I'll admit it; quitting my job was almost as terrifying as becoming a first-time mom—almost. But I knew shortly after returning from maternity leave that I wasn't doing what was best for my family, and since I was still working a fairly entry-level job with no benefits, I knew it wasn't best for me either. I left my job with a newborn and a vague plan, and now I have a toddling one-year-old and a little more experience. I'll admit the past year had its share of stress, spit-up, tight deadlines and dirty diapers, but it wasn't without its own set of lessons either. Here's what I've learned during my first year as a work from home mom.
Appreciate the small things.
Shortly after my son was born, I discovered that days were less about the big picture and more about the small things. Like taking a shower by myself. (Glorious.) And getting through the grocery checkout without any screaming (from me or my son). The same thing applies to my new work life. With short periods of time to actually get some work done, I have to celebrate the things I accomplish or go crazy stressing over the things that I don't.
Specialize, specialize, specialize.
At the start, I was willing to write anything that came with a paycheck, but I soon realized I was spending way too much time bidding on work I didn't enjoy and not enough time on actual paid work. And then I found my niche. Clients are more likely to work with someone who specializes in exactly what they are looking for. Now I spend a lot less time pouring over potential jobs.
There will never be enough time in the day.
Working for myself, there's always something I could be doing: another project, more bidding, more marketing, more work. Always. My to-do list will never go away. And once I realized and accepted that, it became much easier to take a break to read the same five-page book 23 times in a row to my son.
There's no such thing as perfect.
I've always had this unrealistic idea of who I should be and what I should be doing, but that wasn't helping me grow. In fact, it was holding me back. I am always going to make mistakes as a mom and as a writer. But as long as I recognize them and use them to grow instead of wallowing in what-ifs, it's okay.
It's okay if the dishes aren't done and the toys aren't put away.
Speaking of not being perfect, I very quickly realized my house wouldn't ever be perfectly clean from top to bottom. In my pre-baby life, I liked to do all of my cleaning in one day so that when I was done I could sit back and relax in a perfectly clean house. I don't have a window of time big enough to do it all at once anymore, but that's okay. I have a one-year-old and more often than not there will be toys on the floor and dishes in the sink. I'm okay with that.
One person can't do it all (AKA grandmas are wonderful).
I began to suspect that grandmas are wonderful as my mom and mother-in-law helped with the cooking and cleaning and I concentrated on this tiny, squalling little thing and recovering from the delivery. But in all seriousness, I wouldn't be able to work from home without them; they each spend one day a week spoiling my son, which allows me to get a lot of work done without distractions. And, my husband cooks more often than I do now. If I tried to do it all myself, I'd be miserable (and unsuccessful).
Set aside enough time to dream.
With keeping up as a mom and managing multiple clients, it's hard to find a lot of time to do anything else, but this year I set aside enough time to follow one of my long-time dreams and finished my first novel. Maybe it will do well and maybe it won't, but either way it's reminded me why I wanted to be a writer in the first place and that's important in itself.
“Me time” can be productive.
Again, free time is rather hard to come by. But if my days are filled with only either work or baby-tending, I become stressed and don't do a good job as a mom or a writer. So, after my son goes to bed I don't pick up where I left off with my work day, even though there's always something to do. I'm more productive when I have a few minutes for myself.
Being a mom is the harder job.
Most days, writing is my escape. If I had to choose, I'd choose without hesitation being a mom, but doing the same things every day that just have to be repeated the next day is a little unsettling. Working keeps me sane, but errors I make as a writer can be edited. Mistakes I make as a mom, not so much. Being a parent involves much tougher decisions than being a business owner.
Being there is priceless.
I'm proud of my work, but watching my son reach milestones goes beyond that. I can ask my son, at 15 months old, to go get a certain book and he'll pick that exact book out of a pile. I may read Hop on Pop by Dr. Suess so many times that my thoughts start to rhyme—but it's worth it, every time. (See what I did there? I did it on purpose, I swear.) I knew that I would love being a mom, but I didn't realize how much I'd love to teach him my son new things and how proud I'd be when he picked up on them.
If I had the same choice that I did a year ago, I'd choose to work from home, every time. Sure, some days are certainly stressful, but I get the best of both worlds and my family is better off because of it.