For context, I think it’s important to tell you that I’m writing this while my daughter is in the tub playing with her toys. I balanced my laptop on a stool and wrapped the shower curtain around myself as a rudimentary cone of protection from the inevitable splashes. And no, I’m not kidding. As the stay-at-home mom of a toddler, my work schedule is basically – whenever my kid is distracted or unconscious.
Sure, sometimes I put my foot down and set our schedule, but 80% of the time, my daughter is in charge, and she knows it. That used to drive me crazy, sometimes it still does, but acceptance is a huge part of being a working mom.
You can do it
My name is Maggie and I’m writing this for anyone who currently works from home with a child, or who’s thinking about doing it in the future. It is possible. You can do it. There’s just some stuff I want to tell you that I wish I knew when I started.
In 2019 when I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant, I was already super stressed out. I was juggling increasing anxiety, very toxic customers, and a high-pressure work environment. Somehow, the knowledge that I was pregnant brought on all the symptoms of pregnancy. I was running to the bathroom every 15 minutes to either puke or pee and I was constantly exhausted. Now that I’m older and wiser, and no longer pregnant, I can see how much my anxiety contributed to those symptoms.
I knew I would get through it. I mean, pregnancy does have a pretty specific end date, but I kept asking myself if I wanted to come back to this environment once I had a real, external baby in my life. Plus, it started to feel unfair to get a paycheck for sleeping at my desk!
I talked to my husband, and we agreed that I could put in my two-week’s notice, focus on my pregnancy, and look for another job after we felt comfortable putting our daughter in daycare. That turned out to be the right decision as I spent the next 5 months throwing up 8-12 times a day. I don’t recommend it.
I’m not going to lie, I spent about 3 weeks straight sleeping in and playing The Witcher 3 interspersed with some vintage Crash Bandicoot. After losing about 50 straight games of Gwent, I guess the entrepreneurial spirit finally found me. I felt like I had to do something during the day. Other than calling my husband at work to tell him to stop for ice cream on the way home. Or tacos. Or chocotacos, a beautiful marriage of them both.
I was already a Poshmark user, I’d sold a few things but mostly bought. It was pretty easy, so I decided to lean into it while I had some serious downtime. In my first month of serious reselling, I made about $120. Of course, I was a newbie and didn’t record anything, so I don’t actually know, but after that, I was hooked.
The next month I made a little over $200 and continued at about that level through the birth of my daughter. I don’t really remember much of the next month; sleeping was not a big part of my life then… Did you know newborns don’t sleep? No one warned me about that.
What I can tell you, is that when I looked into my little baby’s eyes, I knew I couldn’t leave her. I talked it over with my (very supportive) husband, we agreed that I could stay home and give reselling a real shot.
I started binging Marie Kondo and minimalist documentaries on Netflix while purging my personal closet. YouTube videos and personal blogs taught me more about reselling and customer service. My new goal was an average of one sale or $10 a day. I started hitting that goal consistently just when my daughter started standing up. It felt kind of serendipitous that we both found our legs at the same time.
Cut to 4 years later and I’m earning a full-time income while being a stay-at-home mom. It’s still fun and exciting, and also still a serious daily struggle. I’ve learned some major lessons along the way that I’m proud to share with any other parent working from home with a little one (or more than one).
It’s Ok to get mad
This one might sound weird, but any parent will know what I’m talking about. We see too many blogs, vlogs, and Instagram posts that whitewash parenting. Yes, I love my daughter. I would kill or die for her, but I have also eaten donuts in the bathroom so that I didn’t have to share them with her.
Kids are gross, they poop at the most inopportune time and they can, at least mine does, get inexplicably sticky. They don’t want to act to your schedule, they expect you to adapt to theirs. When you’re running a business from your home, none of that is especially helpful.
I used to feel like a bad mom because all of the mom content I was seeing, told me that I was the problem. I wasn’t setting boundaries and holding her to them. I was holding her too much, or not enough. I was expecting her to develop too quickly, or I wasn’t working with her enough to make sure she developed at the right pace. And I was told that I should be doing it all with a smile on my face.
I’ve messed up as a mom, trust me, and I’m sure I will keep messing up in the future, like a lot. But let me tell you, you don’t have to do all of this with a calm and patient smile. When someone throws a handful of poop at you, a normal and healthy reaction is to get mad. When someone screams in your face while biting and scratching you, it’s ok to get mad. When you spend an hour cooking a healthy, nutritious meal from scratch for someone, and they push their plate on the floor because they want ice cream instead, you can get mad.
You can love your child and be mad. You can be a good parent and be mad. Mad, or frustrated, tired, annoyed, aggravated, or just pissed off. You can be all of those things and still be a good parent. It’s fine to let yourself be upset, you don’t need to control your emotions every minute, you just need to control how you act on them.
Sometimes the healthy thing to do is scream into a pillow so you don’t scream at your family. I used to put my girl in her crib and take a long shower with loud music to cool down. I needed to be alone, and I grew to recognize that she would be fine for half an hour with her toys. You don’t stop being a person when you have a child. You can’t take care of a vulnerable child if you’re not taking care of yourself.
Sometimes they win – be flexible
During one busy day, I decided to take my toddler for a quick walk to get our mail and back. It’s about a 5-minute round trip alone, with an eighteen-month-old it used to take about 20. That day it took a little over an hour because we had to follow an errant leaf that blew by.
It was explained to me, in rapid toddler, that this was a special leaf, and we needed it. Every time I tried to pick it up, chaos ensued. I tried to pick her up and carry her home several times, but she was seriously stressed about that leaf, so eventually, I gave in.
It ended up being a beautiful day. We found a nature trail in our neighborhood that I didn’t know about that has become one of my daughter’s favorite spots for an outdoor adventure.
I didn’t get everything I wanted to get done finished, or even started, but hey, the sky didn’t fall. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to let my kid win. It makes both of our lives easier and it turns out, she’s a pretty cool person.
I’ve also learned to set reasonable goals for myself. If you always aim for maximum productivity, you can end up feeling like a failure no matter how successful you’ve actually been. I set a reasonable goal every month and a stretch goal. The first goal is one that I feel I can actually accomplish, the second is that absolutely everything goes according to plan. It’s been very affirming to hit my goals and to see how close I can actually get, or even occasionally exceed my stretch goals.
Have YOUR space
My mom had one rule when my family got our first dog, he was not allowed on the furniture. The first thing my brothers and I did when we got him home, was to build Rufus a ramp to get on the couch so he could cuddle with us. He then spent the next 15 years sleeping on my mom’s side of the bed, and on my dad’s lap on the couch. Being a parent is kind of like that, times a million.
I don’t dream of the day my daughter graduates from college, or gets married, I dream of the day I can go to the bathroom by myself. I dream of a floor, uncluttered by toys, of a laundry room devoid of tiny unmatched socks. Kids and their stuff get everywhere. They’re like dog hair personified. That’s why it’s so important to have a space that is all yours.
If you’re lucky enough to have a room to yourself, great! But it’s also ok to stake a claim on a filing cabinet, a single section of the couch, or a wall. Make it yours. Decorate it however you want, don’t let anyone tell you to clean or organize it, if you want it messy, it gets to be messy. Explain to your kids that it’s the one place they are not allowed to touch things, leave things, jump on things, or whatever else your little monster wants to get into. As a parent, I know you do a lot to fit yourself into their life, they need to learn how to be flexible for you too.
Involve them when you can
Full disclosure, I’m working on this one right now. I knew that I wanted my daughter to grow up seeing me working, but I didn’t realize how young she was going to be when it started leaving an impression. My daughter just turned three and is already pretty involved in what I do.
She likes to sit in my lap and color while I write. Sometimes she even brings in her toy laptop, sets up a chair next to me (makes me do it), and types away “like mommy”.
I ship on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and she demands to help. I let her carry a box downstairs for me one time, and she went nuts for it. It was like Michael Scott making Pam hand him those fake messages during meetings. Now, she feels that it’s her job so, three times a week, we get up, have breakfast, and go to my workroom. She patiently waits while I print labels and wrap packages. She insists on putting the labels on herself, she loves stickers, and she has to carry at least one box downstairs to our outgoing mailbox.
She’s so serious about it that on the rare occasions I don’t have any sales, I sometimes make fake packages just to avoid an emotional meltdown. But honestly, I love it too.
I was hoping to trick her into cheap child labor years from now in exchange for allowance, but she’s helping me now because she wants to. She wants to spend time with me, she wants to be like mommy, and I feel so honored by that.
I want her to grow up seeing me succeed in a business I started. I want her to understand that with enough effort and passion, she can earn an income on her terms. I want her to grow up understanding the real value of money, and knowing that her time is worth what she says it is, not what some random guy in a clip-on tie tells her it’s worth in a job interview. Apparently, that all started happening before I even noticed it.
Give your children jobs to do, and start discussing your finances with them. It might not seem like it, but they listen all the time.
And remember, you can do this!