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Note from Lisa: I’m currently taking a baby blogging break, and enjoying getting to know our newest addition. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I have some amazing guest posts to share with you! Lindsay Harrel is starting off, sharing several lessons she learned as a WAHM. Take it away Lindsay!
About three years ago, I quit my part-time job to stay home full time with my then 10-month-old son and became a WAHM (work at home mom). I started taking on freelance writing and editing jobs and fitting them in when I could. In addition, I was an author pursuing publication.
I was excited for the journey ahead. I had dreamed of this opportunity, and it was finally here.
And I loved it. I did. I still do (and I’ve added another kid and garnered a few contracts from a major publisher since I started). Ultimately, I love being home with my kids and I love my career. Working from home means I can have both. But WAHM life is not without its trials.
In the three years I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned a few lessons that make working from home as a mom a bit easier to navigate:
1. Comparison is a trap.
Oh man, this is a big one. When work starts to become unbearable or stressful, or my kids have been misbehaving and trying my patience big time (or, you know, BOTH!), then it’s so tempting to have a “grass is greener” mentality.
Yes, my life doesn’t look like that of some of my stay-at-home mom friends. I’m not able to be flexible on naptime and do extended play dates. I don’t have the creative energy to do lots of Pinterest-worthy crafts, or bake cookies, or even keep my house very clean.
And my life also doesn’t look like that of my mom friends who work outside the home. I can’t spend forty hours a week on my job, even when I’m excited by what I’m doing and would like to find more time to grow my career.
I start thinking about how much easier my friends’ lives must be. But that’s just a lie. They have their own challenges. No one’s lives look exactly like another’s—and they shouldn’t.
That’s why comparison has been called the “thief of joy.” It puts us in a mind to forget the blessings and good things in our lives and focus instead on what’s not perfect. But remember—what “appears” perfect in others’ lives is usually a façade. No one has a perfect life. Let’s embrace what we love about WAHM life and be thankful we get to do what we love!
2. Mom guilt is everywhere.
You’ve heard of mom guilt, right? If you’re like me, it’s a chip on your shoulder that likes to rear its ugly head—sometimes quite often. It isolates us and makes us feel like we aren’t doing as good as so-and-so (there’s that comparison trap again!) or like we should be doing MORE.
Not only does mom guilt make us feel like we should be DOING more, but it also makes us feel like we should BE more. Like we aren’t a good enough mom. Like we aren’t a good enough employee / boss babe / business owner / whatever else.
But guess what? If you’re thinking that mom guilt is a phenomenon that only WAHMs deal with, think again! It doesn’t matter if someone is a WAHM, SAHM, or a mom who works outside the home. We all feel “guilty” over something—and we shouldn’t!
Repeat after me: I can be a great mom and a great (INSERT YOUR JOB HERE).
Believe it, sister. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You ARE enough—and you are the best mom for your kids, whatever your career choices.
3. For a WAHM, hope is a stronger motivator than fear and doubt.
This lesson I’ve learned as a WAHM goes hand in hand with the one about mom guilt. For awhile I questioned my calling. Questioned whether I should just quit. Questioned whether I was doing the right thing in working while raising my children.
The fear and doubt drove me to try harder in both motherhood and my career. But it also left me exhausted, because toxic thoughts are emotionally taxing.
When I began to realize this was happening, I started to shift my thinking. I started praying about and meditating on hope. Through the power of positive thinking and speaking truth over my life, I have experienced an incredible shift in my perspective.
And when I find myself drifting back to that dark place, I refocus and speak that truth again. It really helps me to write my truth statements (e.g., I am a good mom who loves her children; I am setting a wonderful example for my children by pursuing my dreams; I will be a success if I never give up) on post-it notes and stick them on my desk, my bathroom mirror, my computer—basically, anywhere I can view them throughout the day.
As a WAHM, I know the value of efficiency. I have to use every spare moment and resource available to me in order to get the best use out of my time. (That’s why I work during naptime instead of napping or watching TV—it’s my most productive time and I can get the my best work done when my kids aren’t interrupting constantly!)
But worry, like fear and doubt, takes up space in our brains—and with everything we WAHMs have going on, we only have so much space! When you allow worry to fill the spaces, even the tiniest of crevices, it doesn’t leave room for other things.
So like fear and doubt, I try to shove worry out of my life. If I do have a concern about something, I put it in one of two categories: things I do have control over and things that I don’t.
For the things that I can control, I try to come up with a viable solution and a plan to implement it. For those I can’t, I personally pray about it. If you’re not a praying person, find some way to release that worry from your life—because otherwise, you’re not going to be as productive as you could be.
5. Flexibility has to become my middle name.
I’ve always been a Type A person. Very organized. Kind of rigid.
Having kids has a way of forcing you to change—at least a bit. My plans naturally fall victim to my kids’ illnesses, tantrums, lack of cooperation, individuality, and many other things.
And that’s just the mom side of the coin. Being a WAHM, it’s even more difficult to find balance. And that means flexibility is an even more important thing to learn. (Lisa actually has a wonderful post on being a flexible WAHM / mompreneur! Go read it!)
Once I realized that flexibility was just as important as efficiency and productivity (if not more so), I figured out how to fit it into my life. It really helps me to make a to-do list each day and tell myself what really needs to get done in that 24-hour period—the rest falls into the “that’d be awesome to get done but okay if I don’t” category.
Also, I’ve learned to build extra padding into my schedule. I don’t fill it to the brim or I’ll almost always come away disappointed. Things take longer than I think, my kids don’t always do what I expect them to, and life in general brings surprises my way.
Being flexible is a much more joyful way to live and allows me to take those surprises and see them as blessings.
6. A priorities list is absolutely essential to help keep me focused on being a mom AND pursuing my career goals.
At the beginning of each year, I like to make a priorities list. Essentially, I look at my life as a whole and write down the 5-8 major categories that are most important to me.
For example, my list right now includes my spiritual life, my mom / wife duties, my writing career, healthy living, and doing preschool at home with my oldest son.
I then take a look at everything I’m doing and everything I’ve committed to. If those things do not fall within one of the categories I’ve stated as a priority, I eliminate it (or make a plan to do so—of course, I want to be a woman of my word for commitments I’ve made).
This has allowed me to simplify my life and focus on the things I really care about instead of allowing other activities to creep in and take over.
7. Self-care is the most important item on my to-do list.
I don’t know about you, but when things are stressful and I’m feeling overwhelmed as a WAHM, I definitely don’t have time for self-care.
But in reality, that’s exactly what I SHOULD be taking time for.
Think about it. If your car is on empty, you have to add gas to keep going. You don’t continue driving, hoping against all odds that you’ll reach your destination on gas fumes. And yet, that’s exactly what we do to ourselves all the time. We simply have to recharge our batteries in order to be the best mom and the best worker possible.
But ain’t nobody got time for that, am I right? Thankfully, self-care doesn’t have to take hours and hours of your time (although it certainly can if you happen to have a free day!). Here are a few small ideas to get you started with everyday self-care as a WAHM:
- Take a 15-minute walk around the block before the kids wake up or after they go to bed.
- Take a break from work and listen to your favorite song.
- Spend time each morning praying and meditating for 10 minutes.
- Practice gratitude—keep a list of your blessings, however small!
- Take a bubble bath with lavender candles.
- Read for pleasure.
Finding your groove as a WAHM
Whether you’ve been a WAHM for fifteen days or fifteen years, it’s important to find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different schedules and techniques. Above all, remember—you are a fabulous work at home mom and you ABSOLUTELY have what it takes to succeed, however you define success. You’ve got this, mama.
Your Turn: Can you relate to these lessons I’ve learned as a WAHM? What lessons would you add?
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Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels for HarperCollins. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time.
Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.