When people first tell you about all the joys of being a work at home mother, they really pile it on, don’t they? They make being a work from home mom sound like the dream job:

  • You get to spend more time with the kids.
  • Work in pajamas.
  • Set your own hours.
  • Be your own boss.
  • Did we mention spending more time with the kids?
  • Blah, blah, blah…

But once you’ve been working from home for awhile, you kind of learn the hard way — these things are all lies and we’ve been tricked into a never-ending loop of self-doubt and self-loathing from which we may never recover.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a little.

Maybe.

More and more mothers are caught with a terrible decision — a decision most fathers aren’t expected to have to make. We have to figure out how we’re going to make ends meet while still raising our children into happy, contributing, responsible adults.

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This is all new to us, as a society. Before, women stayed at home and they worked on the home. Taking care of the kids was their job. There was none of this juggling and trying to balance home and career. As a mother, your job was to make sure your kids were bathed, fed, happy, responsible, learning, and growing up to be healthy adults who would go to work and make money to raise a family of their own. Now as a mother, it’s completely different. Now your job is to raise your kids, manage the home, and make enough money to pay the bills.

Here’s the problem…

The work at home mother does more than work at home.

And therein lies the problem.

Our families don’t stop needing us simply because we decided to sit down at the computer and start working. And they don’t stop telling us they need us, either. And you can yell until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t work.

Please, let me work.

Let me just finish this one thing.

And if you’re working from home for someone else, you might even cry the occasional “Are you trying to get me fired??”

Like it or not, we have to stop working far more often than people who work from an office.

And then there’s the guilt. We spend so much time trying to work that we run out of time for just about everything else. Cleaning, cooking, even showering is all put on the backburner. At some point in time we realize that the whole reason we started doing this — so we could spend extra time with our kids — isn’t even happening. We aren’t spending more time with them at all. In fact, we’re spending less time with them.

So we swing the other way — we stop working to get up and cook, clean, and maybe hold a little dance party with our little ones. But then at night, while you’re snuggled in on the sofa getting ready to watch Frozen for the 43rd time, the other guilt comes out. The guilt of knowing how much work you still need to do and haven’t done. How many bills are coming up soon, and wondering how you can pay them all if you can’t sneak away from this movie to go check on your business.

I get it.

I get it. I’m a work at home mother, too, and I’ve been on that roller coaster more often than I can count. Choosing to work from home really is like signing up for the ultimate you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t scenario.

So here’s what I want you to do. Start tracking your hours. I don’t care if you use pen and paper, a bullet journal, a day planner, or an app…but do it. For one thing, when you’re running around trying to work in 6-7 minute intervals, it’s a lot harder to see just how much you’ve been working. But if you sit down at the end of the day and look at the tally, you’ll feel like you’ve put in a full day.

This won’t get rid of the problems associated with stop-and-go work schedules, but it will help you solidify just how many hours a day you work so you can stop feeling guilty for not working when you finally get a spare minute.

The next thing I want you to do is to take real breaks. I don’t care if they are 10 minutes long or 30 minutes long – get those breaks in. Step away from the computer and go do something, anything. Check the mail, go for a walk, call a friend, brush your hair…anything but sitting on the computer or sitting on your phone. (And, no, if your job requires you to do social media marketing, then hanging out on social media does not count as a break).

You’re not a failure, but it’s easy to feel like one.

When you spend all your time feeling guilty for not having enough time to get everything done, it’s easy to feel like you’re letting everyone down. In reality, you’re doing far more than others around you who can leave their work at work and don’t have to report to their jobs with a toddler strapped to their hips while carrying a newborn. You are not a failure.

You’re a hero.