Balancing Babies, Books and Beads – What It Means To Be A work at home mum – A guest post from Laura Smith of the fabulous Hex Nex Jewellery.
If you don’t know what a WAHM is, don’t worry. It’s an acronym that’s only recently entered my vocabulary too. So as it turns out I was one already, long before I even knew what it was. For those of us not in the know, it’s the new lingo for Work At Home Mum, a job title that’s becoming more and more frequent on our virtual CVs.
Let’s be perfectly blunt here. No one ever said being a Mum would be easy, and I think most women these days are under no illusions about the trials and tribulations motherhood brings. Chuck into that melting point the decision about whether to return to work or not and it’s enough to give any sleep deprived Mum another reason to lie awake all night. Between the finances, the Mum guilt and the simple practicalities of nursery drop offs or nanny-hunting, it’s only natural that the thought of working from home lingers in the back of so many minds like some taunting little voice daring you to give it a go.
I was myself battling with this very dilemma; that is, to return or not to return, when this decision was quite abruptly (and rudely, I might add) ripped out of my hands. In my previous life, before children, baby spit up and dirty nappies, I was a Visual Manager in the flagship of a famous department store chain. Finding Visual Merchandising had been a lightbulb moment for me after what felt like years of drifting aimlessly from job to job. It satisfied my creative needs whilst marrying them with my other great love, psychology, and so every day at work never really felt like work, I was just in love with what I did. But in September 2016, just 6 weeks or so before I was due to go back after giving birth to my first son, that department store chain quite spectacularly (and very publicly) went bust. In an instant, my job was gone, my pending house purchase was in jeopardy with the risk of our mortgage offer going down the drain and I was facing my worst nightmare – a job hunt and rounds of interviews at the worst possible time in retail in those weeks ramping up towards Christmas.
To keep myself busy during my maternity leave (because I wasn’t busy enough already with a newborn) I had started HexNex and was just starting to see my little fledgling begin to spread it’s wings. So that niggling voice in the back of my brain began to taunt me. What if I could be a WAHM? It certainly sounds ideal. Spend everyday with your little one, see them grow, never miss a special moment and just simply work through nap times or into the evenings (kids sleep a lot, right?) Social Media has a fantastic way of making everything look rosy, and you see others making it look so easy. I had read all the interviews with headlines like “Being Made Redundant Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me!” and I wondered, why can’t that be me?
So if it isn’t obvious by now, I let that niggling voice win and somehow persuaded my ever lenient husband that this could work, after many evenings of long talks over Rose wine or, on the more challenging of evenings, a strong whiskey. And so that’s exactly what I have been doing for over a year now, as well as a giving birth to a second child, fully renovating a house from top to bottom (the mortgage thankfully came through) and handling the day to day life of a Mum with two under two. It was scary, invigorating and liberating all at once, and for the longest time I struggled with my own perception of myself too. It’s only been a recent development that I’ve found I’m able to call myself a “business owner” without feeling like a total fraud.
In many ways, being a WAHM is everything I dreamed it would be. I’m with my boys everyday, they get to eat home cooked meals and we get to take day trips to the park together. I’ve witnessed first steps, new words (not all of them polite) and every. single. tantrum.
In so many other ways though – it’s bloody tough! My children are too young to understand the concept of “Mummy working” and so they get frustrated when I’m glued to my desk trying to sort through orders and make sure everything is ready to dispatch on time. I’m often working with one child hanging off my hip and the other off my ankle, both whinging or screaming or whining for something or other. My kids have spent more time in Post Office queues than most people probably do throughout their entire lives, and it’s not exactly a fun place to be. Over Christmas I added a new string to my already over-stretched bow. The queue was so long I actually fed my youngest his bottle whilst waiting in line and didn’t even have to break rhythm whilst finally being served.
Being a WAHM also takes multitasking to a whole new level. I can now simultaneously bath my kids, do a photoshoot of new products (turns out bathroom spotlights make for a perfect little studio) and keep my social media updated, all at the same time. This has resulted in a couple of hairy moments where my rather expensive camera has almost ended up drowning in the bath, but for the most part it has been relatively successful.
The Mum guilt still exists too. In order to give my business the attention it needs, I’ve had to send my eldest to nursery 2 afternoons a week. I’m reassured that as soon as I leave, he’s “just fine again” but that doesn’t make the painful drop offs with tears and tantrums any easier. No amount of reassurances with “Mummy will be back later” and “You’ll have a wonderful time!” seems to be working with him and is perhaps a slight backfire from him having spent every moment with me since he was born.
And then there’s the wife guilt. My husband is incredibly supportive of my business and my ambitions, but most evenings he doesn’t truly understand why I have to sit at my desk all night rather than relaxing on the couch with him. Because here in lies one of the toughest truths about owning your own business. If you don’t do it, no one will. No one else is going to make those orders for you. No one else is going to fix the issues with your website. No one else is going to answer all those email enquiries. Every single minute detail falls at your feet, unless you’re lucky enough to employ someone else to help you out. I’ve finally had to admit defeat and am taking on an accountant in 2018 as book keeping simply isn’t my forte. So THAT’S why I have to work until midnight every night, because there are a million and one things constantly on my to-do list that otherwise will simply never get done.
The Big Question
So here it is, the Big Q. Would I recommend it?
It will take every ounce of strength you can muster, and it will push you to limits you never even knew existed. It will take you overcoming your own self doubts and dealing with other peoples (often judgemental) views on your decision. It will take long days, even longer nights and a scale of learning you thought was long since behind you from school days. But to see it succeed, for every achievement, for every happy customer, for every payday you award yourself, it’s worth it. And more than anything it’s worth that golden moment when your two year old brings you over a pretend cup of tea from his miniature IKEA kitchen, passes it to you upside down and says “Mummy tired” and totally melts your heart.