When I made the transition from stay-at-home mom to work-at-home mom, I did so with very little fanfare.
A couple of social media-savvy friends saw the occasional Facebook status update that revealed my new secret life as a blogger. When I began working in social media marketing, a few more noticed that I sometimes turned down engagements with the excuse, “I have to work.”
Despite the clues, it took well over a year for many of my local friends to realize I had built a business and was working essentially full time – although at odd hours of the day and night.
Why the Confusion?
For many work-at-home moms, defining our jobs to friends and family is a difficult task. We spend just as much time justifying why we’re “always on the computer” as we do explaining the details of our work. While a former teacher returning to the classroom can simply share her exciting news with friends, a work from home MOMeo has to explain why what she does even qualifies as a job. Appearing at the bus stop, a mid-day moms’ group activity, or school pick-up in old jeans and a t-shirt further confuses friends and teachers. What are you?
The Problem: Boundaries
One of the most difficult side effects of choosing the life of a what-is-she-doing-anyway-work-at-home-mom is the complete lack of boundaries. My phone rings just as frequently with calls from friends and family as it did before I began my business. I have difficulty explaining why I cannot attend mother/child activities as frequently, and saying the dreaded word “no” to volunteer requests has become more and more problematic, as I’ve had to say it more often.
How to Draw the Line
Set office hours.
Allocate specific days and times for work. Certainly this doesn’t mean you can only work during allotted times, but defining a work schedule and sharing it with friends and family will not only keep social calls at bay, but push you to work more efficiently.
Introduce yourself as a working mom.
When my daughter began preschool, my full-time job was nursing her very clingy four-month-old brother. That was how the school met and knew me. When said daughter began kindergarten this year, I was sure to include on all pertinent forms that I was a business owner, self-employed, not always available. My children’s elementary school will never know me as anything other than a mom who also works from home.
I chat with my father on the phone most days. By calling when I know I have time, I am less likely to get sucked into a conversation when I really need to be working on a client’s project.
If you tell friends and family you are unable to take personal calls between 9:00 and 1:00 on Monday, then not only take those calls but also indulge in lengthy personal conversations, you’re sending the message you are not prioritizing your work time. If that is the case, it’s difficult to ask others to do the same.
Running a business and a family can give a woman a sense of what it is to “do it all.” But the truth is we cannot do it all. Choose the work and community obligations that fit best, and simply say no to the others. By refusing to overschedule, there’s less chance of work life bleeding into the personal, and vice versa.
Include your partner.
There have been many nights when I’ve gotten up from my desk to help my husband with our two fussing children. Then one day I threatened to drop our three-year-old son off at my husband’s office during his work hours because I “could use a little help here.” Get your partner on board. Work together to define the boundaries that are the best fit for your life.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take this client call while I brush my son’s teeth…
How do you set boundaries in your life? Comment below and join the conversation.
Amy Lupold Bair is a sometimes freelance writer, a former pro-blogger and an entrepreneurial social media marketer in the DC metro area – not to mention a stay-at-home mom to two little ones.
Since mid-2008, Amy has covered a variety of topics including parenting tips, organizational strategies, product reviews and recommendations at her site, Resourceful Mommy. While working as Chief Blogger for Family Eden’s blog, Amy invented promotional Twitter parties called sitewarmings. This developed into SiteWarming Parties by Resourceful Mommy, where she promotes clients through Twitter SiteWarming℠ parties as well as through product giveaway contests. These events helped land her on the list of Most Influential and Powerful Women in Social Media – 2008.
In early 2009, Amy created the word-of-mouth mom marketing and public service campaign network, Global Influence, which includes over 800 social media-savvy men and women. Amy has worked on projects for brands such as Schwinn, Kellogg’s, and Hasbro, and on public service campaigns such as Speak Now for Kids and the Ad Council’s LATCH initiative with the NHTSA.
Amy often speaks at conferences on topics ranging from Social Media/Marketing to Power Tweeting. She has also appeared as the featured guest on several Blog Talk Radio shows including Chicks Who Chat and Classy Mommy Live , and has been interviewed by a number of popular websites including Kelly McCausey’s Mom Masterminds marketing network and Profitable Mommy Blogging podcast. You can also catch Amy as a returning guest on Living $MART on WUSA9, the CBS news affiliate to the Washington, DC, market.