I was taking a quick break for lunch while my infant daughter was napping when I decided to scroll through Instagram. In my feed, I saw countless photos of families out and about in New York City, where my husband and I live with our two kids. I saw my friends with their kids: toddling around Madison Square Park, checking out the latest exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, and posing next to the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street.
I looked over at my son. It was spring break, so he was home from school. He was making his way through the activities from his Easter basket, and going back and forth between his favorite YouTube channels. I instantly felt a pang of mom guilt. Unlike my friends, I couldn't be out on the town with my kids over spring break. I had articles due and calls scheduled with clients. So I had to leave my son to his own devices.
I’m a full-time freelance writer and blogger. Because we can't afford the outrageously high costs of day care (in New York City, it's an average of $16,000 a year, according to the New York Daily News), my family relies on my patience and multitasking skills to be able to work from home. Every day, I push as hard as I can through my lengthy to-do lists: I have to write stories, pitch ideas, check social media, get my quarterly taxes squared away, do spring cleaning, and then take care of all my regular daily mom duties somewhere in between.
On that day, I'd been up and on my computer since 5:30 a.m. My heart was literally palpitating at the thought of getting all of my daily tasks done. This was a typical day for me because I'm a work-at-home mom, and honestly, I think I work harder than most working moms do.
I don't say this to brag or try to win the Motherhood Olympics. I realize that being a mom is a full-time job and all of us have it tough, whether we're stay-at-home moms or work part-time or out of an office. All of these roles come with their own unique challenges. If you're a SAHM (stay-at-home mom), your focus is always on your children and your home, and the financial needs of your household are never far from your thoughts. But having to juggle working full-time for an employer as well as take care of your kids isn’t something you do on the daily.
Work, childcare — it's all part of my daily routine.
If you're a typical working mom, you always have to rush back and forth between the office and your home, and you constantly need to balance your mom duties with the demands of your workplace. But if you work outside the home during business hours, you can focus entirely on work for the day. Your kids, your household, your marriage: all of those things are on your mind, but you don't have to focus on all of them at once.
For the WAHM (work-at-home mom), that's not the case. I have to take care of everything. Work, childcare — it's all part of my daily routine. And because I have a flexible schedule, I rarely get a break and I work through vacations as well. (Yup, sometimes I work on the weekends too.)
The worst part of working from home is that you’re isolated from other people. Not only do you not get the social interaction you would in an office, but you also don't get the praise or positive feedback you would from a boss IRL. No one sees how much I sweat as I run through our tiny little apartment, cleaning during a rare moment of downtime. No one sees how badass I am when I wash the dishes and get the baby fed and down for her morning nap, while somehow finding time to edit photos and schedule social media posts for the week. No one ever knows how much I get done in one day, because it's all behind closed doors.
No one ever knows how much I get done in one day, because it's all behind closed doors.
On top of all that, working from home can lead to some crushing mom guilt. I wish that I could have spent all of spring break going on city adventures with my kids. I wish that every day, I could wake up and say, “What do you want to do today?” and just go ahead and do it. But instead, every activity with my kids is planned. I'll never be able to take them on a spontaneous trip to the park or museum, just because all of our activities revolve around my tight schedule.
But as rough as every day can be, I wouldn’t change a thing. By being a work-from-home mom, I’m able to be there for my kids in a way I couldn’t when I worked full-time in an office. My flexible schedule makes up for the other challenges of working in a workplace: for instance, if someone has a sick day, I can choose to get things done in the evening and care for my child during the day. But just because my hours are flexible doesn't mean my day is any easier.
Working from home means that my work hours and off-work hours often blur together. I'm always up writing late-night emails, and more often than not, my computer is in my lap hours before everyone wakes up and hours after everyone falls asleep. It’s not for everyone. But I must admit that I wouldn't trade it for the world. When I wake up every day and open my laptop, I feel like a rock star.