Today I feel that WAHM stands for knock-out punch. I’ve been a work at home Mother since Baby J was born and, before that, I was an independent contractor. I made the decision to freelance back in 2004, and I haven’t looked back. Granted, getting laid off from my job was pretty upsetting, although it did prompt a nice upper ear lobe piercing, a couple of weeks of hard partying and some extremely colorful language about corporate America.
I mellowed out pretty quickly as soon as I realized I had to pay rent the next month and my severance package wouldn’t last longer than two month’s rent.
I decided to become an independent contractor because, I had hoped, it would become a great way to both work and rear my children. My own Mother went back to work, full-time, when I was 5 years old and my Grandmother quit her job as a seamstress to come and take care of us. It was not a conventional upbringing, having my Grandmother be the one to rouse us in the mornings and get us off to school, and then be the one waiting by the door when we returned home. But, my Mother was a career driven woman who aspired to a corner office and a string of letters after her name, and the money was also really important. Let’s be honest, it’s really difficult in the States to grow up on one income.
I vowed to myself that this wasn’t the way I wanted to parent and spent the better part of my twenties satisfying the “career woman” itch so that I got it out of my system. By the time I was 23, I had an office with a door. At 25, I was managing my own department. By 27, I had the title of Vice President and was making close to 6 figures. Until the age of 28, I was single, driven and very happy with my life.
And then I realized that I was ready to make the shift and have a spouse and children, add some more meaning to my life beyond a corner office and a heafty Christmas bonus. So, I looked at the lay off as an opportunity to set up an at-home career so that, when the children arrived, I would be ready.
Interestingly enough, it took me five years to actually have children and go from independent contractor to WAHM. I learned a lot in those five years, and managed to get a Masters degree to boot, but what I didn’t count on was just how darn difficult it is to actually separate the WAH from the AHM.
The economy started to tank before Baby J. crowned and the 3 month maternity leave I had hoped to take never happened. My Mother’s voice roared loud in my head as they practically wheeled me into the operating room for my C-section.
“If you give up your clients now, there is no guarantee that when you’re ready to pick them up again, they’ll still want you,” she said.
So, 24 hours after my C-section, as I struggled with rollercoaster hormones, nightly shots of post-baby Clexane and trying to figure out breastfeeding, I instructed DH to bring my laptop to the hospital. Where I wrote a press release, emailed with my clients and then issued said release amidst daily blood pressure checks by the nurses and periodical visits from members of DH’s family to see the baby and check on my recovery.
I never did manage to get into a good groove during the first couple of months of Baby J’s life. I would find myself writing press releases and conducting conference calls after the 2:00 a.m. pump and feed, and the babysitter I had hired for three hours each afternoon so I could do some work fell through. Baby J. refused to let anyone but me hold her, she would howl her little head off for the babysitter. So much so, that I ended up spending the three hours either breast feeding her or holding her on my lap while typing at my keyboard. After a few weeks, the babysitter quit, saying that she couldn’t take my money in good faith since she didn’t do much work. I never tried to replace her, I just juggled my time, said farewell to any sleep, and kept at it. In the back of my mind, though, I wondered if I was giving 100% to both my work and my family.
Once Baby J. got older, and started going off to daycare, I found my groove. I managed to really figure out how to keep the WAH and AHM separate. When she was at daycare, I worked. When she was home, I was her Mommy. I avoided cyberspace, my phone, client emails, etc. until after she went to bed. Finally, I was happy. I felt like my clients received 100% and my daughter got her 100%. My husband and housework is a topic for a different blog post, but I am working at that too!
Getting the iPhone from DH as a gift was both a blessing and a curse. It freed me up to actually make appointments outside the home while still being connected to my work, but it also saddled me down with a convenient way to check on work when I should be spending time with Baby J. Oftentimes I find myself responding to client emails while Baby J. is watching TV, when I would much rather be interacting with her and using some aspects of television watching as an educational opportunity.
I realized the iPhone was getting out of hand during my D & C last May. Devastated by the miscarriage, which actually happened right around a big client news release, I found myself emailing with the media and my client an hour after the procedure. I was so busy with work that I didn’t even realized my IV was dry and backing up with my blood.
I didn’t spend an physical or emotional time recovering from the miscarriage, which was definitely a mistake. Fortunately, a couple of weeks later, I was pregnant again and while I never did stop thinking about the baby we lost, the baby we hope to please g-d welcome into this world in a few more weeks, helped ease the pain.
So here I am, due please g-d in March, trying to figure out how to make WAHM work. This time, I have both a toddler and a new client to add to the equation. Thoughts of writing social media powerpoint presentations from the hospital ward no longer entice me, although they might have to be my reality.
In all honesty, I could definitely do a repeat performance of work and Mommy with a newborn. But, with a toddler, it’s a whole different ball game. I am honestly at a loss trying to figure out how to make that work, how I’ll be able to fight the exhaustion of late night feeds and conference call, to just pick her up at daycare and bring her home. How I’ll be able to spend quality time with her, play with her, feed her and do our usual night time ritual with a newborn who needs attention and a client who expects a return phone call.
I’ve got a few more weeks to figure it all out, to make some sort of game plan that will ensure both my family and my clients get 100% out of me. I’m just hoping this WAHM doesn’t end up on the other side of that toddler/newborn/client knock-out punch.
Are you facing a similar situation? What’s your game plan? Are you a WAHM dealing with the very same thing? If so, comment below!