WAHM and SAHM…
|by Elizabeth Pagel Hogan, June 2013|
I’m up late working on this article…and that’s exactly why I was asked to write this article. I’m a freelance writer and small business owner, but I’m also a work-at-home-mom, or WAHM, and that means that I don’t have a 9-5 schedule most days.
Work gets done when I can get it done, fitting it around the needs of family. Sometimes I have to flip the priorities and fit family around the needs of work. It’s challenging to find the balance between my professional life and my personal life but it’s a challenge I took on willingly and would not change.
There’s often tension between SAHM (stay-at-home-moms), WAHM, and moms who work outside of the home.
According to some moms, I don’t qualify as a work at home mom. I don’t usually have my children underfoot while I answer client phone calls or push myself to meet a deadline. My older children, ages 8 and 6 two are in elementary school and the youngest, age 3, is in full time preschool.
I’m going to set aside the debate for now. I’ve been both a mom who works outside of the home and a WAHM. Both have their ups and downs but in the past two years I know I have found my sweet spot with my particular version as a WAHM. I love the way I can find personal fulfillment in working with amazing clients or writing a really excellent article. I also love the way I can be there for my children when they are sick. On days when schools are closed, I can plan a day off and enjoy time with them.
I am a business owner and a mom. I don’t want to choose between the two. And I’m lucky to be living in a time when it’s possible to make both work. From baby bottles to the board room, the things I’ve learned in both places makes me a stronger professional and better parent.
Sure, some days I have meetings I just can’t cancel and a child who can’t go into preschool. Then the wonders of the modern world, like ibuprofen and iPads come into play to help me balance my different responsibilities. I’ve proposed meetings at local malls with play areas so I can set the child free and focus on the needs of my clients. I am always honest about my limitations and my clients are very understanding.
Frankly, parenting has made me a better business owner. I’ve changed diapers while on the phone, or made one kid a sandwich while helping the other with homework and listening to a webinar. Life doesn’t slow down when you’re a parent and unexpected needs pop up constantly. Babies never nap as long as you hope. Toys break. Food spills. I believe that if you can handle when all three of those things happen at once, you can handle it when things go haywire in your work.
My clients often remind me of my children. Each one expects me to remember their specific needs, wants and preferences. My children help me practice customer relationship management skills everyday. One kid likes scrambled eggs with salt and butter. One likes them with salt and pepper. One takes them plain. Parents retain the smallest details about their children’s preferences. And I can apply those same skills to working with my clients. I practice careful listening. I actually care about my clients’ special requests.
Being a business owner and working with a variety of clients has also made me a better parent. My professional networking skills help me meet new people and learn new things at places like birthday parties and PTO meetings.
And handling irrational and demanding clients has trained me to develop patience and conflict resolution skills that I use at home. When I attended a recent workshop on emotional intelligence for better business relationships, I suspected the trainer was also moonlighting at a parenting workshop in a community center.
I don’t have this down to a science. There are plenty of times when I’ve been late for business meetings because I’ve prioritized the needs of my children. What is more important – getting out the door on time or celebrating as your child ties his own shoes for the very first time? I’m so lucky that in my business, I can choose clients that understand the importance of family in my life.
There’s a trend in our culture not to bring your family life into the workplace because people feel the drama and challenges of home life detract from the job. But I firmly believe parenting is a proving ground, and offers fruitful learning opportunities that can enhance and improve our work style and methods. Work-life ‘balance’ may be an elusive goal because the two shift constantly. But at least I have some choice in managing the shifts.