I worked a regular “9 to 5” office job up until my first daughter was born, when I transitioned into being a work-at-home mom. At the time, it seemed like the best of both worlds: being able to take care of my baby while being able to keep an identity outside of parenting. And truthfully it is truly rewarding.
But it’s also really freakin’ hard.
I’ve been a WAHM for about eight years now, and I’m still learning what works best for my kids and me. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for everyone, but I do know that having a positive mindset, reasonable expectations, and flexibility have helped me go from surviving to thriving as a WAHM. Here are my 10 tips.
1. Know that it’s hard work, but it’s worth it
Let’s get one thing straight: being a stay-at-home mom is hard enough as it is. So adding any extra responsibility is a very tall order. When I made this choice I thought it’d be hard, but I didn’t know just how hard – physically, mentally, and emotionally. For all the ups (e.g., extra time for bonding, seeing milestones, making an income) there are going to be downs (e.g., exhaustion, feelings of resentment, isolation). And frankly some days are just going to be plain shit. But try to keep the bigger picture in focus. This decision you’ve made has an immense value to your family. You’re doing an insanely difficult thing, and you’re doing an amazing job.
2. Kids come first (but you can still be productive)
There is a definite work-life balance when being a WAHM, but your kids come first. Especially in their first year, babies need lots of love and attention. Know that she is your top priority and don’t feel guilty about it. Your purpose right now is to fulfill her needs, which in turn will fulfill your own – and give you a drive to be productive in other aspects of your life.
3. Manage your time
In my first year as a new WAHM, there were plenty of days that went by without me getting anything accomplished. And since I love being productive, not hitting my goals would leave me feeling really down on myself. Now looking back, I’ve realized that some days will be like this and that’s okay. As a mother there’s only so much you can do and control. But I’ve also realized that it’s in my power to cut down on these unproductive days by improving my time management.
Use your child’s schedule as a starting point, then find the pockets of time available to do other tasks. Have an idea of when you’ll need to fully focus on her, when you can multitask, and when you’ll be able to bust out some work. Without this type of structure it’s all too easy to lose track of time and fall into an unproductive slump.
4. Plan ahead and write down lists
Planning ahead goes hand-in-hand with time management, and doing it effectively will help you feel more in control. Even something as simple as planning out our week’s dinners helps make my workdays less stressful. Some other examples of things I try to plan out weekly are soft deadlines for assignments, when to do specific chores, and trips to the gym. Once I have an idea of how the week will flow, I do my best to manage my time accordingly.
Part two of this planning topic: lists. I’ve always loved writing out to-do lists. (I think it’s because I love the satisfaction of checking things off once they’re done.) But lists have become a lifesaver for me as a WAHM. My head is constantly full of scattered thoughts, so I use lists to help me put those thoughts into action. I’ve found it helpful to identify what must get done and what would be nice to get done each day. This helps me manage my time on what’s required, and also keep moving forward on secondary projects. Lately there’s rarely a day that I’ll get everything checked off my list, but I’ll know not to get myself stressed out over my lower priorities. I’ll find more time later.
5. Create a positive work environment
Dedicate a specific room or space to work. And to maximize your productivity, make it a clean, happy environment where you can fully focus. Attempting to work from the living room couch – or anywhere you associate with leisure – will kill the get ‘er done buzz.
6. Dress for success
Okay. Technically you could roll out of bed, turn on a computer, and be working. This was me for the first couple years, and I still rock on no-makeup, greasy hair look on my most hectic days. But it’s definitely not my ideal. Just because you might not see another adult human all day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel beautiful and put together. Personally I feel more powerful when I’m dressed up a little more than sweatpants and a nursing top. Dressing however you feel best will help give you an extra edge (bonus: you won’t feel embarrassed bumping into the Amazon delivery guy 😬).
7. Good mornings become good days
Set the tone for the whole day by starting it off on the right foot. My morning routine includes waking up early to shower, have breakfast, and meditate. Carving out about 30 minutes of this “me” time helps me feel centered and ready to take on whatever the day may bring.
8. Ask for help and delegate tasks
This is something I still struggle with, but I’ve been getting better at asking for help when I need it. There are only so many hours in the day, and most of those will be spent taking care of you kid(s) and working. Just because you spend your days inside the home doesn’t mean you’re responsible for all the household chores. Figure out where you can get help, and don’t be afraid to ask. I mostly rely on my husband to help with grocery runs or picking up dinner when I’m having a rough day. I’m also lucky enough to have a supportive family and a few close friends I can depend on when necessary. When I first started as a WAHM I’d feel too guilty to ask for help, but I’ve realized that everyone’s happier when I do.
9. Don’t compare your life to social media
This goes for everyone, not just the WAHM. But don’t fall into the trap of comparing your reality with someone else’s highlight reel. We all have certain triggers that can turn scrolling into an irrational attack on yourself and your abilities. For me, it’s seeing influencer moms flouncing about in gorgeous outfits with immaculately clean, magazine-worthy homes and boho-styled kids. It’ll make me feel like I’m not doing enough, or that I’m not where I should be in life. But logical me knows that the only person I should be comparing myself is me, and that I should count my blessings and be thankful. This is exactly where I need to be right now, and I’m in love with my (messy) life.
10. Be present, this season goes by too fast
The days might be long, but the years are short. As a WAHM you’ll constantly be pulled in a million directions. Work, errands, and housework will always be there, but the days of lullabies, cuddling, and peek-a-boo will pass by all too quick. When you’re with your child, be present. You’re going to miss these days.
Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep.