The Life of WAHMs Uncovered
After more years than I can count, I think I finally consider myself to be a bonified work-at-home mom. And I love it. But that doesn’t mean that this gig is for everyone, or that there aren’t days when I consider what a “normal” life might look like if I wore a business suit to work and carried a briefcase. [Nope – the slippers work much better for me than heels.] Working at home is not for everyone – if it is for you – it can be one of the most wonderful opportunities. However, there are reasons like these 7, that might mean the boardroom is a much better fit for you than the home office.
1. You don’t think you’ll do the paperwork.
You don’t have to like the paperwork that goes along with it, but things such as keeping paper trails and receipts for taxes are going to be on your shoulders. Even if you come to a wonderful point in your stay-at-home career where you can hire someone else to prepare your taxes, you are still going to be responsible for making sure that you provide your tax preparer with the specific details he will need to know – which is more than just a running total of income. You’ll need to know and provide paperwork for:
- Business related expenses. Make sure you understand the fine print when it comes to whether or not your new desk chair qualifies.
- Receipts for things like paper, office supplies, and other things directly related to your work-at-home business.
- Invoice statements for all income. If you are selling items, make sure you provide proof of taxes you charged or didn’t charge. If you have clients for whom you work, you will need invoice statements for both the clients who filed W-9 forms and those who didn’t (you are still responsible for your income either way).
- Your work portfolio. Paperwork for the WAHM is about more than tax preparation. It is about building your business from the inside out. If you keep a growing portfolio it helps your future business prospects.
2. You can’t make yourself shine.
There is a difference between bragging and letting your qualifications and expertise shine. In order to become a successful work-at-home mom (or dad) you are going to have to find a way to highlight the assets and talents you will provide – you have to be willing to be your biggest fan, which can be a hard pill to swallow. When I first started writing and editing as a freelancer, I found it very uncomfortable to tell a potential client how my skillset could be valuable to him or her. Now, however, I realize that especially in the cloud commuting world, I have to be willing to prove myself each and every time – I am competing against thousands and thousands of other people – and we are all virtual strangers.
- Make a list of your accomplishments – your education, years of experience, awards or recognition received, etc. – from which you can grab supporting evidence of your qualifications.
- Use the words of others. If you have reviews written on your work, even if they are just comments or compliments in an email, use those words of others to demonstrate your capabilities to others.
3. You don’t have emotional support from your family.
It can be emotionally draining to wear so many hats at home – wife, mom, writer, editor, teacher, chef, laundress, gardener, etc. – that without the support of my family on those bad days, I don’t think I would enjoy the different roles quite so much. There will be days when you need to vent or rant or have a mini-breakdown. If your family uses these moments to say, “See – I told you this work-at-home think wouldn’t work!” then your struggles are only compounded.
- Tell your husband what you need to hear when you have a bad day – even if it is just to agree with you and say, “That sucks – I hope tomorrow is a better day.”
- Give yourself a 15 minute fake drive-home. If you were working outside of the home you would have a commute where you could gather your thoughts before unleashing any frustrations. Give yourself a fake commute – do a load of laundry, walk around the block, just do anything that helps you gain perspective before you launch into your bad day. It will help to reduce the spillover into your family life.
4. You don’t have customers or clients who know the truth.
The truth is that you are a work-at-home parent and that sick days are not optional (one of your other hats is a nurse hat), and there is not a full-time IT person to deal with your technical difficulties.
- Be upfront and honest with clients about your schedule, even if that means telling them that you really work best after 9:00 p.m. when the kids are in bed, and that 4:00 is the worst time for a conference call because you want to hear what is going on and that is impossible amid the chaos of after-school noise.
- Find others who can help fill in those gaps. I have had to become adept at technology trouble-shooting in order to survive as a cloud commuter, but I also have a back-up plan and people who I can call when technology fails me.
5. You don’t like spending time at home.
Working at home is not for everyone. You have to be content to spend a lot of time at home – often with the kids and in dual roles of parent and employee. You will have less face-to-face contact with co-workers, you won’t have physical around the water-cooler conversations, and your meetings often won’t be over lunch with friends.
- Make sure your workspace is comfortable and reflects your work, not just your home. I have my own music, a chair that doesn’t have finger-paint covering it, and my books on the shelf behind me. There is also a dry erase board on the door where I can scrawl notes that help bridge the memory gap as I transition from role of mom and teacher to role of writer and editor.
- Find ways to get out and work in other spaces. Nothing beats a cold winter day at the library with the kids. I can take my notebooks and my laptop and we all spend time reading and exploring – and I get some work done in a new environment.
6. You can’t balance family time and work deadlines.
This is one of the most difficult things to do as a WAHM, but it is also one of the most necessary. It is also an opportunity for your children to learn from your work ethic and responsibility. I was reminded of just how much my children see and to what they pay attention when my son wrote a letter about me. In it he said:
“My mom is also a very determined person. When she decides to do something, she sets her mind to it and does it. This shows up in her work, where her deadlines are always met.”
Hmmm. Maybe I can add that letter to my portfolio… I know I already have it added to my mental support – that thing that I can call upon when I am struggling through a day and wondering if my kids will be all right if I keep working and let them do the lunch dishes.
7. You don’t feel good about what you are doing.
At the end of the day, whether you are working at home, in a cubicle, on the road, or in a top-floor office, your work should bring your joy and satisfaction. This year, as I reflect on my busiest work-at-home year ever, I have the realization that even if I didn’t need to work for a paycheck to contribute to my family’s needs, I still want to do the work I do.