Stay at Home Working Mom- Tips to Keep You Sane
What is a stay at home working mom?
A stay at home working mom (yes that’s a thing) is a mother who is working remotely from home while parenting one or more children – without relying on childcare. Basically, it’s a chick with two full time jobs. Let me tell you from experience, it’s insane.
SAHWMs are some of the toughest people you can meet.
What kind of jobs let you be a stay at home working mom?
For example: Starting an Etsy shop is great in theory, but few make full-time money doing so. As is reselling used items using apps like Meracari. I tried this (because I love to thrift and have too many things.) In principle it sounds great. I worked my butt off at it for almost a year and I made a total of $155. Granted, I did get rid of some of Peej’s clothes she’d outgrown.
Performing jobs like massage therapist or furniture repairer require additional education and training. Unless you already have that training, is going to cost you time and money. Which you may not have.
If you’re like me and you need to make the rent, these are not really great choices.
Most common these days is that you remotely perform the job you had before you had kids. This is especially true in the era of Covid-19.
Working and parenting full time can feel like a full on assault of your senses. Trying to parent and work full time from home is not for everyone. Especially as, concessions need to be made to both your work and parenting style to in order to make it successful.
10 tips to keep you sane while working at home
I have been a stay at home working mom since Peej was born. I was actually working remotely for some time prior to her being born. Some work times have been super busy, some have been slower. Someday I’ll tell you how I was having a client call when I was in the hospital, in active labor. Maybe I won’t. You’ll have to wait and see.
I have been doing this for ~2 years. I have developed some parenting tips for stay at home working moms that I’d like to share. My 10 tips that will keep you sane are:
- Your kid always comes first
- Set expectations for working remotely from Day 1
- Use distraction to keep your kid happy
- Realize -and, accept – that nothing will ever go to plan
- Use your kid’s downtime productively
- Get up early and go to bed early
- Drink a lot caffeinated products
- Make time to shower
- Working moms cannot be afraid to say “No”
- Make concessions to spend time with your kid
Your kid always comes first
This should be a no-brainer. Regardless of where you work: Your kid always comes first.
Meaning, you have to drop everything if your kid is sick. Or needs to eat, has to have a diaper change, or needs extra attention. Especially if (in my case) they are throwing a tantrum.
I actually can think of many more examples of putting your kid first. But you get what I mean, don’t you?
I learned this from my Mom. She was not a SAHWM, but she was a full out working mom. She had a very demanding job (professor at a pretty large college) and it required a lot of her time. Teaching, researching, presenting at conferences, writing, etc. My Mom is a smart, hardworking badass. She came from nothing and made herself a renowned scholar in her area of expertise.
You know what, though? She always put my brothers and myself first. There is not a time I can remember where I was sick (and, I was sick a lot, I have PIDD) and she did not drop everything come to fetch me. Or, when she didn’t stay home to take care of me. She never missed a choir concert or important occasion. She was always there if I had a problem to solve. Or, needed academic help. She was especially there if I got in trouble. (Which I did regularly, I’m a smart person, school bored me. I fucked off a lot.)
Put your kid first. Part of why you are working from home is so you can be there for them.
Put them first.
Set expectations for working remotely from Day 1
This is especially important. When you are working remotely from home, employers can get the sense that you’ll be available 24/7. That is no good. While there will be times that you have to do extra work in order to keep them happy, you need to set the expectation immediately that you expect a very good work life balance.
It also means finding an employer who understands and embraces the ethic of being a SAHWM. You are parenting and working at the same time. It isn’t easy. Your boss should already know that (if they don’t, tell them upfront.) It is best to work with people who care more about the work getting done, rather than when it gets done.
At this moment, my primary job is working with a former employer (who has always loved me) doing copywriting and social media campaigns. And, yeah there are crunch times. (Like last week when I had to write three client proposals, take calls with a variety of people, and get out two copywriting assignments.) But, crunch time is not ever the norm.
Frankly, he doesn’t care when I do my work, so long as it gets done on deadline. And, he also graciously understands that there are times when I’ll have to say no to an assignment. Or, that I may have to extend a deadline or two.
This is the kind of employer you want to work with.
Conversely, you need to train your kid to understand that mommy has to work sometimes. You also need to train your partner (if you have one) to respect your work time and to take the lead in parenting during those times.
Use distraction to keep your kid happy
One of the reasons working remotely is so tough for a lot of moms is because you are being pulled in every direction. While you should set expectations with your employer, you need to realize that there will be times when your kid demands attention when you have to be working.
This is where the art of distraction comes in.
The art of distracting your kid
As I am writing this, Peej is in the crib, with a bottle, watching her iPad.
I know that there are judge-y mommy bloggers out there who are gasping and clutching their pearls right now. “You’re giving a 2 year old an iPad, how DARE?!?! BAD MOM, BAD BAD MOM!!!”
I have three different assignments today. (And, yes this blog is an assignment.) I have to find time when she’s content to just be a little inactive to allow me to complete my work.
What other ways do you distract your kid?
It’s not always the iPad. There are times when I get out coloring pages and strap her in her highchair to let her do art projects. I sit at the table with her and work.
Sometimes I sit outside in the shade and watch her play. She likes those days.
Disney + is the friend of the SAHWM. Put on Moana or Wreck It Ralph or whatever movie they are obsessed with this week. Let them snuggle up to you on the couch. They feel close to you, while you are tippy-tapping on your computer getting work done.
Peej is obsessed with my bed. So if I need to work in the little corner of my bedroom I’ve turned into an office, I let her lay on the bed. I give her a few toys, or maybe the iPad. Sometimes I put on her Star Wars bluetooth headphones and cue up her favorite music on my phone. She is distracted. Playing with cars or her dolls, “reading” a book, listening to her favorite tunes. (Which, thanks to my Dad, is -at the moment- Karmin and Ke$ha. Thanks, Sparky.)
What’s your point here?
The point of using the art of distraction is to give the illusion that you are still there and interacting with your child. But, really you’re working. It takes some mastery. But it is a key skill set you will have to rely on if you want to be a stay at home working mom.
Realize – and, accept – that nothing will ever go to plan
This just is what it is. Amongst all these tips to keep you sane, this is the most straightforward. Nothing is ever going to go to plan.
You get up super early to get work done before your kid is awake? That’s going to be the day they get up at 5am for no acceptable reason. Plan to knock out some work while they are napping? Same thing. They will not sleep. Have an hour blocked out when you can play with your kiddo? That’s the hour that some work emergency will come up that you have to deal with immediately. Think you’re going to take the weekend off to go do outside stuff with the kid? You’re going to get so behind in your work that week that you end up having to work on Saturday and/or Sunday. Relying on your partner to come home at the appointed time to give you a break so you can bang out some work? That’s the day they have to work late.
Nothing. EVER. Goes. To. Plan.
Accept it, embrace it, learn how to work around it.
Use your kid’s downtime productively
You know how after your baby is born they tell you to sleep when they sleep?
You need to use the time when your kid is sleeping or out of the house or distracted with an activity to work. This is one of the tips for working moms that is the most important. It is how to work from home.
Parenting and working at the same time, in the same place, is all about optimization. Use those times when your kid is having downtime (or, doing homework) productively. Even if it’s only 15 or 30 minutes. You’d be surprised at what you can get done in that time.
Get up early, go to bed early
My average day starts no later than 5:45am. Sometimes I’m up at 4am. It allows me a few quiet hours to get myself organized and start knocking out that day’s work. I, personally, use time blocking to ensure I get everything done I need to AND still have time for the kid.
In order to work the equivalent 40 hours a week from home, while still having time to be a good parent, you need to get up early. And, stay at home working moms need to get as much shit done as they can before their beloved little(s) open their eyes.
What if I am a “night owl?”
Even if you think of yourself as a night owl, your kid is not. You should know that by now. The temptation to work late is hard. Unless you can train your little to go to bed at midnight and get up at 10am, it’s not going to work out for you. Get up early. You can do it, I promise.
But, Kate, I cannot go to sleep that early!
You need train yourself to go to bed early. I am a person who loves my sleep. If you let me, I could possibly sleep more than 16 hours a day. But, through discipline and practice, I have trained myself to get 7.5 hours of sleep. I’m okay with that, I feel fine.
I go to bed by 9pm, every single night. (Well, almost every single night.)
To be honest, if you get up between 4 and 5:45 am, you’re going to be ready to go to bed around 8 or 9pm. Especially if you’re working more than the two main jobs you already have. At any given time, I’m working a 40 hour a week job, plus parenting 40+ hours a week, plus working a side gig.
When 9pm rolls around I am grateful to be able to close my eyes and fall asleep. I suspect most days I might not even need my prescribed sleeping meds to do so.
Drink a lot of caffeinated products
I know people like Elon Musk will tell you to avoid caffeine if you want to work 80+ hours a week. (Which you are effectively doing if you are working full time and parenting full time.) But, fuck them.
Stay at home working mom: You need coffee to survive. Or, Diet Coke. English tea. Or, all three.
The only exception to this rule is if you never relied on caffeine to stay awake and focused pre-kids.
Even then you might need some English tea or a cup of coffee from time-to-time.
You do need to balance that out with drinking a lot of water, but don’t skimp on the caffeine.
Make time to shower
Do I need to explain this? You will not be at your healthiest, most productive, or smells good self unless you take a shower every other day. At least.
During the summer I shower when I get up and before I go to bed. Winter? I shower every other day because my skin gets too dry, otherwise.
You want to be a smells good, not a smells bad. (As my late godmother would say.)
But, this extends to other acts of self care. Whether you’re going to therapy once a week, or getting a pedicure, watching bad reality television for an uninterrupted hour, reading a book, or just staring at a blank wall… you need time to take care of you if this stay at home working mom thing is going to work.
Working moms cannot be afraid to say “No”
It’s tough, but there are going to be times when you have to set hard boundaries and say “no.” This applies to both your work life and your mom life.
Examples of hard boundaries I have had to recently set:
- Peej had to be told that we could not go outside at the exact time she wanted to because I had a client call.
- I had to tell my employer that I couldn’t accept another assignment that would have required me to work on Sunday, because I had family plans I didn’t want to break.
- I have had to lock Peej out of my room after British Ex-Husband gets home from work so that I could focus my time on getting my work done.
- My employer knows that I am only available during nap time (which occurs at random times,) and after 3pm when British Ex-Husband gets home from work
You can see how this can and is hard. If you’re like me, you don’t want tell either your child or your employer “no.” I am wired to be both the best mum ever AND a workaholic. These are not unrelated tendencies. But, if you want to both, you need to say “no” sometimes. It’s just practical and realisitic.
And, honestly if you can’t say no when you need to, you have some bigger issues that you need to look at carefully.
Make concessions to spend time with your kid
Ultimately, being a mom is your first and most important job. You have brought a tiny human into the world, you cannot fuck momming up.
So like every other working mother out there, the SAHWM has to, at times, make concessions to spend time with their kid. Stay up later then you plan reading them bedtime stories. Turn down work so you can take them on vacation. Give them your undivided attention during a crunch time. Pass up promotions or projects because it means you wouldn’t be there when your kiddo wakes up or goes to sleep.
Parenting, in general, is one giant concession. The kid is always the priority. Always. It doesn’t matter if it is in your professional or personal life, concessions will be made. This is the only way to ensure that you raise a healthy, happy, well adjusted human.
Parenting and working at home at the same time is like a siege. It is constant and unrelenting.
If you follow these tips you won’t go totally insane while doing doing so.
- How do you do this, Kate? How do you work and be a good mom from home? Like an alcoholic. I surrender to my higher power (Dog,) and I take it one day at a time. Seriously, though I follow my own tips. It’s the only way to do it.
- What are some activities I can distract my child with while working? Try creating a game your kid can play while you watch (work.) Don’t be afraid to give them the iPad or let them watch TV. Try working outdoors (it’s nice!) while they play. Give them a task to complete, (Peej likes to sweep the floor, it’s super weird, but it keeps her occupied for a good hour.) Encourage them to play independently in their room.
- What is Time Blocking Time blocking is a strategy in which you devote scheduled blocks of time to apply to certain tasks in order to maximize your productivity during a day.
- How do you time block? Every morning when I get up, I look at my priority tasks for the week. I block off time to complete the ones with the closest deadlines, (or the ones that require the most work.) I block off time for Peej, (this morning I blocked off time to give her breakfast, have a 5 minute dance party, and play “Mommy Monster” for 30 minutes.) I block off times to get up and get coffee, or go to the bathroom, or have a little downtime. I then set timers for myself and when my allotted time is up, I move onto the next task.
- How do I sleep train myself? It’s a simple as lying down and letting yourself fall asleep, and setting alarms to wake you up. On average, it takes a week or two of consistently doing this to make it a habit. Then you’ll do it naturally. With a lot of coffee up top.
- Are you a Mommy Blogger? Maybe.