Welcome Julie Marsh, my good friend, former business partner, and now colleague who writes at The Mom Slant. She's a freelance blogger and columnist, whose work can be found regularly at Imperfect Parent and CafeMom's The Stir blog. She also acts as Director of Ad Sales for Cool Mom Picks.
You worked for many years as a WOHM - tell me how the transition was for you?
The initial transition took place at the same time we moved from NY/NJ to CO with a 3yo and 3mo in tow, so I was coping with multiple adjustments at once. I was also actually quite happy in my job when we moved, so I had a greater sense of regret upon leaving it than I might have if I’d been unhappy.
Being a SAHM in a new area where I knew almost no one led me to begin reading blogs in earnest, start my own, and begin making new connections to replace those I once had at work.
You also went from working for a company to being a business owner with Parent Bloggers Network - which is unique and a whole different beast - share your thoughts about that transition.
In our 2007 holiday card blurb, I wrote that I was working more hours now than I ever did in an office. It was true; when your business is your own, there’s a sense of responsibility that never leaves you. Working for a company usually means that you can leave your responsibilities at the office, but that’s not the case with a business of your own - whether it’s brick and mortar or online. Even with Cool Mom Picks, I feel a far greater sense of responsibility for the success of the business than I ever did with any other employer.Your kids were always in full-time daycare and school, but now you've got at least one home with limited childcare. How do you manage?
I recently took my 5yo out of preschool and enrolled my 2yo, which has made a significant difference in my ability to be productive during the week. My older two are quite good at occupying themselves when they’re not in school, but my son is understandably more needy. I schedule phone calls and work that requires concentration for the days that he’s in preschool, or in the evenings when my husband is home.
Tell us how your daily schedule works, since you're working as a freelance writer and blogger, but also as Director of Ad Sales for Cool Mom Picks.
This question serves as a reminder to me that I really ought to create and institute an actual work schedule. I tend to interrupt tasks by checking email and Twitter and Facebook. Then again, I also interrupt tasks by filling sippie cups and changing diapers and mediating disagreements.
In general, my workday starts as soon as I come downstairs and open my laptop (which usually sits on the kitchen table), and it stops when I close my laptop before heading upstairs to bed. Not exactly the healthiest schedule, I know.
What's the most challenging aspect of WAHM-dom for you?
Ironically enough, I face many of the same challenges that I did at the office. I worry about not devoting enough time to my kids, even when I’m right here next to them. I also tend to do my best work when I have way too much of it, which was one of the hazards of project management too, where workload has peaks and valleys. I believe this challenge is made more difficult by not having a schedule, so that’s another reason for me to set one.
How has being a WAHM affected your marriage?
My husband is incredibly supportive. He admires the entrepreneurial nature of what I do, and he recognizes it as actual, productive work, not just playing around on the computer. I’m really, really lucky.
Are there any cliches or myths about WAHMs that you'd like to debunk - you know, like the "working in pajamas" thing?
Well, I’m wearing pajamas as I type, and I could definitely use a shower. I’ve written emails with children on my back. I’ve conducted business calls with one arm outstretched in a “talk to the hand” posture. I’ve edited photos while breastfeeding. I’ve yearned for my old office where I could close the door and work without interruption.
It’s true that working at home is fraught with distraction and requires discipline and concentration. It’s not true that working at home isn’t really working. It’s multi-tasking at its most extreme.
What are the biggest benefits that you perceive from being a WAHM?
I do love the flexibility, which is perhaps one valid reason I haven’t yet established a schedule. If one of my kids is sick, I can care for them while continuing to be productive. I can participate in school functions. I can do loads of laundry and run to the grocery store during the day. Taking care of domestic obligations during the course of my workday -- with impunity, since I’m my own boss -- is a huge win for me.
Being in social media means staying connected - but that line between personal chatty time and professional time can blur - how do you keep those separate? Or do you?
If I need to focus on a task, I shut down Twitter and email. It keeps me from being tempted to click over when I hit a rough spot in my work. I send very few personal emails, but I do chat on Gmail. The good thing is that my frequent Gmail chatters (you and Liz) are busy people too, and we’re cognizant of each others’ limitations. I also don’t leap into every Twitter discussion or send many DMs, which can really spiral out of control.
There are obviously pros and cons to both WOHMdom and WAHMdom - which do you think fit your personality and lifestyle better - has that changed from then to now?
With three kids, WOHM would be cost prohibitive now. On the other hand, with three kids, additional income is essential. Working at home is ideal for my current lifestyle, which I could have never foreseen when we moved to CO and I began blogging. I actually did work outside the home briefly here -- first in auto loan collections (WORST. JOB. EVER.) and then as an IT project manager (my previous field), but it was cost prohibitive even with just two kids. I feel incredibly fortunate to have begun blogging at the time I did, making connections with other smart women and learning to use social media tools as they are evolving. It was a true stroke of luck. Given the similarities in workload dynamics of what I did then and what I do now, working at home is a great fit for my personality too.