Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the Work at Home Mom

We've had a lot of requests for this post so you can imagine how happy we were when our friend Carolyn sent it to us. Here's a little bit about her:

Carolyn Neeley is a self-proclaimed Mommyland Lurker. She's a work at home mom who - when she's not chasing down her two adorable, yet fiesty IHPs with washcloths and frantic cries of "Oh no!" - can be found desperately banging on her keyboard trying to make deadlines, sitting completely absorbed in front of the entire USA channel lineup or one of the many cheesy horror movies she cannot live without, and cuddling up to her darling husband who luckily always has a smile and a glass of wine handy just for her.


Being a work at home mom is sometimes like having the best of both worlds - retaining a professional life and still getting to participate in the everyday magic of your kids. However, as with any other kind of mommy, WAHMs have their own set of domestic enemies. Some of these may be similar to other mom's enemies because along with the best of both worlds, WAHMs also get the worst of both worlds.

Phone Calls
If I'm calling a friend, family member or pretty much anyone else who doesn't pay me, my kids will be perfect angels. Playing quietly with each other without turning the house into a nuclear disaster zone or anyone dying. But heaven forbid I should be on the phone with a client. Suddenly, the same people who ignore pretty much everything I say and prefer their father/grandmother/aunt/stranger-at-the-grocery-store to me, cannot live without me for two seconds and cry hysterically, clinging to my legs as though I'm abandoning them in the Sahara with no food or water.

People, please stop giving me THAT look when I mention that I work from home. Yes, it is a REAL job, with a REAL paycheck and REAL work. And do not, I repeat do not, ask me who watches my kids! This goes for grandparents, relatives, friends and anyone else who automatically thinks I ignore my kids just because I happen to have a home office. I probably spend more time playing and talking with my kids each day than the average mom. It's not easy handling working over 30 hours a week and having full-time charge of two preschoolers, but guess what? With a little planning and a flexible schedule, we manage it. Without anybody being neglected.

But after listening to so many skeptics, so many critics, I start to doubt. Maybe I'm not doing enough for my kids, maybe we're not spending enough time together. Do they know I love them? Do they understand that those times when I have to lock myself in my office to take a phone call and give them the mean mommy glare to be quiet, that I am just trying to make a living - put food on the table and a roof over their heads? Are they going to fall behind in school since I chose to keep them home with me rather than send them to preschool? What if they grow up thinking that making money is what's important since I spent so much time working when they were little? What if they feel ignored or neglected but just never say it or can't express it?  Here I go down the shame spiral - weeee!

Sadly, my house is never as clean as I want it to be. I have my own personal Randy. And he has sidekicks. My floors haven't been vacuumed or swept in at least a week. Although I balance the work and parenting thing pretty well, there just isn't much time left over for things like cleaning or cooking or folding laundry. So, yes, my IHPs and I wear wrinkly t-shirts and lots of sweats, but hey - I'm at home most of the day anyway.

Working at home, I rarely meet any of my clients or colleagues face-to-face. And since I don't have time to go to all the weekly playdates and outings and places where other mommies congregate, I don't generally meet and/or get to know many people. (And why do mommy organizers insist on having things at 11am or noon? It will take me at least half an hour to get the kids ready and in the car, driving time, an hour or so spent playing, then the drive home, etc. That's at least two hours out of the smack dab middle of the day! Can't we be reasonable and hold these things in the morning or afternoon?!)

But the fact that I can't get to the playdates or outings often means that the only adult I ever have a real connecting conversation with is my husband when he gets home from work - thank Maude for that man! I can tell he really enjoys those nights when he walks in the door and I pounce on him in an effort to have a conversation that doesn't include multiple Dora references.

The problem with juggling so many different things is that you feel like you're never good ENOUGH. Jack of all trades, master of none. If I'm good at my work, I'm being a bad mom. If I'm a good mom, my writing career is down the tubes. Either way I'm still a bad housekeeper with mountains of unfolded laundry and a not-so-terrific cook except on those rare occasions I can devote an hour to making a meal. In almost every part of my life, I'm facing some kind of failure every day. And unfortunately, the necessity of being home all the time means I rarely get a change of scenery beyond grocery shopping or the post office. Kinda makes you lose perspective and make mountains out of molehills.

Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, I love my husband, and I truly, truly love my life. After all, I get to take vacations whenever I please, choose an impromptu day to goof off and do whatever sounds fun at the moment, and still manage to help pay the bills and retain an identity that helps me remember who I was before I lost my mind and my first name and just became "Mom". 

But sometimes, when I'm juggling everything, when deadlines are looming, clients are calling, kids are wanting cuddles and mommy-time, the house is filthy, I'm filthy, I haven't had a real conversation with an adult I'm not married to in three weeks, and my only relief and rest just called to say he'll be home late, and I get really close to losing my schmidt... 

So I take a deep breath, pour a glass of wine, find something to laugh at and remember that I'm in Mommyland.  And I'm in excellent company.  Cheers! 

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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