Laptop. Wi-Fi. Coffee. A paying gig. That’s all you really need to work from home, right? Not so true when you have an energetic, often-clingy, always-loud two-year-old running around your home office.
My husband, daughter and I moved to St. Louis almost a year ago from Kansas City. I left my job as a full-time marketing employee to stay home with our daughter, establish roots in our new city and build my freelance writing business from home.
From the moment I became a mother, the notion of being a work-at-home-mom (WAHM) was constantly on my mind. My daughter’s first year was difficult for me – I felt like I was failing at everything. Not only did I feel terrible about leaving my tiny baby with a stranger at daycare nine hours a day, I was also exhausted, distracted and less productive at work. I remember sitting in the “Motherhood Room” at my office, strapped to my breast pump, tears running down my face, wondering why I didn’t feel like I was in the right place. Yes, there was some postpartum and hormonal “stuff” going on, but that longing feeling never really went away.
Our move to St. Louis was the perfect chance to try WAHM life. As you can imagine, there are some tricks to being productive when a tiny human is relying on you for entertainment, snacks, drinks, diaper changes, hugs, baths and answering “Mama, what’s this?” 127 times a day. Add in the exhaustion and nausea of being pregnant (yep, I’m 20 weeks with our second!), laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning…and it’s not easy to get much done.
Here are a few ways I make it work:
1. Have a (very) mobile workstation.
I’d like to say I have a cute home office with an organized desk and inspirational quotes on the walls, but in reality, my MacBook and I work in various spots around the house. Two-year-olds are famous for getting into messy or dangerous things the second you turn your back, so I bring my workstation into the playroom, bedroom, backyard and even the bathroom during bath time. I’ve also taken my laptop to local play places like Grandma’s Playroom to work while my daughter plays in a confined area.
2. Work before your child wakes up (or after bedtime).
Easier said than done, I know. The day I got up early to write this blog, my daughter heard me making coffee and started crying in her crib at 5:45 a.m. (Insert hand-on-face emoji.) On most days, however, early mornings are my favorite time to work. My head is the clearest, the house is the quietest and I can sit in our little breakfast nook with a cup of coffee typing away. Post-bedtime is another option, but if you’re like me, you’re about one Real Housewives episode away from falling asleep once everyone else is in bed.
3. Make the most of naptime.
I admit: This can be unpredictable. Keeping my daughter on a schedule by getting her active in the morning and (trying) to put her down at the same time every afternoon usually gives me a solid two hours to respond to emails, edit a draft or research my next project.
4. Stay focused.
When you have a quiet house, it’s easy to get distracted by picking up toys, changing laundry or emptying the dishwasher. Although all of this needs to get done eventually, I have to remind myself to use that valuable time to focus on work. Setting a work goal for each day (i.e. finish and submit first draft of press release) helps me stay on task.
5. Ask for help.
Whether it’s a Mother’s Day Out program at a local church, a “Mommy’s helper” who watches your toddler in another room or an adoring mother-in-law who lives nearby, take advantage of help as much as you can. Knowing someone else is responsible for my daughter frees up my mind to be super productive.
6. Have a few go-to distractions.
If I have an important business call, I set my daughter up with an activity or a snack that will keep her busy, safe and in one place for at least 20 minutes. It might be watercolors and stickers in her playroom or a bowl of fruit snacks and Daniel Tiger on TV.
7. Be honest (with your coworkers, clients and yourself).
All of my clients know I work from home with my daughter. Many of them are parents themselves and understand if I have to jump off a call to tend to my toddler. I also have to be realistic with myself – I can’t do everything. I know I can only work a few hours a week and still be an attentive, play-on-the-floor kind of mom.
8. Remember why you wanted to stay home in the first place.
Being a WAHM isn’t for everyone. I have a lot of friends who look at my situation and say, “I could never do that.” But for me, I wouldn’t change anything about the last year because I’ve gotten to spend precious first moments with my sweet little girl. I know she (and our soon-to-be son) won’t remember these early moments, but I’ll treasure this crazy, fleeting stage of life forever…even if the memories are a little blurry from exhaustion.
Abby is a Minneapolis native who landed in St. Louis when her husband had the opportunity to return to his hometown for work. She is “Mama” to a talkative toddler girl named Kiera, a fluffy cockapoo named Penny, and has a baby boy on the way in October 2019. Having spent more than 12 years working full-time in marketing, PR and journalism, Abby transitioned to work-from-home-mom life when her family moved to the ‘Lou in 2018. She launched her freelance writing and editing business, Abby Dean Creative, and now writes part-time for various clients, including small businesses, women’s brands and healthcare companies. Abby enjoys yoga, exploring kid-friendly spots in St. Louis with her daughter, trying new restaurants with her husband and sipping rosé (or any wine, really!) with her girlfriends.