Part 2 of the WAHM interview, continued from Part 1.
Ana: What are your top reasons for becoming a WAHM?
Shannon: My number one reason for becoming a WAHM is simply to be with my son. I wanted to savor every precious moment with our son after he was born. Besides, we’re currently living away from our family and most friends, and the thought of leaving my tiny new baby with strangers at daycare made my stomach tie itself into knots.
Before my son was born, I was working full time for a big architecture firm in Manhattan – a kind of a dream come true. I loved my job, but after my six weeks of maternity leave was over, I didn’t feel ready to return to work, so I extended my leave. A few months passed and I had to make a decision: return to work full-time, or leave my wonderful job. I chose to leave my job and stay home with my son. But, the firm is so fantastic that they offered me the opportunity to work part-time from home. Now, I spend my days working for the architecture firm, a coworking space in South Carolina, on various freelance projects, and taking care of my son.
I recently found a place nearby that’s a combined coworking space and daycare, so twice a week I’m able to get focused time to work while my son (who seems to be a social butterfly) gets some desperately needed playtime with a few babies his age. If I start to worry or miss him in those few hours, I can just pop downstairs and say hi to him!
Ana: Did you prep in advance to work at home before becoming a mom? If so, how?
Shannon: I didn’t prepare much to become a work-at-home mom. At the time I made the decision, I didn’t put much thought into what it might take. Since I made the decision before the part-time offer came from the architecture firm, I assumed that I would be mostly setting my own schedule with the freelance work I chose to take on. I didn’t think that I would need much of a structured day, or that the baby would need to be on a particular routine. Spoiler alert: I was wrong. When I started working for the firm again, I wished I had done things a little differently. I would have prepared by having a more solid daily routine with the baby so that my days would be more predictable. Also, I would have set up my own designated workspace in advance, instead of working on my laptop at the dining room table most days.
Ana: Has it been hard to find work while working at home?
Shannon: It hasn’t been particularly hard to find work while at home. Between the architecture firm and the coworking space, I have a consistent flow of work that keeps me busy for nearly full-time hours during the week. The number of freelance projects I have at any given time is usually a direct result of the amount of effort I put into looking for them.
Ana: What are some of your greatest challenges about being a WAHM?
Shannon: There are so many challenges. Being a WAHM is hard.
Work: I struggle with having enough focused time to get my work done. It’s difficult to be truly productive when I’m stopping constantly to feed the baby, change the baby, stop the baby from putting lint (or usually something worse) in his mouth. I have the most time to concentrate at night after the baby goes to sleep – and by then I’m usually ready to fall asleep myself!
At Home: I feel a constant pressure to keep the house clean, laundry done, food cooked, and more. I recognize the ways other people assume that since I’m at home I’m not really working, so it shouldn’t be a problem to maintain the household. Through extreme exhaustion, overwhelm and mental burnout, I’m learning the very difficult lesson that–no matter what others expect–I really cannot do everything. On busy work days, I have to make choices about what’s most important to accomplish, and how to do those things without sacrificing my health. To that end, dinner gets delivered more often than I think is actually acceptable, and unwashed laundry sits in a pile on the floor a little longer than I think it should. But, I also try not to beat myself up about it too much, knowing that even though I feel like I’m sometimes falling short, most days I’m still doing a pretty good job.
Mom: I feel guilty when I know that my son wants my attention but my eyes are glued to my laptop to work. Sometimes I question my decision: what’s the point of being at home with him if I’m not fully present? I also would like to make more time to do fun things with him during the day, like music class or swimming lessons.
Ana: What are some of your greatest joys?
Shannon: My greatest joy is that I’ve been able to make so many memories and witness every milestone within my son’s first year. These are moments that we’ll never have again, and I’ve had a front row seat to see his first steps, hear his first words and watch him grow into the big, new world unfolding around him. Just having the opportunity to be in his presence daily is my life’s greatest joy.