She’s Not Working and Other WAHM Misconceptions

by Melanie Edwards on May 12, 2010 · 20 comments

in Wahm

Working from Home

Since I started working from home, I’ve had to deal with a few comments regarding my new work life. Comments such as:

“Well…she’s not working right now.”

“How much work do you have to do every day?”

“How’s the job search going?”

Different scenarios and conversations caused the comments to be said to me or about me; some were not said in my presence. But, the fact is that while many friends and family have been supportive of my decision to pursue freelance and consulting instead of the standard 9-5 job, there are others who don’t quite understand it. They think I’m looking for a replacement traditional job. They wonder what I do each day. They don’t always understand why I say that yes, in fact, I am quite busy – even at home.

I’ve dealt with the comments and explained that no, I’m not looking to go back to working outside the home. And, yes, I do quite a bit each day, because building a business and doing freelance work, is in fact, work. I understand that it will take some time for everyone to become accustomed to my new work at home status, so it doesn’t bother me. Really…part of me is still getting used to it myself.

As I was thinking about this more, I decided I’d open up the topic for a round-table-type discussion. I want to open it up to you and hear how you have dealt with such comments.

Do you have friends and family that don’t quite get it? Share with us in the comments about your experiences.

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1 Susan Payton May 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

My favorite is “well you really have a flexible schedule so could you pick up my kid/get the dry cleaning/volunteer at PTA?” We have work schedules like anyone else! We just can do them in our pjs.

2 modernmami June 2, 2010 at 9:01 pm

That's so convenient to think that you can just pick up & go or switch things around whenever. It's true it's a little more flexible, but you can't just be all over the place either!

3 EricaMueller May 12, 2010 at 9:46 am

Ah yes, the misconception that WAHM = SAHM. The first word, WORK, actually means, you guessed it, WORK. :-O

I think I have a slight advantage in being a web developer. Somehow, when I say that people actually look at me like I might be a professional. When I used to say I blog, or I write, not so much. I think it's the same with any artistic/non-corporate job tho. Artists/Musicians and Authors (unless they're best sellers) are usually taken less serious than registered professionals or the 9-5 corp worker. People don't understand the need or want to work for oneself. Or how we might possibly have the ability to be our own boss/business owner without also being a registered professional. There's nothing wrong with an Engineer owning his own company, but a mom? a writer?

It's just a misconception and we have to privilege of changing that!

4 modernmami June 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm

It's funny how the right “title” makes a difference, right? I've started saying freelance or consultant and it seems to be received better than saying I blog.

5 Fran May 13, 2010 at 3:44 am

I don't remember where I saw this statistic, but a majority of new parents said they'd like their child to grow up to “own their own business” and that answer beat out “become a doctor.” Maybe that means the attitudes about work and ideas of what makes one successful are changing?

6 modernmami June 2, 2010 at 9:03 pm

That's a great statistic! And a sign of things changing…

7 Julie Diaz-Asper May 14, 2010 at 5:20 am

I think I actually work more since I started working at home- 6 am catch-up on email and reading blogs, 10 pm twitter party. We are not talking 9 to 5 here. Still when I tell folks “I work at home”, I get the “she is at home watching Oprah and painting her nails all day” vibe. But I love being my own boss and I do paint my nails on conference calls occasionally 🙂

8 modernmami June 2, 2010 at 9:04 pm

jaja! It's interesting how people react.

9 Cherrie Bautista May 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I'm lucky to have most of my friends in IT so they know that even if I'm working from home, it doesn't matter what time I work, my “output” reflects what I've been doing.

Anyway, for those people who don't get it, I try to explain what I do to them ONCE. I would rather spend my time and energy doing more productive things than try to justify what I do to them. If they don't get it, that's because they're not open to it in the first place. Let them backtalk and whine while we get to enjoy what we do 🙂

10 modernmami June 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I agree. Spending too much energy on someone that doesn't get it is pointless.

11 Debbie Lattuga May 26, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I try to fight my urge to defend myself. I know my focus and commitment. When people ask what I do, I say I'm self employed. If they ask further, I say I handle the sales and marketing for my online business.

That usually is enough for them to back off. It's a challenge though.

12 modernmami June 2, 2010 at 9:06 pm

It sure is. But, that's a great way to look at it. You don't have to defend yourself at all. 🙂

13 Eren@ Embracing Blogging June 9, 2010 at 6:35 am

Hi Melanie,
I'm so glad you opened up this discussion. Many people look down on us if we don't have the standardized job and quite frankly it really bugs me. When I used to sell clothes as a teenager I worked a lot less than doing the online thing. Plus it was much easier because I didn't have to learn so much of the technical aspect. Personally now I just say: “I make websites”… that seems to be “understood” by people …lol. I don't even try to use words like search engine optimization as I know they won't understand. Great topic!

14 modernmami June 9, 2010 at 11:22 am

It's a little sad that we have to use fancier terms to make it sound like we're important. I wish people would understand/realize that it's just as important if I say I “work from home” or “freelance”, etc.

15 modernmami June 9, 2010 at 10:22 am

It's a little sad that we have to use fancier terms to make it sound like we're important. I wish people would understand/realize that it's just as important if I say I “work from home” or “freelance”, etc.

16 Cnicolepr August 10, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I'm not a mother, but I hope to be soon… I'm commenting because I have worked from home before and even though I currently work a 9-5, I continue my business as a PR consultant to my clients…. I remember my uncle saying “Public Relations” was a hobby until I told him how much money I made off of one project… a lot of people don't understand that working from home can be often more fulfilling than working a 9-5. And yes we really are busy even though we're at home!

17 modernmami August 11, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Well said. It's work regardless, sometimes busier, and often more rewarding. Good luck with your journey to become a mom!

18 modernmami August 12, 2010 at 12:58 am

Well said. It’s work regardless, sometimes busier, and often more rewarding. Good luck with your journey to become a mom!

19 Sarah Hoffman November 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I completely understand your frustration. Most of my family (meaning my in-laws) don’t take my working at home seriously. It’s incredibly frustrating! I also wrote a blog about it. I hope you don’t mind if I post a link –

20 modernmami November 15, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Thanks for sharing your post! I think it may just be pure lack of understanding. Like the saying goes, you don’t know until you’re in someone else’s shoes.

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