Stay at Home Mom

Confession 1: I’m Grossly Under Qualified. When a friend of mine suggested that I write a book, I laughed. I laughed out loud actually. For those of you who aren’t very familiar with me and what I do, I am the very proud mother of five beautiful children under the age of ten. Yes, let’s just get this out of the way, I did say five. I love the faces of complete strangers in the store, and the unsolicited comments that I get are priceless. “Are they all yours?” and “wow, you have your hands full”.

The looks of awe and amazement turn to shock and bewilderment when they learn that I also work full time from home and own a small cake decorating business. What on earth could a stay-at-home-mother-of-five possibly write about that would be of interest to anyone? My creativity isn’t such that I would be able to write an interesting work of fiction, and in reality, a lot of times being a mother of five is more entertaining – and educational – than anything I could ever imagine. But, I found myself night after night, pondering her suggestion. A book? Me? Really? There are many things in my life that I hold near and dear to my heart that are very precious to me. I can think of five immediately.

My children have been my inspiration since the very first day I knew that they would be a part of my life. Each time was as exciting and exhilarating as the first, and each day I learn so many things from them that I would be remiss not to share them with others. But honestly, would an entire book of stories about my children really be of any service to anyone? While wildly entertaining (I’m sure), I have also made it a goal of mine to help other stay-at-home and work-at-home moms feel successful in their day to day efforts.

For the past year I’ve been coaching and mentoring others in working from home – either in a vocational aspect, or simply as a stay at home mom. I knew that should I ever follow my friend’s advice, that this would be the direction I would take when it came to writing anything.

As I carefully pondered her advice, and knowing exactly what I would write about, I wondered if I should focus my first collection of writings on those who are working from home in a vocational aspect as opposed to lumping us all together into one group. However, the more I thought about it, if you are a mom –working out of the office, working out of the home, or simply (and I use this term facetiously, as we all know that there is nothing simple about it) working to raise your family – we all could use a little support. Let’s define what we mean by Stay at Home Mom and Work at Home Mom. Which are you? Are you a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom?

Many would argue that the terms are interchangeable, and to some degree I agree with that. Whether or not a person is being paid for what they do or not, does not define that they “work”. I love that line on all the doctors’ office forms and school emergency contact cards that ask for “occupation”. I’ve been creative in the past and put things there such as “Household Engineer”, “Director of Residential Services” and my personal favorite, “CEO of Domestic Relations” but my new favorite title is Mom-trepreneur. It has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? So what is a Mom-trepreneur? Chances are if you are reading this, you are one. We work from home – whether it is vocationally, or not. We play from home – Legos, Barbies, easy bake ovens. Most of all, we are the heart of our home – cookies, boo boos, and bedtime stories.

Sound corny? Sure it does, but honestly, look at it this way: As a mom, you bring comfort and happiness to your children, order and peace to your home, and friendship and laughter to your family. As a woman with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, you have found a way to provide for your family and home without sacrificing your time at home. Voila, Mom-trepreneur. I know, I know, still a little cheesy, but let’s step back a moment and take a look at what it really takes to be a Work at Home Professional, and Mom. When you work for yourself, it is next to impossible to take time off, nobody can do the job better than you can, and there is no room for sick days – in fact, getting sick is completely out of the question. As a mom, you work for yourself, there is definitely no substitution for you, and those sick days…well, you get the picture. There is no education that can prepare you for this job, no way to learn all the required tasks ahead of time, and definitely no way to plan for every possibility. Maybe that’s why it is so much fun.

Confession 2: I Can’t Do it All Alone. As a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom, we tend to obsess over the small details. It’s very hard when we are home all day every day not to notice that perhaps the house isn’t as clean as we’d like it to be, or that we may not have the time that we once had to enjoy a lunch out with friends. But, also as a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom, we are generally so busy during the day, that all the small details can become extremely overwhelming. Rule number one – and this is the golden rule – Don’t sweat the small stuff. What is the small stuff? Well, laundry, dishes, dusting, windows… I know I can see the look of utter shock and dismay that have come over your face. “Can she possibly be suggesting that I stop cleaning my house?” No, actually quite the contrary; what I am suggesting though, is that sometimes the dishes can wait, the laundry will still be there in an hour, and yes, the dust will also patiently wait for you to return to it. Sometimes, it’s important just to focus on what’s needed. The “small stuff” is the guilt that we feel as a mom that we aren’t perfect. Gone are the days of June Cleaver and her immaculately kept house, manicured nails, and perfectly coiffed hair. In fact, in many conversations with my mother and hers, I’d go so far as to say that June Cleaver didn’t really exist in American households in the 50’s either.

There is no need to feel guilt over that which we cannot do, we are all human – June Cleaver was a made-up sitcom wife, who has been placing guilt in the hearts of mom-trepreneurs for generations. We all get cranky from time to time knowing that there are chores to be done and little to no time to do them in. As Mom-trepreneurs, we’ve learned that the only way to get something done is to do it ourselves – however, we need to adjust this thinking. We can’t do everything, no matter how much we want to. I know… easier said than done.

A very important part of being a successful Mom-trepreneur however, is knowing when to say “when”. This is difficult, I realize that. We all think we can do it all, clean the house, take care of the kids, go on a play date, write 3 articles for the upcoming newsletter, send business cards out to potential new clients, fold the socks, pick up the dry cleaning, oh – and make cookies for the upcoming bake sale at your kids’ school. Sometimes, no matter how much you want to say yes, you are going to have to say no. Quality over quantity. There is only one of you, and you need to make sure you aren’t wearing yourself too thin. Prioritize. It isn’t going to hurt anyone of the socks don’t get folded today, but I don’t think I’d put off changing that diaper for too long. Put the important things first. I’ve always been told that admitting there is a problem is the first step to recovery. I am not suggesting here that we all have a dangerous addiction that requires an intervention – however, just by the very nature of our personality, we do have to admit that we cannot do it all ourselves.

Part of this is making a resolve to either create or join a support group for other like-minded individuals. Support groups for mom-trepreneurs can be found in many different forms. There are mom’s clubs, church groups, internet chat boards, book clubs…you name it, and it does exist. These support groups are vital in helping to overcome the “small stuff”. Aligning yourself with other women who are feeling the same feelings that you are, who are working their fingers to the bones (or so it seems) and never seem to be getting anywhere with the household chores, work chores, children’s activities etc… is vital in helping you set realistic expectations. A tired, worn out, frustrated and cranky mom is no good to her family – or herself. Once you find a group of women to whom you can relate, lean on them for support, I can guarantee you; they are leaning equally as hard on you. You may say that your family is your support system, and to a very large extent, they are.

However, one thing I’ve noticed - and maybe it isn’t like this in your family- but in mine the love and support of Mom is the one thing that is always needed and counted on. There are going to be days when all the kids need you, your spouse feels neglected, your house is not up to your (unusually) high standards, and all you want to do is crawl into bed and read a good book. This is another “guilt” that is going to creep in. Your family needs you, and all you want to do is being left alone. This is normal. In fact, if you don’t feel this way from time to time, I’d seriously question your state of mental health. In addition to being a wife, a mother, a small business owner (or whatever it is that you do, vocationally or not) – you are also a human being with feelings, thoughts, emotions, all of your very own.

Exhaustion can easily set in, if you don’t take time out for yourself. You need to take the time out for yourself. Take a bubble bath, read a book, go to McDonald’s for a small ice cream cone. Whatever it is that you need to do to take that refreshing holiday for your mind and spirit, do it – and don’t let the guilt get the better of you.

You deserve this time alone. Finally, have fun. Why did you decide stay at home in the first place? Was it to spend more time with your kids? Was it to have a flexible schedule to enjoy life with your family and friends? Just as in the bricks and mortar world of business, Mom-trepreneurs got into what we are doing because we enjoy doing it. Once it becomes too much, too stressful, too overwhelming, you lose the fun. Fun is why you are here in the first place. You love what you do. Don’t let anything ruin that for you.

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About the Author

Danny Ding