Friday, April 24, 2009

WAHM


No, that's not a misspelling. Anyone familiar with Internet lingo knows that WAHM stands for "work at home mom." That's me! And after 5 months of WAHMing I now feel I have something to say on the subject.
First off, I am SO grateful to be able to work from home. I've always wanted to be a mom but I really enjoy working too, so I'm thankful for the opportunity to do both. And I don't take my situation lightly. I realize that there are many, many mommies out there who would love to be in my position. I wish I could tell you how to work from home too, but since this job just kinda "fell" into my lap, I don't really have any expertise to share.
That said, it is certainly not easy. For being somewhat young, I've had many different jobs. Motherhood is by far the most difficult "job" I've ever had. And working from home is a definite second. There are lots of different jobs that can be done at home, unfortunately, I don't think my current position is the easiest to do away from the office, but we make it work. During my first few weeks I really had to change my mindset. In previous jobs, I would go into work at 8am and leave work at 5pm without thinking about my work again until 8am the next morning. I also wasted a lot of time being bored at my desk. Now I "get" to think about work all day (and all night) long, and mommy in my in-between time. When I first thought about working from home, I think I pictured myself with a little more freedom, which would certainly be a possibility if I could set my own schedule. But since I'm "on call" at all times, this isn't necessarily the case. Here are a few things that I QUICKLY learned about working from home:

1.) Always keep your phone within a 4-ring distance.
One of the first times I worked from home was while I was still pregnant. I had a doctor's appointment in the morning, followed by some bloodwork. I stopped at the grocery store to grab three things on my way home. I missed a total of 5 calls. When I got home and checked my voicemails, I missed another two calls. While returning one of these calls, I missed another call - this one from a co-worker asking why I wasn't taking calls. I felt horrible.
Fast forward a few weeks later, Jack is here, I'm back to work, and the phone is back to ringing. I cannot tell you how many times I've let my phone in another room, on another floor, and didn't realize it until it started ringing. If I ever answer the phone out of breath, it's probably because I just ran up two flights of stairs to answer it.
And so, I keep my phone with me wherever I go. I take it with me for the 30 seconds it takes to run out to get the mail, I keep it in my back pocket when I'm up in Jack's room changing a diaper, it's with me when I'm driving to and from work, and it sits next to my plate when we're eating dinner.
I've learned the hard way that people will always call when (a) Jack is screaming (b) I'm feeding Jack (c) I'm on the other line or (d) I decide to use the restroom. Since those early days I've gotten better at catching calls ... and at not sweating over the calls I do miss.


2.) Keep your laptop by your side.
For similar reasons as the phone, I'm never without my laptop. I keep my email up and running from 7am until 10pm and I'm constantly checking in whether I'm seated on my couch, cooking dinner in the kitchen or getting a tan on the balcony. If only I could get wireless out on the beach ...


3.) Every day is work day
My office phone is constantly forwarded to my cell phone unless I'm actually sitting at my desk. This means I could get a work call at any time. Although it is rare that someone will call me before 7am or after 8pm, anything in between there is fair game, including weekends and holidays. Last week was Good Friday. My office was closed but apparently some people were not aware. After ignoring three calls in a row from the same person I figured it would be easier on everyone involved if I just answered my phone. So much for holidays.
While I do my best to remain completely available during work hours, I simply can't be expected to answer every call. For example, one sunny day I decided Jack and I needed a walk. It was 5:30pm, the office had been closed for a half-hour, and I figured it was a good time to give my Grandma a call. Apparently someone else thought it would be a good time to give me a call. That same person proceeded to call me every minute (7 times in a row) while I was trying to have a conversation with my Grandma in between beeps. Two weeks later this same person called me 16 TIMES while I was on the phone with my boss. Not once did she leave a message. I was beginning to get annoyed. Normally I don't return calls unless the person phoning leaves a message, since that's how it would work in the office, but in this instance I was very willing to make an exception. I called her up, answered her simple question, and let her know that next time she can just leave a message after the first call and I'll call her right back when I'm free. People!!


4.) It's hard to keep a baby quiet
I try really hard to maintain some level of professionalism while working from home. I could be sitting in my pajamas, with unbrushed teeth, folding laundry with a bowl of Cheerios on my lap, but I still want people to think they're talking to a fully-dressed women sitting at her desk playing with her pen. This means no background noise. I cannot tell you the number of times I've talked to someone while they were going to the bathroom. They think I didn't know, but believe me, I heard ... and I probably made a note about it in their file. I've also had numerous conversations with people as they're driving down the highway with their windows open, in a crowded grocery store, or in the middle of rock concert ... well at least, that's what it sounds like. I try to keep background noise to a minimum, quite the challenge with a kid in the house. During those first few weeks, I'd lay Jack down and run out of the room if the phone rang. Usually he didn't mind, but occasionally there would be a really chatty person on the phone and I could hear Jack in the other room getting more and more frustrated with an absent mommy. I'm sure I was not the most attentive listener in these situations. It's a lot easier now. Unless he falls over and smacks his head on the coffee table like this morning. I apologized to the man on the other end of the line, picked up a screaming Jack, kissed his forehead, waited 2 seconds until he calmed down, and resumed my conversation. Some situations you just can't control.

Thankfully Jack's pretty content to entertain himself when I'm on the phone for a few minutes. The problem comes when phone calls end up being more than a few minutes. A few weeks back I had a conference call scheduled with several other co-workers to discuss a marketing strategy. I had it all planned out so that Jack would be taking a nap during this time. Well, Jack ended up waking up 30 minutes early and our meeting started 30 minutes late. I knew he wouldn't be content to sit quietly by himself while Mommy chatted on the phone for an hour and a half, so I decided the best alternative was to hold him the entire time since he's usually pretty quiet and calm when he's in my arms. Other than a very tired arm, this worked great until about the last 5 minutes of the meeting when Jack coughed once and sneezed twice, this was followed by a few "Hey Jack's!" on the other line. Babies are much easier to hear on the phone than we realize. :)
So now you have an idea of what a working day looks like in our house. Jack has adapted pretty well. He definitely recognizes my cell phone ring, and he likes to try to type on the computer right along with me. It's been a fun adjustment, and a worthwhile one at that. My only complaint is just that I'm a little busier at this point in my life than I hoped to be. And it's not always this way. It just depends on the time of year. These last two weeks of work have been keeping me on my toes, and unfortunately my home life takes a hit. I can't remember the last time I cooked a real dinner, my house is a dirty, dusty mess, and most importantly, my blogging suffered. You know I'm a little busy and stressed when I can't keep up with my own blog! But thankfully summer is just around the corner, and no matter where you live or what you do, there always seems to be a bit more free time in the summer!

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