Some of us work flexibly, others part time of freelance. Some of us look after our children, others pay for childcare. Some of us have cleaners, some of us spend time doing housework. So not all of our work is paid. So should we define ourselves when we’re doing a combination of things?
I’m officially a WFHM WTF? I wrote something about being a SAHM the other week on the blog, which required an explanation for all those people who don’t spend their time on Mumsnet or social media talking about parenting. But then someone introduced me to the concept of a WFHM (work from home mum, gettit?) and my mind started spinning slightly…
We all work in some context (apart from those of us who are independently wealthy or who are struggling to find employment) but don’t we all do some kind of work, whether it’s paid or not? Of course, we need paid work to keep families afloat, and for many of us two salaries and two people being responsible for keeping the household financially viable works better than one, but either which way, there is still a wealth of other stuff that needs to be done – paid or not.
An army of helpers
I’ve never had a cleaner, mainly because our house needs cleaning all the time that it just gets done, but also because I’m not the sort of person who puts that top of her list. A functioning house is just fine for me. But for many parents who work full time, a whole army of other people are needed to enable the household to function. Childcare is the most obvious (and costly) but there’s cleaning, cooking, paying all the bills, house admin and all the darn school cake sales (I buy mine).
But what I’m finding in my new position as a SAHM/WFHM or whatever I am, is that it all starts to blur a bit. My main responsibility is childcare and I’m saving a LOT of money by not having to pay that full time, but there’s all the other stuff. Knowing that I do want to work, my priorities at the moment is split between the kids, and my paid work. I’ve been lucky enough to get a small amount of freelance work that I can slot around the boys (I have six hours childcare a week now) by scheduling all my calls on that day, and doing all the research and prep in the evenings. I have also trained the little one to “not disturb mummy” when the study door is shut and I’m on the phone for a few minutes.
So in that respect, it’s all good. I love picking the kids up from school, I love the fact my evenings are no longer washing and trying to work out what food to leave out for them the next day. I feel a much slower, more balanced pace of life. Not because it IS slower, but because there is more time to think about EVERYTHING rather than trying to slot chores and tasks into specific time slots. I can send work emails from a playgroup or from a friend’s house when the kids are playing. I can do washing while playing with kids. We can do homework before 6pm, I can study when they’re in bed. It’s all work. Some of it paid, some of it not. Of course we should never class looking after our own children as work but if other people are paid for doing it, then technically it is? The same with cleaning and all the other money-saving apps we need as office based/full time parents?
Work life balance?
In my new life it feels like I’m always on – in the same way entrepreneurs say there is no work/life balance, there is just life, that’s the way I feel. But then I was always always on when I worked 9-5. And compared to how things were before, trying to cram everything in to a few hours in the evenings, life is happier, we’re all happier. I know what’s going on at school, it’s easier to plan what we eat, I can study and work in set hours – they’re just the other way round to doing 9-5 like I used to, and with the little one going to nursery in January, this can only get better.
Of course, we’ll have to wait and see. I’m remaining totally open to options, and acronyms…
I’d love to hear from anyone else combining work and childcare. How do you do it? Does it work? You can read about my first week here.