In the Era of the WAHM

A little glimpse into the ups and downs of the unique work life we know here at Van Essen Studio.

WAHM- It’s not an 80s band

A WAHM or Work At Home Mom is sort of the lifestyle unicorn. To be able to apply your intellect to something beyond sleep schedules and ‘did the toddler eat enough vegetables today’ AND still be there for post nap cuddles? All the yes.

How It All Began

When my husband and I started our company it was out of a beautiful culmination of need (ours) and demand (friends turned clients). In a time when my husband the immigrant needed work, God saw fit to line up all our wonderful entrepreneurial friends to mention in passing how they really could use a website…logo…etc. Along the way we got some great advice (“I won’t say no to this…but never charge this little again.”) which I’m sure I’ll write about in another post. And so our company was born!

There were several part time jobs scattered into the subsequent years until we reached the cliff. Continue to stretch ourselves beyond capacity or make our home business our sole income. And I will not lie, it was terrifying. It didn’t help that in true us fashion we decided to do this when I was about to give birth to our son and, you know, skipping meals and not repairing the car would really not be an option. It took a lot of prayer and thought but it really felt that, as long as we could remain responsible, moving to a 9 to 5 would be something we would probably never be able to leave (paid sick leave did sound pretty good haha).

So, why?

This would (and I’m sure has, our friends are just too nice to say as much) lead to the question of why live with the uncertainty. Why have a job that meant living in basements for the first four years of your marriage? (We’re in an apartment now, heaven on earth I kid you not).

The answer is simple but permeates through every aspect of our life. We want to Be more than Do. We want to Be There for each other, family and friends. We want(ed) to Be there for first steps, giggles and the little moments. If we can continue to be so blessed, we want to Do work less, Do the unsatisfying things as little as possible. As I said, this doesn’t exclude us from adulting with taxes, doctor check-ups, etc. It just means that my husband knows when our son finally worked up the courage to go up the “big” step on his own. I get to hear Mama, Mama when the same little is awake from a nap. It’s a luxury we will work hard for and thank God for it.

The How of It All

Most parents and even those without kids can appreciate that, practically speaking, working from home can be a challenge. I wish I had taken more advantage of the time when our son was satisfied to fit in a rock and play and watch me haha. Largely our success comes from three things: Schedules, Tools and Help.

Our son was a horrendous sleeper (still not reliable for naps) so we had to keep a rigid schedule to teach him when it’s okay to drift off to sleep and later when to expect to eat. This helps us because there is the obvious working while he sleeps but also, we can push through knowing we will all take a break to eat lunch together soon, so finish that task!

This kid loves Gramee time.

Speaking of tasks, Michel and I are not naturally good at remembering everything that needs doing. So we have tried many tools over the years and the most successful has been Asana. It is so easy to use and really a lifesaver! Each user can be added to the Van Essen Studio account as well as have their personal one. Within each of those you can have projects (which we label with each client’s name) and projects get tasks. These tasks get assigned a person, a date due and subtasks if needed. It ticks all our boxes to be able to sit down, open what’s Due Today and be productive.

Finally, we have help. There is a list of people who have kindly offered to be on standby when we just can’t work and parent at the same time. On a regular basis, a wonderful friend offered one day of her daycare in exchange for my supervising at our other job (HEARTS Homeschool Academy). When the kids are all in class, I’m free to be on my laptop getting things done. On Wednesdays, our son gets a Gramee day.

These are two days we know I will be kid free just long enough to concentrate over a long period of time. The blend of time away and physically at home works well for us and I get to feel our son gets a bit of socializing as well 🙂

Lessons Learned

There are a number of lessons, both practical and more personal, in this life we’ve built.

  1. The grass may be greener, maybe not, but for goodness sake check your attitude. It was initially hard on us to keep our eyes on the prize when all around us people were able to vacation in style, buy homes, la la la. This area is prosperous but that same state of wealth that keeps us in business means that those with steady income get a lot of the fun we’ve had to abstain from. We had to look at our ugly hearts and decide to be happy for those who’ve worked hard and get to enjoy that success.
  2. Some days, teeth take priority. Teething. Truly proof that this life needs Jesus because good Lord the crying, the tantrums, and, let’s be honest, need for extra love and attention. So, those days work gets put aside. Why have this life if you can’t occasionally put cuddles first?

    The snotty teether himself.

  3. There is still a “clocking out” time. In the beginning we were available to clients all day, everyday. Website tweak emailed to us at 11 pm? On it! New project given that needs to be done in two days? Of course! Now, it is true that with a new business you have to say yes more than you might like. However, we have reached the point that most nights at 5 pm and every Friday night to Sunday morning we are offline.

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