The working mom vs. stay-at-home mom debate is one that has gone on for decades. Which situation is ideal for the child? Which is easier on mom and the family? And, of course, which is more challenging in maintaining a work-life balance?
As a work-at-home mom, or WAHM, I lie somewhere in the middle. In the six months that I’ve been a mother, I haven’t had to say goodbye each morning (or any morning) as I reluctantly drop my daughter off at daycare.
And while I am very, very thankful for this, I also want it to be said: WAHMing ain’t easy.
Prior to the birth of my daughter, I worked from home for close to two years. Even though I’ve never mastered the art of the perfectly disciplined work-from-home schedule, I had a routine.
That routine included waking up around 7 AM and working all day, just as if I were in an office somewhere. I almost never quit before 5, and because I love my role as a freelance writer and blog editor; sometimes I worked well into the evening.
When I became pregnant, I easily admitted that I really had absolutely no idea what working from home with a baby would be like. At the same time, part of me truly believed that for the first few months, it would be easy.
Newborn babies just sleep, right? They don’t start making moves until like 5 months, right? It will be perfect, right? Wrong.
For the first few weeks of my daughter’s life, she slept. A lot. Of course, those were the weeks that I was on maternity leave. Most days, I was downright bored. Have you seen daytime television?
Four weeks postpartum, I dusted off my laptop and got back to work. Coincidentally, this is when Elena’s long daytime naps transformed into 20-minute cat naps.
For a while, I would just wait patiently for her sleepy time to roll around and quickly get some work in while she slept. And then again during her brief afternoon siesta. And then again for her evening nap.
At the end of the day, it felt like I had been in work mode since the time I woke up because really, I had been. I spent most of the day with her in my arms, while I plugged away on my computer here and there.
She wasn’t getting 100 percent of me, and neither was my work.
Fortunately, my poor napper was a superstar when it came to bedtime. Each night at 7, she is out like a light and only wakes up briefly to nurse. So I made the decision to work nights. I would devote my days to being a SAHM, and then put on my WAHM hat once she was fast asleep.
Perfect, right? Wrong. As it turns out, tending to an infant (an exclusively breastfed infant, to boot) who doesn’t like to nap all day is exhausting. By 7 PM, I needed a nap — preferably an eight-hour one. And I won’t get started on 4-month-old sleep regression and teething. That’s for another post.
Despite its challenges, I am still grateful for my situation. Even if I do believe there is a certain advantage to leaving the house — and the baby — to go to work. As I said, I enjoy what I do, so I would love to have a block of time where I can just be a writer and not a writer who’s ready at any moment to rock a fussy baby back to sleep.
When the workday is done, working moms get to come home and just be moms. Emails, messages, assignments, and responsibilities tend to stay at the proverbial office.
For me, the fact that I have to begin my work is always in the back of my head. Luckily for my marriage, my husband understands that I have little time for anything besides taking care of my daughter and working.
While working moms or stay-at-home moms likely enjoy some quiet evening time with their partners, I’m used to talking to my husband over a laptop and doing my best impression of someone who actually has a minute to pay attention to what he’s saying.
For now, I have accepted that working at night while my daughter needs me less allows me to give (nearly) all of myself to both roles.
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And while this makes for a jam-packed schedule during the week, we’re all just working for the weekends anyway, right? You see, work from home moms are just like you!
I know that, as moms, we’re all busy. We all have guilt. And we’re all messing up our kids by trying so hard not to mess up our kids.
I get it. But the next time I see a WM and a SAHM duking it out in the ring, I’d certainly like to step in and fight for all the WAHMs out there.
Brooke Dowd Sacco is a freelance write and editor who writes about parenting.