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Best of Both Worlds (Guest Post by Jen M.)

Jen is our guest interview on Moms @ Work (Part 3) – #13! Make sure you listen to her interview and check out the giveaway of one of her products!

You arise at 6:30 in the morning and start the coffee pot and your computer before the rest of the household awakens. Sipping your coffee, you pour over emails and resources, responding and networking. Your husband wakes an hour later and kisses you on the forehead, whispering, “You’re such an amazing businesswoman.”

“Why yes, yes I am,” you think.

Your children sleepily stumble out of bed and cuddle with you while you finish your online work. After some snuggles and caffeine, you float through your day in a cloud of airy joy. A little sewing here, a little laundry there. A bit of diaper changing here, a bit of fabric cutting there. Just a spot of website building here, and a spot of dinner preparation there. The life of a Work-At-Home-Mom (WAHM) is certainly as you always thought it’d be – glorious, luxurious, profitable, rewarding, and even relaxing. Not only are you building a million dollar business, you’re also raising your children full time and pouring into your husband. In summary, you have it all.

The dream of being a WAHM is peppered with idealism and enthusiasm. The reality though – or at least my reality – is quite the opposite. After being up with our five month old several times in the night, I usually wake up to my toddler tip toeing into our room. Within just minutes of rolling out of bed, I’m washing dishes, making coffee, starting laundry, making the bed, and breastfeeding. And that’s just the beginning. My day is usually filled with hoping to find ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there to run my household and my business. What’s that? Both of my boys are happily playing? Perhaps if I’m lucky, and play my cards correctly, and the moment is just right, and the world is spinning in perfect rotation…I can get ten minutes of work done. Of course my “work” includes not only sewing, shipping, packaging, filing, and networking, it also includes doing a hundred household responsibilities. And therein lies the rub.

It’s not that being a WAHM is awful or even terribly difficult. It just requires a level of organization, patience, and thoughtfulness that is difficult to attain. It’s the age old dilemma every Mom has to face of trying to have it all. The truth we all come to realize at one point another is: You can’t have it all. Somewhere, somehow – sacrifices must be made. If you’re a WOHM (work out of the home mom), you sacrifice time with your child. If you’re a SAHM (stay at home mom), you sacrifice financial security. If you’re a WAHM, you sacrifice sanity. Just kidding, I think we all sacrifice quite a bit of our sanity – it comes with the motherhood badge. A WAHM does have some sacrifices to make, although the pay off is often worth it. I don’t consider to have everything figured out in the world of working at home, but I have learned (usually the hard way) a few things to make life go more smoothly. If you’re considering being a WAHM, please…learn from my mistakes!

1. Organization is king. You need to be able to find what you need in two minutes flat. If I give my toddler more than two minutes without having my eye on him, the house is bound to explode. You need to develop of system of organization so that your job gets done. In my case, I have a very detailed list of orders I’m working on, giveaways I’m hosting, and products I’m working on stocking. Forgetting an order or taking too long to get something out can be the death of an at home business. Likewise, I have a detailed list of household responsibilities that need done, so that nothing gets forgotten.

2. Your children will watch TV. I know, I know…APA and all that. I build in time to have interactive play and focused attention on my kiddos, but sometimes I just need them to be amused for twenty minutes so I can accomplish a task. Maybe your kids are awesome and can sit quietly and color for twenty minutes, but mine apparently need some PBS goodness.

3. Your time is valuable, price your products as such. Pricing products is a tricky line to walk. You want to price low enough that people will actually buy what you’re offering, but you also want to price enough to cover your materials, expenses, and time. When I first started selling fitted diapers I calculated how much I was earning after paying for materials and came up with $0.25/hour. That’s right. Twenty-five. Cents. The time to you spend away from your family to “work” is valuable. You’re not a sweat shop, so price your products so that you’re not bitter when you’ve realized you’ve spent three hours away from your family for seventy-five cents.

4. Build flexibility into your schedule. The kids will get the stomach bug at the same time. The car will break down. A good friend will need you to come over and be a listening ear one day. Your husband will have to work overtime. Dinner will burn, bathrooms will need cleaned, and the moment you count on everything going perfectly it will all crash down around you. That’s just the way life works. Rather than spending your time making excuses and apologies, just build “life” into your schedule. If you think it’ll take you two days to ship out an item, tell the customer it will take you four (and they’ll be pleasantly surprised when it arrives two days earlier than expected). If you calculate that it should take you one week to make a product, state that you will have it finished in two weeks. If you have a personality that stresses when there is a deadline looming, this flexibility allows you to breathe and not get angry at the world for not revolving around your work schedule (which I may have done a time or two).

5. Do a few things well. Especially if you have small children who need a lot of attention, realize that spreading yourself too thin will only make for doing a lot with mediocrity. Instead, strive to do a few things with excellence. Figure out what you enjoy doing the most and what is the most profitable, and do those things well.

6. Don’t stay so busy that you forget you’re living the best days of your life. My mantra (that I repeat at least weekly) is, “You own this business. It doesn’t own you.” If you’ve built a reputation for great customer service and have allowed some flexibility in your schedule, take a day off to play chase with your toddler. Put away the computer to give your baby some face time, and decide to stop sewing – even though you still have a mountain of fabric to finish – and cuddle with your husband.

Like any other Mom, being a WAHM can be a precarious act of balance, but it’s also amazingly rewarding. It’s tempting to think it’s the worst of, but in reality – it really is the best of both worlds (you get bonus points if you’re now singing a Hannah Montana song. Triple score if you don’t have pre-teen children).

Jen Maurer is the CEO, Treasurer, PR Department, Labor Force, Research and Development Team, and Web Development Department of Serwa Chic. Her kids – Jude (2 years) and Cohen (5 months), and her husband – Shawn, are a part of the Product Testing and Feedback Team. Jen loves coffee, running, and knows all the words to “Ice, Ice Baby.” You can decide if that makes her awesome or lame. Probably awesome, though.

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