Archive for April, 2013

The 36-Hour Day

with Amy Urquhart

I’m Amy and I’ve spent the last three years trying to strike that perfect balance between being a wife, mom and professional career woman. I’ve decided that I’ll never perfect the art of “having it all”, but this blog is a chronicle of my attempts to continue to do so. I’m a blogger (my personal blog about Canadian home life is Hearts into Home), gardener, college instructor, wife to Graham and mom to Nate. If you’re also a working mom who finds there just aren’t enough hours in the day, I hope you’ll enjoy this column!

Read her blog at Hearts into Home.

Rejecting the Labels of the Working Mom

Categories: Career, Working? Living?


I’m confused.

I’m in the middle of a transition with respect to the way I spend my days and earn my income. I’m not sure what label applies to me; am I a stay-at-home mom or am I a work-at-home mom? Is it even important to make the distinction?

It used to be so clear. I worked full-time as an editor at a publishing company that allowed me to work from home. When I had a baby, being a mother who worked full-time in a salaried position in a home office made me a work-at-home mom.

Later, I left that job to work part-time at the local college as an instructor while Nate was looked after by a grandparent or at daycare. The line was clear: I was a working mom.

Now, I’m leaving the college position to stay home and work two home-based businesses and do some freelance editing and writing. What can I say…I’m a woman who wears many different hats! I’ll be working for myself, in our home, while our son is looked after at daycare.  And in the middle of all of this change, I’m finding it difficult to categorize myself as either a stay-at-home mom or a work-at-home mom.

I guess I always assumed that a work-at-home mom worked at home while her children were home with her. I always envisioned women who referred to themselves as work-at-home moms somehow managed to get their work done while their children were at home with them. I don’t really know why I latched onto that image; perhaps it’s simply because I have a young child rather than a school-aged child, so my perspective is coloured by my personal circumstance. Maybe it’s the image I had in my mind of a woman like Kristen Chase, seated in front of her computer on an exercise ball, bouncing a baby on one arm while writing with the other. (Or is that simply urban internet legend?)

Image source: The Mommyhood Project

I posed the question on Twitter a few days ago, asking, “If you work from home as a self-employed person or doing freelance, do you consider yourself to be a SAHM?”

I was assured this scenario referred to WAHMs rather than SAHMs.

I asked, “Even if the kids leave for the day? Too many variables. I hate the labels.”

My friend Jen Lemen made a good point in her response:

“Especially if kids leave for the day. If you were single and a freelancer would you say you’re unemployed?” (Actually, I might, but that is another issue entirely…)

She continued, “You’d say you’re an independent contractor or an entrepreneur or a freelance writer, etc.” (I guess it’s time for an attitude adjustment!)

Ever since our exchange, I’ve been thinking about the WAHM and SAHM labels, and I’ve decided that neither of them really feels natural to me. Neither really applies. We are so anxious to use labels to categorize one another, and I don’t feel like I fit into either one of these narrow categories. Instead, I’ll focus on the descriptors that Jen so helpfully offered in her tweets to me.

Do you refer to yourself as a SAHM or WAHM? How so?

When it Rains, it Pours

Categories: Career, Making Time


Last week I wrote about how work seemed to come my way at about the same rate that it fades out of my life. Later that same week, I was checking out my Facebook feed and I saw a status update from someone in my network of contacts that caught my eye:

“Seriously, does anyone know who I can hire to create a website?

I got all excited. Although I am not a web designer by trade, I’ve certainly had a fair bit of experience putting together basic websites, including the site that my husband and I use for our own small businesses, several blogs and other sites of a similar nature. I’ve dabbled with Wordpress design and coding and so far I haven’t broken anyone’s website. I decided to reply to my friend that yes indeed, I did know someone who she could hire to create a website, and that someone was me. I supplied her with links to the websites that I currently maintain and she liked what she saw. After hearing from her about the kind of website she had in mind, I arranged to put together an estimate for her.

The next day I was working away through my marking for school and my mind was racing. I was making a mental list of all the work I needed to get done over the coming weeks and realized that I had over-committed myself. Again.

I had customers to follow up with.

I had orders to deliver.

I had events to plan.

I had ads to place.

I had projects to grade.

I had chapters to proofread and edit.

When did I think I was going to have the time to create an estimate for a website, let alone actually accomplish the launch of a high quality website the client could be proud of? There were not enough hours in the day (see the title of this blog).

this isn't happiness.™

(Image source: this isn’t happiness)

It pained me to do so, but in the end I sent a polite message to my friend telling her it wouldn’t be in the best interest of her business for me to take on the job, after all. I explained to her that I have a tendency to take on too much at once and I apologized that I wouldn’t be able to do the job for her, offering to refer her to someone else if she’d like. I turned down work, a practice that felt completely wrong and foreign to me.

Still, I’m proud of myself for understanding my limitations. I can’t do anything well if I’m trying to do too many things at once. This is one of the hardest professional lessons I’ve had to learn.

What are your professional limitations? Have you ever turned down work? How do you feel about doing so?

How to be “Even Steven”

Categories: The Juggle


Do you remember that Seinfeld episode in which Jerry calls himself Even Steven? He loses a girlfriend and meets someone the next day. He loses a stand-up gig and five minutes later another gig is offered to him. He throws twenty bucks out the window, only to find a twenty dollar bill in a jacket pocket a few minutes later.

That’s me, Even Steven.

I have often felt as though Graham and I have a guardian angel looking after our financial matters. Every time we experience a job loss, another opportunity seems to come through for us, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere.

A few weeks ago I had to make a choice between teaching in the classroom and teaching online. Sure, I’d lose some income but I figured I’d also have fewer expenses to go out of pocket for; lunch, gas, and parking fees would all disappear with the elimination of classroom teaching.

Then last week I received a text message from a former colleague at the publishing company where I used to work. “You interested in doing any freelance work?” she asked. I couldn’t believe my luck.

When I texted Graham to tell him about this, he responded with an “LOL.”

I was Even Steven again.

It has become a bit of a private joke between us that somehow, something will come through. I’m not sure if it’s just that we have good karma or that we’ve both just had so many jobs between us and work so hard at networking that some job, some source of income, some opportunity comes along at just the right time.

Whatever the reason, there are a few really easy and important ways to make sure that your name is the first one that comes up whenever an opportunity for work arises. Here are my three favourite strategies for being Even Steven:

1. Network. Join a networking group, whether it is a Facebook group of writers, a LinkedIn group or an in-person group of like-minded people. For example, I recently joined a brand new networking group for women in business in the area where I live, which I discovered through a post in an online classifieds site. The point of the group is to refer business to one another and also to learn about how to run a small business effectively. Oh, and to drink a little wine together, which I’m always a fan of.


2. Keep your eyes peeled. Watch your social media streams for opportunities. Follow companies and websites that post the positions they have available so that opportunity falls into your social media feeds effortlessly. Then when something comes up that you’re interested in, pounce.

3. Never burn a bridge. Leave everyone you work with feeling as though they received their money’s worth by working with you or employing your services. You never know when your name might come up as the next talented individual the company wants to hire again.

Do you have good luck with jobs? What’s your best advice for people who want to be “Even Steven”?

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