The challenges of being a work-at-home mom

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

My in-laws are the best. Last week, they took my three young girls and left me with a baby and three school-age boys. Easy, peasey, lemon-squeezey. I made a lengthy list of all the things I was certain to accomplish after school without younguns underfoot. I assumed that with no little people, we’d fly through school in no time.

I was wrong.

I didn’t add anything to our schedule for the week and yet I would look up and the clock would say noon before I’d ticked anything off my “to-do” list. Toddlers didn’t appear to make any difference.

This revelation didn’t lead me to want to change our schooling. What we’re doing is working well and is just the right amount for my kids. And I don’t think my prep time is extraordinary. But what it did lead me to change was the way I viewed myself and our lifestyle.

Homeschooling is a full-time job.

As homeschool parents, we do the planning, we chauffeur the kids to co-op and outside lessons, we do the teaching, we do the record-keeping, grading, curriculum-buying, tutoring, testing, and, and, and… That’s a full-time job.

Too often, we place expectations on ourselves as “stay-at-home moms” when really, we’re work-at-home moms. Who knew?

(Before you go nuts in the comments, I am fully aware that all moms are working moms. All the time. I’ve simply discovered that I’m working TWO jobs.)

Extend yourself some grace.

I’ve been hard on myself because I couldn’t accomplish all the housekeeping/homemaker chores in a normal week. We’d spend a good portion of our Saturdays de-cluttering the house and running errands that I felt I should have been able to accomplish in a weekday. I was “home” all day, wasn’t I?

We homeschoolers forget to factor in that we have a second job. There’s no salary and no paid vacation, but we have another full-time demand on our time. As working parents, it’s not abnormal to be behind on housework or life stuff by the time the weekend rolls around.

Photo by Joy Bennet

Recognize your priorities.

Every day, we have to pick one job over the other.

Some days, we punt the Spelling in order to focus on character issues. Other days, we let the laundry sit in favor of finally grasping Place Value Notation. And most days, we dance between our jobs, never achieving perfection in either, but striving to keep our worlds functioning.

This is what holding down two jobs looks like. On any given day, there will be 800 fires to extinguish. Knowing your priorities helps you decide which one to put out first.

Know your limits.

You’re working two full-time jobs AT THE SAME TIME. You don’t get to clock out of one job to head to the other. They’re completely intertwined. It’s a full-time job with full-time interruptions. And there are only 24 hours in a day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This should change all the rules for us. We shouldn’t feel guilty that we have to run errands on the weekend, figure out meals at the last minute, or tag-team with our spouses on the laundry. We don’t need to apologize for protecting our Saturday morning chore time on the calendar. It really is the only time we all have to pull together and get the house stuff done.

This isn’t a call for laziness. It’s a call to recognize the full breadth of what we’re doing here.

It’s time to give ourselves a new label. It’s time to say it out loud, to let our lives reflect what we really are. While there’s no morning commute on my schedule and my power lunches usually involve peanut butter, I’m a working mom.

It’s time to give myself the freedom to act like one.

Do you see yourself as a working mom? What does that look like in your home?

About Lora

Lora Lynn Fanning blogged for 11 years about her family life with seven kids at Vitafamiliae. These days, she homeschools her growing brood, teaches writing both in person for co-ops and online for Brave Writer, and writes at her new site,


  1. Excellent! My oldest is only 41/2 so I am not there yet. But we have already had this conversation. My husband has reminded me that once we are homeschooling, I need to view it as my job. Just like I would if I were teaching in a classroom. That means that I don’t need to feel guilty about not getting involved in all the other things my friends are doing at church, etc. I know it is hard, but I think this is so important. We are choosing to educate our children. That is a full-time job. You are right, it is time we start calling it that.
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: An Interview With 4 Public School Moms

  2. My daughter is just shy of three so we’re not there yet either. Yet I think this concept is so important. My three siblings and I were homeschooled and I remember people wondering why my mom couldn’t talk on the phone all day or participate in various outings and church activities all the time. I think treating homeschooling like a job, a career, will help keep me from giving in to pressure to do it all.
    Steph’s latest post: Are We Expecting Too Much?

  3. Yes! I often say I have multiple full-time jobs! Homeschooling is so fulfilling, but is most definitely a hard job, particularly when juggling multiple children at different levels. In recognizing homeschooling as a legitimate job, it frees us from so much guilt! Thank you!

  4. I do agree that its a full time job. I have what I consider to be four full time jobs. I am a homemaker. I am a homeschooling mom. I provide daycare to afford staying home with the kiddos. I am also trying to fit in schooling for myself to start my own homebased career as I dont want to do daycare for long.

    And my husband wonders sometimes why I just start crying when I am completely overwhelmed.

    Everything has its time. I think that we need to allow ourselves to be ok with the job that was not done perfectly, so that we can really focus on what matters in the moment.

  5. GREAT post. I think things changed for us around here when I was willing to admit to other people (and myself!) that homeschooling is actual WORK and that I have a JOB to do. Absolutely wonderful post!!
    Amy’s latest post: word box puzzles

  6. Thank you a thousand times over. I have been beating myself up over this for the past few weeks. As much as I simplify, as much as I lower my standards, I still can’t manage to get it all done!!

    Everything has its time. YES.

  7. Just had this discussion with my girls yesterday when one of them said, “Mommy doesn’t work.” After the very long list of jobs Mommy does that followed, I do not think my dear daughter will ever say those words again 🙂 It is good to hear it from someone else in the trenches though, and I’ll have to remember this on those days when I feel like there just isn’t enough of me to do what needs to be done.

  8. YES! So true. I think of a talk by Todd Wilson where he reminds us–Homeschooling is BIG. and Homeschooling is HARD. It really is big. It takes copious amounts of time, energy, attention and planning.

    Remembering that also helps me avoid guilt when there are so many requests to help, join an activity, attend a study, host a ladies coffee. I just can’t do everything and have to focus on my current priorities and commitments (ie – homeschooling!) Thanks for sharing!‘s latest post: Working In Nature Study to Your Homeschool Routine

  9. Which means that as a full-time photographer and homeschooling mom, I’m now working three full-time jobs. I think I need to quit something. Or hire a nanny. Eek.
    Kelly Sauer’s latest post: Do You Know I Have a Five-Year-Old Now?

  10. I love this. I taught school before having my own children and the planning, prep and execution was more than a full time job. I remember thinking at some point (an overwhelmed, never gonna do it all point) that if I was paying to send my sons to schools somewhere (public or private) that I would expect his teacher’s full attention to be on teaching and not concerned over if everyone was going to have grilled cheese for dinner. I found so much freedom in that moment. Yes, I am the mom who must take care of my family, but the homeschooling choice means our daily life is going to look different that families who choose different paths.

    Thanks for the reminder and Happy Birthday!
    McKt’s latest post: Daddy Love

  11. Thanks for this post! I’ve been overwhelmed and struggling with why I can’t get everything done in a day! Homeschooling my boys, taking care of 7 month old, adoption paperwork, cleaning a house full of boys, with a hubby that works 10-12hrs a day outside of home, and all of family lives 500miles away. Thanks for that new perspective… and prayer:)
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  12. *Thank you* for this!
    Angela’s latest post: New House: Outside.

  13. I have to add, because it’s an important point of validation for me now that I only have a kindergartener and a toddler at home, that these things you mentioned are all true EVEN FOR MOMS WHO ARE ONLY HOMESCHOOLING ONE OR TWO KIDS. It still counts 🙂

  14. Focus. That’s what I’m striving for this year. Sure, my 3-year-old is going to be a distraction from schoolwork, but Facebook shouldn’t be. I need to spend my days focused on my kids and their schooling. Thanks for the reminder that this job is hard work! Mommy Guilt is SO easy to fall into
    Lacey’s latest post: Homeschooling: Activity Sticks

  15. This is so very true! I came to this realization last year when I felt so overwhelmed and at the same time guilty because I just could not keep up with everything. I am learning to extend grace to myself because juggling is hard. The more I view what I do as a full time job, the more I take it seriously and am able to extend that grace to myself when I cannot do it all.
    Monica’s latest post: Laundry Day

  16. YES! YES! YES!!!!! I fully agree with you. The biggest struggle for me with homeschooling has been juggling… feeling like I can not keep up the the house work like I want and struggling to make sure I make the right call with my time priorities. Well said. Thank you! 🙂
    LifeAtTheCircus’s latest post: She’s Got the Look

  17. Thanks Lora. I needed that today. I’ve told myself that I can either have a super clean house OR I can homeschool (4th, 2nd and preschool this year). I cannot do both. But I still feel like I’m not doing a good enough job from time to time. This was helpful.

    Oh – and happy birthday!

  18. I really needed to read this today. Thank you.
    Erin’s latest post: Curriculum for a New Year

  19. My daughter is only 2 1/2 and we have another one due this winter. This is something I think a lot about as we seriously consider homeschooling for our little ones. I haven’t even started and it’s overwhelming to think of the time it will take and the time I already don’t have! It’s helpful for me to read blogs written by others walking a similar path and to know that every day doesn’t have to be scheduled to perfection.

  20. Honestly, I’ve never looked at it like a full-time job and I’ve been doing it for 4 years. Hmmm, you have me something else to think about.

  21. Yes! I often struggle with how much I’m able (or unable) to achieve in one day. Yesterday I was berating myself for ‘sitting on the computer’ and then I realised I’d spent the who time reviewing homeschool resources that we are starting in September! I don’t remember giving myself a hard time about research when I was working in a high school : /

    Thanks for a great reminder : )
    Emmalina’s latest post: Busy Bees

  22. Wow! Why didn’t I see this before! This year I’m teaching two high schoolers and I have felt sooo overwhelmed and mad at myself at all the unfinished tasks at the end of the day. But in the end, picture perfect decor and scrubbed floors won’t matter to my kiddos. I feel empowered…I’m working two jobs! Woohoo! TY for the encouragement!

  23. I’m going to start saying “I’m a work-at-home-mom” when people ask me what my occupation is, rather than my standard answer of stay-at-home-mom. I love your article. It makes me appreciate our lifestyle choice even more. But you’re right, it IS work. While “stay-at-home moms” may be home, we are working! Hard 🙂
    Heather @ Life, Gluten Free’s latest post: Our Organic Garden 2012, Part 3

  24. Great post! My sediments exactly! I feel SO overwhelmed sometimes, especially with school back n session. I have got the schooling job, the full time mom job, full time housekeeper job, and a paying part time job working form home. It is no wonder that I feel stretched so thin on most days! Thank you for the reminders, and knowing that I am not the only one who does all/most of the housework on the weekends gives me a little peace. If I could get my husband to find more time for tag-teaming on some of the chores with me, I think that would help, but no luck so far! 😉
    Debbye’s latest post: Why Baby Nap Sleep Is Different Than Night Sleep

  25. From now on I will say: “I am a work- at- home- mom!”
    And with more pride! Lots of people homeschool here where I live, so most of the people I meet definitely consider it a full time job and moms who send their children to school look at me with amazement and say how do you manage? So I know it is definitely valued as a full time job,….. but just by myself I tend not to think of it as such, I just got to get real with myself and value my work much more!
    Thank you for this reminder!

  26. Can I just say, “Thanks!”? With each sentence, your post dissolved my guilt and frustration.

    Why on earth do I expect myself to do the work of a maid, mother, cook, laundry lady, blogger, AND a kindergarten and second grade teacher PERFECTLY? Sometimes, actually more often than not, a lot of things have got to give.

  27. We just became official homeschoolers with the start of Kindergarten last week. I’ve been a stay at home mom for 5 years though and this post really captures the essence of my life…although I didn’t realize it! I really did feel like I wasn’t doing enough and “why can’t I get more done” but now I have a new appreciation for what I do and more motivation to keep going! Thank you!
    Megan’s latest post: First Day of Kindergarten

  28. I wrote on the same subject just a couple of weeks ago! ( I already feel overwhelmed being a WAHM and we haven’t started official homeschooling yet! What I’ve learned over the years, is that no matter how much or how little you do, you will never feel like you have enough time. That’s life, I learning to live with is. s.l.o.w.l.y. 🙂
    Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz’s latest post: SnoozeShade Luxe Review & Original Giveaway {Exclusive!}

  29. Even though I don’t homeschool my children, this post really resonated with me. I work more or less full time from home and my kids are only in kindergarten about half the day. This balancing act therefore feels very familiar, and I think as a WAHM, whether homeschooling or not, the most important thing is to recognize how many important things you are doing and to cut yourself some slack. Like you said in the post, not so you can be lazy, but so you can acknowledge what a good job you are already doing. Thank you for this!
    Stephanie’s latest post: the lies my coach told me

  30. Excellent post! I have three jobs – two inside the home, one outside- and I find that I’m often berating myself instead of recognizing that I can’t do everything, all the time and giving myself some credit for what I did accomplish. Thanks for the reminder!
    Eddie – The Usual Mayhem’s latest post: Saving the Budget, One Homeschool Year at a Time

  31. Thanks Jamie. This was the encouragement I needed. Because I work at being a mom, I work at being a homeschooling mom, and I work at being a work-at-home mom. And I’m not very gracious with myself.
    Carol J. Alexander’s latest post: What happens to kids homeschooled on the homestead.

  32. Elizabeth Kay says:

    I have 3 boys, ages 16,13 and 8. We’ve home schooled from the start. I have regularly had a cleaner, at first once a month, then twice a month, and now that we are doing high school with one boy and 8th grade with another, I have a cleaner come once a week, for 3 hours. it is a big expense, but it is such a HUGE help to me not to have to clean the bathrooms and vacuum/dust (which is all she does). I will never forget a rude comment from a young woman who was dating my nephew. She was an elementary spacial ed teacher. She said, “My mom worked as a teacher and had 3 kids, but we never had a cleaner…My mom did it all herself.” I just sat staring blankly at her. Later, it occurred to me that that young woman’s home was EMPTY all day, every weekday, while the entire family was away at school/work! Our house is being lived in and used and “dirtied” all day, every single day. I felt a little better after I realized that.

  33. Amen! I couldn’t have said it better.

  34. Cristy S. says:

    This was terrific, and I forwarded it to every homeschooling mom I know. Having home schooled one in high school, now one in grade school, I know this is true.

    Any chance you could repost it every month or so, just so we could all be reminded that it IS work at home and it is the MOST important work we do.

    Blessings to you.

  35. I really appreciate this. Thank you. I do consider myself a working mom, though it’s hard when many others don’t feel the same way.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Happy Birthday Three-year-old

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  37. Thank you for this article! I have been thinking about it ever since I read it. I’m going to share my take on this wisdom over at my blog (and link back over here, of course!).

  38. Holly Peterson says:

    Amen sistah!

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