When I first started to work at home, I was the mom of two kids. I was working for a little “extra” cash. Disneyland pass money. Purses and new shoes. My primary business was marketing the clothing line I’d launched. I was shipping to some 250 or so stores worldwide, not making a huge profit. But it was cool. I started blogging to boost my marketing efforts. Anything not to have to go back to work in an office for a marketing firm. Or as some obnoxious people liked to say, “get a REAL job.”
Two more kids later, some tough economic realities intervened. My husband was spottily employed and we were paying for private school. I took on more. My efforts were no longer paying for Disney passes and designer purses. I was paying for food, and gas and tuition.
Fortunately for my family, I’m pretty good at what I do and I had an established freelance career in marketing and advertising to return to. I was able to take on contract marketing and writing assignments, and earn a respectable salary, without giving up flexibility. But like Rumplestiltskin says on Once Upon a Time , “All magic comes at a cost…”
Some of my (mostly ex) friends still don’t grasp the fact that I work full time from home. They think I’m selfish and aloof. That’s why I’m unavailable a lot of the time. Yes it stings, yes it’s tough, but I literally don’t have time to meet, have coffee and explain it to them. Some weeks, all I have time for is a brief Facebook chat.
There are a lot of challenges and biases unique to work at home parents, but the following inaccurate assumptions seem to affect moms in particular. I’m not saying men don’t deal with the same, but society is what it is. Our culture comes with a set of infuriatingly outdated ideas and expectations that get applied liberally by the most surprising people.
It’s been over ten years since I started working from home, yet I still face the following mis-perceptions, on a near daily basis.
Persistent Lame ideas about Work at Home Moms 1 of 11
It’s not a REAL job 2 of 11It's not a real job if you don't go to an office, don't commute, don't have a boss, don't have to wear a suit, don't get a weekly paycheck.... You get the idea. The list is long because no matter how successful you are, there are still people out there who will insist that if you work at home, you don't have a REAL job. I hope you earn more than them.
You can’t possibly be making any real money 3 of 11This is the flip side of "it isn't a real job" and it rears its nasty head when you explain what you do, at home, to a doubter. They then feel entitled to comment that they do not believe you earn real money. They may tell their cousin about you, and said cousin will call and offer you some "work" at less than minimum wage, because he/she heard you needed some money. Again, I hope you earn more than anyone who suggests you are worth less because you work at home.
Your kids are neglected 4 of 11All working moms are are subject to nonstop conflicting messages about fleeting childhoods and missed career ops. Working at home means you're trying to balance but the truth is you cannot have it all, all the time. When you work at home and miss a parent meeting or when your sitter sees you put off your child because you are on a work call, there is judgement attached. From teachers, peers and even the sitter who wonders what's so important that you do that you don't have to go to a REAL office for. Working moms, who probably decided to work at home to be with their kids more, don't get much applause for the times they do manage to do it all, but the scrutiny for when they don't, is plentiful.
Since You’re at Home… The properties of time are altered 5 of 11It makes sense that you should do the laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning and prep, kids party planning, school volunteering, room momming, team momming, room painting, costume sewing... Oh wait. You work? Well you know, in your free time. Because you are at home. Squeeze it in.
You can aways do a little more work 6 of 11Since you can't leave your office, you can't ever leave your work. If you work for others and don't keep regular hours, it is likely that you are expected to be always on or at least always reachable. Even when the power is out and your phone is dead and the kids (or you) have the flu. Always on.
You can’t dress yourself appropriately, ever 7 of 11True story: I used to have a sitter who judged me for working at home. I was sure she was sure I was just looking at cat photos on the internet while wearing my PJs, while she cleaned my house and watched my baby. So I got all dressed up in heels and a suit and went to Starbucks to get some work done without her judgey glare. There I ran into a bunch of other moms I knew, out for coffee. They all had on workout gear. They wanted me to join them. I said I had to work. "Oh," they said "Aren't you FANCY!" which really meant that they thought I was being an anti-social bitch who didn't have time for her stay at home mom friends. Lose, lose. From then on I drove to the Starbucks two towns away.
You work AT HOME 8 of 11Want to know where the nearest wifi hot spot is? Ask a work at home mom. We know where to park at the fast food place closest to the school, so you can still get wifi in the car and then be first on the pickup line. We work in hotel lobbies, malls, the cafe at Whole Foods (grocery shopping plus a little work) and at the doctors office. See: Always on.
Working at Home is a Career Killer or a Stepping Stone 9 of 11Once certain people begrudgingly admit that what you are doing kind of qualifies as a real job, probably because you are earning "real" money, they will assume one of two scenarios: 1. You're trying to stay in the market in case you ever want to go back out and get a real job. But you probably won't because sadly you peaked back when you had a real job. 2. You've managed to create a stepping stone for yourself, you scrappy lil' lass. Hurray! Now you can get a REAL job.
Desperate Housewives WAHM edition 10 of 11I get furious at how many people equate work at home motherhood with a brand of desperation, be it desperation for cash, for acknowledgement or attention. Working at Home is simply the best solution to putting food at the table and still spending time with kids, for many people. It's not a ploy for attention, a route to a real job or a cause for charity. It's insulting to downgrade someone's abilities because they get the job done at home. What matters is how they get the job done. Work at home moms are not desperate, they are frustrated that it's harder than they imagined it would be. They are also probably exhausted a lot of the time. If anything, they are desperate for a nap.
Oh look! There really is a Balance Fairy! 11 of 11The only thing worse than all of the above assumptions/perceptions is the bill of goods that is sold, sometimes by working moms themselves, that balance is simply a matter of skill and planning. The myth of having it all at the same time really is a disservice to all working moms. I hear from people who follow me about how awesome it is that I seem to juggle it all and have it all and I offer the very real evidence to the contrary - the birthday party present I forgot to get, the teacher conference I missed, the friend's important event I cannot attend because I am working out of town that weekend and the fact that my older son has no shoes that fit. I'm tired all the time but I don't regret a thing. I've made the choices that are best for my family and me, and whatever you've chosen for you, I'll have to assume you chose with the same good intentions in your heart.
Hear more about the Mommy Wars: The Peace Talks on Raising America:
We’re continuing this conversation all this week, because we want that lasting peace, dammit. Read more posts on this subject in this section all week (you can start with Catherine’s kick-off post.) And tune in to HLN’s Raising America (12:30 EST) to watch The Mommy Wars: the Peace Talks, a 5 day collaboration with HLN’s Raising America aimed at wrestling this so-called ‘war’ into peaceful submission.
For more on ‘leaning in’, and for buckets of inspiration toward being intentional and empowered in our choices (motherhood-related or otherwise) and our lives (including inspiring stories from many Babble bloggers that you know and love), visit the Lean In community. And maybe join the Lean In community. It’s a movement for all of us.
More Casa de Chaos adventures:
- On my personal blog MOMFLUENTIAL
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- On INSTAGRAM via Followgram.
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