A quick scroll through social media and you’ll come across the all too familiar moans from parents everywhere that the summer holidays are hard work – trying to keep children entertained without breaking the bank and allowing for the joys of a British summer or doing the childcare juggle of grandparents and summer clubs to make the train into the office. Yet I like countless other mothers seem to be in both camps… all the time.
When I tell people I’m a WAHM (work at home mama) people instantly think I spend my hours having coffee catch ups and sit at the kitchen table writing a few posts here and there. I don’t know how to break the fantasy but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m sure they’ll be people shouting while reading this saying ‘but don’t you pop to Costa a couple of times a week’ my response: ‘Yes, it’s a change of scenery because you know as a human it’s nice to be surrounded by other humans occasionally!’
Being a WAHM is sold as the ‘have it all’, the holy grail of striking the perfect balance of maintaining a career whilst being at home for your children; but at what cost? Are we being sold a lie? A balance so unachievable that leaves you a master of none?
I’m a WAHM out of necessity not by choice – being a single parent and single income (oh and freelance) household in the London suburbs means that the pricey wraparound childcare for the school year and holiday clubs just isn’t an option for me; coupled with Boo’s health hurdles and regular visits to hospitals for appointments and tests (not to mention sick days) commuting into the city isn’t a viable option. Yet as I spend every night working until 1am trying to chase my tail I’m starting to wonder how much longer will being a WAHM be a viable option either.
Being at home throughout the week means people assume you are available, from taking in parcels, meetings at school, friends calling for a chat (I promise I do love to talking to all of you!) It also means that people treat your time as elastic and I’m probably just as much to blame or that as I still seriously undervalue my own time.
I work in a corner of my kitchen where I’m sat now and I have the hum of the washing machine (sorry Kirsty Alsopp, I’m one of those philistines who doesn’t have a utility room!) and the screech of a Disney film coming from the sitting room while Boo plays for a bit so I can get some work done. Now I’m pretty sure that my finest work ins’t going to be born from the above environment. Yet I’m expected to compete professionally with people sat in an office.
On a typical school day I try to cram a full working day into six hours and do all the housework and family life admin (coordinating between Boo’s consultants can sometimes take hours), oh and constantly pitch for new work projects all the while appearing like a professional who has her sh*t together. You don’t need a degree in maths to work out that I have a time deficit, it’s exhausting.
Like most important issues there is no simple or singular answer, the first step is for us as a community to be having honest and open conversations – this isn’t easy and I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels like this. We need to recognise that being a WAHM is often not a choice, and that we as growing working sector of society need access to business and family life support such as truly affordable flexible childcare – I shouldn’t have to send a round robin beg text to the mums at school asking for someone to pick Boo up because I have a meeting in town. Or subsidised flexible working hubs in the suburbs.
There isn’t a magic pot of money for me to take time out and revaluate my working practices; I don’t expect to be swanning round and reducing my workload (please no one ever say the term Mum Boss to me, how about just boss? You know it’s the 21st century right?!)
Being a WAHM is the only option available to me, meaning I’m determined to get it right both for us as a family but also me as woman – because I can’t do my best work, work that I’m proud of. when I’m waiting for the washing to finish and am on borrowed time to play a game of Monopoly with Boo.