These days there are a plethora of opportunities that enable mothers to stay in the workforce while remaining at home, which is fantastic. However, working from home as a mother of small children is no small feat. While I certainly would not dare say that one mom role is harder than another, being a WAHM can be a very trying position: in many ways, the WAHM is, in addition to being a working mom, a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), someone who is responsible for childcare and/or household duties at some point in the day. And in my experience, because you’re juggling these two positions as a WAHM, it is easy to feel like you’re failing at both. Below are some tips for managing the stress and challenges that come with being a WAHM.
Wake up early.
The morning can be an incredibly productive work time. Try to wake up at least an hour before your children (unless they’re very early risers) and register an hour of work time in the quiet and calm of the early morning.
Get the necessary childcare.
This is a biggie, and it was a difficult one for me to accept. When I first had my daughter and was doing freelance work, I struggled to determine whether projects merited the cost of additional childcare. I often (wrongly) decided that I could handle both the extra project and the childcare responsibilities, which always ended up being extremely stressful. I relied entirely on my daughter’s erratic nap schedule, so I was a nervous wreck every time a loud car would pass the house or the UPS driver would ring the doorbell. And there were days when she simply would not nap, something for which I could never plan. Once I started hiring sitters to come to our home in the mornings, I became a better worker, a better mom, and yes, a better wife. It’s important to note, too, that if you have a full-time telecommute position with a company, they might require you to have your child(ren) in full-time daycare outside of the house.
Pretend you’re going into the office.
As a WAHM, I’m very busy and constantly tired, and, quite honestly, the last thing I feel like doing in the morning is fixing my hair and getting dressed (in something other than at leisure anyway). When I started finding myself going through the entire day in a tank top and sweatpants, I knew something had to change. I began pushing myself to practice more self-care and to prepare for the day as though I were going to work at an office, and the results were amazing: on days that I put myself together I felt so much better physically, emotionally, and psychologically, and I was immeasurably more productive.
Set strict boundaries.
Real talk: this is really tough to do. It’s often incredibly difficult for husbands, friends, and family to understand that just because you work at home doesn’t mean that it’s easy for you to do chores during the day. Emptying the dishwasher, meal prepping, cleaning up around the house—these activities may not take much time on their own, but each little chore interrupts the work day, hampers productivity, and can add up to a significant loss of time over the course of the day. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do these things—indeed, part of the benefit of being a WAHM is that I’m able to take twenty minutes and throw dinner in the slow cooker before lunch. What I am saying is that you need to determine what you’re capable of doing in a day and set strict boundaries about everything else. For me, this means that I dedicate a specific hour of the day to household tasks—an hour when I don’t have a sitter and my daughter is awake, so I wouldn’t really be able to work anyway. As a WAHM, boundaries are key to managing your stress level; I can’t overemphasize their importance.
Do you have tips for finding balance as a WAHM? Let us know in the comments below!
Jennifer Janechek is the director of content strategy for Sound Wisdom. She has her PhD in English literature from the University of Iowa and her MA in English from the University of South Florida. She is also the founder of The Work-at-Home Mom Blog, which provides inspiration and community for moms who juggle work and parenting simultaneously. Her writings can be found in Entrepreneur, The Good Men Project, and many other publications.