The following is apart of my monthly “Seasons of Encouragement” guest series. During the month of March other women share from the delight and challenges of living the life of a Mom-pruh-nur.
I stood in the kitchen, up to my elbows in hamburger mince, trying to juggle two toddlers during mad hour, a dinner that needed to be in the oven already, and a looming deadline all while watching the “Find my iPhone” dot track my husband back from his daily commute. My chatty 1-year old daughter sat in her high chair observing me as I made dinner, and my 2-year old son was…
Quiet. Too quiet.
I think any mother knows that sinking feeling. Earlier that day, that kind of quiet meant printer cartridges pulled out and shaken all over my study, the snack box in the pantry well-and-truly raided, and my lipstick becoming a work of art painted across the inside of my bathroom cabinet doors. (Why don’t they ever choose the cheap stuff when they do that?)
“Where are you, Henry?” I yelled as I dashed down the hall.
“I’m at work, getting the money-dollars,” he happily announced. And there he sat, cute as a button, stirring a pretend cup off coffee and wearing my glasses. No mischief. Thank goodness.
Henry knows that when the nanny turns up and the study door gets shut, Mommy is earning the money dollars. What he doesn’t know is the complexity of it all. There’s the actual work side of it – I’m a ghostwriter by trade. I write books for other people. I also blog for research organisations, specialising in chiropractic and neuroscience research. But as cerebral as that occupation is, it isn’t the complicated part.
The complicated part is the Mommy guilt, the balancing act, and the price-value conundrum.
The Mommy Guilt and the Balancing Act
It seems that many a modern mom often tries to live up to a 1960’s standard of housekeeping and parenting while living in a 2019 economic reality. We have to change to cope with this, because if we don’t, then those spinning plates we keep up in the air will start to fall. It’s only a matter of time. Alicia Keys sings about “Superwoman” but let me tell you it doesn’t feel that way when there is not a single clean pair of socks in the house, dinner is burnt, a deadline has been missed and you’ve realised you ran out of baby wipes after you discovered the latest poo. If only you were up to date with the washing so you could use a face flannel instead of a full sized towel. (This hasn’t happened to me, necessarily. Just saying…)
My mother home-schooled my four siblings and myself. She was also a pastor’s wife with more than her fair share of volunteer responsibilities. She didn’t share the burden of breadwinning during my formative years, but she had more than enough on her plate. My youngest sister is now 22, and time has marched on. With it, the cost of living has gone up and many of us simply can’t afford to be stay at home moms.
That reality doesn’t erase the housework, or loosen the apron strings though. It just makes the juggle more difficult. Every time I get offered a new contract I have a complex thought process I have to work through:
- How much money do I need to keep the budget ticking over?
- How much money do I want to be able to reduce stress and improve our lifestyle (and be able to do things like nice dates, holidays, special memories for my kids, a little housekeeping help or a hair appointment?)
- How much mental stimulation do I need for my own sanity?
- How much time do I want to spend with my kids?
- How much time do my kids need me for?
In truth, the two last items on the list are the most important to me. My kids will only be this young once and I don’t really want to miss a moment. But the other three things are important because, lets be honest, we aren’t all relentlessly peaceful mothers. I wasn’t always the most maternal creature. I adore my babies, but if I don’t get a little me-time and a little mental stimulation, then I go a bit stir-crazy. I know I’m a better mother with a little work than I am without it.
As soon as I threw in a little work, then the kids were getting trips to the park, painting sessions outside, walks around the lake to feed the ducks and see the peacocks, and play-dates with friends. Previous to that, I was too overwhelmed, snappy and tired to be the best mom I could be.
Could loving my children actually mean taking a small amount of time aside from them, getting a blessed chance to miss them? For me at least, the answer was yes.
But as much as a little work in my week meant the world to me in terms of sanity and regeneration, I also felt guilty about it. Those 1960’s housewife comparisons loomed large in my head. Often, moms like me feel guilty asking our husbands to do a load of washing. We feel guilty if the housework isn’t done and the kids aren’t beautifully behaved, flawlessly groomed, perfectly mannered and cared for by a relentlessly calm and loving mother who doubles as an impeccable housekeeper.
Truth bomb: we can’t do it all. Something’s got to give. So on one side of the scale we have budget, lifestyle, stress and satisfaction, and on the other scale we have our beautiful families that our hearts revolve around. We need to balance the two sides in order for harmony to exist.
Here’s what I’ve learned along my Mom-pruh-neur journey:
- Don’t be proud. Get the help. I combine in-home nannying with day care. My son needs the stimulation, so he goes to day care one day a week. I also have a nanny come to me one day a week. My goodness, she is amazing. Not only is she like a grandmother to my babies, but she has become a precious part of our family. And here’s the amazing bit: the housework she gets done in one measly nap-time sets me off on the right foot for the entire week. So. Worth. It.
- Realise that love doesn’t always mean a perfect house or high-brow cuisine. Sometimes I choose to let the house go a bit feral because I cherish my days with my kids now. I could clean it. Or I could get out in the garden with them and make memories. I’d rather do that. Sometimes we eat leftovers. Sometimes that’s on purpose. Sometimes love is getting a meal prepared so you can spend another hour reading books with them and colouring in rather than slaving over a hot stove and giving yourself a heck of a clean-up job.
- Don’t undervalue yourself. But that’s a whole section all on its own.
The Price-Value Conundrum
I’ve been running businesses for eleven years now, and there’s been something I’ve noticed over that time: we Mommies don’t always price our services well. Even though I knew this, I don’t always find it easy.
Example: I once had to hire a photographer for an event I was running. I asked her what her price was. “Oh a flat rate of $100 an hour,” she responded.
“Is that for the event alone?” I responded, knowing how much set up and editing is required.
“Er, yes. Um, is that okay. I can give you a discount. I could do $80 and hour,” she offered off the bat.
I hesitated, thinking, “Wow, you aren’t going to make much out of that.” But she took my silence as unhappiness. “Oh, $60 would be fine too. I mean, I’m a beginner.“
Now, I’m Australian. So we have minimum wage standards. You can’t hire a junior as a barista for less than $12 an hour. By the time they turn 18 that has nearly doubled. Our cost of living is higher than the USA, so it all evens out. Here was an educated woman in her 50’s telling me she could set up, shoot and edit an event for $60. When you take all her work into consideration, she would be taking home less per hour than a junior barista who didn’t have a degree, a home office to maintain, or equipment to buy.
Ladies, we have to value ourselves more. As a ghostwriter, I sometimes cringe when I tell potential clients my hourly rate. I know they do the math and work out what that means per month or over the course of a contract. But I have to stop myself from dropping my price at an awkward silence. Why?
- Because my price is based on my education, experience, overheads and the fact that previous clients have gone bestseller.
- Because my price is not just a fee for service, it’s a statement of value. If I underprice myself, then my client may think that this contract isn’t a serious commitment or that I am underqualified for the job.
- Because my price is based on the industry I am in.
- Because not everyone thinks about money the way I do.
What do I mean by this? For me, $10,000 is a lot of money. For someone else, it isn’t. Too often, we make that value judgement for people and price ourselves down to suit their perceived financial status. Like many women, I’m a bit of an empath by nature. I can see what people are trying to achieve, get caught up in the beauty of a project, and want to give people a good deal. Gosh, if we let ourselves do that all the time, we could be working for free! And that’s been done. (*cough*, “working for exposure” *cough*)
But here’s the other thing: if we underprice ourselves, we are lowering the dollar value associated with time away from our kids. That photographer dropped from a reasonable $100, to a cheap $60. By the time she travelled, set up, shot and edited, it would have been tiny – perhaps less than $10 per hour away from her kids. Perhaps half of what minimum wage would be.
Pricing yourself at what you are valued could mean much more. It could mean a cleaner to help with the extra jobs so Mamma is more chilled and has more time. It could mean a holiday every year. It could mean meals prepared by someone else to ease the burden. It could mean date night with hubby at a nice restaurant.
Yes, it could mean some clients say “Nope! Too expensive” and move on. I’ve only ever had that happen once, and I wasn’t too fussed. I’m happy to negotiate on price (within reason), but if someone wants me to work for next to nothing, it means they don’t value me and they expect me to devalue myself.
I’m worth more than that. So are my kids.
So if 11 years in business and 3 years as a Mom-pruh-neur have taught me anything, it’s that. Value yourself, friend. Because a secure, happy, fulfilled Mommy is a better Mommy.
And don’t you let anyone tell you any different!
A Little More About Kit
Kit Kennedy lives in Australia with her husband and their two toddlers – a one year old daughter and a two year old son. She is a ghostwriter and research blogger by trade, and blogs about faith, philosophy and modern Christianity in her precious few moments of “me time.” In addition to wifehood, motherhood, business and blogging, she loves coffee, music, some semblance of a social life, and very occasionally, a new pair of heels. She also enjoys eating secret chocolate she has hidden from her children.