Daily Struggles of a Work from Home Mom

daily struggles of a WFHM

A few weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I was at a coffee shop. I’d just dropped my kids off at their “school” (daycare, really, since they’re 1 and 3, but school sounds better to my ears), and I had two precious hours to tackle a freelance writing project.

Then, I noticed a group of familiar faces. Other moms, all from my sons’ school, pulling up chairs for coffee and gossip. When they invited me to join them, I had to decline, gesturing to my computer and shrugging. “Ugh. You know. Work. Next time!”

Suddenly, I had this weird surge of confusing emotions. Disappointment, of course, to have to miss out on the fun, and guilt for having to turn them down, but also, this other weird flavor of guilt: guilt that I should be doing stuff like that. I should be spontaneous enough to jump into a coffee date on short notice, even just for 15 minutes, without the cloud of WORK constantly hanging over me. I should be enjoying my young motherhood years, rather than piling responsibility on top of responsibility.

But instead, I was sitting there laying the pressure on myself, and laying it on thick. I had two hours, and I absolutely “had” to get this project DONE. I was paying for the kids to be in care and I “had” to at least recoup that money to feel justified sitting in that coffee shop, and honestly, to feel any sense of accomplishment for the day.

I’m a work-from-home mom. Like so many of my friends, I opted for the “have your cake and eat it too” version of motherhood (or so I thought), where you get to stay home with your kids while still maintaining some semblance of a working life.

I try very hard to not let my work interfere with my parenting. The kids are my primary job, after all. When they’re awake and in my care, I’m 100% on mom duty. Which leaves me with only small windows of approved work time: before the kids are up (ha—too exhausted), naptime, the few hours a week the kids are in care, and after they go to bed (ha—too exhausted).

Any teeny little smidgen of time not dedicated to childcare must be used wisely—and usually that means working. The second my youngest (and, on extra special days, my oldest) goes down for his nap, I snap into action, literally running to my laptop, because who knows how much time I’ll have?!?

I don’t let myself call friends or paint my toes during naptime. Cooking and housework are ok, but not great uses of precious kid-free time. (I’ll just unload the dishwasher when they wake up!) On days when I have to use up naptime to take a shower (because I haven’t showered in days and I just got back from the gym and it’s getting SERIOUS), I’m resentful about it.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I can never bring myself to do things I remember my own mom doing all the time—like baking cookies during my younger siblings’ naptime. In theory, that sounds like a nice, relaxing thing to do, but I know that I wouldn’t be able to escape the voice in my head: “shouldn’t you be working?”

I’m working on it. (No pun intended.)

I wonder, too, if this is only a struggle for me because, right now, I’m a mom of very young (and therefore very unpredictable) kids. There is no school day to send them off to in the morning. No “can you go play for a few minutes while Mom finishes this?” No sending them outside to play, or over to a friend’s house, or off to soccer practice. No built-in breaks at all, outside of the holy nap.

I know I’m not the only one living this life. Actually, when I think of all my current stay-at-home mom friends, I’m hard pressed to think of even ONE who’s not really, technically, a work-from-home mom. Almost everyone I know has a side gig. We have our own businesses, our own blogs, our own daycares, and our own income-generating hobbies.

It’s a monumental shift, if you compare modern motherhood to the last generation of moms.

As someone who is deeply grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to flex my working muscles a little bit while staying home with my kids, my instinct is to cheer for this shift. Go modern moms!! No more losing our identities to motherhood! No more feeling guilty buying ourselves nice things because we’re not currently on a payroll. No more feeling guilty about the state of our houses (we had more important things to do!). No more being jealous of our working mom friends—we have the best of both worlds!

(And thank you, internet, for making 99% of it possible!)

But I also wonder: what is the impact of the work-from-home mom era? Are modern moms thriving on opportunity, or are we wearing ourselves thinner than ever? Are we working because it strengthens our sense of self, or because we desperately want to “contribute”? Are we living our lives to the fullest, or are we overcrowding and overcomplicating them?

And what are we teaching our kids? To follow their dreams, or to put work on a pedestal? That they can do anything, or that they should do everything?

I don’t know the answers. But the questions are definitely on my mind.

Because the last thing I want is to get to the end of this season of my life and think, “Why couldn’t I just bake some damn cookies once in awhile??”

Kim grew up in Minnesota, but moved to Madison to attend the UW and fell in love with the city’s spirit and culture. She's married with three sweet kiddos - Mason, Joshua, and Leah. When she’s not racing monster trucks across furniture or pretending to be interested in video games, she’s working on freelance writing projects or teaching strength training classes through her small fitness business, Lioness Fitness. Kim's a food allergy mom, which means she can read a food label like nobody’s business. She's also a sucker for good wine, good sushi, a good book, and ANY beach.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I started my family childcare center after my son was born to stay at home with him and, though I have worked in education for years, this is absolutely the hardest I have ever worked!

  2. FINALLY someone who understands what I go through everyday! I NEVER get to leave work, therefore I work constantly. Technically, right now I should be working, but I seemed to have fallen down a rabbit hole. I work after the kids go to sleep, before they wake up, while they eat breakfast. And then I get aggravated with them because they need things while I’m trying to get work done! As if my 1 year old should know that Mommy’s got some things to do…. Everyone says I’m lucky to be able to stay home with my kids, and I am thankful, but it sure doesn’t feel lucky most of the time.

  3. I relate to this on so many levels. There is no perfect situation, no perfect job, and no guilt free decision. At least we are all in confusion together, doing our best while loving the littles! Gotta love motherhood 🙂

  4. It’s 2:23 am. I just finished working. My baby will be awake to nurse at any moment and we’ll collapse in bed together… at least snuggling is still good when you’re exhausted. But teaching school to my older kids won’t be.

    You’ve voiced what I think so often! Is it worth this trade off? I don’t have to work… but I love it! But I love my kids more and won’t let myself work during the times I can make memories with them. Sometimes I think of shelving it all for another decade but it’d be hard to walk away from the success I have. {le sigh}

    Anyways, thanks for sharing your heart. I hope & pray you do NOT read this in the middle of the night. LOL 🙂 Enjoy your littles. My oldest is 17… it really does go quickly.

  5. Yes Yes Yes!!! I know the feeling. I have 4 under 6, plus a jewellery business, as well as the normal life stuff. One thing I would like to say, and it’s hard, stop blaming yourself, and the guilt, you need me (individual) time and me (family) time. It’s hard but you’ll be more productive for it!! I ended 2015 stressed and frazzled which forced me to reevaluate things, and it’s been the best thing for making me realise what’s important and how to achieve it!! Good luck

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here