Tag Archives: work

Mommy Files: Confessions of a Work-at-Home Mom

After getting up late (my Kung Fu Panda let me sleep until 10:30 while he played and looked at books quietly), I spent the morning and early afternoon writing a query letter to Parents magazine. Then, with an air of triumph, I announced we were going for a walk. When KFP asked me where, I told him we were going to mail a letter and then play in the park. I figured we’d have plenty of time to kick a ball around before we needed to head back so I could make dinner.

But every parent knows: You don’t simply walk out the door, just grabbing your purse and keys like in the old days. That’s madness! No, getting out of the house is a complicated process involving filling water bottles; checking the status of KFP’s diaper; packing a small backpack with diaper-changing materials, a change of clothes, and a snack; putting on shoes and hat; checking the weather; and carrying the stroller down the stairs from the porch to the sidewalk (curse the 1920s and their non-ADA-compliant homes). This process takes at least 30 minutes, and that’s if it all goes smoothly.

On the move at last, after handing KFP his water and an apple slice, I felt good. I felt accomplished. Here I was, balancing my writing career and parenting: about to mail a query letter and then enjoy quality time with my boy. He kept up a steady stream of chatter all the way to the post office, remarking on everything we passed: “The stop sign is an octagon! The tree has a shadow!” Sometime in those last three blocks, however, he conked out.

So now I’m sitting under the shade of a sycamore in our favorite little park, watching him sleep and wondering what to do. Waking him would violate my “Don’t wake a sleeping child unless absolutely necessary” rule. However, if I let him sleep, we’ll run out of time for fun, and the last time I did that, skipping the park and wheeling him home while he slept, he cried for a whole hour.

I guess if I let him sleep a little longer, I’ll still have time to cook and eat dinner before starting my night’s transcription work. It will be a little tight, and we may only have 10-15 minutes to kick the ball, but it’s the best I can do.

Compromises and flexibility are the only way to go when you’re a WAHM. Getting up a little earlier probably would have also helped, but there’s no need to go to extremes.

Secrets of the Work-at-Home Mom

In an ideal world, I would wait until my husband got home each day to do my work, and he would watch our little Kung Fu Panda while I researched, wrote, and did other career-related tasks. In my world, it doesn’t work this way. Because I do evening transcription work at home, more or less at full-time night shift hours, any writing-related tasks must take place either during the day or on weekends.

While I admit my methods may be far from perfect, I’ve discovered a few things that work for me.

  1. Get out of the house. I try to spend at least a couple hours each day out of the house with KFP. Whether it’s working out at the YMCA while he plays in Child Watch, or attending the weekly Toddler Story Time at the local library, or simply running errands or taking a walk, getting out of the house keeps both of us from getting cabin fever. I often spend time planning articles or working out ideas while we’re out and about, and if the mood strikes me, I can write by dictating into my voice recorder (using Dragon Naturally Speaking to transcribe it once we get home). The value of this method became more clear to me this past month, when my son and I took turns being sick, which meant staying home. By the end of it, we were both going stir crazy!
  2. Get him involved in an activity. When it’s time to sit down at the keyboard, I make sure there’s something constructive to occupy my little guy. Whether it’s his wooden train set, a coloring book and crayons, or one of his favorite Sprout TV shows, I make sure he has something to do, some water to drink, and if it’s snack time, a snack.Then I sit down on the couch and get to work. Working on the couch, I’ve discovered, is more comfortable for both of us than trying to sit at my office desk. He knows he’s welcome to crawl up next to me and snuggle, if he likes, while Mommy works.
  3. Take “toddler breaks.” Some breaks are built in when working with a little one. Many is the time I interrupted myself in the middle of writing a sentence because my nose told me it was time to change his diaper. In addition, I also try to remember to take breaks to spend a little time with him: reading a book or building a block tower. On the days I don’t go to the gym, I may pause to have a “dance party” with him, as we watch his favorite “Sesame Street” DVD and groove to the silly songs.
  4. Be reasonable about goals. I try to be realistic about my daily goals. If I can write one 500-word article and do a little networking, or if I put together one poetry submission, I consider it a good day. When I have larger projects, I try to break them down into manageable steps to spread over several days. It’s not always possible to avoid overworking myself — I am, after all, still a Virgo and a Type A personality — but my son and I are both happier when my goals are reasonable and achievable.
  5. Stay on task. Admittedly, this is the point that gives me the most trouble. It’s too easy to get distracted by personal e-mails, social networking and Web surfing. But more and more lately, I’ve tried to do a better job of maintaining focus. Since toddlers can be subject to mood swings, I’m learning it’s best to get the important stuff out of the way while he’s being cooperative. Then, if he’s still playing happily (and doesn’t need anything), I can take a few moments to check Facebook or read some friends’ blogs.

These are just a few of the things that work for me. Holly Reisem Hanna has written a very informative blog entry, “10 Ways Work at Home Moms Can Entertain Their Children without Using Technology,” which I recently discovered while searching for Christmas gift ideas to suggest people get me.

I definitely already use creative play toys. In our case, we have a wooden toy train set which provides hours of fun; two different types of building blocks; a flotilla of little construction trucks and other do-it-yourself toys; and a bin full of books my toddler loves to peruse himself. I’m looking into expanding our craft options beyond just crayons, and I’m also going to feed his musical interests with yet another musical toy — a toddler DJ station — to add to his drum set, play guitar, keyboards, shakers and harmonica. The best part of him making his own music is that I can participate by singing along, even while typing away!

What are some other tips you’d share?

KFP colors a monkey in the Hideaway Latte Cafe, Lewisburg.