Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mom Classification

I have a complicated life. Although we only have one child at home now, I'm working pretty much full time- from home. This is something that can be difficult, and it's also something that most people don't understand.

Last week, I worked upwards of fifty hours, writing things for which I am earning a paycheck. At the same time, I supervised homework, planned a mini-vacation, handled extracurricular activities, cooked dinners, did laundry and housework, and so on. In my particular phase of life, working from home is basically working a full time job while trying to be a stay at home mom. I'm not in the mommy wars, I am the mommy wars.

I tried to explain this to someone the other day, not taking into account that she had, for a time, been a work-outside-the-home mom to her stepdaughter, during the preteen and teen years. She raised an eyebrow at me and said, rather dismissively, I thought, "What do you think a stay at home mom does that a working mom doesn't?"

I was taken aback by this question. I've been both types of mom, and there's plenty a stay at home mom does that a working mom doesn't. I mean no disrespect to working moms when I say this- it's obvious that they do many things that stay at home moms don't, and those things add up to a paying job. But I was rather shocked that anyone would be incredulous that stay at home moms have any extra tasks.

For one thing, I don't know any moms who work outside the  home and don't eat restaurant food on a fairly regular basis. Maybe there are some out there who cook almost every night, but I don't know any. I'm not faulting them for extravagance, I totally get not wanting to cook when you've been working all day. But if you're a stay at home mom, you're much less likely to eat out.

If you're a working mom, your kids probably go to afterschool care. I worked in childcare, and I know that there are tons of working moms who drop their kids off early in the morning, and pick them up at 6pm. Again, I'm not faulting them, I understand hectic work schedules, and I've had to leave my kids all day, too. But the reality of that lifestyle is this: there's no one at the house making a mess, and someone else is helping the kids with homework. If the kids have extracurricular activities during working hours, someone else is taking them. By the time they get home, it's tremendously hectic, because they've got to get the kids fed and into bed.

Stay at home moms are much more "in the thick of it" with their kids. They're helping with homework, they're cleaning up messes, they're listening to endless stories about who said what to whom at school, and what happened on the bus. They're playing chauffeur, trying not to curse in traffic while they ferry kids to their chosen after school activities.

I realize I'm generalizing, and I don't mean to offend, but this is my experience, having been on both sides of this fence. I realize that moms fall somewhere on the spectrum, and it's not all black and white. But what I'm experiencing now, and what I'm trying to manage, is this odd amalgam, wherein I feel like I have to wear twenty hats at the same time, and play multiple roles.

For one thing, I work for more than one company. This gets stressful sometimes, because I'm not the most organized human, and sometimes it seems like too many balls in the air. In addition, my child is a first grader, which means she requires a lot of interaction, as opposed to a teenager, who would be content to hang out in her own room if I was under the crunch of a deadline. She's also a very active kid, with piano lessons, choir, and dance lessons. I end up doing quite a bit of work while I'm waiting for one of these activities to end.

Today is a perfect example. I was writing all day, then was supposed to have a conference call in the afternoon, while the Man took Small to the audition for her school talent show. (He wouldn't normally be home in the afternoon, he typically works until almost her bedtime, but he's part of her act, so he was supposed to be there.) As it happened, he was not actually able to get out of work- because he does not work from home. So because I'm the work at home parent, I had to shuffle things around and reschedule the conference call. I'm grateful they obliged me, and I know I'm utterly blessed to have abundant work with wonderful people. The conference call got the same time as Small's choir. That meant no choir tonight, which by extension meant no church supper, and since I hadn't been to the grocery store, I had to improvise dinner. I'll admit, I ordered in. While I was on the conference call, with a particularly difficult client, Small was quiet, since I'd asked her to be. She did not, however, stop dancing around me, pantomiming requests and, at one point, holding up a sign that said "Food? Check yes or no."

Work-outside-the-home moms do not have to check yes or no on a seven year old's food request in the middle of a meeting. That's pretty much the summation of my entire post.

This was a long one, I know, but I can't help but wonder. Is there anyone else out there struggling with the work from home thing? Do you have any tips or tricks you can send my way? I'm open to suggestion.


GBK Gwyneth said...

While I "only" worked part time, juggling working, conference calls, homeschooling, taking care of all doctors' visits, cooking, cleaning, "I can't find my ....", etc was a challenge. I dreamt of being able to go to an office just to be able to work without all the other stuff. So yes, I know what you mean!

amy said...

I bet you do! I was truly astonished that anyone would not see the difference between the two lifestyles and the difficulty of combining the two. When I was homeschooling, I had a very similar situation to the one you describe, and the days I worked in the office felt like vacation days. =)