March 7th, 2011

Myth #1: WAHMs have it all together. Wow! Look at her! She has all those kids and manages a business!

What you don’t see when you gaze at the successful WAHM, smiling big, perfectly accessorized, with all her little ducklings in a row behind her, is the mounds of unfinished laundry, the piles of dishes, the unfinished school work, the displeased customers, and possibly the fact that she hasn’t changed any bed linens in over a month. (Not that I’m claiming that one. Ahem.)

We do not have it all together. In fact, for the first three years of owning Cheeky Maiden Soap Co, it was a constant battle to try to find balance between my WAHM self and my SAHM self.

We cry, we fail, we yell at our kids because we’ve got a deadline and they are getting on our nerves. We cuss at the Paypal customer service reps. We resort to fast food more than we should because we don’t get to spend as much time in the kitchen as we like. We feel guilty if we ever have to tell our children to “wait just a minute, Mamma’s got to make a phone call/answer this email/make this product.” We question whether what we are doing is right or okay or in balance.

We are late to church, we forget to thaw the meat or turn on the crock pot, and we fall daily on our knees and plead with the Lord for patience and mercy just.like.everyone.else.

And possibly the worst truth of all: We fell judged by those around us anytime we ask for help or state that we are tired or overwhelmed. After all, we asked for it, didn’t we?

It doesn’t take a perfect mom to be a WAHM, just a crazy one.

Myth #2: Having a business to run puts the WAHM on level playing field with mammas who have 2 or 3 more kids than her.

The truth is that I can shut the door (literally) on Cheeky Maiden. Cheeky Maiden does not wake me up at 3 am vomiting. Cheeky Maiden does not require to be fed three square meals a day, does not burden me with her spiritual/emotional/physical health, and never farts on me. I can ignore emails and phone calls, and trust me when I say I have gotten really really good at that.

You cannot (should not) ignore or shut the door on your kids. They are constant eternal beings and the effort it takes to raise them up to be good citizens that glorify God goes way beyond the effort that anyone should ever put into any old business.

Cheeky Maiden is not going to heaven. (That one feels a little weird to type out. Maybe I’m a little too attached to this Cheeky Maiden lady.)

Myth #3: The WAHM neglects her children and that is how she is able to get “all that work” done.

The truth in our home is that the kids come first. The first fruits of my day are invested in schooling them. What keeps me up at night is whether or not I was a good enough mom for my kids that day. Soap is just…soap. (Granted, it’s really really really great soap.)  I would like to think that I school them just as much as I would had I not a business to run. I also would like to think that I put just as much effort into feeding them healthy food, listening to them, and playing with them. In our family, we try to have the children involved as much as possible in what we are doing out in the soap room. If we’re out there working, the kids are almost always out there too (unless they’re sleeping).

We honestly feel like we are giving them an out-of-the-box life, an adventurous life, and as our business grows we hope that it gives them opportunities that we couldn’t give them otherwise.

Myth #4: WAHMs work every day in their businesses.

People ask me all the time if I “make soap, like, everyday.” I always want to respond with, “Hi. Have you met my family?” Seriously, I have no idea how anyone could make mounds of soap everyday, homeschool two children with two preschoolers underfoot, grow an organic garden, blog, maintain contact with the outside world, and sleep. No wonder people thing the WAHM is Super Woman!

Heavens, no. I have a life.

You know when I make soap? I make soap when our part time helper comes and forces me to. (Which is about twice a month at this point.) We do make rather large batches (around 350 bars) at a time, so we get quite a bit of work knocked out all in one fell swoop. We’ve also gotten efficient in most of our processes so that it requires less time for slicing and packaging.

Mondays and Thursdays afternoons are whole-family work days out in the soap room for pretty much 2 or 3 solid hours. Everyone has a job they do in the process and the kids can play on the computer out there with us until it’s their turn to help with their particular specialty. On these two days Brent and the kids pack online and retail orders while I make new product (non-soapy stuff), package products, label products, or eat chocolate and hide in the bath tub.

A couple times a month during nap time, if we are all caught up on school stuff, the big girls help label soap. They rack up some impressive dollar amounts doing this.

Myth #5: WAHMs think that mammas who “get to” work outside of the home have it easier.

Lord have mercy on us all if I had to get up every morning at 5:30, feed everyone breakfast and make myself plus everyone else presentable to the outside world, get them to school, get myself to work, all on time. Forget being presentable, just the “on time” part would be challenging enough for me! Forget being on time, just getting up at 5:30 could possibly guarantee that I’m going to be a fire breathing dragon. I can’t even imagine running a home while being gone from it all day long and the stress that would come with that! A big hat tip to those Mammas that work and find time to spend with their children and actually cook a few meals too. Shoot, if you just get them to school on time every day, I’d say that’s a major accomplishment!

Myth #6: It’s easier to be a WAHM than to have a “regular” job. I mean, you get to work in your pj’s if you want to!

That’s not exactly how it goes. I very rarely stay in my pj’s all day because it makes me feel sloppy and depressed. In fact, I try to dress and be fully accessorized and have the living room picked up because I almost never know when a customer is going to swing by last minute and give me approximately four minutes to put a bra on, clear a path through the room, and get their order together. So, I try to at least get the bra part out of the way first thing in the morning.

There is a lot of “putting on your big girl panties and dealing with it”.Take today for example. Not my proudest moment but I had a complete come apart just before Brent got home. After I finished crying into my pillow I blew my nose, cleared my throat and proceeded to make some business calls. Also, while I have some really great and thoughtful customers, the general population does not care that you are in the middle of dealing with 72 hours of vomit, that it’s your kid’s birthday, or that you just had a baby. They want their soap and they want it now. (Especially the shampoo bars and the bamboo charcoal soap. Sheesh. People get really upset about those two when we run out.) In other words, sometimes it feels like the work never stops.

Some mornings I do run back and forth between getting the girls started on some school work, answering emails, oh shoot I need to go potty and there is no toilet paper would someone please run upstairs and bring me some toilet paper, who left the front door unlocked the baby is on the porch, oh crap the mailman is going to be here in ten minutes and those packages are not ready, did anyone get me some toilet paper, who clogged up the toilet, never mind I’ll just go upstairs and go, does anyone know what happened to that package that was waiting on a shipping label, wheres my phone so I can call Brent, the baby just fell off the table, never mind there goes the mail man without our packages, kids get your shoes on we have to go to the post office, we’ll finish school when we get back.

In other words, it’s not a “when you’re at work, you’re at work” sort of deal. Know what I mean? When you’re at work, your also at home, and when you’re at home you’re also at work. So you have to get good at ignoring the work that didn’t get done the day before because right now it’s time for Bible time, not work time. And you gotta get good at ignoring the dishes piled up when it’s time to work.

Yes, it’s overwhelming sometimes. And it never feels anything like “working in your pj’s.”, FYI.

Did I miss any?

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One Response to “The Mythological WAHM”

  1. Tami says:

    Thanks for this. My husband has been encouraging me to pursue becoming a doula. While the interest is definitely there, I’m just not sure how doing that work would integrate into family life. I’m currently pregnant #5 (due any day now, in fact praying for TODAY!) and my oldest will turn 7 this month. We also homeschool. I don’t know, lots of prayer and reflection needed. :)

    P.S. We live overseas and my in-laws are visiting the end of this month and bringing with them a sampling of soap I bought from you. I’m so excited about getting it!