Welcome back to Ask Me Monday…on a Tuesday. Oops. We have lots of family in town and as a result, I've been slow to stay on my Monday/Wednesday/Friday posting schedule, sorry about that! But today's Ask Me Monday question is a good one so I wanted to share it with you all. I often get asked about life as a “working mom”, and how to find the balance between work time, and mom time.
It's taken me years to even consider myself a working mom, because I work from home when my kids are sleeping, so it doesn't feel like a traditional part-time or full-time job outside the home. But the fact of the matter is I work. And I'm a mom. Regardless of whether my “office” is at the kitchen table or in a 22 story building, I'm a working mom…and it's not easy! Case and point, I'm – LITERALLY – typing this right now, hunched over the computer on my counter, proof-reading with one hand and stirring my kids' pot of mac-n-cheese with the other. I'm no expert and don't know anything, but I'm happy to share my insight and tips to potentially help anyone out there who might be struggling to find the balance! Thus, I'm thrilled to answer this week's question from a fellow working-mom Freeb.
Here's the question:
“I have been a stay at home mom for 4 years now, doing just the typical “mom thing”. We have done Budget Boot Camp and are pumped up about getting out of debt. About two weeks after we started the program two super-flexible, part-time jobs (that I enjoy doing!) just literally jumped in my lap. It really has been a fantastic opportunity to make extra money to put towards our debt and to get where we want to be. But here's the trouble. Balance. I'm not sure how to handle the time I'm spending away from my kids while doing these things. I have the ability to take my children with me to do both jobs, but that's not exactly easy to do. My mom or mother in law watch my kids while I do this. My kids love them, which is great, but I feel like my children are acting out more during this phase. When they come back home it's like crazy town! I am starting to feel guilty for leaving them with someone else. Because they are SO desperate for my attention when I get back. Even if it's only a couple hours at a time. Or a day or two a week. Even though I know it's for work. And it's for the betterment of our future. It's been really good for me as a person to just get away for a little bit. But I'm having an inner struggle with it all.
So, my question is…
How do you transition into a working mom? Do you have any advice? Does it get easier on you? Easier on your kids? Do they adjust fairly quickly? Do you spend extra time with them on the days your not working? I know you are a work at home mom. I thought you might have some insight into that….because I'm at a loss. Thanks!*” ~Anonymous
*Question has been edited to preserve anonymity.
Such a great question! Here's my take on the whole “working mom” balance, and I how I manage:
It sounds like you are “at the ranch”. (For those who aren't in Budget Boot Camp, “The Ranch” is a budgeting metaphor I use that compares going on a serious budget to overhaul your finances, to going to The Biggest Loser Ranch to lose 50-100 pounds in a few months. It's a complete lifestyle change that results in giving up LOTS of things…but it gets quick results and kickstarts the rest of your life. You aren't “at the ranch” forever, just long enough to “lose the weight” if you will, then slowly ease back into regular life with revamped habits and outlook.) You are working to get out of debt, then get ahead in life. This requires lots of hard work, and tons of sacrifice.
I see your struggle. The fact that these two job opportunities fell into your lap, two opportunities that are not only flexible and provide needed income, but something you enjoy doing…it's obvious to me they are a huge blessing in a time of need. No denying that. But it also sounds like you're having the same “mom guilt/struggle” I myself have had many times.
Is it worth it to be a “working mom”?
Being a working mom, and especially a semi-working mom, is tough. No doubt about it. As a blogger I feel like it's particularly tough, because there is so much gray area between “work” and “hobby”. I see many bloggers working hard, putting their kids with nannies or in day care, to build their blog and see it thrive. But why? Do they (we) need the money? Is it worth it? What's the long-term goal?
I urge all working moms to stop first and ask yourself these questions:
- Does my family need this income? Not just want, but NEED?
- Is this job making me a better mom?
- Do I have a defined plan for the money I am going to make from this job?
- Is the money I make from this job going toward something that will benefit my family in the long run?
- Could what I am doing damage the relationship I have with my kids or my husband?
Answer those questions truthfully. If your answer is NO to the any of the first 4, or YES to the 5th question, then I would stop what you're doing and reassess. Let's not come at me with pitchforks and stones here, but maybe, just maybe, you don't need to be a working mom. Maybe there are costs you can cut and less you can spend so that you can live off of just your husbands' income. Or maybe there are ways to get side income, or ways to express creativity and have a hobby outside the home without putting in hours as a bonafide working mom.
But for the rest of us, being a working mom is the right fit for whatever reason, so we need to find the work/life balance so it all works out well.
For the Freeb who asked this question – remembering this is only my personal opinion with limited information (note: many more details were given in the original question, but were edited out to preserve anonymity so you're only seeing a snippet of it…), my guess is that you're just fine and doing the right thing to be a working mom right now. Yes, I'm a huge believer in being a SAHM and have done everything in my power, and have even taken some major risks, to make that happen. But I feel that the sacrifice you're making by working part-time right now is actually going to benefit your family in the long-run, not hurt it…
…If there is balance.
So, let's talk about that!
Finding the working mom balance:
My opinion is that we are what I like to call, “the helicopter generation” of parents. Our kids depend on us so greatly, that we lose ourselves (and often lose whatever handle we have on our finances) in the process of giving them everything we feel they need. Sometimes we hover so tightly over our kids, we don't let them fail a little, or hurt a little, or learn a little, or have to tough it a little, or – heaven forbid – do without a little. Not saying that we shouldn't give our kids opportunities to learn, grow, and experience life! But I think it's easy for us parents to be so concerned with making sure every inch and ounce of our children's lives are so cushy and silver-plated, that we end up doing them – and ourselves…and our finances – no favors.
When we were working on our budget and getting our finances under control during our FD (financial disaster), we sold our car. I was basically home-bound 6 days per week on average. My son was young. We didn't go to the zoo, or to story time, I didn't have him in mommy and me classes, and I didn't do all those great “out and about” things that other moms did with their kids. I felt guilty about that. But in the end I was giving him a much better gift by helping our family get out of debt as quickly as possible. And by so doing, we now live an incredible life, one that is beyond my wildest expectations, and our family is blessed because of it.
But – and a big BUT at that…
We had to work hard to make sure that sacrifice wasn't in vain, and that we were sacrificing for the right reasons. Once we were done at “the Ranch”, we didn't jump into spending like we used to, and certainly didn't jump into giving our kids anything and everything they ever wanted and were “deprived of” during our FD. We have had to be extremely smart with every penny, and continue to do so even as we have found success with our jobs, so that we don't fall into the same debt and trouble we were in before.
Child behavior can be tough as you transition into being a working mom. Here are some things I have found that have helped our family adapt to changes in our family:
If your family needs the money and being a working mom is the best fit, then “it is what it is” as I like to say. So let's work on what you CAN improve, which is child behavior.
When I bring a new baby home there is always a period of adjustment (aka…horrible behavior, fighting, tears, and tantrums). It's hard to watch, and even harder to experience. My heart breaks for the kids. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't bring a new baby home, right? It just means that things are changing and it's my responsibility as a parent to teach my family how to adapt, and to do it in a loving way that they understand.
I recommend reading The 5 Love Languages for Kids. It helps you find how to show your child love in the way THEY understand (because yes, love languages come in all different packages!). I don't know how old your children are (referring to the Freeb question) but I suggest focusing more on parenting strategies than on guilt. Just because they've been without mommy for the day, doesn't mean that we should accept their back-talk, tantrums, or disrespect. It's our responsibility to raise respectful, well-behaved kids and while it's important to be patient and understanding of our kids, disregarding bad behavior altogether because of mom guilt won't do anyone any favors.
(We use wall sits as a way to keep our kids' behavior in check.)
I don't have a nanny, a chauffeur, or a chef, so I'm stuck doing it. Darn it all. My best advice for staying on top of life is to get ultra organized. Create chore charts (chore sticks are my fave!), behavior charts, and schedule the heck out of your day so they know exactly what to expect each day. Work on behavior. Read “Love and Logic” and other parenting books to help you combat tantrums and acting out.
…and eventually, they not only come to terms with the change, but embrace it and thrive.
VALUE EVERY DOLLAR.
Be respectful of every penny you earn. Those dollars were earned at a price! Just remember WHY you are working, and be annoyingly frugal so you stretch every dollar and use it to it's highest potential so the sacrifice of missing time with your family isn't in vain. Have you checked out Budget Boot Camp? It's my budgeting program that includes all my secret sauce to whipping your budget into shape, and getting you in the place you want to be, financially. If you buy take-out every night because you come home from work tired, or if you pay more than you should for things out of convenience, then you're ultimately working and missing out on time with your kids…for takeout.
Get organized and plan your meals in advance. Use your crockpot (I have an ebook filled with over 80 recipes you can get, here). Make freezer meals (I have an ebook to help with that too! Get it here.). Get your family involved to help with yard work and housework so you don't have to hire it out, and you can put that money toward a greater goal. All those things will bless your family greatly in the long run!
Another huge tip is to be sure to separate your time. This is the hardest part of being a working mom, especially a WAHM, but here are some tips to help:
Teach your kids about “work time” and “mommy time“, whether you work from home, our outside the home. Sometimes the two collide, just as they are now as I'm editing this post while cooking lunch. But I have found that when I distinctly separate my time, it works better for everyone.
We have a unique situation at our house because both mommy and daddy area entrepreneurs, and both work from home. It's taken lots of training (for both parents and kids in our house…) but we all have learned boundaries. My kids are young but they have learned that if daddy is on the phone, that's his work time and whatever you need, needs to wait. Or if they wake up early from naps, that encroaches on my work time. They can be up, but need to play quietly by themselves and when my alarm goes off, it's full mommy time.
MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME AND FILL THEIR BUCKETS.
Once work time is over, my phone goes away, computer goes off, and we make up for lost time. I try to respect family time as much as I want them to respect my work time, so I really try to ignore my phone and emails and focus on THEM. We make it a priority to have fun as a family on the weekends and spend valuable time together.
Each kid feels love differently, so we make it a point to spend one-on-one time with them. Every Friday Bubba takes one of the kids out on an early morning breakfast date. I try to take time to paint nails with Priya, or play legos with Hutch – even if only for 10 minutes – so when work time happens, the kids' love buckets are full and they are content to play without me.
LET IT GO.
Lastly, learn to let things go and keep the greater picture in mind. I've been frustrated and anxious for the last day that I wasn't able to get this post out yesterday like I wanted. But no one is holding a gun to my head, and my family needed me more than the internet did yesterday, so this post is coming on a Tuesday instead of a Monday. Big picture?…no one cares. It's not easy, but learn to not sweat the small stuff, take it one day at a time, and just do your best. Don't walk faster than you have strength, or you'll just find yourself stumbling. Slow and steady wins the race!
…and world peace *insert cheesy Crest smile*.
I hope that helps! Keep the questions coming, can't wait to answer more in the coming weeks.
Are you a working mom? What have you found to help combat the guilt, and find balance? Please share below!
Now, go enjoy that family of yours. <3