Tag Archives: work from home

Confessions of a work-at-home mama

One of the biggest misconceptions that I find myself correcting since Judah was born is the idea that life without a full-time office job is a 24/7 party/nap/pajama fest. While I continue to feel blessed that I’m able to be at home with Judah during the day and earn an income at the same time, it’s much more challenging than working in an office 9 to 5 (for me, anyway).

I know my fellow moms (and dads) will agree that no matter what your work situation — whether you work in an office, earn income from home, or work your butt off as a stay-at-home parent — time is a precious commodity. I’ll admit, Judah was such a content baby, I spent the entire first year of his life thinking this gig was going to be easy. Then he started walking, and it was all over. Now it feels like I’m always running behind, I’m never as productive as I used to be, and I’ve even turned into a bit of an airhead.

But time management, like money management, is about priorities. Between teaching three classes, taking care of Judah all day and managing his activities, and taking on the most freelance work I’ve ever tackled, this summer has been bonkers for us. I’ve recently found myself lamenting my lack of time for pretty much anything, which means it’s time for me to step back and reprioritize.

So I made a list — a road map of which things on my to-do list are non-negotiable and which things I need to rethink to be more efficient.


Play time with Judah – Spending time with him is the whole reason I made the decision to forgo full-time work, so he remains my top priority. Now that he’s a full-fledged toddler he’s more interactive than ever, and it’s not fair to keep him cooped in the house while I work all day. I already squeeze most of my work into his short naptime and after he’s in bed, but I’ll admit that this schedule sometimes leaves me so exhausted that I’m not the most energetic playmate for him. This is something that I’m working on.

I’ve also decided to make time for activities he enjoys like his gymnastics class, a swim class later this summer, and other fun things that can be a pain to fit into my schedule, but worth it for him.

Exercise – I’m still working on dropping about 20 pounds of cheeseburger weight (I lost the privilege of calling it baby weight when Judah turned 1, so now it’s best if I admit it’s the cheeseburgers, not the baby, that are the problem). Exercise is also the best way to control the symptoms of my anxiety disorder, and it certainly ups my energy level. The good news is that Judah has adapted fantastically to the wonderful people at the YMCA daycare, and that hour a day is a great way for him to burn some energy and meet some playmates, so this keeps us both happy.

My Teaching Job – I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this job, and it’s too perfect schedule-wise to give up. They schedule my courses around my husband’s, so he’s home when I’m not, and I enjoy it more than any other paid position I’ve ever had. So I want to do everything I can to continue doing it as long as they’ll have me.

Things to Rethink

Freelance Work – I have this problem. When someone contacts me with an opportunity to earn some money, I can’t say no. No matter how swamped I am or how uninterested I am in the work, I have the hardest time turning it down. This does absolutely not good for me or my schedule. Now that I’m teaching, I can let go of this “feast or famine” attitude. I have steady paychecks. I have enough on my plate already. I don’t want to give up freelancing, but I need to be much pickier in what I’m willing to take on.

Household chores – I can be a little Type A when it comes to keeping the house clean. I don’t want to give up on a clean house — keeping things tidy reduces my overall stress. But I do need to work on accepting help in this area, and lowering my expectations. It’s not that my husband doesn’t clean well; it’s just that I’m a psycho with ridiculous requirements when it comes to a clean house. Letting go of some of my control issues in this area will be good for me and for our marriage.

Extra organization and home improvement tasks – As if I have time for stuff like this right now. But my to-do list around the house just keeps getting longer as the closets and piles of hidden paper get taller. My solution is to get serious about organizing since this will hopefully help my feel more productive and less stressed, and let go of decorating tasks for the time being. I don’t have time for them at the moment, and obsessing about when they’re going to get finished just adds stress. We’re most productive on breaks from school, so I’ll try not to worry about this stuff until we get a vacation.

Blogging – I miss you guys. I miss this space. I need to make more time for it, even if I feel like my brain is fried completely at the end of the day.

So what about you guys? Have any of you found the magic key to work/life balance? Or least found a method of managing it all that works for you? I’m all ears.

Photo credit

Simplify your work-at-home life

This post will speak to a limited part of my audience, I know. But when I began working from home almost two years ago (seriously? has it been that long?), I made a lot of mistakes. It would have been nice to have some tips and advice from someone who had worked through all the challenges.

I have it much easier than many work-at-home parents. I don’t earn a full-time income. I earn money through advertising on this blog, and beginning in March, I will earn money as an adjunct instructor at the local college. Only four hours a week will be spent in the classroom; all of my class prep, grading, and other duties will be performed from home. While I can’t speak to the challenges of working full-time from home, I can share what’s worked for me when it comes to keeping work and home life separate when your home is your office.

Set boundaries.

When your desk is just a room or two away from your bed, it can be difficult to set limits on your work schedule. It’s easy to feel like you should be working all the time, and feel guilty doing anything that won’t contribute to your income. However, when you work from home, it’s more important than ever to create a schedule and stick to it. Carve out times for work, family life, household chores, and downtime.

I’m serious about the downtime.

Several months into my work-at-home career, I started to feel seriously burned out. Part of it was that I was caring for a newborn, but a lot of it was that I felt like I had to be on-call 24/7. I was checking my email day and night. I was staying up until all hours working on projects, caring for my son whenever he was awake, taking care of things around the house when he napped, and not taking a single second to just be. That kind of breakneck work schedule just isn’t sustainable, but it’s easy to fall into that kind of schedule when you work from home. Because you don’t have set “office hours,” it’s easy to feel like you have to work all the time. Be sure to schedule time off for yourself. At least a few hours a week should be spent doing something for yourself. Watch a movie. Take a walk. Get a hobby (and no, work doesn’t count as a hobby). Don’t feel like you have to be tied to your email all the time. You’ll return to your work feeling refreshed and more productive after you take a break.

Put yourself in “work mode.”

Just as it can be difficult to remember to schedule downtime for yourself, it can also be difficult to focus with home distractions. Television, kids, spouses, chores, personal phone calls, that bottle of red wine you’re supposed to be saving for the weekend but you really want to drink right now — all of these things can create distractions that make working at home challenging. The best way to combat this is to separate work from home as much as possible.

Ideally, you have some sort of space that functions as your “office.” Even if it’s just a desk in the guest room, when you sit down in your office space, you know it’s work time. Set specific “office hours” when you plan to be productive in your office space. Turn your phone on silent just like you would at the office. Turn off the television. Plan to work during a time when your children are napping, playing, attending school, or when your spouse can manage their needs. The freedom of working from home makes it easier to plan for productivity, because you can plan around your own circadian rhythm. If you’re a night owl, work late. If you’re an early bird, get to work at dawn.

Get out of the house.

I am not ashamed to admit that between taking care of my son, working, and keeping house, sometimes (especially now that it’s cold) I easily go through an entire day without setting foot outside. This isn’t good for me or my son’s sanity. As a rule, I try to get dressed in the morning (even though it’s usually jeans and a t-shirt), and get out of the house at least once a day. When the weather is nice, we went to the park. Now we go to the gym or the library or run some errands. If home is particularly distracting one day, head to Panera or Starbucks for a few hours. Even if you’re just getting out of the house to get out of the house, it’s important to feel like you’re a member of society sometimes.

Take a day (or two) off.

Unfortunately, one of the things you give up when you’re self-employed is paid vacations. But the nice thing about working from home is that you can work from anywhere. In a perfect world, you can afford to take time off for a vacation at least once a year, even if it means you’re answering emails on the beach. Even if you have to work on your vacation, one thing you shouldn’t compromise is a weekend. Most people don’t work 7 days a week, and neither should you. Take a real day off at least once a week. You may not be able to escape your inbox entirely, but you can spend time with your family, tackle personal projects, and recharge without feeling shackled to your desk.

How do you balance work/home life as a work-at-home parent?

Photo credit

Working mom

I have some news today that I’m so excited to share. For the past few months, Tony and I have been discussing the possibility of me finding a part-time job after Judah turns 1 at the end of this month. Now that we’ve bought a house, we really want to ramp up our efforts to pay down our remaining student loan debt, and the easiest way to do that is to increase our income.

However, the idea of me working even part-time was complicated for a number of reasons. It wouldn’t make sense to pay the high cost of daycare for me to work part-time, but I’m still not ready to look for full-time work at this point. Most part-time jobs also require late evening and weekend hours and hectic holiday schedules, which didn’t seem like it would work well for our family. Tony’s schedule is one of the things I love most about his job. He’s lucky to get a lot of paid time off and a schedule that has him home more than the average full-time worker. We didn’t want to give up that time together as a family.

But yesterday I was offered an amazing opportunity that will allow me to increase our income without dealing with all of those complications. Beginning in January, I’ll be an adjunct professor at the college where my husband teaches.

I’ll be teaching a personal finance course through the college’s life skills department. Usually they prefer to hire people with business or accounting degrees to teach this course, but they agreed to interview me despite my Journalism degree because of my experience writing this blog. I met with them yesterday for an interview and a brief teaching demonstration, and they seem to think I’ll be a good fit, because they offered me the job!

They’re scheduling my classes around Tony’s schedule so childcare won’t be an issue, and I’ll have all the same time off that he does. I’ll only be out of the house a few hours a week in the afternoons. I’ll also have the option to teach additional classes online in future semesters, which means I’d be able to work from home. And I’ll get to talk about one of my very favorite subjects — money. It’s perfect.

I started this blog three years ago as a way to share my experiences with other people and hopefully make a little money at the same time. I never knew it would lead to such an incredible opportunity. And there’s no way I would have stuck with it for this long without such an amazing community of readers cheering me on, so thank you. Your continued support means the world to me.

Transitioning to a work-at-home career

Back in May, when my husband finished graduate school, we made the decision to move closer to our families. I quit my full-time job as an internet marketing specialist and copywriter at a web design company, we packed up our 2-bedroom apartment, and headed to Indiana.

Since I was already about 8 weeks pregnant at the time, we decided that my husband would be the primary earner and I would seek money-making opportunities from home. My field is well suited to freelance and contracting work, and staying home will make things easier when the baby comes.

Four months later (really? FOUR months?!), I’m just now starting to get into the swing of things. As you can imagine, working from home is significantly different from working in an office for someone else. Here are the main pros and cons I’ve encountered so far.

It’s a lot more convenient.

The ability to set my own schedule has been invaluable as I’ve faced a rough pregnancy. Some days I don’t feel well enough to work until after noon. This would be a serious problem if I was employed by someone else, and it would involve calling in, using sick time, and perhaps being reprimanded or fired if it became a regular occurrence.

Now I simply adjust my work schedule to meet my needs. If I don’t start working until noon, then I most likely won’t finish for the day until 8 or 9 p.m. If I have errands to run in the middle of the day, no problem; I take care of them when it’s convenient for me. When I have a doctor’s appointment, I take a couple hours off. And let’s be honest, sometimes pregnant ladies just need a mid-day nap.

It’s also more responsibility.

When you work for someone else and the workload is low, you still get paid. You may spend a day or two organizing files or working on other projects until work funnels in, but your paycheck will come. That’s not the case when you work for yourself. I’m now the sole member of my sales staff, and if I don’t find work, I don’t get paid. I’m no good at sales, so this has been a challenge for me.

The other big issue? Health insurance. Ugh. Right now, I qualify for good coverage at a surprisingly reasonable premium through COBRA. That will run out in October 2011. My husband’s current job doesn’t offer health insurance, so if he doesn’t find full-time work with benefits before then, I may join the legions of uninsured workers in this country.

Also: taxes are no fun when you’re self-employed.

It’s tough to stay motivated.

Some days when I’m feeling particularly crappy, it can be really tough to get out of bed and get to work. With no one to answer to but myself, it’s a little too easy to procrastinate. I sometimes end up days away from my deadline, sweating bullets to get the project finished and wishing I’d just stuck to my work schedule to get it done.

I don’t miss office politics.

My least favorite part about working in an office was the gossip, clashing personalities, and office politics. I love that I don’t have to deal with that anymore. I also don’t have to pick up the slack for other people’s laziness, fix problems created by co-workers, or do my job according to someone else’s protocol. I love having the freedom to do my job the way I see fit, only answering to myself and my clients.

But I do miss office camaraderie.

I miss the occasional lunch out on a nice day, the holiday parties, and commiserating about difficult clients with my teammates. With my husband gone six hours a day, it can get pretty quiet and lonely around the apartment.

The pay isn’t so hot (yet).

When I started my last full-time job, there was definitely room for growth in my salary. But I had full benefits, including paid holidays, health insurance, and vacation time. Since I started on the low end of the pay spectrum, my employer was generous with raises. By the time I left, I was pretty happy with my salary.

Now that I’m just starting out in my freelance career, I find myself taking jobs at a lower rate than I’d like because the competition is stiff and I’m relatively inexperienced as a consultant. I’m also still working out the kinks when it comes to estimating the time each project will take. Sometimes, my hourly wage is pretty sad — especially since I receive zero benefits. But there’s potential for growth, and working from home offers me lots of other perks, so I’m hoping it’ll turn around.

Despite the challenges, I love being self-employed.

Overall, I’m really happy with my decision to work from home. I honestly can’t imagine handling a full-time job once the baby comes, and knowing that I don’t have to deal with daycare and other working mom issues is a huge relief for me right now.

However, I should caution you, if you’re planning to make this move yourself: save, save, save. If we didn’t have a healthy savings account, the last four months wouldn’t have been possible. My husband just started his job (we still haven’t received his first paycheck), and since I’m just starting out, my income is sporadic. There’s no way we could have survived the summer without our emergency fund.

Since my income is so sporadic, we’re not including it in our regular budget. Everything I make will go toward replenishing our emergency fund. I recommend living off your spouse’s income for a while when you begin your freelance career, otherwise you could end up in financial trouble if your workload dies down or your clients are slow to pay you.

Photo by Damon Duncan