Wednesday by Leah: Life as a Work-At-Home Mom

*All photos courtesy of Arrow & Apple in Phoenix, AZ! Thanks, y’all!

I run a business with my husband. LeahAndMark.com… you might have heard of it.  =) I also work as a consultant to humanitarian organizations providing and advising on staff care for aid and development workers. That sounds like I do a lot, huh? Before BabyRoX was born, I thought I’d work 20-30 hours a week, every week, after the first 3 months . (I gave myself 3 months just to be a mom and bond with my baby – standard maternity leave in the U.S. of A.) Now that BabyRoX is 5 months old, I guess that means I’ve been a working mom for 2 months. But things haven’t quite played out the way I thought.

I suppose if you add up all the stray minutes responding to emails or discussing finances with Mark or marketing, I might work 20 hours a week. Maybe. Especially if I shot an event over the weekend or had a conference call with Bangladesh and Thailand.  But I still don’t feel like a Work-At-Home Mom. I mainly just feel like a mom.

In my pre-baby head, I would work during nap times. BabyRoX naps 4-5 times a day! That’s a lot of napping! Surely I can get a bunch of stuff done while he’s sleeping, right? Ha. I maybe get some laundry done and eat lunch. Then I have 10 minutes to reply to emails or pay bills. I usually take one nap WITH him. Sometimes he doesn’t want to be put down by himself for a nap, so I hold him or lie down next to him, so I can’t really do much then, either. I typically like to have chunks of time to focus on my work…chunks of an hour or two, not 10 minutes! I get absorbed in my work, in “the zone” – I tune out everything around me. I can’t do that when I’m responsible for a baby. So when I realized I couldn’t really work around nap time, we started setting aside 2 hours per day where Mark would be with BabyRoX and I would work. Except… well, then I need to shower, or pump milk, or do some yoga to stretch out my muscles, or put away the laundry. And then BabyRoX is doing something cute or funny so I need to go see what’s happening and spend time with BOTH of my guys. And often Mark gets a last-minute request for a photo shoot, and hey – we have bills to pay and we aren’t likely to turn down a job, so sometimes I don’t even get 2 hours a day.

I’ve realized that the best option is to have someone else watch my child, at least a few hours a week. Except – I don’t want to! And therein lies the rub, as Hamlet once said. I love the work I do. Running a business is exciting, and with a creative, people-focused business like photography, it meets a lot of my needs for artistic expression, for community, for engagement with others. And my social work consultancy with humanitarian staff is so meaningful and rewarding – I do not want to give it up. I am so thankful I get to do such varied, fulfilling work – and get paid for it. I don’t want to stop working. But I don’t want someone else watching my child. I love being a mom even more than I love my other work. I’ve realized that I just want to work less.

So for now, I’m getting used to the idea of being a *very* part-time Work-At-Home Mom. This isn’t what I pictured before my son rocked my world. I really thought I would be just as focused on my work, because of how important it was to me. But I’m happiest spending most of my time as a mom right now. I don’t want to completely give up my other work, either. I’m glad to have 10-20 hours a week to focus on those other parts of me. Mark and I both agree that we would rather earn less money and have more time together as a family than work work work and have a cushy savings account or pay off our student loans. And while we do have to make sacrifices, we are also incredibly fortunate that we can live off of our business and the little extra I bring in through my consulting jobs. So for now I’ll continue to carve out bits of time here and there for work… and spend the majority of my time being a mom to the cutest, sweetest little person I’ve ever met.

I’ve questioned this choice more than once over the past two months, but I keep coming back to what feels right for me, what makes my heart happy…and really, it’s the time I spend with my family.

Five or six years down the road, there will be much more time for working. I’m only 30, after all. And when I think about it, even though I spend far fewer hours working than I used to, I still do a lot. I run a business with my husband. I support humanitarian workers around the world. Maybe only a few hours a week, but it’s something. I’m proud of the work I do, even if I do a lot less of it than before. I’m going to put my overachieving mental chatter on the backburner for now and sink into the slow, joyful days of my son’s infancy. Laundry, spit-up, giggles and toothless smiles. And so much love.

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