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3 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Work From Home Mom

  January 20

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work from home momI meant to do a post about how I’ve been self employed for two years, a date that came and went on January 1! Wow, how time flies! So, here is a combo post all about the key lessons I’ve learned not just as a self-employed writer but also as a work from home mom too.

Lesson #1: I Cannot Work if I Don’t Take Care of Myself First

I am a bit of a stubborn fighter. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been able to push myself really hard to get things done. As I mentioned in a previous post, I stubbornly didn’t get help for what ended up being very bad postpartum depression after my children were born.

I’d sit in the bathtub at the end of a long day, and just cry about how overwhelmed I was. I knew I had to get up and go write, even if it was 10 pm and some days, it took all the strength I had to go and do just that.

The more I talked to my husband about how I was feeling, the more he kept telling me that my feelings just didn’t sound right or healthy. One day I was just sitting in Starbucks writing like I usually do on a weekend day, and all these horrible thoughts about my son just started pouring into my head. He and his twin sister were in great hands with their dad that Saturday, but I just got this overwhelming feeling that something bad was going to happen to him and the tears just started coming.

I called my husband from Starbucks crying and asking about my son, and my husband told me it was time to go talk to someone. My anxiety was out of hand, and it was affecting my work. My depression coupled with all this new mom anxiety was crippling, but amazingly I kept turning in post after post pushed by my responsibility to take care of my family as the sole income earner.

Once I got the help I needed, I felt so great, better than I ever have even in my younger years. Just a month or so after talking to my doctor, I was waking up early, doing my chores, writing posts faster, pitching new clients, and enjoying my life again. If there’s anything I can impart to other moms working from home is that it should be fun. You should like the work you do. If you’re crying every day, overly stressed, or dreading doing the work you need to do, something absolutely has to change – today. Take care of yourself, and reap the rewards that come with feeling healthy.

Lesson #2: For the Hustler, There are Always More Clients

On my second day of self employment, I got an email from a client who said they weren’t going to need my services anymore. At that time, I only had a handful of websites I was writing for, and this was one of my higher paying ones. It was a terrible way to start self employment and made me worry all my other clients were going to pack up and leave too.

What I’ve learned though is that when you’re self employed you can always have more work than you need as long as you hustle. In the several years I’ve been a freelance writer, I’ve probably pitched thousands of clients asking if they need writing services. Even now, even though more people come to me than I go to them, I still hustle. Just last week, one of my current clients e-mailed me to say they were dropping me from four posts a month to two posts a month. These days, now that I get paid several hundred dollars a post, losing a client or losing a handful of posts from any client could equate to a loss of $1,000 a month give or take.

Even though the loss is greater now, I don’t even sweat it. I just e-mailed the client back and said “Sounds good. I’ll adjust my calendar,” and that was that. In my experience now being a writer for hire since 2011, I know there will always be more clients. There will always be more opportunities. There will always be more jobs and more people willing to pay me for my words. Clients come and go but what doesn’t go is my hustle and my ability to be one of the best at what I do. Once you’ve honed your work ethic and your talent as a work from home mom, you never have to worry about having enough money because you can always push yourself just a little bit more and earn more.

Lesson #3: Investing In Yourself Pays Big Dividends

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn over time. As the more frugal one in my relationship, I’ve always been hesitant to pay a lot for anything, let alone on myself. However, the hubs is a huge proponent in spending money on investing in yourself. After all, he’s the one who took out $500,000 in student loans to go to graduate school and medical school.

The very first time I invested in myself was purchasing Jon Morrow’s course way back when I was completely broke and hardly had a dime to spare. That course directly contributed to me getting my very first writing job and then some. In the past year, I invested over $10,000 on coaching, and I’m just starting to see some of the benefits of that now. While I don’t plan on any huge investments in my business this year, I’m always on the lookout for new courses, new conferences, and new events where I can learn more and be more.

P.S. If you want to learn how Jon’s class helped me earn thousands of dollars writing, you can read my post about it here.

Ultimately, these three lessons together have helped me to have a very successful two years as a work from home mom. Sure there have been ups and downs, high points and low points, lucrative months and not-so-great months, but through it all I’m confident I could never, ever work a desk job again. Plus, I wouldn’t give up what I do for anything.

Working through my health issues and stress last year really helped me to appreciate my community and the work I’ve created here. I’m just so grateful that this type of job exists and that I get to do what I love every day and spend more time with my kids in the process.

Do you work from home or have you ever wanted to? Tell me alllll about it.

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40 responses to “3 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Work From Home Mom

  1. Thanks for posting this, Cat. I have been feeling overwhelmed, and I know that I need to reach out for help. It’s always helpful reading your posts and knowing that you know exactly how it feels because you have been there.

  2. I am not a mom (nor have I suffered from postpartum depression), but I found the work-from-home arrangement alone drove me into a severe depression. The isolation, the anxiety of being “always on,” the financial instability, etc. was so overwhelming as to be debilitating. I wish more people talked about this side of online business/freelance life more often because it is important, and it’s not uncommon. I went back to the oft-maligned “desk job” but I am so much happier, and can’t imagine working from home again.

    (Again though, I don’t have kids, and know how much that can change anyones’ working arrangement!)

    1. I know that working from home as a self-employed person is not for everyone. Some people really thrive in this type of situation, while others really do better with a “regular” 9-5 type job. You do what’s best for you!

  3. This was the perfect thing for me to read right now with Babywoods sleeping on me as I’m writing posts :). I’ve really come to embrace #1–I find I need to do things that re-energize me and help me to feel like my old self, even if it means I get a bit less work done each day. I now consider going to yoga (without baby) to be part of my mental health routine! Thank you for being so open and honest about the things you went through–it’s a great comfort and motivation to new moms.

    1. Yes! Time without baby is crucial and yoga was a big help to me too. It’s really the only time I could slow down my brain and get a little peace after the beans came along.

  4. Thanks for sharing your very personal experience with postpartum depression in this post and last week. I can only imagine how tough it must be, to have society and those around you constantly expecting you to feel nothing but joy because of your babies, and you’re feeling the opposite. Good for you for getting help and getting better!

    I work from home, but am employed full-time, and am so thankful I don’t have to do the hustle all the time. But, I completely admire those who do! I think I’ll enjoy hustling *a little* once we’re retired, but now the thought is so exhausting. So mega admiration for building up something so incredible for yourself and your family!

    1. Thanks! Having a baby is definitely a time of joy, but it can also be really hard when you have postpartum depression. More people need to be talking about this because I think a lot of women don’t even realize they have it and they think they are all alone in these feelings.

  5. I’m not a mom, but working from home is 100% different than working at an office. Now that I work from home I work 10, 12, 14, and sometimes even 16 hours without a real “break”. Sometimes is out of necessity to meet my deadlines, but other times it’s because I love what I’m doing and I lose track of time. Now that I’ve been working from home full-time for a few months I finally feel like I’m starting to get the hang of realizing when I need to take a break.

  6. I love lesson #2 – it makes me hopeful that if I ever did want to kick it into gear and try to freelance write full time, that I could. And honestly, I think I feel you more than I should on lesson #1, I’ve never had to deal with postpartum depression, but I have had an anxiety disorder my whole life and there are definitely times when I know I should probably get some help, but wait way longer than I should and life winds up a lot more difficult that it needs to be. Self care is a difficult lesson to learn.

    1. You are so right! It’s not just moms that suffer from anxiety, depression, etc. You definitely need to put your mental health at the top of your priority list, and that means getting help when you need it. I can’t believe I waited as long as I did, but I’m so glad I feel better now.

  7. I’ve definitely had to learn to take care of myself first. As women, we’re trained to take care of everyone else’s needs before our own. Even if our mothers try desperately NOT to teach us that nasty habit.

    As someone with chronic fatigue and a husband with fibromyalgia, I tend to try to take care of him over my own issues. Over the past few months, I’ve been working on drawing lines in the sand. I need to make sure I’m doing everything I need to be — including exercising — to keep my health/energy up. Especially because I’m the income earner, but also just because a *lot* of our lives depends on me having the ability to function.

    So I’ve been focusing on not trying to push myself if I don’t feel well enough to, say, massage parts of him that ache. Or at least not massage them for long. Because I need to be able to have enough energy to be organized and keep bills paid, appointments made/kept, medications filled, etc.

    My husband tries to push himself a lot too, since he hates how much I have to do based on his limitations. So we’re trying to find a good balance of him sticking up for himself on particularly bad pain days — but not to the point that I end up having to do even more things myself. It’s a balancing act.

    1. It’s definitely a balancing act and since both you and your husband have things that cause you to operate when you’re not at your best, taking a break and putting self-care on the top of your list is even more important.

  8. Wow, Cat! I certainly know how you feel. I’ve suffered from depression since I was 15 and it became worse after my first pregnancy. Like terribly worse. I couldn’t work, sleep, I cried all the time, and I was in full resentment mode about becoming a mother (our daughter was a honeymoon baby, so she took us by complete surprise). Making sure mom is okay is always a priority for me and just last year during the last trimester of my pregnancy with my son, I had to put that mantra to the test.

    I was dealing with terrible depression with that pregnancy and I knew that I couldn’t not seek help because I already had a child at home. I think our first instinct of protecting our children first can sometimes come as a detriment to them because we’re failing to realize that by taking care of us, they’ll be happier.

    I’m glad you got the help you needed. Momma’s have to take care of themselves to take care of the babies:)

    1. Latoya, you are so right! We want to take care of our kids first, but sometimes taking care of ourselves will actually make it easier to take care of our kids. We have to make sure we are operating at full capacity in order to be the best mom we can be. Great reminder!

  9. I worked from home part-time until the birth of my second child. Fortunately it was work I loved and it wasn’t too many hours so I enjoyed it, though it was still hard to balance all my responsibilities. The first thing I dropped was reading, and I came to regret that and realized I needed to make time for my mind outside of work.

    1. I love to read too. It’s one of my favorite things to do to relax. Some people like to watch TV, but I like to read when I have downtime. Making time for things you love is so important!

  10. How do you handle childcare as a work-from-home mom, if you don’t mind my asking? Do you watch the kids during the day and then work nights/weekends (or whenever your husband is home)? Or do you fit work in during he daytime too (and if so, how)? Learning to balance these things myself…

    1. Hey Jennifer – awesome question! At first, I did my work during naps and at night (so hard!) Once my business grew, I started paying for a sitter to come 2x a week (life changer!) She now comes 3x a week and I usually spend one weekend morning writing at Starbucks when my hubby is home. It’s a good balance!

  11. I think one thing that working from home has taught me is that not everything falls into the bucket of worth it. I recently had to turn down a lucrative opportunity because the project probably would have gone on right up until our daughter is born.

    I felt bad when I got on a call and just handed over a proposal and said, “I’m sorry, there’s no way I can implement this, but I think it’s a good idea so I want you to have it.” But afterwards, I felt confirmed that I had made the right choice.

    1. That is tough! I have a really hard time saying no to special projects and work too, but I know I need to make sure I have enough time to devote to my family, and myself, too.

  12. My wife stays home with our son and I see how much work she has to do. I help her as much as I can but I know she needs her downtime so I watch our son while she does whatever she needs to do in order to relax. I’m not sure if I could work from home as lovely and challenging as it may be as I’m in the same boat as your husband with my career helping people.

    I can’t really do that from home I’m afraid but I do understand why we need to take care of ourselves first. Since I work 7 days a week, blog, workout, cook and do my best to be a great dad and husband it’s tough. Sleep, lots of water and healthy diet or food and laughs for me.

    My wife is always in awe how well you do with your blog and the twins but like you said it doesn’t come without challenges many of which you’ve had to work to overcome. She reads your blog by the way because she says you’re inspiring. I can see why.

    1. Aw your wife is so sweet! Tell her I hope she is doing well. Also, I’m surprised you think you can’t help people from home. My guess is, like me, you receive e-mails all the time about people you’ve helped with your blog. I definitely feel like I’m giving back and helping others through my work here at home. 🙂

  13. It’s hard to focus on yourself when you’re a mom because you always have that nagging feeling that you’re not supposed to for some reason. Good for you for getting the help you needed. It’s hard to lose something and not know if you’ll be able to replace it so I will keep in mind that hustling always has new beginnings somewhere in the works. I’m also one to not invest any money in myself and have a few things I always wanted to invest in and now I may have the courage! Thank you!

  14. Great post Cat. I strongly identify with everything you say. Out of curiosity, how do you make sure your time working from home is efficient? My children are older than yours and are in school during the day—and while I love, love, to spend time with them—I do get interrupted a lot while I am working. Just curious how you work your magic!

    1. Great question! Some days are definitely better than others. The biggest thing that negatively affects my efficiency is social media. I have Facebook blocked on all my browsers. I am only allowed to look at it for 5 minutes a day before it locks me out. The night before I work, I open up all my posts in google docs in the order I have to write them. I try to set myself up for success. If I only have one hour, I just start writing the posts in order how they appear in my tabs on google docs from left to right and try to get as far as I can. It’s definitely not a perfect system, and I’m trying to improve it all the time.

  15. I’m not a stay at home mom, but all of these tips/reminders all incredibly helpful to everyone. And I’m sure you will kill it as a coach! Way to make that $10,000 investment and bet on yourself.

  16. point number one is imortant because if you aren’t good you aren’t good on work side and also on family, so you are important remember always!!!

  17. I am considering to work from home not only to have more time for my kids but also to earn more because I have lots of work from home friends who earn a lot more than working at an office. Most of my friends are bloggers and I want to be one, sharing my experiences as a mom and on lots of stories about having a successful marriage and a family. That’s a good plan. Right?

    1. Having this blog totally changed my life for the better. I absolutely think it can be done, but it’s not an overnight money maker either. It takes a lot of work up front with little reward until you get your foot in the door to start earning money.

  18. Love these lessons! I’ve learned the hard way I have to take care of myself too. I’m not the superwoman I want to be. I’m human. But taking care of myself makes such a difference in my work! And yes, there are always more clients 🙂

  19. Hey Catherine, I really enjoyed reading your article I found very motivating to anyone who is thinking of self employment especially based at home.The lesson learnt have be well highlighted and explained.They really show anyone who is interested in working from home the challenges to expect and also provides solution.

  20. I’ve been working from home since 2007 and #2 is my favorite tip EVER. There is so much work out there, you just have to go find it. And so many entrepreneurs and small businesses are just waiting for someone to offer They may not know where to start their search. Go get ’em!

  21. Hi! I’m a new fan of your blog. Found it after reading your Huff Post article about the first three months postpartum.

    My baby is 6 weeks old and I could relate so much to your post that it actually brought me to tears because I was so touched by it. The postpartum period has been both wonderful and tough for me, and I am looking for others’ stories about how they adjusted and what worked for them.

    Would you be willing to share what helped you overcome postpartum depression? I’d be so very grateful for your insight (though I know everyone’s different), but if it’s too personal, I understand.

    I’ve talked to my doc about some anxiety I’ve experienced postpartum and am currently on a very low-dose of Zoloft, which does seem to be helping (though I only take half a 25 mg pill daily and am considering moving to the full dose in case I might benefit more-just trying to avoid the side effects though). Also trying daily walks and might join a moms group. Would love to hear what worked for you.

    Thank you so very much!!!

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