I’m Not A SAHM, I’m A WFHM — There’s A Big Difference

I’m Not A SAHM Anymore, I’m A WFHM —And Yes, There’s A Big Difference

Digital family
Scary Mommy and VioletaStoimenova/Getty

These past few weeks I’ve taken on as much work as I can because the holidays are coming. As a single mom, it’s important to me to be able to give my kids a nice Christmas and feel okay about taking some time off when the holiday is here.

My days have been all about rising early enough so that I can get a good chunk of work done before my kids need help with their school work. 

My work breaks have involved emptying the dishwasher, ordering groceries, and making the cookies my son has been begging for.

I had to stop in the middle of a conference call last week because my son split his thumb open and I thought he needed stitches.

My daughter was not herself and in her room crying a few afternoons in a row. I kept going up to check on her because I was worried, and wanted to make sure she had someone to talk to. 

There are days when the hours run into each other and I don’t remember to stop and eat. That always backfires and I end up making up for it at the end of the day.

I know if I don’t buckle down and get done what needs to be done, I’ll be up late into the night to finish and the next day is going to arrive at the same time it always does and I’ll have another day’s worth of work to do.

I used to be a stay-at-home-mom. When I started working from home part time, I still called myself a SAHM when people asked what I did. If someone would chime in and say, “But you are a writer.” I’d reply with, “Yeah, but it’s only part-time.” 

When I got a divorce and I worked hard to make it a full-time career, I wasn’t able to hire any kind of help, and my family was still expecting me to do all the things I used to. I had three young kids at home, a household to run by myself, and I was officially a full-time, working-from-home-mother.

There’s a difference. And it’s huge. And I feel like we should be able to talk about that––nobody is shaming anyone here. 

Young modern mother with a baby using laptop at home
filadendron/Getty

Working from home has been amazing, fulfilling, (mostly) convenient, and has done wonders for my self esteem. I’ve also never felt so lucky to be able to work from home considering the times we are currently living in.

But it’s a lot harder than being a stay-at-home-mom, especially right now as many of us have our juggling distance-learning and working simultaneously. 

This isn’t a war.  This is me saying I’ve done both, and being a person with both kids and a job at home is more difficult than having just kids at home (which is definitely hard enough).

When your home is your office, you see things out of the corner of your eye you wouldn’t if you worked outside the home, or knew you could tackle it later because you didn’t have a deadline —  the overflowing kitchen garbage, the laundry piles, the dishes that need doing. It makes it harder to compartmentalize your life.

Even if you tell your kids there are scheduled times when they can talk to you, or you hire help to keep the kids fed and safe, you are still there. They know it, and you know it. Sometimes that means they are going to need you, regardless of what you have to get done for work.

You have to maximize the time you feel productive (for me it’s in the morning after I work out), and there are things that come up to throw a wrench in those times.

A few weeks ago, my daughter was sick and throwing up. 

A couple of mornings before that, my son was struggling with a finance paper he needed help with. 

Working from home as a mom means you have to learn to become a master juggler. I’m not even talking about balance here. Please. Kids and the demands of life don’t know what the fuck balance is, so that theory gets thrown in the trash every damn day. Why bother?

Working from home as a mom means you know how to pull it together for a call or a meeting, and then feel like you are going to bust as soon as you don’t have to be “on” any longer because everything around you can go to shit in under a half hour.

Working from home as a mom means you are hyper-aware of how much you have to do, both personally and professionally, because you can’t help but take it all in at once — your job, the mess, your family, what you need to make for dinner, which kid isn’t staying on task — because it’s all front and center.

Working from home as a mom means you become overstimulated really quickly if someone knocks on the door or there’s an accident (like my son cutting his thumb), and your whole day can be thrown off.

Working from home as a mom means everyone still leans on you in all the same ways because kids (and other adults)  don’t quite understand why you can’t mom (or help them out) if you are home.  

Believe me, I have to tell my three kids every day that I need quiet so stop fighting, or I can’t just randomly take them out to eat at 3pm, or I can’t have them all on the WiFi when I’m working because my job is more important than their Netflix show. 

As much as you try to separate the two, there are lots of times when you literally can’t. You are throwing all the balls into the air to see where they land and doing your best at your job — and your job as a mother.

I love what I do, and I wouldn’t change the fact I’m financially independent for anything at this point in my life. But this is serious shit, especially for divorced and/or solo parents. Your feet hit the floor every day and you aren’t sure how your workday is going to go. You just know you have a ton of crap to get done, there will be people (you love very much) in your way, and you have to figure it out.

Because that’s what working-from-home mothers fucking do.