Welcome to the first interview in my "A Few Good WAHMs" series: Whitney Moss! She's the co-founder and publisher of RookieMoms.com, an indispensible resource for new moms, and 510Families.com,
a local guide for parents in the East Bay region of the San Francisco
Bay Area. She lives and works in Berkeley, CA with her husband and
their children, Julian and Scarlett.
MU: You've been at this WAHM for awhile now - what's it like being an "old pro?"
WM: I don’t feel like an “old pro;" I feel like I’m still working it out. I’m so glad you are exploring this topic because until very recently, it never occurred to me to start asking others how they manage their time, but I’m extremely excited about learning from everyone else. I always feel like the clock is ticking and that I’m trying to cram everything in. Ironic, of course, because my objective is to be cool and collected and to enjoy the flexibility. For example, it’s 11 am and I am just sitting down to the computer for the first time today because I was doing drop-offs and then a huge grocery run (with one foot in a walking cast.)
MU: Your kids are in school full-time, and were since you started as a WAHM. How did you come to that decision?
WM: I was inspired to leave my office job, where I worked in Marketing for LeapFrog Toys because I wanted to write a book proposal for The Rookie Mom’s Handbook. I felt like I couldn’t focus on it with my work responsibilities and motherhood as my two other top priorities (in reverse order, by the way!) My husband’s career is very stable and afforded us the ability for me to scale back and explore a switch to freelance marketing work, which we knew would have ebbs and flows. What has happened instead is that blog-related work has become a more rewarding thing to focus on and I’m doing less and less marketing consulting. That’s just a really long way of explaining why I am just beginning to identify with the term WAHM. I thought I might be on site with different clients as much as half-time.
I don’t believe one can get actual work done while watching small children. You cannot have conference calls, write well, or do research. And you certainly can’t take in person meetings. Hence, I only plan to work while my children are at school. I hope this doesn’t come across as judgmental, but I don’t really think it’s fair to the children either. I want mine to have my eye contact and attention and not feel that they are competing with my Blackberry. Which, by the way, they are, because it is addicting and I do struggle with putting it away.
MU: I admit that the one thing that really inspired me was how you completely turned off once you picked up your kids from school. It really got me thinking that perhaps my kids aren't benefiting from me not having more work time set aside because they're not getting as much alone time just with me. I might feel better about not having them in full or even part time childcare, but it made me wonder if it was the best thing.
So, does that make it easier for you to have a start and finish to your "work" day?
WM: Well, by 9 am I have dropped off both of my kids, and then I have until 2.45, when I need to head out to pick them up. I spend from 3 to 8 focusing on my kids. My goal is to carve out this balance where I get a 25 hour work week, and get to enjoy being out and about with my kids the rest of the time. If a client or partner requests it, I might take a call during the afternoon playtime, but I don’t suggest it. I consider myself unavailable until my husband gets home at 6.30 and prefer to not do anything else work wise for the rest of the night, but I do have deadlines and often end up writing blog posts between 8 and 10 pm.
Most days I block out my tasks on a Google Calendar. For example 10-11 is for my current marketing client. 11-12 is for RookieMoms.com, etc. Even if one of the hours is reserved for lunch and laundry. Or sometimes I write “kid stuff” in a time slot if I know I need to make phone calls about camp, lessons, or birthday plans. Then, inside the calendar appointment item, I put the details of what should be done.
The next day, I drag anything I didn’t accomplish over to that day. I never accomplish it all.
MU: Speaking of which, you mentioned that's one of your biggest challenges with being a WAHM - not being able to get everything done.
WM: I am always running out of time. Because my husband and I have designed this balance, I want to be able to get the groceries and do all the laundry during my time at home also so that we are not doing those things in the evening. As I have gotten more and more busy with work obligations, I have let the house stuff slide more than I would like. I want this to be as nice for him as it is for me. He has made it clear that he doesn’t want to come home to a stressed out, exasperated wife. He wants me to pad my schedule or get the help I need to make it all work out. (We all know the drill: Partner walks in door after 9 hours of work and 30 minutes of traffic. Mom thrusts baby toward him. “Here you go!”) Whenever I see him folding laundry now, I feel a little pang of underachievement.
MU: So has being a WAHM hurt or helped your relationship?
WM: Another compelling reason for our partnership to have one partner with a more flexible job is that so many things do come up where a parent needs to miss work. Although I still feel like I need to ask my husband to take off to accommodate some thing or an other, I do think that me handling doctor’s appointments, sick kid days, no school days, is a viable solution. The 50/50 solution is probably just as good -- it’s just not the one we’ve picked.
MU: Let's go back to this childcare issue that you mentioned earlier, because I bet a lot of WAHMs (I admit, I am one of them, but you've sold me otherwise!) feel as though they can split their time - kids and work. It sounds like you disagree.
WM: I don’t want women to believe they can work from home and not need childcare. I believe everyone needs a little childcare to focus on adult tasks, undistracted. To commit to producing quality work while a child plays baby dolls next to you or is at your breast, is an unfair expectation of yourself.
MU: But that's also one of the benefits of being a WAHM, right?
WM: I do feel like I’m having my cake and eating it, too. I like to be engaged with the outside world, to stretch myself intellectually and to earn the respect of my peers. That’s what work gives me - in addition to money. I also love the relationship I have with my children and the fun we have together.
MU: Being so strongly entrenched in social media seems to bring another set of challenges - balancing the personal chat time as well as the professional "research" that does involve being deeply involved in social media. I struggle with this constant; for me, it was getting rid of Tweetie on my iPhone that helped!
WM: Perhaps this is why I never accomplish it all. Getting caught up with my Google Reader is a little bit part of the job! I need to keep tabs on what’s going on. I do a lot of the chatty stuff during my work time. Once I’ve got the kids with me in the afternoon, I’m mostly only reading on my phone, not responding. Or texting with my real-life friends, but I suppose every mom is doing that.
MU: Looking back, what advice might you give yourself when you started working from home? What advice can you offer other moms who are finding the balance to be challenging?
WM: Act like you have a job. Manage your time aggressively. When you need to use your flexibility to save the day, that’s the icing on the cake.
[They really are that happy and cute and young looking in real life]
Stay tuned for more interviews as part of my "A Few Good WAHMs" interview series.