A few weeks ago, my mom friend Nancy asked me why I’m a work at home mom (which in this case, means a mom who works from home, and is also the primary caregiver for get child). She was asking because she is a working mom who is struggling with trying to decide if she wants to (a) continue being a full-time working mom (her daughter is in daycare), (b) switch over to being a stay at home mom and taking some time away from work (here’s a post by my friend Cherie who did exactly that), or (c) become a “work at home mom” (and look for work she could do from home while simultaneously being her daughter’s main care provider, and not hiring additional childcare). She wanted to me to help her think through that third option, since it’s what I do. I had to stop and actually think through why I’m a work at home mom (I’d never really stopped to think about it before), so I decided to write up this post and explain, in case it’s helpful to any other moms toying with the idea. But first, I should explain what I mean when I say “I’m a work at home mom.”
What do I mean when I say I’m a work at home mom?
I do all of my work from home. I run an outreach organization called ISAASE, I’m an advisor for the Johns Hopkins University School of Education Doctor of Education program, and I’m also writing a book (coming out next year! – read more about that here). However, I do not employ a caregiver for my child — during the day, I am my child’s primary caregiver (although we occasionally have grandparents watch him). So, I work whenever I can, and during ‘regular job hours,’ and when my son is awake, I embrace being more of a traditional “stay at home mom” (more on why I embrace this title here). As a disclaimer before I go any further, I should also say that right now, being a work at home mom works for me because I just have ONE kid. I realize I may very well change my tune once baby #2 comes along in a few months…
Why don’t we hire childcare?
The simple answer is: we don’t want to. While my partner is at work (he works full-time from outside of the home), I am the default full-time parent, and I enjoy it. Whenever I can during the day, I work. When my husband is home, we share parenting responsibilities and household responsibilities. My husband is extremely involved in both of these things, so when he is home, I am able to work a great deal more. I (usually) get everything I want to get done, done. I enjoy being with my son. My husband also likes how we have set up our lifestyle. So there’s no need to hire childcare (though again, that’s just how I feel now, with one child). (I’ll also admit I’ve definitely felt like there is some cultural pressure to hire childcare.)
So, how do I make being a work at home mom work when I don’t hire childcare?
- I do most of my work from home (albeit often during non-traditional hours).
- I work whenever I can: during my son’s naps, in the evening hours, on weekends, when I should be sleeping.
- I schedule meetings and calls during nap times, or when I know my husband will be home.
- I don’t use time as a metric to measure work/progress, but instead focus on project-based metrics.
- Sometimes, I’m able to have my mom watch my son if I need to leave to work on something specific (like to tackle a specific writing project, or meet with someone).
- I remember there’s only one of me, and I don’t say yes anymore to every enticing opportunity. Even if there’s a project I may feel drawn to, if I know I realistically can’t make work with my existing work and personal commitments and responsibilities, I don’t accept or pursue it. (This was a hard habit / urge to overcome. More on how this has actually been a good thing for my career in another post!)
- I don’t spend my free time doing other stuff besides working. (For example: I don’t do the majority of the cooking in our family; I don’t do a lot of recreational activities, unless you count maintaining this blog; I don’t have as much “free” time; I don’t get as much sleep!)
- I only have one kid right now! (Obviously, I may feel differently about how feasible everything is after we have a second baby!)
So I guess I can now answer the original question Nancy asked: Why I’m a work at home mom. In case any other mom out there is contemplating becoming a work at home mom, and wants to better understand my reasons, read on!