I remember the moment I decided I would be a WAHM. I recently learned I was pregnant with our first child and wondered how in the world I could go back to the unpredictable hours of a newsroom with a baby at home. I loved being a reporter, and my husband and I needed my income.
But a reporter’s income would barely pay for the child care needed to go to work every day, and I was bereft at the thought of having my baby cared for by others. When I revealed my pregnancy to my editor at the three-month mark, I already had a one-page proposal in hand. I could work half-time at home, I told her confidently, sending my stories through a modem hooked up to my PC.
This was a revolutionary idea at the time (it was 1992). No other reporter at this daily newspaper had ever worked from home. Not see each other in person? Check in with editors each day by phone? How could they be sure I would get the job done?
The proof would be in my productivity, I said. They would know I was doing my job by the stories I produced — or didn’t. Couldn’t we just give it a shot?
A year later, at my employee review, the editor-in-chief sat back on his desk chair and smiled. “This has worked out far better than we ever anticipated,” he said.
And I knew it would. Why? Because I wanted it to work badly enough to make the sacrifices involved. When my baby slept (and thankfully he took naps like clockwork), I got on the phone, conducted interviews and wrote. At night, when my husband walked through the door, I often played pass-the-baby on my way out to a meeting I needed to cover.
The rest of the time, my son and I read books, took long walks, played music and went to play groups. I was the mom I’d always wanted to be, and felt I had the best of both worlds.
I still do, only now I work full-time-plus and have four kids. And fortunately, this attempt at work-life balance is not at all unusual anymore. I am one of millions of WAHMs, many of us writers, who never set foot in a corporate office and barely ever need to see the editors we work with. I now laugh at the thought of the blinking, screechy modem attached to my PC — my virtual umbilical cord before the rise of the Internet and email.
But the virtues that made a successful WAHM then are the same ones needed to succeed now: self-discipline, flexibility, determination and the optimism that convinces us we can indeed juggle all of this. I no longer need to convince my editors that I’ll somehow be able to do my job without constant oversight.
Then, as now, the proof is on the page.