Welcome our next blogger, Lindsay Ferrier, busy mom (and stepmom) as well as author of Suburban Turmoil and The Stir's She's Still Got it, one of my favorite guilty pleasures (though I actually don't feel guilty reading it - only when I buy everything she recommends)
MU: You homeschooled your daughter for awhile and now she's in school. What's the childcare situation with your youngest now?
LF: I’m really lucky to have a friend who holds a “day camp” for a few preschool-aged kids two days a week in her home, from 9-2. My son has been going to her house for more than a year and he absolutely loves it. So do I. I feel like I’m taking him to a friend’s house rather than daycare and he thinks of my friend and her husband and kids as his extended family.
When all else fails, there’s a fantastic indoor playcenter about five minutes away from where I live. My son loves to play there and there’s lots of central seating for parents, so that I can get work done and watch what he’s doing as well.
MU: I'm sure many people comment at how amazing it is that you do what you do with little ones around, and our past two featured WAHMs have discussed how they feel very strongly about having consistent childcare, so, how do you do it?
LF: I am constantly, constantly working to balance my freelance jobs with my job of raising my children well, which obviously takes priority. This summer, it has helped me to literally write into my schedule things to do with my kids each day- Not only can I be sure that way that they are getting plenty of quality time with me, but it also helps me to not feel guilty about letting them play on their own for a few hours in the afternoons while I get work done-- after all, we spent the morning hiking the trails at the park, or going to a puppet show, or at the zoo.
MU: I'm guess that means that this makes your schedule pretty challenging - do you even have an official start and finish?
LF: No, but I wish I did! Once both kids are in school, I plan to do my freelance work between 8 and 12 each day. That still leaves a few hours afterward of housework or “me” time before the kids come home. Currently, I work when my kids are at day camp or school, and whenever I have a spare moment. My husband is great about taking over on weekends or evenings too, when I need it. He gets it (and the paychecks really help with that!)
MU: What's the most challenging aspect of WAHM-dom for you?LF: Any time I have a spare moment, I feel like I should be working. I wish I felt comfortable reading a book or watching a show on TV without also doing work, but I just don’t. I envy my husband for the fact that he can come home each day and be DONE with work until the next morning. I’m always behind on something, so I feel like I never have any guilt-free time to myself.
MU: You wrote a post about WAHMs vs WOHMs awhile ago that got a strong reaction (even from me) - what prompted that and what's your take on it all now?
LF: A WOHM wrote a post saying that being a WAHM wasn’t even in the same league as being a WOHM. That was hard to take. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who works more hours than I do. I’m sure there are plenty of women who work the same amount of hours as me, but certainly not more. The fact that I set my own schedule and am my own boss is great- but it also brings with it a set of challenges that many WOHMs don’t have to face. I’m sure the reverse is true as well. I don’t think WAHMs have it harder than WOHMs, but I absolutely don’t think many of us have it easier, either. Work is work and we’re all in this together.
MU: How has your job situation affected the relationship with your husband?
LF: When the money’s good, it’s been a huge positive. When we’re getting regular checks in the mail, my husband never complains about the time I spend working. When I’m in between jobs, though, and the money gets tight, our situation becomes more difficult. I started my style blog in December, for example, and worked hours on it every single week almost entirely for free, and my husband had a hard time with that. I had a hunch that I could do something with it to make it worth our while, but he couldn’t really see my vision. Fortunately, that hunch paid off- I sold the blog in May and now get paid to write it- and my husband is probably its biggest fan. But it was hard to explain to him over a four-month period why I was spending so much time on something that at first gave us no real financial return. Hopefully, he’ll be more understanding the next time I have what seems like a wild idea!
MU: Are there any cliches or myths about WAHMs that you'd like to debunk (or prove) - a style blogger doesn't work in her pajamas, does she?
LF: I work in my pajamas all the time!
Now that my daughter’s in school, I definitely have started having problems with other moms and teachers who assume that since I stay at home, I have all the time in the world to chair committees, bake brownies, work on elaborate projects and fundraise. I get calls ALL THE TIME and it’s frustrating, because I know the assumption is that since I’m home, I have nothing better to do.
Also, some people in my real life still don’t take the blogging/writing about my life thing seriously. I still get patronizing comments from acquaintances asking how “that blog thing” is going, or whether I’m still doing my “mommy writing thing.”
MU: What are the biggest benefits that you perceive from being a WAHM?
LF: Even when I was doing really well in my career as a news anchor and reporter, I knew that when I had kids, I wanted to stay home with them. But with two older stepdaughters and college looming on the horizon, being a full-time SAHM would have been incredibly difficult for my family, if not impossible. I feel like I’m living my dream, because I’m able to be my kids’ primary caretaker, have a fulfilling and exciting career, AND help ensure that my family is financially comfortable. I LOVE my life and feel very, very lucky.
MU: You seem to have a fantastic balance when it comes to social media involvement - personally and professionally. How do you do it?
LF: I work very hard to stay connected with my readers, to read all my comments and answer as many of them as possible, and to answer e-mails, but beyond that, I don’t maintain a whole lot of online friendships. I’d love to have more, but the reality is that I just don’t have the time right now, and at some point a few years ago, I made a commitment to give priority to my friendships with women here in Nashville-- I think it’s important not just for me, but also for my children to see me interact and maintain relationships with lots of other adults in real life. I have lots of online friends (you being one of them), but I’m not able to keep in touch with everyone as much as I would if I didn’t have so much going on. I feel like my online friends totally understand because most of them are in the same boat. I do love catching up with everyone at conferences and blogging events every few months.
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?
LF: I wish I had listened to my own instincts sooner, as opposed to conventional wisdom. The online world changes so quickly that advice tends to be outdated almost from the moment it’s given out.
As far as advice for other moms, I’d just say that it’s so important to make your children your priority. Do whatever it takes to make that happen. For me, actively scheduling activities with them each day has been an important part. I’ve also opted not to get a fancy cell phone- I keep a basic one only for emergencies and almost no one knows the number. That way, I can’t do any work or answer e-mails when I’m out, and I’m reachable only by my family. I may have a neverending pile of work at home, but when my kids and I are out together doing something (which is often), I’m totally focused on them. That has been a great thing for all of us.
Awesome stuff, Lindsay! Visit my archives from more interviews in my "A Few Good WAHMs" series.