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As you can probably guess, as I’m typing this post I have a cold. I’m also wishing it were a “man cold” and not a “mom cold.” What’s the difference? Let me break it down for you.

What Is A “Man Cold?”

If I had a “man cold” I would be able to take off of work and take a nap. I could drink orange juice and hot soup and take some medicine that would make me sleep the afternoon away. I could focus on taking care of myself.  Instead, I have a “mom cold.”

Sickness Is Not On Our To-Do List

That means I’m up plugging away at the many things on my to-do list, despite my deep desire just to lie down and rest. I have laundry that needs to be done, a dishwasher that needs to be unloaded before dishes start piling up in the sink since I seem to be the only one capable of looking to see that it needs to be emptied, oh and my toddler decided to boycott her nap again today so I don’t even get a few hours to drag my butt through these tasks without chasing her around pulling her off the couch, which she has learned to body surf down this morning.

Hit By A Bus

If you’ve been following my posts for a while you know that I love my husband, like L O V E love him and I’m always bragging about him, but today I’m going to throw him under the bus, along with half the men in the US. And you know who’s sitting in this bus with me, all the other moms I know. We are so tired of getting stuck with the “mom cold,” while you men are allowed to wallow in your misery.

We Helped Create The Monster

But it’s not all your fault. No, we played a part in this. We take care of you when you’re not feeling well. We make you soup and dry toast and bring it to you in bed. We make sure the kids keep their voices down and don’t barge in the room a million times, interrupting the nap which is going to propel you back into good health.

We carry on with every task we normally do and exempt you from it all. Why? Because we’re moms. Caring for our family is what we do. And because thankfully you aren’t sick that often.

As a work at home Mom I know I have it easier than a lot of work outside the home moms. If I were really feeling horrible, I’d just focus on getting my blogging work done and let the housework go and deal with the avalanche of mess when I’m feeling better. Though the day you crawl out of your covers to find that nobody cleaned up the half a box of cereal that spilled on the floor is so NOT fun.

The Part Inequality In The Workplace Plays

Most working moms I know don’t even take a day off of work unless they feel like death. Why? Because they are saving their sick days for when their children are sick and need to take off to care for them. Why aren’t men taking off more time to care for their sick kids?

It may be attributed to the breakdown of differences for men and women in the workforce. Men typically get paid more than women. They take off less time when their children are born and less time when their kids are sick or off of school.

It’s less detrimental to a man’s career that he has a family than a woman’s if she has children. Why? Because we are the caregivers (primarily). Not, that it makes it right.

The “Mom Cold” Mentality

It’s really pretty sucky and it all contributes to the “mom cold” mentality that we have to power through even when we feel really awful. Moms can’t afford to be sick.

Even if this were more than a cold, like say the stomach bug, I know my kids need to eat even if the thought of lunch makes me lose mine. My husband will pick up medicine and take out for dinner if I’m really sick and that helps. I appreciate it. But you know what all moms need?

The Thing Moms NEED Most

Men, we need you to take off work and take over sometimes. We need the same rest and care we afford you during your “man colds.” We need you to put out the figurative fires, take care of the chores and keep the kids alive till morning.

We need you to put your career on the back burner. Not forever, but just for one day. Heck, we’ll settle for a half-day.

We don’t expect you to single-handedly close the wage gap. We don’t expect that you can change the perception of care-giving roles for men and women all by yourselves, but you can do us a solid.

The next time we feel sick, give us the gift of having a “man cold” instead of a “mom cold.” Pick up the slack and do what needs to be done. Why? Because we do it for you ALL…THE….TIME and we deserve it.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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Before you have kids, you might not even be aware of the concept of having work-life balance. You probably work your typical 40 hours a week and save your sleeping in, errands, housework and fun for the weekend. This is all you know. After you have kids you are introduced to this concept of work-life balance.

Whenever I think of this concept I picture a scale where the object on one side weighs the same as the object on the other side and the scales are even. Balance after all is what you’re after, but balancing work and life (including all the things required to take care of those little people that depend on you) never looks like that. I think that’s why so many parents find themselves frazzled and stressed out.

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I’m sure, like me, you know the feeling of there never being enough time in the day and the feeling doesn’t go away no matter your work status. I’ve worked full-time with my kids running a daycare, part-time, been strictly a SAHM, and a WAHM. Every single situation requires lots of juggling.

When I worked part-time there were days I sat proofing copy on the computer while my baby nursed. Luckily I had a very understanding company at the time. There were days I ran a daycare that I still felt that my own children didn’t get the best I had to offer them. I felt like the kids whose parents paid me to watch them got more of my time and attention. It didn’t help that we had three infants in our care and my kids were four and two and didn’t require non-stop feedings and diaper changes.

As is typical for most SAHMs, forgoing paid employment doesn’t mean you don’t work. I did a lot of volunteering through my church in addition to carrying the primary responsibility for the household chores and childcare.

Right now working from home means praying for a long uninterrupted nap from my toddler and is dependent upon my other kids being at camp or school. It means fitting my work into whatever time squeezes around and through the daily webbing of my life. It also means folding laundry, running the dishwasher or vacuuming the house are also fighting for that same uninterrupted time, which is never long enough.

There are no perfect situations, only the situation that suits you best in each season of your life. There is no equal balance between work and family time. The scale is always tipping to one side or the other and the most important thing to remember is that you can’t look at any single day to see how your life really measures up on the scale. You have to look at much larger chunks of time – months or years to see the scale average out.

Maybe you’re going through a season where you’re trying to start a business, work towards a promotion, or seeking a new job and the scale seems to be perpetually tipped in that direction. Maybe you’re a SAHM, but you want to return to the workforce in the future and your scale is always tipped toward family to the point where you wonder if they could survive without your full attention.

When you look at your life one day at a time, the scale will never show a balance. Someone or something will demand more of your attention and that’s okay. Because the truth is that work-life balance (as in both work and family get equal attention at all times) doesn’t exist.

So instead of looking for balance, ask yourself the most powerful question that I ever asked myself – “What’s it going to take to make me happy right now?” I’ve asked myself this question right after my first child was born, after I found out my company was going through a merger, when my daycare business was failing and when I was a full-time SAHM in search of some way to earn additional income. The answer was different each time.

The answer may not always be easy or feasible right away. Maybe that looks like part-time work, full-time work from home, or staying home. Finding “balance” is just a way of saying you feel happy with the priorities in your life at this moment in time.

The scale is always tipping, sometimes multiple times a day and it can leave you feeling frustrated, angry or sad. But the scale is not how we should measure our lives. We may not always have the time to do everything we want to do. But as long as you’re actively doing your best to provide for your kids in whatever capacity that looks like for you, then it doesn’t matter what the scale says.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

What do you do all day? When are you going back to work? How do you survive on one-income? Do you like being home all day? These are just some of the questions people might have about being a Stay-At-Home Mom.

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Maybe you’re a working mom who wishes you could stay at home with your kids or maybe you’re a SAHM who wrestles with her decision sometimes. There are always pros and cons whether you choose to stay at home and work or leave the house and work.

So let me just clear up a few things. Here’s what it’s really like to be a SAHM.

1. We didn’t sign up to be perfect housekeepers. At least I didn’t. Every day I fight a losing battle against toys, wayward socks and mysterious sticky spills. I see this as one part of my day, not my entire purpose for being home.

I don’t have an affinity for cleaning. It’s more like a deep desire to keep us from living like hoarders. The things I do very well are keep us in clean dishes, clean clothes and hot meals.

When I first became a SAHM, I thought my house needed to be exceptionally clean because I had the time to do it. But I quickly got over it. Instead I found my standards of acceptable cleanliness for all areas of the house and whenever I feel the limits being pushed, a magical wave of cleaning OCD sweeps over me and I clean for five hours straight. But thank goodness it doesn’t happen too often, because I’d rather be outside playing with the kids.

2. Sometimes it’s REALLY freaking lonely without adults to talk to all day. I do find myself prattling on and on when I do get to talk to someone my own age. It’s so important to get involved with activities in the community and spending time on something you really enjoy outside of taking care of your kids.

I am involved in a number of activities through my church, try to get to the gym a few days a week, and spend time on my writing. If you don’t spend at least a little time taking care of yourself, you could very well go stir crazy at home all day with small children.

3. It’s not a “luxury” to stay home; it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing to be home with my kids and I know a lot of people just can’t swing it financially, but my life isn’t an episode of “The Real Housewives of The Hudson Valley.” The blessing of being home with my kids comes with more sacrifices than most people can or want to make.

First, we sacrifice our paychecks and consequently go through a period where we struggle to redefine our worth without them. Then we sacrifice many of our needs and wants so that we’re primarily the ones on the budgeting chopping block and not our kids. If you want you can come inspect my closet full of aging second-hand clothes that I’ve been meaning to replace for about four years now.

The blessing comes from being able to spend time with my kids while they’re still little enough to want me around all the time. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be home with my third child from the moment she was born. I’m also glad that it’s never a problem to keep them home when they’re sick or attend spelling bees, science fairs or parent/teacher conferences at school during the day.

4. Your work goes largely unnoticed. I give it up to moms that balance full-time employment and parenting. I struggled with finding the balance when I worked outside the home. The hard part of working as a SAHM is that your work will go unnoticed to the outside world and sometimes even to your family.

Imagine for a minute that your company required you to work permanently on-call without sick-time, vacation or holidays and you never got paid and rarely even got thanked. That’s the work of the SAHM.

We are also the silent labor that allows our spouses to fulfill their hectic work schedules. Their success comes, in large part, thanks to the silent work we do taking care of our children and households. We won’t get the accolades our spouses do even though they couldn’t do it without us, at least not without hiring several people to do our jobs. So it’s pretty thankless, but we hope our family appreciates us, even if they forget to say so.

5. You may constantly reevaluate your SAHM status. The truth is that sometimes we don’t know the answer to the question of if or when we’re going back to work for a paycheck. For some SAHMs it’s an easy decision to stay at home permanently. Others reevaluate year by year or as our children go off to school.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to redefine your worth without a paycheck. You have to find the value in your time and work without a dollar amount to quantify it.

I’ve done so many variations of work since becoming a mom. I’ve worked part-time, full-time, been a SAHM with zero income and been a WAHM with some income.

I’ve loved aspects of all of them and disliked others. No one situation is completely perfect. There’s also a brand of mom guilt for every work/family combination. Maybe it has more to do with the nature of being a mom than the actual decisions you make.

The trick is to focus on your blessings in whichever situation you’re in at the time. They say the grass is always greener on the other side. I say, “it’s greener wherever you water it.”

What SAHM realities would you add to the list?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Have you ever been multi-tasking so much you completely forget what you’re doing? That was my day yesterday. When you work from home, you’re constantly juggling work and family responsibilities. It’s enough to make your head spin. You start just wishing for bedtime so you can just get a little more work done while the kids are sleeping.

With so many balls being juggled in the air at once, something is bound to drop. I felt like a frazzled mama. Even though I didn’t get everything done between work and the kids, here are 5 simple things I do to keep from missing the little moments with them when I’m struggling just to get through the day:

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I was so busy that Sydney was able to successfully get way more Hershey’s kisses than normal.

 1.Single Song Dance Party – My absolute favorite part of working from home is getting to be silly and crazy with my kids when I need a break from my work. I put on my favorite happy music and dance with my toddler around the living room. It helps relieve the stress because seriously who can resist the giggles of a twirling happy toddler?

It puts work in perspective, even if it’s only for one song. So I encourage you when you’re just living to get to bedtime, take three minutes and just have fun with your kids.

2. More Kisses Please – My toddler used my stress to her advantage by repeatedly begging for Hershey’s kisses. With that sweet face and a lot of work on my plate I can honestly say she ate more than she should have, but it’s ok. Sometimes you have to use whatever you can to get just a few minutes of time to finish a chore or something on the computer. Just make sure you follow up with a barrage of real smooches on those sweet little faces and your stress will melt away (even if it’s only temporary).

3. Take a Real Break for Meals – I pride myself on eating lunch and dinner with the kids, even if my husband is working late. But in the middle of my crazy work haze yesterday, I’ll admit that I wasn’t fully present with the laptop open next to me. I know in the future I need to put it away during meal times. Not only do you feel better when you’re not mindlessly shoving food in your mouth, but you feel more connected to your family.

4. Forgive Yourself – I felt my frustration building every time my toddler threw her food on the floor or started pulling on me for my attention. Then, of course, I felt guilty for not paying as much attention to her as I should have. Normally I try really hard to only work during her nap times, but I had a lot of things I wanted to get done.

One day she’ll go off to school and I’ll miss all these little moments with her. Then again, she’s not quite two, so I think I can forgive myself for one day of not giving her my full attention.

If you find yourself just going through the motions with your kids, while praying for bedtime, it happens sometimes. The key is just to make sure it doesn’t become a habit. Parenting is a marathon and we can’t sprint through their childhoods. Trust me, work will always be there waiting for you.

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This is the memory I want to keep from my very busy day- Sydney’s sweet smile.

5. Take a Picture – Take a second to snap a few pictures of your kids. Years from now, you probably won’t remember what you were working so hard on, but you’ll be able to look at their sweet little faces and remind yourself of why you work so hard. Photos have an almost magical power to remind you of all the things that really matter in your life, while blurring out the things that don’t.

Life is always going to get busy. There will always be days that you’re just praying for bedtime, whether it’s so you can get some work done while the kids are asleep or so you can break out your secret snacks and catch up your favorite show on Netflix. The key is to find a few moments to just be fully present with your kids, even if it’s just at the dinner table or snuggling during your bedtime routine.

How do you cope with days you’re crazy busy?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Being the Discount Diva is like being a frugal superhero (in my own mind anyway), but as they say- “with great power comes great responsibility.” Who knows better then moms, the immense amount of responsibility heaped upon us, even from the moment the pregnancy test comes back positive? Like most women I do two things really well – responsibility and guilt. I take the former and use it to justify the latter.

Money Is A Factor – But Not The Only One

I find myself holding tight to our finances as if money will solve every potential problem that could arise. While it’s a good idea to make smart decisions like I think I have been, I sometimes wonder if I’m stepping over the border into obsession. The other day after grumbling that I don’t want to buy a costume for myself for Halloween just to participate in Trunk or Treat my husband said to me, “You know Erin, not everything comes down to money.”

I know in my heart he’s right, but this is exactly what it came down to when I wanted to stay at home and raise my kids. We literally went through our household expenses with a fine tooth comb in order to justify why financially it just made more sense for me to stay at home. Now I’m not oblivious to how the world works. It takes money to live and not everyone can survive on one income. It’s sad to have to correct your children’s innocent ideas that almost everything is free. My poor kids are all too familiar with this life lesson every time I have to deny them some toy or trip, but I’ve had to temper it with the lesson that some things in life are priceless.

The Cost of Work

For my family we gradually weaned ourselves from two incomes to one. I went back to work part-time after our first daughter was born so by the time we decided I would stay home full-time it wasn’t such a financial shock. Something really weird happened when I started staying home – I realized just how much work had cost me.

I was about $4,000 in debt from using my credit card to pay for gas to and from work, convenience foods cause I was too damn tired to cook, work clothes, etc. I’ve been home for almost three years now and we’ve paid off about $13,000 in debt on one income. Has it been a cake walk? Hell No. There have been sacrifices – mostly made by me. Hence my yearly hair cut or our now traditional stay-cations, cutting our budget till it screams, and calling our service providers to lower our bills.

It’s a constant challenge and if I thought I was a helicopter parent to my children, then our finances are probably my most needy child. I check my bank account once a day to see what bills have drafted out, what things we’re spending money on and I’m constantly asking myself questions like, “Ok, we got some extra money from my husband working overtime so what do we do – A. pay down more debt, B. sock it away into savings for the inevitable heating bills, or C. use it for birthdays or Christmas which will sadly be here before I’m ready for it. I’m always wondering if I’m doing the right things.

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ecisions Decisions

I’m a big student of Dave Ramsey who would say that to reach your financial goals you have to have gazelle like focus. But if you watch animal planet you know that the lion always looks for the weak gazelle. The one who is hurt or trying to go it alone. I don’t want to reach my financial goals one day just to look around and realize that I’m alone; that I’ve missed my life. There has to be more than reaching financial harmony – if that’s even possible. There has to be money for fun, right? There has to be money for charity, right? No matter what our situation is, I know there are always those who are worse off.

If you had asked me three years ago why I started staying home I would have told you this – it just doesn’t make sense for me to work to put two kids in daycare. Financially it didn’t add up. I was recently asked this same question in a SAHM group and I recited my work background, as well as my guilt and overwhelming love for my kids which seem irrevocably tangled together. The truth is, there is plenty of guilt on both sides of the fence here. You work, you feel guilty for letting someone else care for your kids. You stay home, you feel guilty for putting the financial pressure on your spouse. I have felt intense guilt either way, but I think maybe it has to do with being a mom and trying to do everything and be everything for everyone all the time. It’s supremely exhausting and guilt is like the temper tantrum that creeps up when your child is overtired. You can be fine one minute and on full tilt the next.

Consider The Possibilities

So why do women stay at home vs work outside the home? Is it really only about the money? For me it was a factor, but it was definitely my grandmother who changed it all, every single thing I thought was inevitable and normal. My mother always worked so that’s what I thought I’d do as well. My grandmother was a lovely hardworking immigrant from Germany who worked everywhere from farms to factories to housecleaning while raising three kids on her own. When she looked at my life she saw possibilities that I didn’t. She asked me if I was going back to work after my daughter was born and and I realized that I had assumed the answer without really ever asking myself that question.

So I decided that if she could see options, well then I would look for them too. I put together a job-share plan and was able to work part-time for four years till my company went through a merger which ended my time there. There are always two things fighting to tip this mommy scale – time and money. Which one do I feed? Which one am I slave to? It seems impossible that they could ever balance.

Owning Your Choices

I read an article yesterday that talked about how staying at home is a “luxury” for your spouse. It talked about the peace of mind a spouse gets from knowing the other is always working to keep the home ship running its course. While it certainly eases the guilt a little, I can’t help but notice that it is still one of many articles that feels the need to justify a woman’s right to stay at home. I know it’s just the cycle coming back around. I know that there was a whole lot of justification going on when women first starting working outside the home. But why are women always caught up in the guilt cycle no matter what we choose?

Here’s what I know. Everyone must make their own choices. Yet every choice comes with the guilt of the thing we did not choose. I don’t think anyone asks more questions looking for validation of their choices than moms. Again I think it comes down to the responsibility. It’s always there, whispering in our ears. I can’t say my husband carries any guilt what-so-ever when he leaves for work in the morning, or if he has to work late or on the weekends, or even if he has to travel for work. He leaves fancy free, without guilt. I’m not sure if it’s because he knows I’m here to take care of the kids. I suspect he’d also be fine if they were in daycare.

Dad’s Got The Right Idea

I think it’s because men recognize that there are different ways of caring for our kids – financial and emotional. I doubt he thinks of himself as less of a father for working. I’m sure it makes him feel like a better father for being able to provide financially. Just as spending time with his kids also makes him a good dad. Maybe men have it right. It’s not an either or situation – time or money. If you get up every day and put on your heels and do your hair and makeup and earn that paycheck for your family – you’re loving them. If you get up every day, throw your hair in a ponytail and throw on some yoga pants and spend the day changing diapers or cooking meals – you’re loving your family.

Make Your Own Happiness

Whatever you choose – the key is just to own it, love it and live it. I think I’m just done having conversations in which I try to justify why it’s better for me or my family that I’m staying home. I’m going to take a cue from my hubby on this and just be at peace with my choice. The best life advice I ever heard was this – if you want to be happy all you have to do is decide to be happy. If you’re unhappy figure out what it’s going to take to make you happy and do it. If you could do whatever you wanted in the world and money wasn’t a factor what would it be? What’s that thing you would gladly do for free? Find that answer and you’ve found your happiness.

Despite my debt repayment plan, my budgeting OCD, and my need to make it all add up, I know that being here with my family – that’s what makes me happy, as is sharing my words and heart with other moms. So since time and money will always be on the scale and I’ll always be weighing and measuring and fighting my guilt I have no other choice. I’ve decided to throw out the scale. It’s my hope that you do too.

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