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For Work-at-Home Moms, It’s Business Unusual

People ask me all the time, “Ellie, how do you work from home with so many distractions during the day?”

The answer is simple. I would much rather stay home and write in my flannel plaid pajamas than get dressed in real clothes and drive to an office where I doodle pictures at boring meetings and sit at my desk during my one-hour lunch break and eat leftover meatloaf out of a Tupperware container.

I consider myself lucky that I’m able to work from home, especially while Jack and Sari still look forward to seeing my smiling face when they get home from school. As a freelance writer on and off for the past 20 years, my flexible schedule allows me to be at my family’s beck and call. On the flip side, it’s impossible for me to leave my work at the office, and I always feel like I have an unfinished project hanging over my head.

For many moms who work at home, business as usual takes on a whole new meaning. Sometimes my domestic responsibilities overlap with my professional ones, and since I don’t have the luxury of a private conference room, I’ve had to make the best of some sticky situations. For example, over the years, I’ve negotiated with editors and conducted interviews for stories while I trim fat off raw chicken, change a poopy diaper, or lock myself in the bathroom so that the person on the other end doesn’t hear my child screaming at me. One time, I even had to interrupt a photo shoot in my own kitchen because Luci ran down the street and nobody would chase after her. For me, it’s all in a day’s work. If I have to stay up later than Conan Obrien some nights to meet a deadline, oh well, at least I can crank out copy while I wear my terrycloth bathrobe and fuzzy slippers instead of pantyhose and pumps.

Many moms, such as myself, want the best of both worlds. We want our careers, and we crave our freedom. In order to capitalize on our special talents and interests, let’s face it, we need a little discipline and a lot of Dove chocolate. This rule applies to any occupation, whether we sell Arbonne anti-age cream, design crystal jewelry, write a newspaper column, provide financial consultations, or build websites from our home headquarters. For those work-at-home moms who are serious about getting the job done, here’s a few survival tips to consider:

1. Create a workspace that is comfortable and convenient, whether your office is located in the unfinished basement, spare bedroom, or empty formal living room that no one has stepped foot in since the Little Tykes playhouse was disassembled and donated to charity.

2. If you share a computer with your kids, make sure that they know who’s the boss. And, hopefully, they will give you a turn after they place their final bid on an Albert Pujoles baseball card for sale on eBay. Also, beware of dangerous Disney computer games that can corrupt your important files just when you need them most.

3. Keep all your essential supplies handy. In my desk drawer, for example, I have plenty of sticky note
pads, assorted paper clips, dried out highlighters, unsharpened pencils, an empty roll of Scotch tape, stale gum, tape measurer, calculator, stapler, and dull emery board that I compulsively file my nails with when I have writer’s block.

4. Get plenty of exercise. This includes repetitive sprints to the freezer for another scoop of Cherry
Garcia ice cream.

5. Frequently monitor the red flag on the mailbox, especially when you’ve been promised, “Your check is
in the mail.”

6. If the weather is nice, walk your dog, who has been a warm, fuzzy ottoman at your feet. If you don’t
have a dog, offer to walk your neighbor’s dog and you’ll never feel guilty about borrowing a box of MINUTE Rice again.

7. Don’t sit too long in a desk chair, unless you’re doing regular kegel exercises and leg lifts with weights
strapped to your ankles.

8. Keep up with the housework. Every time you pass something that looks dusty, wipe the furniture with
the sleeve of your sweatshirt.

9. Take frequent breaks that are scheduled around your favorite celebrity appearances on the Ellen
Degeneres show and E! True Hollywood Story.

10. Stock the pantry with s’mores ingredients at all times because you never know when you’ll want to
build a campfire or just grab a piece of emergency chocolate.

11. When the phone rings, don’t answer it, unless it’s your mother or the school nurse. If you’re in deep
thought or on a roll, the last thing you need are interruptions from solicitors or your husband wanting to know what’s for dinner tonight.

12. Finally, to get the creative juices flowing, go shopping.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Her stories are inspired by the real life of her family, including her two children, toy poodle named Luci, and her husband, but not necessarily in that order. Feel free to send any comments, prayers or recipes to ellie@mishegasofmotherhood.com.