​Work-From-Home Moms Aren't the Same as SAHMs So Stop Confusing Us!

working from home

For the past eight years, I have been a work-at-home mom. In the early years, I was freelance, which meant that I did have a great deal of flexibility and could hang out with my kids during the day while working at night. But eventually I became staff, and with that my freedom was gone.

What that means to you, oh dear stay-at-home mom friend whom I love? It means I'm sorry, but I can't meet you at the pool at 1:00 on a Wednesday afternoon. Or the coffee shop. Or your house. Or pretty much anywhere.

Not this week. Not ever. Unless I take the day off. Got that?

But that won't stop her (and countless others) from asking. Hell, even my own husband took a few years to grasp that I really didn't have time to do all the laundry, clean up after the kids, and drop off his dry cleaning. I'm working here, people!

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It's the most common complaint of moms who work from home, and one you hear again and again. In many ways, both big and small, working from home is just not respected as a "real" job.

Except the part where it IS a real job.

I earn an annual salary. I pay taxes. I have medical and dental benefits, and paid vacation, maternity leave, and holidays.

I have a job.

Yes, I get to do it in my sweatpants and sometimes I don't leave my bed. But I am working, not mindlessly perusing the Internet while eating peanut butter cups.

Of course, complaining about the downsides of working from home doesn't garner much sympathy. I am aware that my situation is lucky and that my work-life balance is enviable. But even so, it's still a full-time position, still a career. I still have good days and bad days. I can't volunteer at Field Day or the Thanksgiving picnic without telling my boss and either flexing my schedule or taking time off. I am happy with what I do for a living, but I work hard. It's not a walk in the park and I am not a stay-at-home mom. I have the utmost respect for mothers who take care of their kids 24/7. I'm not one of them.

So when people ask me if I have childcare, I have to ask: "Are you still not getting it?" Of COURSE I have childcare. How could I work a full-time job -- replete with meetings, deadlines, and assignments -- without someone helping me with my kids?

And there are other unique challenges to working from home beyond just the fact that no one seems to understand you are really working.

It's sometimes hard to find a quiet space where the children won't bother you or you won't be tempted to clean or organize something. The whole concept of "just one load of laundry" needs to fly away, because there is no time for that. I constantly pretend like I am in an office just so I can tune out the distractions of being in my own home.

And then there is the matter of the judgment.

We recently let our cleaning person go, and one of the reasons we did was because I'd heard from another friend that she said all I did was sit in front of my computer. It was hurtful because I had explained that I worked. Did she not hear me? Did she not get what that meant?

Me "just sitting" in front of our computer means we can save for our kids' college funds and pay for them to go to sleep-away camp. And, frankly, so we could pay her to keep our house clean. No one should have to deal with that kind of criticism, especially from someone who is supposed to make life easier.

The fact is I work. My job is not a traditional one, but it does have semi-traditional hours (9-5, baby, and then some!) and I am as beholden to those as anyone who happens to go into an office every day.

So, no. I can't hang out after school and drink tea and chat, as much as I would love to some days. I can't host playdates at my house unless my sitter is here, too, and I certainly can't meet for lunch on a whim (much as I'd like to do that too!).

For those who work full-time in an office with the occasional "at-home" day, it might mean a day of leisure. For me? It means the same dedication and attention I give to my job every other day. Just because it's not in an office doesn't mean I'm not busy and completely tuned in.

The world is changing. Telecommuting is a "thing." Catch up, guys! And stop being patronizing to the many of us who happen to work remotely.

Do you ever get flak for "working from home"?

 

Image © iStock.com/doble-d

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