5 Non-Expert Tips on How to Make WAHMing Work for You

making WAHMing work

Last night, I gave a talk at co.Lab on how to “work with your kids in mind” while you’re a homebased working mom. I’m no “expert” at WAHMing (not that anyone is), so I just shared the life lessons that I’d gleaned from my three years as an active work-at-home mom. I began the talk by laying down a mindset, one that we in the WAHMderful Life Workshops are familiar with: In the same way that being a mom might not be for every woman, working from home is not really everyone’s ideal work setup either. Working outside the traditional confines of an office is freeing, yes, but when you add a kid (or several) into the mix, you have a work-home setup that is twice as challenging to work out.

This is why for me, working from home while raising a child has been one of the greatest achievements I’ve ever made. It’s my chosen lifestyle, but it’s not easy; it involves a lot of figuring-out, a lot of system revisions, lots of interrupted schedules, postponed meetings, “kid” emergencies, and the daily grind of the three “Ls” as we call it in Filipino: luto, linis, laba (cooking, cleaning, laundry).

I’ve only been a WAHM for as long as my kid’s been on earth. Compared to the veteran WAHMs out there, I’m a mere “dabbler”. But, I’ve learned some things along the way about working from home with a kid. Here are five of those things — my “non-expert tips” — on how to make WAHMing work when you have a kid around.

1. Work during your kid’s “down” time.

My kid is the most active during the first three hours of the day, from breakfast onwards. I know that the most I can do then is scan some emails on my phone and mark them for replies, which I do later on in the way. During my kid’s “down time” (nap time, play time), I can usually carve out around 2 to 3 hours in the afternoon to work. I make sure I do the bulk of my email replies, client phone/Skype calls, and other “catching up” tasks during this time.

2. “Being mom” is part of your work-at-home schedule. Commit to it.

This took me a while to get used to, ironically. As a new WAHM, I got used to always being “connected,” whether it was checking emails, replying to them, going on social media, or responding to comments on the blog. I realized that a bulk of my time was being spent on tasks that were taking my “mom” time away from me, so I had to “disconnect” from them in order to be a mom.

In the same way, you have to purposely “turn off” work mode and plan to be with your kid during a certain period in the day. Turn off your laptop; hide your smart phone. Just be “mom” for that time period: It’s part of your job description as a work-at-home mom.

3. Take your breaks, but wisely and optimally.

Since my work is mostly creative, there are moments when my mind is just blank and I can’t churn out any creativity! When that happens, I know my mind is signaling me to step away from work and take a break. They don’t happen often, but when they do, I’ve learned it’s OK to drop things, take off my work “hat” for a while and put on the “me time” cap. I read a book, play with my kid, or just sleep, if I need to. Things usually get back on track after I’ve had time to detach from a project, and I am almost always more productive when I return to the task.

4. Work outside, elsewhere.

There are days when working at home won’t work anymore, much like when I feel the need to change shampoos, or switch my latte order to something other than an iced vanilla tea latte. When I feel like I’m in a work rut, the quickest way to get my groove back is to get out of the house. Usually this means a coffee shop, although I’d love one day to book a spot in a co-working space. (There’s not one close enough to my place.)

If you’re a homebased working mom, why not try to work outside of the home on certain days of the week (or when you feel the need to)? Trust me, it can make you more productive, more alert, and also, it can give you opportunities to connect with other people: fellow freelancers, other work-at-home/location independent professionals.

5. Accept that some days will be tough… and it’s OK.

I actually had a rough week this week, and my work had to take a back seat: My little boy fell feverishly ill on Monday morning, so I was on childcare duty for 48 hours straight. It all comes with the WAHM package: Some days are just tougher than others. Midway through Monday, I emailed my clients to inform them I’d be unavailable for at least 24 hours. I’m lucky to have understanding clients — thank you, God. (Thanks to my clients who took some work load off this week — perks of a great client-consultant relationship. I’m still a semi-zombie up til yesterday, so I’m fine now.)

Tough days will come when you’re WAHMing. They are part of the package, so anticipate them, be prepared with strategies if they happen… and let them come. When you expect them, it takes a whole load of stress off.

Working at home as a mom or dad means saying “yes” to being a hands-on parent, while “yes” to being a responsible provider. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Personally, I consider it a privilege that I am able to stay at home and do the kind of work that I love… and so I am willing to do what it takes to make it all work. It has taken time for me to find my groove, and I know it will change as my child’s needs change. That’s OK, as long as I keep these tips in mind! I know I’ll gather more learnings anyway as the WAHM years go by.

How about you? What are your tips for working from home with kids?

Comments

  1. Love this article Martine. But even after reading these helpful tips, I’m still in awe of your time management and organizational skills. I’m just starting to get my WAHM groove going right now, and I’m barely scratching the surface both on the domestic and work front! What’s been working for me so far is waking up in the wee hours of the morning. That way I get to squeeze in more writing time, I feel less overwhelmed when my son wakes up, and I get to really focus on mothering him, not the looming deadline hanging over my head :)

    • Martine says:

      Hi, Van! I think we all have time management skills, we all have our own kind of organization. What’s key is feeling comfortable with what we have. We are experts of our own families, and we know what will set us off, right? :) I agree about working early, early in the morning. I have to get MY early morning groove back, though! I tend to work into the night and wake up late on some days (except Mondays).

  2. 5. Accept that some days will be tough… and it’s OK.

    I don’t have a kid yet but I really do understand this one. And I know that it’s something I should work on, a really HUGE challenge for me since I’m not really very skilled at compartmentalizing (even when I was a student!). It’s tough to work/study at times when you have personal issues/problems… One really needs to set aside those things when working.

  3. I have recently adopted a style I call “A Minute To Win It”. Everyone would give a minute of uninterrupted attention on 3 important things.
    1. Greetings
    Everyone drops everything to say hi or goodbye and give their full attention for 60 seconds as a sign of love and respect.
    2. Saying Grace
    Everyone takes a minute to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit. As we all say grace, the kids are encouraged to pray for any personal intention.
    3. Zip It
    When anyone feels offended, angry or about to have an emotional outburst, zip for a minute and COOL DOWN.

    We are still in trial mode but hopefully this works for us. A minute to think what is important and relevant to you and your family is my bases for tailor fitting what works for us.

  4. Great tips! I too adopt working on her downtime and working outside sometimes to get into groove. There are times that I still get frustrated that my mommy time takes away too much time from my work schedule. I just remind myself that I need to treasure these moments because she won’t be my baby forever and I have to enjoy the moments when she still wants to be with me =)

  5. Well, I’m not a mom (LOL), but I totally agree with the #5 subheading: Accept that some days will be tough… and it’s OK. Whether you are mom or anyone else, you have to be persistent and patient if you want to be successful in MMO. That’s my point. Nice post, Martine!

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