Mar 30, 2011

Reflections on Being A Work-At-Home Mom

I have been a "Virtual Assistant" for over a decade now.  In the course of those ten years I have been:

1.     a data analyst for a large electrical supply company;
2.     a bookkeeper for a small chemical supply company;
3.     a part-time researcher for a very large Chicago law firm;
4.     an assistant to a really awful Realtor (the only client I have ever fired);
5.     the firm administrator for a DC law firm;
6.     the senior paralegal for a group of hedge fund attorneys;
7.     the senior paralegal for a different group of hedge fund attorneys;
8.     the web designer for an Italian villa proprietor; and
9.     a paralegal in the legal department of a large IT Staffing company in Minneapolis.

Currently I am the Managing Editor for one of the largest Internet publishers out of North Carolina.

I freaking love my job. 

I like to tell people, when they hear about my "cakewalk" job, that this is my reward for 20+ years of working for assholes.  And, believe me... I did.  I worked with a LOT of them. 

I was also fortunate to work with a LOT of truly fantastic people. 

I'm not bragging (well, maybe I am -- a little bit).  It's more that I'm reflecting on how very, very fortunate I am.  I started working virtually when I was home on forced bed rest while pregnant with my son.  For those of you who have never experienced bed rest -- it starts out sounding like a fabulous thing.  You get to lay around all day watching Jerry Springer and every A Baby Story that TLC puts out.  And, after about a week of that -- it gets really, really old. 

A neighbor was in a bind -- she had a large presentation due and, because of downsizing, had no support staff to do it.  I offered to put it together for her -- I was bored and at least I would be doing something!  I was paid for the work, quite a bit more than I was expecting, and began analyzing sales statistics on a monthly basis for this company.

And my company, A Virtual Wonder, was born.

In these 10 years I have been able to raise my children myself, rather than resorting to day care.  Considering how sickly both of my children were as infants, this is a blessing of infinite proportions.  I was one of those truly lucky mothers who got to watch her babies grow, every step of the way.  I will never, ever take that for granted as I know of many mothers who were forced to leave their babies behind as they went back to work to make ends meet.

I never thought I would be a stay-at-home Mom.  I never thought I would be satisfied keeping house and watching Sesame Street.  Surprisingly enough, while I never quite caught on to the cleaning aspects (I'm a terrible housekeeper) I enjoyed Sesame Street, Teletubbies and <gasp> Barney (he's really good at teaching manners).  I hate Caillou -- I think he's a rude little brat.  I wonder where in the hell Max and Ruby's parents are.  I watched every Baby Genius DVD there was, innumerable times.

I loved (and still love) being a work-at-home Mom.

I have  volunteered countless times over four years of preschool and 4 grades of elementary school.  I went to every class party for both of my kids.  I gave spelling tests for all the student's in my son's first and second grade classes.  I went to every field trip.  And in between all this -- I worked a full time job, at home, in the in-between hours.

It hasn't always been easy.

I have barricaded myself in the guest room closet, buried under a down comforter, trying to muffle the sound of a screaming, two-year old Claire as I was on a conference call with hedge fund investors in Germany.  I came out from that call to discover that, in her fit of pique, Claire colored the entire hallway and the family room furniture with permanent marker. 

I remember an exhausted 18 month old Quinn falling asleep wedged between me and my office chair.  He used to like to stand behind me and watch the computer. 

When you work at home, there are no sick days.  There are no paid vacations.  I have worked with pneumonia, kidney infections, broken bones.  If I have a deadline, I have a deadline no matter what.  No excuses.

Occasionally I get grief from the "career women" I run in to.  They take in my oftentimes-disheveled hair, my frumpy clothes, my mommy-van and they sneer and make snide remarks.  They sarcastically ask, "Oh... you work from home?" in a tone that implies that I'm only qualified to sell cosmetics for pin money and I'm trying to call that a career.

Their attitude changes when I throw out that I have been the senior or managing paralegal for law firms out of NYC, Chicago, DC and Minneapolis.  I admit, I take pleasure in that moment... every time.

There's an artist I adore (Erin Smith Art -- everyone should check her out) who has a piece that I have paraphrased to fit my own life:

She said

"So! You're a work at home mom"...

in a way that insinuated she wouldn't be caught dead in that job

... and I laughed til I cried because I knew

she wasn't qualified

The payoffs for what I do are huge.  I get paid a more-than-fair sum to sit in my own home, in my pajamas, doing work that I love, for people I adore. When my computer died (a story for another day) my clients offered to buy me a newer, bigger, better one and had it shipped to me the next day.  Every cool gadget I have is due to the generosity of these fantastic people.

It's nice to be appreciated.  Have I mentioned -- I freaking LOVE my job!

Even more than the gifts are the perks like, I don't work from Noon until after 5PM every day in the summer.  My clients know I am at the beach or doing some other fun thing with my kids.

I will never have to wear pantyhose again.

I get paid to Facebook.

If I really, really, REALLY hate doing something, I don't have to do it.  It's a little thing called sub-contracting -- I can hire someone else to do it for me.

I will never be RICH doing this job -- but I am wealthy in so many other ways.  Like, when Quinn was asked what is the best thing about your mom and he replied, "that she works from home so she's always there for me."



  1. I love this and wish I was so fortunate!!!! Congrats on your many successes!

  2. "Sub contracting" for the "things I really really hate doing"... Guess I know where I fit in! Love this A. I'll keep up. Love that your first 2 comments are from Jenns. You are a lucky lady... and a harder working one than most understand. I still remember working on a vacation due to a deadline. And worst working on Thanksgiving for a Friday publishing schedule that I fell behind on. Love you!

  3. Working from home is one of the greatest employment blessings I've ever received!

  4. @Jenn: I have never been lucky in any other aspect of my life -- but I'm very fortunate here.

    @JennyBoob: You have been my go-to person for crap jobs for... what? 10+ years now? And WHEN are you coming back to work for me???

    @Michelle: Join me in counting our blessings. And give my kids a smooch if you see them again before Saturday.

  5. If you look closely, (and quickly), there's a family portrait above the couch in Max and Ruby's livingroom. There's definitely mom and dad figures in the picture. But where they are all the time while Ruby is raising their other kid, is a mystery.