Since I spent several years as a mommy blogger, I still follow a lot of parenting blogs. Every now and then a post comes around that highlights the struggles of stay at home moms. I usually find myself nodding along and feeling for the writer, because, let’s face it, being a stay at home mom isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. A few days pass and I come across a post about working moms, and having been a working mom as well, I empathetically nod along. Working moms have it hard, too.
In either case, once I’m done agreeing with the author, I head to the comment section and, even though I know it’s coming, I stare at the screen, stunned into silence at the verbal carnage taking place. Everyone starts arguing about who has it worse, ignoring the fact that it shouldn’t be a competition. We all have our individual struggles and what works for one person won’t work for another. Sometimes what appears easy as an outsider turns out to be incredibly difficult once you give it a go.
In this war between working moms and stay at home moms, I feel that one group of mothers is largely overlooked: work at home moms.
Now, the point of this post isn’t to say that this group has it any easier or any harder than the other groups. I just want to point out the unique struggles we work-at-home-mothers face and erase some myths that seem to be prevalent. After all, the first step towards peace is understanding.
Myth #1: You have all the time in the world.
As a work at home mom, my day starts at 5 AM. I jump out of bed, get some caffeine into my system, and immediately fire up the computer. The first few hours of my day are devoted to writing, which isn’t always the easiest of tasks. Generally, my daughter sleeps until 9 or 10, so I have a good chunk of time to use productively.
However, occasionally my work time is cut short when my child decides to get up early. These days are incredibly difficult. An early-waking child means I must stop working for a while or attempt to form coherent sentences as I field unending questions and demands from the tiny terrorist I so lovingly created.
Most days, I’m working in spurts. I work on writing, promoting, networking and so on for a little while, then stop to fix a meal or snack, work a little more, stop to load the dishwasher, work a little more…you get the drift.
The point is, as work at home moms, our time is precious. We still have to get in the normal 8 hours of work each day while doing all the things people expect of a stay at home mom. We’re not just sitting around the house doing nothing. Our career is not something we do in our “free time”. There are still deadlines to meet, meetings to hold (even if they are via phone, Skype, or email), and a slew of other time-sensitive tasks.
Plus, you still have to find time to squeeze in some sleep. Most nights, I hit the hay around 11 PM. Six hours of sleep probably isn’t ideal for anyone, but it’s a necessary sacrifice at this point. Many of us work at home moms only function by the grace of caffeine. Like I said, time is precious!
So, no, we can’t always agree to your spur of the moment requests for childcare or a lunch date. It’s not that we don’t want to. It’s just that we have to work as well!
Myth #2: Work at home jobs aren’t “real jobs”.
This right here drives me up a wall. Some of us, like myself, aren’t making buckoo bucks at our work at home gigs, but I know plenty of women who are. Regardless of pay-grade, it seems that a lot of people are under the impression that these types of jobs are somehow less demanding than traditional careers. It seems that there’s a lack of prestige that comes with saying you work at home. Sometimes it feels as though you must drive to another location to do your job in order to be a real adult.
The thing is, working at home is often more demanding. Sure, you can set your own schedule, but you also have to work around life’s other tasks. You have to be great at switching gears to pull it off, as you’ll more than likely be working in small chunks spread throughout the day.
This isn’t to say that flexibility isn’t a perk. Knowing you can make it to a doctor’s appointment or hit the bank before it closes is wonderful. However, juggling all of life’s demands with the requirements of your job can be a hassle. This is especially true if the people in your life don’t take what you do seriously. When you have others interrupting you or making more demands on your time, it gets hard to keep things in balance.
Make sure your family and friends know that work hours are off-limits. Remind others (and yourself!) that your job deserves the same respect as anyone else’s.
Myth #3: Work at home moms can (and should) do it all.
This myth comes to us in many forms. Whether it’s a spouse who feels you should do all the housework sense you’re home all day, your own hang-ups, or “helpful” family members who suggest you just need to manage your time better, this idea is pervasive and damaging.
You cannot realistically do everything yourself and still keep your sanity. If you can afford childcare, get someone to watch your kid while you work. If you need help around the house, let your family know they need to do their share. If there’s job related tasks you can delegate to someone else, do it. You absolutely cannot be expected to take care of everything all by yourself.
Remind people that although you don’t have an office to show up to everyday, you still work.
The truth about being a work at home mom is: it’s hard.
All forms of motherhood are hard. We all have our struggles. Work at home moms, stay at home moms, and moms with traditional jobs all face these issues to some degree. However, it is the work at home moms whom I most often see struggling to have their voices heard. It seems that everyone is quick to point out the ways in which work at home parents have it easy.
I’d like to end this post by reminding all moms that we gain nothing by tearing each other down. Invalidating each other’s experiences or playing the “who has it worse” game adds nothing of value to the world.
Let’s end the debate once and for all, and instead focus on hearing each other’s voices. Let’s lift each other up and help one another find solutions. We can all work together to form a more inclusive social narrative and make real change.
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