From SAHM to Working Mom, It’s A Family Affair That, Sadly, Does Not Include A Laundry Fairy

In support of other women writers, today I’m trying a little something different on Blonde Mom Blog courtesy of Women on Writing (WOW)…a guest post as part of author Claudine Wolk’s blog book tour. Claudine is author of “It Gets Easier! and Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.”

It Gets Easier Book Cover

I’ve always been a “working mom,” whether it be full-time outside the home, working from home while Miss A was a baby, and now 30 hours a week split between the office four days a week and telecommuting on Fridays. I think we can all relate to the challenge of transitioning to another stage of motherhood.

I hope ya’ll enjoy Claudine’s post below. Tell me in the comments what your modus operandi is. Are you a SAHM, do you work outside the home full-time, do you telecommute, or do you do work from home and in the office, like me? Today it’s not quite so easy to slap a label on our foreheads as a response to “What do you do?,” is it?

I’ve done it all as a mom – working full-time, working from home, working part-time, staying at home fulltime – there isn’t a working state of motherhood that I haven’t visited.  Although they all have their challenges, going back to work after being home was the choice fraught with the most land-mines for me.

My foray back into the working world came by accident.  My part-time job heated up and they needed me four days a week instead of three.  On top of that, I decided that my life wasn’t complicated enough that I had to create my own publishing company and publish my first book, It Gets Easier! and other lies we tell new mothers.  I knew that the hilarious title of my book was true, I just didn’t realize how true until I was back working full-time.

 The biggest area of change and stress by far was on the home front.  I was in charge of all matters related to the home, you see, and with two jobs taking up all of my time and energy, I quite simply did not have the time to address housekeeping – for lack of a better word.  You might ask, “What happened?”  Exactly what you think happened.  Things were simply not getting done – dishes were dirty, cupboards were empty, clothes were not washed or carefully put away. 

For my family, this state of affairs was a shock.  For years, I supposed they imagined the fairies had magically provided all these wonderful services and that the laundry was magically cleaned, dried, and placed with care in their drawers.  Now, all of a sudden I was getting questions like, “Where’s my underwear?”  “Where’s your underwear,” I would say, “How should I know where your underwear is? I don’t wear your underwear?”  As hilarious as I thought that response was, my family missed the humor.  Similarly, I would get a question every morning like, “Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean, because they don’t look clean?”  “Well, let’s see,” I would say, “I know I didn’t turn on the dishwasher last night, so if I didn’t turn on the dishwasher and you didn’t turn on the dishwasher  then the dishes in the dishwasher would be?  Anyone, anyone?  Bueller? Yes, that’s right , the dishes would then be dirty!  Ding, ding, ding! “

My family responded to my outburst as if I had two heads.  How could I not turn on the dishwasher they wondered, or do their laundry, or buy food – all the things that I had done before so seamlessly?  It was time for a long talk with my family.  For my husband, I explained that I finally understood how he has felt for all these years when he was embroiled with a project that he could really sink his teeth into.  I felt enthused, motivated, and exhilarated.  In all those years while he was working hard, did I bother him with dishes, or ask him to clean my underwear, or wonder why he didn’t come home with groceries?  Of course not.  Well, now it was my turn.  I was going to need to get the help and “the pitch in.”  I got it.

For my kids, I was forced to do something I had been meaning to do for years – help them to find their independence.  “Mommy needs help,” I told them, “it will be up to you to take complete care of yourselves in the morning.  I have to be getting ready for work, too, so I will no longer be able to help you with your hair or your breakfast or your studying – you are on your own.”  It was two months of sheer hell, but after that, an amazing thing happened, they actually got independent.  They now can prepare themselves for school on their own and are quite pleased with themselves.  They now know if they want a lunch for school they are going to have to make it.  Clean clothes, same thing.  Today if I have the time to make them a breakfast it is a welcome surprise and it is appreciated. 

While making the transition from stay at home mom to working mom can be scarier than the original Psycho movie, with the help of your family, you can make it work.  You may even discover some side benefits as well.  The irony is that being a working mom forces you to engage the family for the family’s sake.  If you are strong enough, and keep the guilt in a closet where it belongs, the long-term benefits to your family will be long-lasting.  Think about it, who wants their kid to go to college without knowing how to use the washer?  Not me, sister!

Read more about Claudine and her book on the WOW! Women on Writing blog.

11 comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    I work full time out of the home. And it is hard. I know being a stay at home mom is hard, but I do all of that stuff, plus work a forty hour a week job. Some things just have to slide. And I try to be ok with that.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..The Time Change Sucks =-.

  2. Mary@The Writer's Block says:

    I love this post! I will have to read her book. She is funny and spot-on.

    I am a stay-at-home/work-at-home/work-in-the-office mom. I have one full-time job (wife and mom) and 4 (that’s right!) part-time/at-home jobs. They are all flexible with varied and floating deadlines, so for the most part it works.

    My, uh, “housekeeping” leaves much to be desired. We have these talks all the time (like she describes). But you know, I just do what I can do.

    My daughter often sobs that I can’t be at every field trip or class party because I’m working. I try to explain to her that American Girl dolls cost a lot of money. This past Saturday, we signed her up for B’ball cheerleading and the woman said, “That will be $90.” My daughter goes, “Ninety dollars?!?” I said, “yes. That’s why Mommy and Daddy work.”
    .-= Mary@The Writer’s Block´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday for November 2 =-.

  3. Steph. says:

    THis really speaks to me right now as I’m trying to decide (if I can even find) fulltime work out of the home and I keep waffling between, should I do this or stay home. I think I got my answer today on this, but this book would probably be something I could really benefit from. Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Steph.´s last blog ..I don

  4. Connie Corey says:

    I have always been a WOHM. Some days I love it. Some days I like it less. Usually the latter happens when I haven’t been able to catch up on laundry and no one can agree on what they want to eat for dinner.

    I work becuase I love what I do and the people I work with. I originally worked because between dh and I, I had the degree and made more money. I have always made more than 1/2 our income. I don’t care, it’s OUR money.

    There have been days I wanted to be a stay at home mom, or work part time. None of them have panned out yet. Will they? Who knows what the future holds!

    I salute every mom, ‘cuz when it comes right down to it, we’re all working moms!

  5. Musings of a Housewife says:

    What a great post. I’ve always been a SAHM mom, even now that I’m probably more of a WAHM, I am still the one primarily responsible for the laundry and the groceries and the meals. I’m inspired. I should require more of my kids! 🙂

  6. Katie says:

    I am a work outside of the home mom, but I would honestly do anything (legal of course!) if I could just stay home with my daughter. Unfortunately, financially I can’t afford to stay home so I work FT, but honestly it kills me to know she’s at daycare everyday with someone else rubbing her backs for naptime and holding her when she’s sad. 🙁

    I LOVE her daycare and the teachers are amazing, but still they’re not her Mama — know what I mean?! Sigh…

    This books sounds really good…I think I will have to check it out!
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Our Weekend =-.

  7. Liz@thisfullhouse says:

    As you know, I’ve been a SAHM for 15 years (sort of) worked from home and just posted about starting a part-time job (outside the home) in a few days. So, I don’t know what the heck to call myself, anymore (shuddup!) however, raising teens and tweens, I’m pretty used to transitioning, all the time. Awesome post, my friend.
    .-= Liz@thisfullhouse´s last blog ..All I Want for Christmas =-.

  8. Marie says:

    I work full time outside the home from “9-5.” Luckily for me, I have a husband who stays home with the kids, so many of the chores stay done. Of course, it doesn’t seem as if my stay-at-home husband does quite as good a job with keeping house as I remember my mother doing when I was a kid. But, he also spends much more quality time with the kids than I remember my mother doing. I guess it’s a tradeoff, huh?
    .-= Marie´s last blog ..Parent Teacher Conference =-.

  9. Claudine Wolk says:

    Thanks for having me, Blonde Mom! I loved reading the comments of your readers. I am always in awe of moms, the things they do to survive (ie. 4 jobs), the flexibility, the understanding and of course the humor, thank Goodness for the humor!

    If any of you happen to live in the Tri-state area (NJ, PA, DE), I am visiting groups of moms for “Cocktails and Conversation” to have discussions similar to the one found here in your comments list. Contact me if you want me to visit (no charge) at Help4NewMoms.com!

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