The WAHM dilemma

October 12, 2011

I might be stellar at housecleaning.


Or at least that seems to be the impression you all got on Monday. Which isn’t quite accurate but whatever.

But I’m struggling a bit with finding a good rhythm in the work at home mom gig. Mostly the time it takes for me to get writing done with Bella at home. I simply can’t do it all during her nap or at night. During her nap I do dinner prep, laundry, and cleaning – then I write. (Not judging if you don’t. That’s just me.) So in order to meet deadlines for BlogHer, book reviews, and the publications I freelance for – as well as all the things life throws at me – there are times I have to be on here when Bella is up.

And she does not like that one bit. 

If I’m doing dinner, she goes to play. Or we put on a Baby Signing Time. If I’m cleaning, she helps. If I do errands, she comes along. But the computer? It takes away time from her and she whines the moment I sit down.

Somehow I’m feeling that last sentence is going to get me nasty comments. Oh well.

I’m pulling in money for our family. Many moms do this at home, and I assume the majority of them in some way use the computer to help. It happens to be the very focus of what I do as a writer. I could use a pen and paper but…


Trying to keep it all organized. A weekly planner I take with me, monthly for the fridge, and store list. Don't be fooled - this just keeps the forgetfulness at bay.

So I struggle with her being up and me having to work. It’s usually only for 30-45 minutes, a few times a week. But as her naps stop, and as things get busier here, this is bound to become more. I am not going to cram it all in at 8pm while Sam watches TV alone. I’m also not going to get up at 5am to get it done.

I don’t feel guilty about this (which is unusual for me) – I’m just at a loss for how to help her get past the resentment of me being on here, and to find something to do so that I can get done quicker. Because 45 minutes of writing with her banging over and over into my knees and falling apart on the floor means I get nothing done.

This is also why we put off having a second child. Because until I get in the swing of working at home with Bella, there is no way I’d throw a pregnancy or a baby in the mix.

So work at home moms – how do you do it? How do you make sure the time you need to get things done doesn’t feel like a punishment to your children? As things get busier (homeschooling, sports, classes, more children, more work) how do you organize your day to finish it all?


  • Saraden

    October 18, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I really wanted to comment on your good housekeeping blog you did. I so utterly agree with you!! I’ve been seeing them on facebook and it’s been rubbing me raw!! I rant to my husband about it all the time. I want to say something, but I was afraid of coming across as a a-hole. I guess people got mad when you said how a lot of us feel.

    It is insulting when people say those things. Piles of laundry? Loads of dishes? Sticky floors? Gross and a easy fix.

    If you keep up on it, cleaning the house should take no time at all, and minor pick-ups throughout the day. It’s important to show your children how to clean, be responsible and have a healthy environment for them. Not doing so is setting them up to possibly be slobs. If you show them how, they can help out, and when they get older they won’t feel like it’s hard work, it’ll be a breeze. When I was a kid, my sister and I always helped out and now as an adult it does not seem like work, it it just part of the day. And I’m hoping my daughter is the same way.

    I work full time, have two kids and I still manage to do my housework. My daughter helps with laundry, putting it away, dishes, cooking(small things, she’s only 3) sweeping and moping and picking up toys.She loves it, for now, and hopefully she will for a long time. It’s great bonding, teaching and helpful. I never have piles of laundry. Put one load in, and do something else. While she’s coloring, I can get dinner together and while that cooks, I can do the dishes. Doing dishes means I can wash her hands, she can play with bubbles and I can get the dishes done. I clean as I go. As I dirty, I clean. My dad always installed that in me. I do a bunch of housecleaning after I send the kids to bed, so they can’t mess it up right away.

    My mother ran a day care out of our house while my sister and I were growing up. My dad worked full time, with overtime in summer, and worked in a band on weekends. Our house was always picked up, dinners homemade and at a dinner table. How she did all that, I don’t know. But it is down right insulting to say that mothers who do clean aren’t good mothers and that’s what those posters are saying to me. I bust my butt to be a good mother and all these posts and photos are making me feel like it’s the opposite. No it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. And having either doesn’t mean your a good mom or a bad mom.

  • Tracy

    October 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    So…you say you’re a WAHM now 😉 WORKING MOM!!! Get it 😉

    1. Diana

      October 13, 2011 at 10:48 pm

      Wait a second, that might mean I get to guest post for you sometime… If you’ll have me and all. 😉 No pressure.

  • Jennifer @ Also Known As the Wife

    October 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I work from home for a law firm. I start my day early (7:30) right after Sophia wakes up and she’s been fed. We have a whole cycle of play (play mat, tummy time on blanket, sitting on my lap). She’s incredibly independent for a 3 month old…she’ll talk to the toys on her play mat until the cows come home. I do a big portion of my work during her naps which are about 2.5 hours each. I also portion my work out; I do client reporting while she’s awake, handle phone calls and office admin crap while she’s napping. For me the key is having everything scheduled and sticking to it.

  • Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy

    October 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I don’t write with the kids around, I simply can’t form a thought if I wanted to. So take my thoughts with a grain of salt. But what about a special something that she only gets to play with if you’re on the computer but is super cool. My 3 year old is in LOVE with the new LeapPad and will do just about anything for time with it, so maybe there is something like that which would be like gold to her. Of course it’d have to be something she can do on her own or it defeats the purpose. Or, depending on how much TV time you allow and how you use it otherwise, but does she have a favorite show that you hold (via dvr or dvds) for ONLY while you work? Otherwise, what about while she eats?

  • Amber

    October 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I have gone to places with wifi like mcdonalds so my kids can play and I can work. Also I let my kiddos go outside and I watch them from the office while I work. And of course if I really need to get something done I bribe them to play in their room. Not elegant but you can make it work.

  • Mandy

    October 13, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    It sounds like you have it together and you are doing great. I’m not a stay at home mom, so when I go to work and leave Chase, I think of it as I’m working for him and our family. That simple concept helps me not feel guilty. Bella is lucky to have you for a mom. Sounds like you are doing great. Just be you, things always work out. Have time . . .so I’m catching up on your blog. Love and miss you lots <3 Wish we could meet at Amicas today. Love you

  • Adam @ Hanging with Dad

    October 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Would you be okay doing your computer stuff during the naps and cleaning at night (or while Bella’s awake)?

    I’ve found that trying to use the computer around Isaac is asking to never hear the end of whining, but he’ll let me wash dishes (not load the dishwasher, mind you, but wash dishes by hand), sweep, pick up, etc while he’s playing. It’s not the most exciting solution, but it works.

    Any way you cut it, I hope you find something that works for you. Better not cut back on your articles here though, I like them. And I will NOT be driving 747 miles to help you out in order to continue reading them, even if we do live in the same state (holy crap Texas is huge).

  • Mae

    October 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I agree with others, it will get easier as she gets a bit older. Even 3 months ago it was harder than it is now, for me. Also I recommend keeping a small group of toys that only come out when Mommy’s working. Piper’s batch includes a toy laptop and sometimes she’ll sit next to me and we’ll “work” together (when the work of the moment is computer related, not physically sewing. Same for a special movie or tv show being held in reserve.

  • Leighann

    October 12, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I don’t work from home, I work away from home, and I give credit to all of you.
    I couldn’t do it.
    I have tried working from home one day a month with my daughter home with me and it’s torture. I get nothing done.
    All of the tips above are great!! I will put a lot of them to use even though I’m not home during the day.

  • Teresa

    October 12, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I feel your pain. Even if I use a pen and paper and I set my kids up with their OWN paper and crayons, they still feel the need to “share” mine. If I absolutely need to do important things on my laptop (bills, photo uploads), I have found that it works to do it during lunch when they are eating, Sometimes they get their toy laptops out and join me. For FB or twitter, I whip out my phone when they aren’t paying attention to me.

  • Elyssa McDowell

    October 12, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Good ideas! I have a one year old and I have a difficult time with the computer too. I, like several others, save computer stuff for naptimes.

  • Kate

    October 12, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I’m with those who say it will get easier as she gets older. At 18 months old my son would flip his lid if I left him in the family room alone (even if it was just for a few minutes so I could pee). By the time he was two he could happily play in the playroom by himself for an hour or more (awesome for getting bigger projects like painting done). Now he’s almost two and a half and although he still desperately wants me with him some of the time other times he completely ignores me when I try to play with him so I leave him to himself (guilt free) and go do something else.

  • Lindsey

    October 12, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I, like a couple of other commenters here, do the computer stuff while the kids are asleep and do the housework when they’re awake. They love to help fold laundry, vacuum or unload the dishwasher, and it’s a good time for me to teach them how. There’s not much they’ll learn from sitting here watching me type 😉

  • Noelle

    October 12, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I don’t work from home but I do find time to do things I enjoy.
    – I have a big hat box full of sewing notions and trinkets (various textures, sizes, shapes etc) and I get that out and ask him if he wants to sew with me and set the box on the floor. He is occupied by sorting and checking things out for 10-20 minutes which is enough time to get in a bit of sewing.
    – When I want to pay bills, catch up on e-mails he sits on my lap and watches You Tube music videos on the computer so its like we are doing it together. He loves Katy Perry, Adele and Elmo.
    – He LOVES when I set a bowl of something on the kitchen floor for him to play in, I fill with water or corn starch and water or something kitchen related.
    Messy YES but its so much fun. This might not be great while you’re working on the computer but maybe when you just need a break.
    -What about getting her one of those mini dvd players with a screen (looks like a little computer) and putting a video in for her so she can snuggle next to you while you’re on the computer and have her own computer just like mom. I think you can get dvds at the library. You can even get her a sippee cup that holds warm drinks so she can drink tea with you too.
    -What about if you try, like just for a week, to write while she naps and then do dinner prep, cleaning and laundry while she is awake>? Hudson LOVES to help with laundry. I set the clean laundry basket on the floor and he sorts through it and sometimes carries it all over the house and he then pushes the basket around.
    Good Luck!

  • Cindy

    October 12, 2011 at 9:14 am

    For me, I do not sew at all while Bailey is up. Bailey takes a one hour nap a day, in that nap I clean toys, clean house (my house is fairly clean regardless of what I think, I always think it is a mess you know), and I throw lunch and checking emails in there. During the day I can hop on the computer for 10 min here and there, but my day is basically donated to my little monster. During the day we may run errands- fabric store, etc., house cleaning together is more messes for Mommy right now, so that is a bit frustrating, Bailey is quite the de-constructing type ;)! My day for work really starts after Bailey is in bed at 7 ish. Tony and I will spend an hour or two together, and then I will sew (it takes me 2 ish hours sometimes to complete some of my dresses, as I get faster maybe that will change. I usually stay up sewing till 12 or 1. This is where my time cleaning gets drastically cut… I have been trying to take an hour out of sewing and devote it to cleaning but then productivity is down. This is my schedule the days I do not work outside the home, On Tuesday/ Thursday I work 8-5 and then I do everything after Bailey goes to bed feeling massively behind on everything I was gone for that day!

    I would say, you have to find what works for you. Some days where I have been in a crunch I have had to work with Bailey, so I take fabric to kitchen table, and all her art supplies to the table (her highchair goes up to table) and she will do art while I cut. Sewing, I will have her play and leave my door open. I can not do anything that requires concentration, so I hear you here when you are saying you can not write… Just try out different things, schedules, maybe right after bedtime spend time with Sam, then write for an hour and bed. I have to sew every single night, something. period. or I can not keep up. It is hard, and somedays I love it and somedays I hate it, but only for the total lack of time. Good Luck! (oh yes, and I always have a schedule, and dates to be done by).

  • angela

    October 12, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Could you switch the nap activities with writing time, since she doesn’t seem to mind the “domestic” things as much?

    I often “work” while my son is napping & my daughter is the only little one awake. She is older than Bella, but something that (sometimes) keeps her occupied is to take my laptop to our dining room table and give her something to “work on” as well. Some days it’s paper & pens for “lists” or crayons and coloring books. Other days its things like stringing beads, playing with her magnetic dress up dolls (Melissa & Doug). There’s still a lot of “Mommy! Look at this!” type of a distraction, but that’s better than a whine. The key, I found, is to make sure we’re on the same level (literally).

    It sometimes works for Dylan (21 months), too, but I have to switch out the activities more frequently.

    Good luck. It’s tough, and I am not even officially a WAHM.

  • Rebecca

    October 12, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I have spent the better part of a year getting the hang of this WAHM gig. In the beginning it was pure torture. I literally thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I think it was partly because Grace was a baby who needed much more from me, but partly it was because both she and I had to be “trained” to make this work. It’s like building up a callous from doing routine work. You may get blisters the first few times, but ultimately your body “mans up” and you adjust to the exertion.

    That was kind of a weird analogy :/

    Anyway, each day is different for us. Especially because Grace is teething something fierce right now which makes her super clingy. But she has learned that there are times (lots of times in my case of working full time) that mom has to be on the computer and she has to learn to play on her own for a bit. Like Bella, Grace is generally fine when I’m doing any number of other things around the house, but me sitting in front of the computer tends to make her clingy.

    I do my best to take small breaks (while files load or I’m waiting on a response from someone) to sit on the floor to read a short book, build a tower of blocks or rock her baby doll. Those moments peppered throughout my working hours help her to see that I’m still here and that I care about her and am there for her.

    There are times that I just need to hunker down and focus on something while she’s awake and so I’ll resort to an episode of Sesame Street (which produces a glorious 40 minutes of quiet time). I always said I wouldn’t let my little one watch TV, but what’s a busy mom to do? Other times she get’s over the fact that I’m on the computer and she plays really well by herself.

    Ultimately, this long comment is to say it’s tough, it takes time to adjust, but she’ll start to get used to it. There will still be days or times that just suck, but overall you’ll both get into a routine.

    I desperately wish we lived closer and could commiserate about these things in person over a cup of coffee 🙂

  • Samantha

    October 12, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I work from home part time with 2 boys. It’s not easy. Especially with 2 rowdy boys. I honestly think working at home while having 2 girls might be easier but that’s just me. Listening to pirate play and wrestling matches from the other room. 🙂

    Amber has some excellent suggestions. I’m going to use them as well. I think for me, the biggest thing working at home has taught my children is independence and autonomy. I love that they are able to entertain themselves, alone or with each other.

    Keep plugging along and you’ll get in a great pattern soon!

  • Jess

    October 12, 2011 at 8:54 am

    You will get the groove. Could you maybe start a craft for her? Or maybe if it coincided with snack time or something while you sat with her?

    I’m like you, if the kid is down, I go into stealth mode and try to get as much done as possible.

  • Amber

    October 12, 2011 at 8:49 am

    This is something I’ve thought about, as I now (JUST now) begin to look for freelance opportunities so I can continue to be home with Jonas, who is 26 months old.

    I did a project for a company recently that involved building a very complex spreadsheet. Not only did that mean hours in front of the computer in the middle of the day, but I had to actually concentrate.

    These are the things that made Jonas OK with the attention the computer is getting:

    Foam letters from the dollar store: he likes to arrange them and it will occupy him for a little while. He sits on the floor near my desk (his play area) and occasionally asks “what’s it say?”

    Music: a few songs he likes played in a row mean he dances while I work

    Movie/TV: I don’t like to plop my kid in front of the tube, but sometimes you need a little time to get things done. He loves “Tangled” so that is a good 90 minutes.

    Chalkboard Wall: again, it’s right next to me, so he feels close, but he’ll draw for a while without needing me to join him

    Oftentimes, it is a combo of these things. Some days I’ve had no choice but to attempt to type with him on my lap. (In those instances, I open one window and let cute cat videos play on YouTube, while I type whatever I am working on in the other window….this method works especially well if you have two monitors, but I am currently doing it with one).

    I hope you find what works for you in this stage. I hear it gets easier as they get older. 🙂

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