I think I knew going in that being a work-at-home mom was going to be more “mom” than “work.” But seven months in, I can totally confirm that it is a really tough thing to combine the two and feel good about both of them.
Initially I was in survival mode, just trying to get through each day’s parenting challenges with a few orders thrown in here and there. After three months I had added most of my products back to my shop and had started contributing occasional posts to Goodsmiths, and it felt good to work again. Now Harper is able to occupy herself more during the day, so I’m able to squeeze in more orders and more writing while watching her, in addition to those night and weekend hours (and Fridays when Mike’s home too).
Now work feels vital. And it’s getting harder to view the days as mom first, work second. Eventually she will need more socialization, and hopefully I’ll have enough demand for my work that I can justify sending her to some daycare/preschool for a few hours a week. Having totally uninterrupted work time seems absolutely blissful at this point. She is a sweet and happy baby most of the time, but her naps never last more than 1/2 an hour, and she can pitch one heck of a fit during teething days. So it is hard to find a good balance when you never know what each day will bring.
I’m finding certain routines to be really helpful in this lifestyle. Morning is the best time for me to work out — Mike’s around to watch Harper and then I get that off my list for the day. Harper is usually awake for 2 hours at a time, then takes a nap. That gives me some idea when I’ll have a little free time throughout the day. She gets jammies at 8, her last meal at 8:30 and then down for bed at 9. That consistency really seems to help her sleep routine.
Though it seems like a baby’s life is pretty simple, they do get bored pretty easily. So I find the best days are when Harper gets out of the house for some stimulation. Even just a trip to Target is better than nothing. I’m getting more relaxed about taking her various places. It’s so nice to have her able to sit up in a cart without dragging in all these contraptions!
It’s funny, I think I used to have some unfair judgment about people who went straight back to full-time work after having a baby. Sort of a – why have kids if you are just going to have someone else raise them? type of attitude. But now that I’m here, I can totally see why staying home isn’t for everyone. There’s no one else in my life that I would spend that much time with without it affecting our relationship. It’s intense sometimes. Especially since this little person is also whining, crying, peeing, pooping, and spitting up on you with regularity. I’ve never had a job this hard. It challenges me at every level. I think that’s part of why I want to do it. I live for challenges. Like say, starting a handmade business with no actual business experience…
What I love about this arrangement is that even on the hardest days I get to do what I love AND watch my baby grow up. She sees that her mom got to live her passion and be there for her at the same time. It certainly saves us money on childcare. In the bay area childcare is so expensive it would almost not be worth it for me to work a 9-5 job. I have the freedom to take trips and spend time with people who come to visit. I can take advantage of business opportunities in this area that I definitely didn’t have before.
As with any job, you get better over time. I’m still new at this. I’m not always good at it and I don’t always enjoy it. But I think it was the right choice for our family. As our family grows I may want to make some changes, but for now we’re in a good place. We’ll see how it goes once the holiday shopping season heats up!
I’ve read so many articles lately about women struggling to find work/life balance with a family, and it seems like SO many people are grappling with this issue. There just aren’t a lot of easy answers. I think families need more support generally — more paid leave, more affordable daycare, more vacation days, better healthcare — so that both moms and dads wouldn’t have to feel like they had to make such hard choices. I also read a ton of articles kind of making light of parenthood, basically saying “hey, let yourself off the hook for feeling this way.” It seems we are carrying around a lot of guilt and we need to give ourselves a break sometimes. You can’t try every idea on Pinterest and make dinner and clean the house and stay sane. Sometimes you just have to put your feet up and laugh at how the day went.