Recently I had a conversation with one of my children that went something like this:
Child: "Can I invite BFF over to play this afternoon?"
Me: "Didn't you just see her last night?"
Child: "Yes, but we really want to get together again today."
Me: "You know I'm working this afternoon and I don't have time right now to go pick up your friend."
Child: "You never have the time. I wish you didn't have to work. Why do you have to write anyway?"
As a work-at-home mom (WAHM), I have these kinds of conversations from time to time with my five children. They're not my favorite kinds of chats. I come away from them feeling guilty, like maybe I shouldn't be working or at the very least, not working as much.
But I enjoy my writing. And so I usually tell my kids, "I don't HAVE to write. I WANT to write. I like writing. And I find it very fulfilling." I also remind them that even if I wanted to quit (which I don't!), that I can't because I'm under contract and I need to follow through with my obligation to write the books I said I would.
Our kids won't always understand our passions and gifts. Sometimes their world is limited and they can't see much beyond their current desires. In their frustration, they say things they don't really mean. Don't we all?
As a WAHM there will always be the inevitable push and pull between being the Mom and the Working Parent. Our kids and our work both need our time, attention, and energy. Unfortunately we don't have an endless supply, and there are days when we'll have to make tough choices that don't make anyone happy (like in the scenario above).
But in an effort to avoid some of the drama, here are a few of the things I'm trying to implement this fall:
1. I'm trying harder to keep work and mom time separate. I've been blocking in chunks of time several times a week where I can "lock" myself in my office and work (usually at times when my husband is home to supervise the kids or when my mom comes over) (and I use the word "lock" very loosely since I usually don't lock the door, and I allow for plenty of interruptions).
When my work time is over, I can come away from it and focus on my kids without work distracting me or pulling me away from them every few minutes.
2. Keep the lines of communication open. I want to be open with my family about my work demands so that they know what I'm working on and what's consuming my time. And then I also want them to feel free to come talk to me about their frustrations and concerns. In the busyness of life, however, making time for talking often gets pushed aside.
So this fall, we implemented "dates" with our kids (something we'd done in the past but had fallen away from). My husband and I rotate taking one child out for a special "date" each week. Usually it's something as simple as going to Target's cafe, getting popcorn, and chatting. The undivided time allows us to keep the lines of communication open.
3. Staying flexible to the changing needs of my children. As my children are getting older, their extra-curricular activities and friendships have increased in importance. Even though their busier schedules make my life more hectic, I'm trying to adjust without complaining (I've learned that complaining only compounds the problems!).
Adjusting means I haven't been able to be online as much this fall. I've also had less work time in the afternoons and subsequently write more at night after the kids go to bed. The key for me is being willing to change my expectations, reminding myself that what worked in the past won't always work now.
My Summary: Yes, there will always be unique frustrations that come with being a WAHM. But when I'm feeling especially discouraged, I remind myself that even though the boundaries get blurred when working at home, there are many blessings too. And as always, counting our blessings seems to put things in perspective.
What about you? For those who work from home, what are your biggest frustrations? How do you make it work?