Avoiding The Work At Home Mom Blues

by Jessica Franks

The fax machine’s shrill tone broke into the still silent room. I leaped to grab the receiver and terminate the transmission; having just managed to put my fussy teething baby down for his nap, I was determined that nothing would disturb his rest. Unfortunately, that fax had been from my client. Now I’d have to call him back and ask him to re-send after I’d turned the ringer off. That would entail some over-the-phone \”face time\”, where he’d pick my brain for several minutes, or just shoot the breeze while I itched to get some work done while the baby slept.

Being a full-time mother and working from home has many challenges. Originally, it seemed like the best idea ever. I could still be brining in money while at the same time being able to attend “Mommy and Me” groups. I am a dedicated worker, and I knew the baby had to sleep sometime. It sounded like a great idea, but there were two major problems. My new baby was really fussy, and I had to hold him for a long time for him to get to sleep. Besides that, my best customer required even more coddling than the baby, and I had to talk to him on the phone for long periods of time.

What are the pitfalls of working at home and being a mother? Not knowing who to put first, the client or the baby. The final straw came when he called me right after an extended conversation. I really had thought he was done and attended to my baby, who seemed to be feverish. Right in the middle of taking my baby’s rectal temperature I heard the phone ring and the answering machine click on it was The Client, calling out, \”Hello? Are you there? We just spoke… did you go out? Hello?\” That’s when I got tough.

I was to blame for allowing the customer to take up all my time. Therefore, I had to fix the problem by forcing myself to become more efficient or else I would continue this problem. Everything became easier once I told my clients that I would only be working after 10:00 p.m. They could email or fax me during the day, but I would actually only be working at night. That way, I could take care of my baby while he was awake and totally focus on their projects when I was working. It also helped cure my clients of keeping me on the phone with marathon calls.

What makes it hard to be a work at home mom? Finding time for everything. I set up a schedule for returning client’s phone calls, one per client per day. It made all of use focus on the important things when we did talk, and the business became more streamlined on both ends, which was a win-win situation. The quality of my work got better, and my customers ended up actually paying less because fewer errors were made due to interruptions.

The clients settled into the new routine. I became more efficient at creating quality work in small amounts of time, and the house actually began to look (and smell) cleaner due to my increased productivity. Then my baby turned into a toddler. He quit napping in the morning altogether, opting for an extended afternoon nap. However, his activity all morning left me wiped out and unfit for anything during his nap time.

What makes it hard to be a work at home mom? Being too rigid with my time. Flexibility is a crucial component of managing both work and home. Letting my little one play outside for a few hours daily allowed him to expend pent up energy, and it let me ease up from always having to follow after him cleaning up his toys and messes.

Now my boys (plural) are teenagers. I’ve worked at home for the past 15 years, mostly writing and editing for various clients. Newer technology has made it possible for me to work for clients I never even meet, which keeps my car’s gas bill low. Older children are much more independent and don’t need my constant supervision, but I still try to work at night. They may be my big grown boys, but I still like to work while my babies sleep.

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