5 Myths About Work at Home Moms

I’m about 13 years into my career (boy, that makes me feel old!) and I’ve been working at home for eight of those years. At this point, I’ve worked from home longer than I worked in an actual office. And, I’ve worked from home for the entire time that I’ve been a mom. I feel like I’ve hit the working mom jackpot to be able to have a career like this. One where I get to do work that I love and also be around the people that I love.  Sometimes the best part of my day is getting to give my baby a snuggle before naptime or having a little one run up to give me a hug and say, “I love you!” while I’m in the middle of writing a press release or a grant proposal. They get their mommy fix, I get my kid fix, and then we both get back to business – playing for them and working for me. One of my friends joked that I am “living the dream” and I think she’s right. But, that doesn’t mean that working from home is easy. Or that it’s what everybody thinks it is.  I’ve gotten a lot of comments over the years about what people expect working from home to be like.  Some common “myths” come up over and over again.

5 myths about work at home moms

Myth #1: You must love getting to make your own hours.
Reality:  I’m on the clock just like my co-workers in the office. I get the big kids off to school and get the baby set up with her babysitter then work til 5:00 every day.  It’s true that I do have more flexibility than someone in the office. If I need to run an errand, chaperone a field trip, take a kid to the doctor or anything like that, it’s easy for me to do and then just make up the time in the evening. This flexibility is something that I am especially grateful for as a mom of three kids.  But, 95% of the time, I’m working the same hours as most other working moms.  And, maybe even a little extra compared to those who come home at 5:00pm, done for the day. My coworkers are in a different time zone, so I am often answering emails late into the evening.

Myth #2: You must be super mom to work from home AND take care of your kids all day.
Reality: OK, folks. Thank you for your confidence in me. I am flattered that you think I can do this and I sure like the sound of being supermom. But I have to admit it. I’m not supermom. I can’t work a 40+ hour week job and give my kids the care and attention that they need during those exact same 40 hours a week. So, we have always had someone at our house taking care of the kids while I’m working. I can’t “do it all.” My best friend from college and one of my cousins are also full-time work from home moms. Both those wonderful, hard-working ladies send their babies to daycare so that they can get work done during work time. I do know a few work from home moms who have part-time jobs or own their own businesses and manage to juggle everything during naptime and nights. But, it’s really hard. For most full-time work at home moms, our jobs expect regular workday hours and childcare is a must.

Baby Ethan liked to "help" with the filing. Who doesn't need toy hammers in their important papers?
Baby Ethan liked to “help” with the filing. Who doesn’t need toy hammers in their important papers?

Myth #3: It must be hard to motivate yourself to do anything.
Reality: You do have to be a self-motivated person to be productive and successful at working from home. But if that’s the kind of person you are (and I am), you’ll find that it’s not hard to get work done. It’s actually harder to turn off and stop working. I find that I can get so much done because any time I have a work related thought – I can go do something about it. Suddenly remember at 9pm that I was supposed to email a contact about an upcoming project? It’s easy to do it the very moment I remember. Up in the middle of the night with a baby and have a brilliant new marketing idea? When I finish up with the baby, I can go type it up and save it for the morning. However, ideas induced by sleep deprivation and exhaustion sometimes do not seem so awesome by the light of day! I have a self-imposed no emailing before 5am rule for this reason. At especially busy times of year, this kind of easy access to my work means I start to feel really burnt out and like I don’t have enough of a “work-life balance.” At those times, I try to create a separate space in my home that’s dedicated to work and not let my work space creep out to other parts of the house that should be more focused on family time.

Myth #4: You have to be an entrepreneur to work from home.
Reality: People often think you have to start your own business to work from home. That’s certainly one route you can take. It works for many people, especially those whose work can be done anywhere, like graphic designers, writers, and coders. However, that doesn’t seem to be the kind of entrepreneur most people mean when they say this to me.  They seem to think that working from home means starting direct sales businesses like Pampered Chef, 31, Mary Kay and all the rest. But, most work from home moms that I know do what we used to do at an office. For me, I’ve worked with the same organization for about 11 years and I started in their offices. When I was getting ready to move out of state, they asked me to write a proposal for working from home to figure out what I could and couldn’t accomplish away from the office and how we could make it successful. I did that, and with a few growing pains in the first couple of years, we made it work. Many other people who work from home have had a similar path or are hired by companies whose staff primarily telecommutes.

Myth #5: You must get a lot done around the house.
Reality: Just like stay at home moms are often too busy with the kids to get the house in any kind of decent condition, I am too busy doing my job to do housework during the day. It’s true that I might throw in a load of laundry on a break. But, my house is just as much of a mess as you’d expect it to be with a toddler, a preschooler and a 2nd grader in residence. The toddler in particular seems to make it her life’s mission to spread chaos in her wake. And, unfortunately for my husband (who is a much tidier person than me), I do not see it as my life’s mission to clean up all her messes. My boss and I would both rather that I spend my workday doing my job.

My office chair did double duty as a high chair, apparently. Note the avalanche of papers behind my kiddo. Were they caused by him or me? That's anybody's guess. But clearly, that whole myth about being able to keep up with the housework when you work from home really is just a myth.
My office chair did double duty as a high chair, apparently. Note the avalanche of papers behind my kiddo. Was that caused by him or me? That’s anybody’s guess. But clearly, that whole myth about being able to keep up with the housework when you work from home really is just a myth.

Those are the top five misconceptions I hear again and again about working from home. One thing that people often don’t even think about, though, is that it can be really isolating to work from home. Most of us work from home moms spend a lot of time on the phone and emailing, but don’t talk to many people in real life. Before having kids and needing to run them around all over town, I remember unintentionally going four or five days without ever leaving my house. And this wasn’t just a one-time thing. It happened a lot. I wasn’t trying to be a hermit, there was just nothing I needed to go out for. Then, as a mom, you end up in a social no man’s land. You don’t have the schedule freedom of other moms who are at home and able to socialize during playdates or meet up with friends while the kids are at school. And, you don’t have the social network of an office either. So, if you’ve got a friend who works from home, ask her out for coffee sometime or invite her out for a mom’s night out. Odds are good that she would be thrilled to spend some time with you and hang out somewhere outside the four walls of her house.

Stay at Home Moms…be sure to check out our 5 Myths About Stay At Home Moms post!

Moms who work outside the home…stay tuned tomorrow for a post that’s just for you!

Laura is a mom of three who works full-time from home as a Development Director for a children’s charity. Laura grew up in Maryland, spent her 20s living in Southern California and South Carolina, and has spent her 30s and now 40s in Iowa, moving to Iowa City in 2010. Laura loves dancing, reading, baking, and music. She and her husband Ryan started dating in college (gasp – over 20 years ago!) and they have been sharing life’s adventures ever since. Their biggest adventure is, of course, parenthood. With three kids, the action is non-stop - which is just the way Laura likes it.


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