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I was sitting in a coffee shop awhile back, hard at work on an article and sipping on a cappuccino. Somehow I ended up absentmindedly answering the questions of a man who was sitting one table over about my work, who I write for and what I write about. Even though I knew he was just being friendly and was probably just curious, I felt annoyed that he was chatting me up when I needed to finish my article within the next hour.
"Do they ever pay you for that?"
I think my mouth dropped open. I stared at him for a minute, and then confirmed that I did indeed get paid for my work.
"Oh, that's nice of them," he replied before looking back to his paper.
It seems that the world has a lot of ideas about what it is like to be a work-at-home mom. Since I first gave up my full-time job last spring, I have answered a lot of weird questions and dispelled some crazy myths about my life, both as a professional and a mother.
Think you know what it is like to work from home and care for young children? Let's clear up a few of the mostly commonly believed myths about work-at-home moms.
Myth No. 1: Work-at-home moms work for free, or pretty close to it.
As it turns out, this opinion hasn't only been expressed by the random stranger I encountered in my favorite coffee shop. Friends and family have also confessed they assumed I was still looking for paid work or making just a little extra spending money instead of contributing half of my family's income. The truth is, many work-at-home moms are able to make more in less time than they would if they were working outside of the home.
Myth No. 2: If you are working at home, you don't need childcare.
A single day of childcare each week makes all the difference for work-at-home moms who are doing their best.
While this depends largely on how much you are working, all of the work-at-home moms I know are spending between 25 and 35 hours working each week. Even though we probably could squeeze that in early in the morning before our kids wake up or late a night after they head to bed, most of us don't really want to. A single day of childcare each week makes all the difference for work-at-home moms who are doing their best to maintain a career, a home and their sanity.
Myth No. 3: Since you work at home, you are available as babysitter, errand runner, dog walker, etc…
If you are brand new to working from home, and your friends and family don't quite understand what your job entails, chances are high that you will soon be fielding calls requesting favors you simply don't have time for. It won't be long before you become really great at politely saying no for the sake of staying on schedule.
Myth No. 4: You are essentially a stay-at-home mom.
While it is technically true that you will be spending most of your time at home, working from home is not the same as staying home. When you are caring for young kids and working from home, you are probably spending every nap time and spare moment ignoring the dishes in favor of meeting your next deadline. This might be a big adjustment for your family, creating conflict about who is responsible for which household tasks and just how much is reasonable for you to accomplish in a single day.
Myth No. 5: Working from home is the best of both worlds.
Working at home definitely isn't perfect. Work-at-home moms face our own unique set of challenges. We are learning to juggle the role of primary caregiver and reliable employee at the same time. To add to the struggle, spending a lot of our time behind a computer screen can result in loneliness.
But working from home does allow me a certain level of freedom. I am able to be available to my children at a moment's notice, and I don't have to worry about calling in if someone is sick or wonder which parent will take time off for dentist's or doctor's appointments.
So I will be the first to say that working-at-home is hard, but it is also the best choice for myself and many others.