This new series has been a project that I’ve been working on for a while – and is really close to my heart. I’ve been a Stay At Home Mom for more than 2 years now and for the past year or so, I’ve started to work from home. With more and more projects ending up on my plate, I sometimes feel like 24 hours in a day is not enough. I also started to question my ability to do both: be a SAHM, and also have a career. The thing is, I don’t want to choose between the two – I want both. And I wanted to learn how to do it better.
I wanted to hear about other SAHMs who work from home – how do they juggle their lives? Do they sometimes feel as lost as I do? Do you have a space at home to work from? What happens when you’ve made the decision to stay at home, but also have a burning desire to further your career aspirations? I wanted to know it all. When I went on my quest to look for moms to interview, I found that these moms wanted to know answers to these same questions, too. We are all still learning here, and still growing in this journey of being moms….and more. My hope is that we can all learn from each other.
Over the next few months, this series on The Working SAHM will be sharing interviews with these amazing women who have allowed me to photograph them with their children, in their homes and in their home-workspaces. These women are all professionals in their field and not only are they great at what they do – they are also amazing full-time Stay At Home Moms, too.
I am incredibly humbled and honored to have gotten the support of so many wonderful people on this series; I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for welcoming me into your lives and into your homes. I am in awe of each of you. Now, without further ado, let me introduce our first Working SAHM, Elaine Chou Yen of Papermade Design.
Elaine, tell me about your family:
I live in southern California with my husband, Jeff, and 17 month old daughter, Elodie
What you do, career wise, and how did you get started?
I do graphic design for print, specifically in the event industry (ie. wedding invitations, menus, packaging, calligraphy).
Why did you decide to become a SAHM?
When my daughter was born, I couldn’t imagine going back to work in a few months. Nursing took up most of my days (and nights). I felt like my baby was permanently attached to my boob! Although I got very little sleep during that time, I enjoyed bonding with her and spending every day together. Part of me did miss going into an office and having the opportunity to just focus on projects without worrying about when the next feeding session was, or if it was time to put baby to sleep – but I also didn’t want to go back to something I was not ready to fully commit to. Because the nature of my job allows me to work from home, I slowly started taking on projects that worked around my schedule. Sometimes that meant staying up late to work after the baby was asleep, or playing catch up on the weekends. Things may change later on, and I’m open to that, but for now I’m happy with the way things are and the opportunity to watch my daughter grow day-to-day.
When people ask you what you do, what is your response?
I usually just say I do graphic design/design wedding invitations from home. It’s common for graphic designers to freelance from home so it’s pretty self explanatory. While I know that I’m a Stay at Home Mom, I’m still getting the hang of the SAHM title, though! It is so much hard work and pre-baby me had no idea what I was in for. Motherhood has been so thrilling and incredibly exhausting all at the same time.
What is the most difficult thing about being a SAHM and working from home at the same time? When do you find the time to work or create?
I think in general it is hard to work AT home. You’re easily distracted and without clearly defined boundaries (like set schedules) you can easily lose track of time doing too little or too much work. There’s also constant guilt working from home and being a SAHM. Even though I have the luxury to be close to my daughter, I’m often preoccupied by emails or unfinished work I’m anxious to get back to. Sometimes I find myself rushing through the day with my daughter just so I can get back to my projects.
I work when Elodie sleeps. Nap time is my golden hour(s)! That’s my quiet time to hurry and eat lunch and get on the computer to work. When my work schedule got busier, I hired part-time help with my daughter so I had more uninterrupted time to work. And when it come down to crunch time (during heavy event seasons!), sometimes I still find myself working late nights or on the weekends (although chasing around a toddler really doesn’t leave much energy for late night sessions these days!). And I try my best to save weekends for family time now.
Have your career objectives changed since becoming a SAHM?
YES. I’ve surprised myself by how much I’ve changed. Before becoming a mom, I worked a lot and I wanted that life. I wanted more projects, bigger projects, more skills, better skills.. I wanted a lot and more of it. After having Elodie, I wouldn’t say I want less or have settled for less, but I’ve shifted my priorities. I’ve learned to value my time, and that means working more efficiently and turning down projects that didn’t make sense. It’s made me re-evaluate my business and also inspired me to pursue new ideas.
Do you have any childcare help?
Yes, I have weekly part time help from a nanny that comes to our house.
What are some tips you have on balancing those two roles, or keeping yourself sane? What have you found the most helpful in maintaining this balance?
I love the quote, ” you can do anything but not everything”. At the end of the day, it’s about perspective and what’s most important. The old me used to freak out all the time about tight deadlines or difficult clients, and from time to time I still do (I’m human!) but for the most part, I’ve let go of a lot of that. And since I easily get distracted at home by work when I should be spending time with my daughter, I try to schedule specific activities on certain days so I’ll get out of the house and won’t have my computer taunting me from a few feet away.
Give me a brief rundown of your typical day at home with your baby, and working.
Our day normally starts at 8AM. Since I’ve stopped nursing, my husband now gets Elodie out of bed and helps her get dressed. They’ll usually spend this time in the morning together while he makes a quick breakfast for all of us. Depending on what day of the week it is, I might take Elodie out for a walk around the neighborhood in her push buggy or we have weekly swim lessons. We’ll have lunch around noon and I usually put her down for a nap by 1PM. From there, I’ll have lunch and do some work. Around 3PM Elodie usually wakes up, and depending on where I left off with work I might spend some time to wrap up while Elodie explores the office (my office is also her play area). Afterwards we’ll hang out for a bit – I might take her to run some errands (visiting printers, buying groceries). Around 6PM Jeff is usually home and we’ll have dinner and by around 7:30PM, it’s time to put Elodie to bed. After she’s asleep, I’ll usually work for a few more hours and if I’m good about ending work at a reasonable hour, I will hang out with Jeff and catch up on our favorite TV shows.
And what are some things about this SAHM/working from home balance that you haven’t figured out yet?
How do other Working SAHMs set their work hours? And do you tell your customers/clients you are only available during certain hours or days? Being a SAHM means there are a lot of times throughout the day when I am not available for work but I also don’t want to seem unprofessional. How do you “cover” the gaps? And am I the only working SAHM that worries about this??
Photo Credit goes to RLH Photo – thank you for your time and making us glow!
If you know a Mom who you think should be in this series – hey, it could be you! – send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the title “The Working SAHM”, and we will contact you shortly!