Heather Freeman, who is part of POPSUGAR Select Home.

When people first find out that I work from home, I think the assumption is that I don't have a "real job". It's not until I explain what I do that people start to get it. One of my friend's moms actually said, "Oh, you have a business…I thought you sold Pampered Chef or something!"

Nope, don't worry—you won't be getting any "party invites" from me.

I thought today's post would be a fun way to pull back the curtain on what being a work from home mom looks like for anyone who ever wondered or considered it as an option.

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THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
When I left teaching and decided to turn my part-time job into a full-time design business, I was really naive as to how working from home would play out. (And completely clueless to the fact that raising a two-year old was a totally different ball game than caring for a newborn.)

Bottom line?

Being a parent is amazing. Owning a business is exhilarating.

Both are exhausting.

Trying to manage the two roles kind of feels like an uphill marathon while juggling roller skates with someone telling me to sing the national anthem…in an Elmo voice.

DOUBLE THE JOY, DOUBLE THE STRUGGLE
Thankfully we have an amazing babysitter who happens to be a close family friend where Gemma goes three days a week. Still, working from home is a 6-day a week gig for me at the moment, so the lines of home and work are pretty blurry most days.

Both Stu and I work from home. So when he's not traveling and I'm not at a job site, sometimes we can sit and drink coffee at 10:00am on a Tuesday morning while Gemma plays in the back yard.

We chuckle at the irony of all of being home together in the middle of a work day…before diving head first back into work 10 minutes later. This is the reality of our life. I would say we are definitely still learning how to make this work for us, but here's my take on things going into my third year.

The Perks:

Laid back work attire. As in, I wear yoga pants as often as humanly possible. Since Decor Coaching sessions happen via FaceTime, I do put on a pretty shirt and slap on some make up…But I still wear yoga pants.

No commute. I definitely do not miss waking up in January to cold Missouri mornings and cursing at my heater all the way to work.

Sleeping in. Until 6:45am. (Because when you have a kid, your concept of "sleeping in" radically changes.) BUT if I was driving into work and dropping Gemma off at the sitter, we'd have to be up at least an hour earlier. Amen to an extra hour of sleep!

Double duty. This is actually a slippery slope that I'll address more later, but if done carefully I can do rotation for the laundry in between meetings and client work. (To be clear, the piles of clean clothes will sit on the couch until later that evening…or the following week.)

Tax write offs. We get to write off several expenses like our internet, phone, and even a portion of our square footage on the house since it serves as two office spaces.

Lunch at home. When Stu is in town, we try to break at the same time and eat lunch together. This is really nice.

Flexible schedule. Most times I do have control over my schedule. This is handy when unexpected things pop up, and it allows me to be home for Gemma's therapy sessions (speech and OT, but that's a whole other post.) However if we deviate from the schedule I set, that means a lot of catch up work on my end that usually ends up happening around 2:00am.

The Challenges:

Shared space. When work gets hectic, it shows up in my home. When home life is busy and the house is a wreck, inevitably it spills into my work. (Sometimes physically but almost always mentally.)

Multi-tasking…and "multi-failing". At times this can be a perk, but mostly it is a danger…I'll do a puzzle with Gemma while also checking my phone to see if my client's piece of furniture arrived. I'll schedule a coaching session while grilling chicken (and then end up burning the chicken.)

Turning work off. When you aren't physically leaving a work place, it is hard to shut down from "work mode", especially if there are things left undone at the end of the day. (Which is most days.)

Recently I started doing something to remedy this…I decided I needed a signal to end the work day. When I'm "done", I'll put on Pandora to a happy play list. It's like a little trigger to tell my brain when to turn off for a few hours for family time. I think it's actually helping. (That and some days I pour a glass of wine.)

Lack of a professional community. The one thing I desperately miss in teaching is the fact that there was always someone with more experience you could run to for feedback. Working from home can feel isolating at times. Even though I am in touch with clients everyday, it's not the same as having a colleague who can help you brainstorm or troubleshoot.

(I did recently join a couple awesome Facebook groups for women in small business like this one, which has been a great support.)

The late hours. Brutal truth? The person who gets the least of me these days is Stu…After family time and once Gemma's in bed, most nights I run back to my computer to tackle unfinished work. Some nights we'll unwind with a drink and Netflix, but not often enough.

The further I get into this work at home business, the more I realize how you almost have to be aggressive at preserving family time. Balance is an art and a science, and I haven't quite found it yet.

Not sure where I heard them, but these pieces of advice are powerful and keep coming back to me…

1. In work, hustle and don't hold back.
2. With family, be completely present.

*My goal in 6 months is to TRULY take a full weekend off and not work evenings. This feels like a pipe dream right now, but I'm working on some new aspects of Decor Fix that will hopefully make this a reality soon!

Misconceptions and the Reality:

The following statements were actually said to me (some more than once) by people I know. I have to try really hard to smile and be sweet when well-meaning people imply how "easy" my life must be since I'm a work at home mom.

#1: "Oh, you work from home? You must have so much free time."
The reality is that I have zero "free time". (What mom does??) I am trying to raise a human being who would rather eat cookies than vegetables and hoard her toys instead of share them. And I'm sure most toddlers are no different.

Add to that mix prepping for client meetings, going to client meetings, replying to emails, sourcing, researching, invoicing, blogging, marketing, or brainstorming new aspects of my business and there is a lot to juggle.

Anything beyond parenting and working takes deliberate planning and time away from something else I could or should be doing.

Disclaimer: I am in "hustle phase" in my business right now and know that it is not a sustainable lifestyle for the long haul…My goal is to have a lot more "white space" in my life by this time next year.

#2: "Oh, you work from home? You must love getting to spend all day with your baby."
Even with child care on most weekdays, I still feel scattered. On the days she is home with me, I am torn in two directions. I either feel distracted and not able to focus on work, or like a terrible mom at how often I have to use Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood as my "babysitter".

I feel like I could do better in both roles.

Mom guilt + business owner guilt= ATOMIC GUILT BOMB

#3: "Oh, you work from home? It must be nice to keep the house clean in between your work."
Bahahahaha! The person who said this clearly did not know me well at all. The complete opposite is true. When you leave your house for a job, there is no one to make a mess at your home! When you are home twice as much, there is twice the mess.

This is what my dining room table looks like at this very moment…Yesterday we had a photo shoot at the house, and I'm pulling accessories for two installs this week. This is our only table, so it has to wear many hats. This week it is a prop table.

So we are eating meals on the couch right now…

And sometimes the TV is on. #dontjudgeme

PS—I know the rug is way too tiny for this space…The last one was stained beyond repair, and I dragged this one from storage. So rather than a bare floor, this teeny tiny rug was awkwardly asked to do the job someone twice his size should. (Even designers have rooms in their homes that make them cringe.)

In closing I'll say this…working and motherhood are both incredible privileges that I enjoy. Home happens to be where both of those roles play out, which is why it is so crucial that our home is both a place that functions well and brings us joy.

Our living room needs to house spontaneous dance parties and long-distance conference calls.

Our dining table needs to allow for potlucks and act as a workspace during a busy week.

Our mudroom has to be both an office and "toddler art studio".

At times working from home is stressful and complicated and messy, but I've come to realize that most of the good stuff in life is.

Image Sources: Decor Fix and Meg White Photography
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