Note from the editor:
May is Parenting Month at Co-Op Web, and CEO Ana Lewis started working as a Work-At-Home Mom (WAHM) when her oldest child was around one year old. Now that her children are grown, she has some experiences to share with staff member Shannon E. Franklin, who is a new mom, and a new WAHM.
In this week’s blog post, Shannon interviews Ana about her experiences as a WAHM. Next week, we turn the tables and Ana interviews Shannon.
Ana and Shannon’s hope is that their insights and experiences with readers who are considering work-from-home parenting will provide inspiration, motivation and encouragement to move toward that goal.
Note: to all the work-at-home dads out there, we hope these interviews will be helpful to you as well.
Shannon: How did you structure your time so that you could get work done while also taking care of your children?
Ana: When I first started working at home in 1982, my oldest son was my only child and he was about a year old. I worked with a group of women I met at La Leche League, who wanted to earn an income but still raise our own children. It was a wonderful way to have social and work time for me and my son. I still keep in touch with this original woman I worked at home with and who helped get me started. I will always be grateful to her for her patience and kindness and for opening a door I didn’t even know how to open myself.
Through moves and the additional births of my middle son and daughter, I took classes in fashion design. I started making dancewear at a new home-based business. I did this from 1987 to 1994, and managed to juggle being class mom for all of my children’s classes, driving them to and from all of their sports, and being a chaperone on their field trips. Basically putting the kids first to the nth degree. I would work sometimes all night, so I could be available to the kids during the day.
I wouldn’t recommend that method of crazy-making. I have two divorces to showcase what can happen when you put kids and business first. I ended my career in dancewear design after the juggling got to me so bad that I ended up sleeping on the floor of the bathroom due to the fact that I was so sick from it all.
The most recent rendition of my work-at-home adventure began more than twenty years ago with the Co-Op Web. For four years—1994 to1998—I trained at two Internet Service Providers for my work at Co-Op Web. I was like a sponge soaking up information about the internet, computers, websites, online marketing—it was all so intriguing to me. I was learning something new every day. It was an avenue where I could be creative, learn new things and work remotely. The internet was/is a beautiful opportunity for me to have my cake and eat it too.
By this time, my kids were older. I no longer was class mom, but I would still go on occasional field trips and try to stay involved in their school, sports and lives. My New Year’s resolution was the same for several years in a row, to under-schedule myself. I was able to work from anywhere. I was able to work when the kids were in school. I was able to work from a villa on the beach in Mexico while my children played nearby. I was in the beginning stages of learning balance and it only took like forever, two failed marriages and a whole lot of trial and error.
These days, my own children are grown and no longer live at home. I am a stepmom to a teenager and most days are all mine. I outlined my typical day in the blog post, A Day in the Life of a WAHM.
Shannon: Did you ever deal with “mom guilt” while you were working?
Ana: Mom guilt–probably the impetus of me trying to be class mom and everything mom-ish in the universe to my kids as much as I could. Not healthy. Now, I say lose the guilt. Guilt will wring you out until you end up in pieces, wondering what happened and having to start out again, over and over. Get out of your own way. Read books like The 4-Hour Workweek and learn to make your life your own.
Shannon: What’s something you learned about yourself during your time as a WAHM?
Ana: I have learned what my priorities are. That may seem small, but it’s huge. I used to lament trying to make sure I am making a difference and having work that is purposeful. However, now I never lament such things. Now I appreciate the reasons that I am here. The reasons I became a mom. The reason I now have a successful marriage. It’s the people. Always been the people. I love working with the people I work with. I love our clients. I love my family and friends. I now know with all of my heart that when the time comes that I am no longer here, it’s the people I will miss the most. And I believe that this resonates in my work and the way that I spend my time.
Shannon: As a WAHM, you were constantly being pulled in different directions. How did you find time for yourself?
Ana: I learned to find time for myself in the times of day I loved the most, a practice I continue today. The early morning, alone in my yoga room, is a daily standard for me. It grounds me and I so love it. When the kids were younger, I would wake up earlier than them and hop on a stationary bike in my bedroom, with the door closed and CNN on. That’s what I was doing on 9/11. Having my alone time. Of course, when the kids were young, and the business phone would ring, there were more occasions than I would like to remember where I had to go into my walk-in closet to talk to a client in quiet, uninterrupted peace.
Shannon: What was your favorite part about being a WAHM?
Ana: My favorite part about being a WAHM has always been and still is the flexibility to spend time on the work and the people I love. Flexibility is a gift that keeps on giving all life long. I love being able to make my own schedule. I’m a bit OCD, so I don’t like things standing out on a to-do list. I like to get them done. Working at home allows me to clear my to-do list and create less havoc in my own brain.
Flexibility comes in many forms: being able to work from anywhere, any time and in following your own circadian rhythms. It’s fantastic for an early-bird, OCD, creative explorer like me.