I’m a bad work-at-home mom.
I had a fair amount of anxiety when I first made this discovery about myself. I’ve wanted to freelance and stay home with my kids since the ripe old age of 12 . . . way before all the cool kids were doing it. So having my first baby and realizing that the work-at-home mom life isn’t what I thought it would be was a bit distressing.
While I was pregnant, I used to imagine what life would be like once the baby was born. I would work in my home office for hours of uninterrupted time while the baby slept beside me in her bassinet. I would Skype with clients during this time with no fear that I would wake the baby or that my clients would question my unwashed hair and milk-stained clothes. When the baby woke, she would coo happily from her activity mat at the foot of my desk while I wrapped up the day’s tasks.
I was blessed with a daughter who woke four times per night until she was nearly a year old, who never napped for more than 30 minutes at a time, and who cried unless I (and only I) held her at all times. I was lucky to find one full hour a day to work.
Perhaps if I were a better mom, I would have seen this as a sign to step back from my business. I would have realized that my baby needed me, that this time with her was precious and that the business would always be there for me to grow once she (and her future siblings) were in school.
When push came to shove, I wanted myself to choose my kids. I wanted to want to put the business on the back burner. But in my gut, I didn’t actually feel like spending more time reading board books or doing puzzles. I wanted my kids to leave me alone so I could get some work done, work that was appreciated and respected by other adult people.
The result was a two-year battle between my brain and my heart that’s only now starting to putter to an end, not because I’ve reached a conclusion, but because I’m too exhausted to keep fighting myself.
Here is my reality: I do not love spending every waking second playing with my kids. But I do love my kids, and I (and our family budget) prefer not to send them to child care. I do not love spending my nights and weekends working on my business, but I do care about my business too much to give it up. I’m proud of what I’ve built, and I love having a professional and creative outlet that makes me more than just a mom all day.
Maybe you, too, are a bad work-at-home mom. Here are a few tips I’ve discovered to keep you two baby steps closer to your sanity.
Mommy guilt is a bad cycle that leaves us feeling critical of our own parenting skills, yet defensive if others question our choices. Every mom struggles with this, whether she’s running a business or not. Life will be so much better if you accept that you’re not a perfect parent, but you’re not wrecking your kids for life either.
You and your kids both need time to decompress each day. In our house, that looks like an afternoon nap for the baby and quiet rest time for me and the toddler. My almost three-year-old doesn’t usually nap anymore, but she will sit quietly with her books for 20 minutes. It’s not a lot of time, but it’s enough to get a bit of work done or take a moment to relax. Not only does this give everyone a break, it sets the foundation for your kids to play independently as they get older.
Not to lose the pregnancy weight (that’s just a bonus), but to have some time for yourself. Many gyms offer free child care for an hour or two. I’ve done the math: it’s the cheapest babysitter you will ever find. Catch up on your favorite TV show or podcast while you walk on the treadmill, de-stress in yoga class, float on your back in the pool, enjoy a cup of coffee in the lobby without interruption, use the wifi to get some work done, take a shower by yourself, or sit in a sauna in the blessed silence. The gym is a magical place.
My kids spend 80% of their day crying, clinging, whining, screaming, or otherwise begging for my attention. It’s tempting to treat them as a general nuisance and ignore them as much as possible, but that only makes their attention-seeking behavior worse. Kids can only hear “I’ll be done in a minute” so many times in a day. Be there when your kids actually need you. Give them your full attention. Being fully present reading books and playing for a half hour makes it much more likely that they’ll play on their own later.
You’re doomed to fail if your expectations are too high. Start making realistic to-do lists that you actually have a chance of completing in one day. Track your time for a week to get a better idea of how long business tasks really take—this will help you stop overscheduling yourself. Maybe you won’t get as much done as you’d like, but at least you won’t be stressed about everything left on your list.
Maybe I’m not a bad work-at-home mom. Maybe I’m just a regular mom and an average business owner, and I feel all the guilt and pressure and stress and self-doubt that comes with either of those titles, even on the best of days.
But I also get to feel all the joy and pride and sense of accomplishment that come with both of those titles. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Ashley Brooks is the content marketer and blog editor behind Brooks Editorial and a co-host of the Chasing Creative podcast. She’s on a mission to help intentional creative entrepreneurs make their blogs work for them. Ashley works from home with her two kids in tow, and you can always find her with an iced mocha in hand and a spare book in her purse (just in case). Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
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