I've been in the Work at Home Mom (WAHM) Trenches for 2 Years now, and I've got some tips to help you.
Last week a reader reached out to me, wanting to start her own business and asking me about mine.
In fact, I've been asked this recently by several ladies, especially ones looking to earn some side income while raising their kids at home.
This situation makes good financial sense in many cases, as daycare costs are kinda out of control (hellooooo two mortgage-sized payments and only one house).
Not to mention it makes emotional sense as well for Mamas who don't like the idea of having their child in daycare (by the way, no judgment from me if you happily enjoy sending your child to daycare! I'm addressing the mothers who do not, myself included), and at the same time want to continue developing their own careers and personal interests.
How Did I End Up as a Work at Home Mom (WAHM)?
So probably the first question you might have is how I ended up becoming a WAHM.
Well, it started without a baby.
I've been in business for myself part-time with Frugal Confessions since 2009, and full-time since 2013. Then in the fall of 2016, I opened up my new brand, Money Prodigy – how to teach kids about money, where I'm closing the money education gap, one kid at a time.
It's been quite a journey. I'm not sure who said it, but creating + maintaining + running your own business is probably the biggest self-help development you will ever go through.
You are forced to confront your weaknesses on a daily level, to rise above mindsets that were firmly planted as a child, and to take the spotlight and actually accept your victories when they do come.
It's amazing. It's scary. And you doubt yourself almost every step of the way.
For the actual nitty gritty of how it happened? Here's the bullet point version.
Psst: not looking for the bullet point version? Check out my Self-Employment series. Spoiler alert: there's unemployment, there's gallops of faith, there's tears, and there's lots of learning.
- Laid Off + Used the Time Productively (well, mostly): Was laid off from my insights position with a marketing firm, and took the time to write 6 sample columns collectively called Frugal Confessions + send them into four newspapers nationwide. Received one response, saying I was “on the right track”, and to hone it.
- Started a New Job: At the same time I started working for the TCEQ as an Environmental Investigator, I started my own blog at the Houston Chronicle, plus also here on FrugalConfessions.com. I worked nights and weekends on the blog for 4.5 years.
- Discussed with My Partner: Talked with my husband about my desire to take a ginormous leap of faith and work on my passion full-time.
- Handed in My Two-Week Notice: With a bit of shaking knees, no less, we decided to move forward. My last day with the TCEQ is in January 2013.
- Figured Out I Didn't Have a Business: Figure out pretty quickly that I didn't actually have a business, but a blog where I made some money with through advertisements.
- Set Up a Proper Business (Logistically, anyway): Turned Frugal Confessions into Frugal Confessions, LLC, and set up proper business accounting (yes, I paid my taxes on earnings up to that point; just properly separated everything out at this point in time).
- Two Years of Full-Time Biz Work: Worked two years at bringing my business to new levels, doubting myself along the way, having some progress, sustaining many setbacks, and trying to earn full-time income.
- Time for Baby: Paul and I decided it was time to have a baby! Were blessed with a little bundle of cuteness, poo, and energy.
- Redefined What Financial Success Looked like to Me: I've yet to make “full-time income.” However, I finally figured out that income from my blog + the daycare costs we do not have to pay is actually what I used to make at my full-time job, many months. This was a huge shift in thinking for me, because I typically measure myself (whether I should or not is an entirely other blog post) by the amount of money I bring in.
- Work-in-Progress: Continuing to fiddle, hone, scrap, dream big, and progress further.
It's a trip, folks. And the end destination? Well, I'll let you know if I ever find it.
I've gotten to meet people I never thought I would meet. I've gotten to do things I never thought I'd be invited to do. And I've doubted myself more times than I care to remember.
But in the end, this is precisely what I was meant to be doing. At least for the last several years! One can never been 100% sure where life is leading them.
Tips from a Two-Year WAHM Veteran
I've been a self-employed person for four years now, and a WAHM for almost two years (wait, the time when the little guy was playfully kicking my belly during webinars counts, right?).
And here are some tips I'm happy to pass along. Most of them were hard won, I might add.
Tip #1: Give Up the Idea that You Can Continue Your Old Life, As it Was
I'm a borderline, recovering perfectionist, with a splash of Type A personality (I mean, just look at that description of myself and you can see what I mean).
It's been a hard road coming to the conclusion that no matter how much harder I work, how many more hours I get up early, or how badly I want it to, our old life cannot continue as it was.
I've needed to accept that in order to not drive myself, nor my family, crazy. The sooner you can accept this, the sooner you can get back into some sort of flow with your new life. And that is a blessing.
The fact is, even if you weren't a WAHM and you were a SAHM (notice I didn't put the word “just” in front of that? Stay at Home Mom's, your days are tough as well!), you still cannot carry on your life exactly how it was pre-baby.
And let me tell you, that's generally a good thing. For the next point.
Tip #2: Focus like a Mo' Fo'
I thought I was getting pretty good at focusing in those two years I had to work on my business full-time without a baby. I was utterly wrong, though of course those were the baby steps that led to me being able to laser focus.
I read books constantly about upping this area of my life, because at the end of the day, focus is key in being able to drive any kind of results when you have a little one in tow (and even without a little one!). Books I highly, highly recommend in this area include The One Thing and The 12-Week Year.
Psst: anyone should read these books. And read them again once you're in different stages of your life, because you'll get different things out of them.
I never dreamed of how productive and focused I could be until I became a Mama. What a blessing!
Tip #3: Do the SAHM Things
You don't want to work so much (or attempt to work so much) that you actually don't get any of the cool benefits of being a stay at home parent. What am I talking about? Things like taking your child to free storytimes at the library, or Free Kindermusik the first Thursday of each month here in Sugarland Plaza, or free zoo day, or meeting up with Daddy at his work a few times a month for family lunch dates.
This is an opportunity for you to spend with your child, to engage with your child, and for each of you to soak each other in. If you don't take advantage of that because you're so stressed out, then you might regret it down the road.
In my household, no matter how crazy my work schedule gets, every day Conner and I read stories, play outside, listen to kid's music, and build little block buildings. Each week, we go to at least one storytime at a local library. Each month, we meet up with Dada for free family zoo dates after work.
These are non-negotiables in my book that I wouldn't miss for the world.
Tip #4: Structure Your Day Accordingly
Some days you'll want to wear your Mommy hat more, and other days you'll want to wear your work hat more (or these particular categories in your life will dictate it).
That's perfectly fine. It's often said now that you won't actually find work-life balance, but rather you spend more time in one area sometimes, and more time in the other area sometimes. And as long as overall those two have some semblance of balance, then you'll be fine.
Here's a strategy that's super helpful and may not seem like it makes a difference but it really does. I can tell you that through experimentation.
If you need a day to be more work-focused than mommy-focused, you need to structure it accordingly. Wake up a little earlier than baby (if possible), and turn on that laptop. Create a list of tasks and gain some momentum right off the bat. Then you'll know precisely what actions you want to come back to as you get 5 and 10-minute increments throughout the day (yes, that's the kind of time we generally get to work with as WAHM's, at least in the under-two years).
And if you want a more mommy-focused day? Then just don't turn on the laptop. Seriously. It'll all work out.
Psst: another tip to structuring your days? Absolutely, 100%, take 3 weeks to track all of your activities (every. single. one. of. 'em.) with the free Toggl.com. You will be amazed at the insights you'll find. Trust me on this one. Game changer. Huge thanks to Amber McCue for nudging me to do this!
Tip #5: Allow Others to Help You
You cannot do this alone.
Yes, you might be a single WAHM (my hats off to you, by the way. You're amazing).
But even then you can + should get some help.
Employ the people in your life who want to joyfully help you both to be the best mother you can be, as well as to pursue the best, most favorite version you have of yourself.
For me, this has been my husband, who loves being with our son all day on Saturday so that I can put in a full work day each week. It's also been the membership we have at the JCC, where I get a daily 90-minute babysitting session built-in, and can work at the cafe knowing my baby is well taken cared of (I use this about 3 times a week). And it's been Paul's parents, Mee-Maw and Pee-Paw, who get to build a relationship with him when I take him to hang out three hours every Monday (and Mommy gets to go to the coffee shop right down the road and work).
It also means hiring “hybrid” help when needed, such as this really awesome service I just tried out here in Houston called Maria's Gourmet Kitchen. Maria is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who creates meals that get delivered to your door with minimal additional work on your end. We enjoyed her Chicken Enchilada Verde (which I could throw right into the oven after getting home from a late-day appointment), and her Coconut Shrimp with Mango Basil Salsa.
This worked out so beautifully for several reasons:
- Taking an 18-month old to a restaurant is about as fun as being stuck without a television during Shark Week.
- The meal is already prepared and you don't have to think about what the heck to cook. Just follow the few instructions to assemble/finish-off/cook in the oven, and you've got a gourmet meal.
- Her food is majorly delicious. That verde sauce? I could have licked the bowl; however, there was enough left over that instead of licking the bowl, we used it on the next night's dinner to up our own tacos substantially.
- You can freeze what you don't eat that night, and there are instructions for how to do so.
- It's slightly cheaper than a restaurant, especially if you decide to get less groceries and budget accordingly.
Hybrid solutions − especially for us Mama Warriors who like to do many things ourselves and perhaps not accept as much help as they should (*talking to myself*) − are a game changer.
Tip #6: Get Thee Batching
I'm talking batch everything you can. I would batch my diaper-changing if I could (just kidding. Not actually though).
It achieves a high level of efficiency and results that will buy you noodles of time down the road you'll be most thankful for because instead of slogging through something you get to be that mommy that you really want to be.
I've batched the following:
- Meals: At 9 months pregnant, I made the decision to gruel through a batch freezer cooking day. Every single one of those meals helped us out by ten times the actual effort it took to create them. You can steal my 15-meal freezer cooking day plan right here (includes a shopping list).
- Blog Posts: I actually created a 6-month maternity leave for myself by batch creating six months' worth of blog posts and scheduling them out starting in our birth month. Best. Idea. Ever.
What else could you batch? Really use your imagination here. It's like an assembly line for your life, with you reaping all the time + energy rewards instead of McDonald's.
A final thought for all of your work at home Mom's out there: give yourself grace (Amanda, I'm definitely talking to you now as well). You are doing the best you can, straddling two worlds each day to both raise your children the way that you would like to as well as to help financially support your family. Not to mention the personal evolution that both of these worlds manifests.
Bravo, you. Just keep trying. Give up what's not working or doesn't leave you remotely happy. And enjoy those babies because they won't be this young for long.
Please, share your own WAHM tips for us below in the comments. We could all use the wisdom!