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Ten Ways for Work-at-Home Moms to Get Moving

Categories: Working? Living?

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About a month ago, I experienced an annoying pain in my left calf as I settled myself down to bed for the night. The pain felt like a Charlie horse, except it was located in one very specific small spot, and it lasted about an hour. Fortunately, it went away and I was able to get to sleep, but it worried me for a few days. There is a history of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) blood clots in my family and so I am familiar with the symptoms, which include a Charlie horse-like sudden pain in the calf.

People who live a sedentary lifestyle or sit for long periods of time are more likely to suffer from blood clots (“On the Alert for Deep-Vein Blood Clots”—Harvard Health Publications). I do consider myself to be an active person; I’m always running around doing errands, gardening, cleaning the house, or using the elliptical machine in our basement. However, I do spend a lot of time during the day sitting at a desk.

When I worked full-time in “cubicle land” I would find all kinds of excuses to get up from my desk and take a little walk around the floor where I worked. I’d grab a coffee, go to the bathroom, or find someone I needed to talk to…anything to get me out of that cubicle. Sometimes I forget that even though I work from home now, I should still get up from my desk every now and then to get moving and stay active.

News from Harvard Health confirms that,

“You can take simple steps to prevent DVT and PE. Moving your legs is the best medicine:
• If you have to sit for several hours—on a plane, in a train or car, or at work—try to get up and move around as often as you can.”

In no particular order, I’ve come up with a list of ten of the activities I most like to do when I need to get up and away from my home office desk in an effort to prevent health problems such as DVT. Each task takes 15 minutes or less and gets my legs moving!

Image source: Participaction

1. Head down to the porch to deadhead and water my flowers.
2. Take a walk to the mailbox around the corner to retrieve the mail.
3. Take the neighbour’s dog for a walk around the block.
4. Collect the laundry from around the house and throw on a load. Better yet, take the clothes from the washer and hang them out on the clothesline.
5. Empty and/or load the dishwasher.
6. Run up and down the stairs a few times.
7. Vacuum one level of the house.
8. Jump rope.
9. Take a photo walk around the neighbourhood.
10. Pull weeds until one bucket is full.

If you work from home, what do you do to get yourself away from your desk every once in awhile?

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?

Tips for Work-at-Home Moms to Stay Productive

Categories: Career, The Juggle, Working? Living?

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Now that my husband Graham is back to work following a layoff, it seems as though my days are even longer and more quiet than usual. I love that my professional time is increasingly mine these days to manage, but sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on building my business and staying in touch with my customers when what I really feel like doing is eating brownies and watching episode after episode of the Wonder Years on Netflix.

I remind myself that we are not paying for daycare so that I can watch television all day, and try hard to stay focused. There are a few things I do to help keep myself on track work-wise so I can be productive when Nate and Graham are both out of the house. Here are my top three pieces of advice for work-at-home moms who need to stay focused on work during the day while the kids are at school or daycare.

1. Make lists. I noticed a couple of months ago that I was waking up really early in the morning and was unable to fall back to sleep. As soon as I woke up, a switch in my brain would flip on, and I’d start running through all of the things I needed to accomplish later that day. I described this to a friend of mine, who recommended I start keeping a notebook for my ideas and lists of tasks. This was great advice, and now I keep not only a daily list, but a weekly list of appointments and tasks that I can fit in and around my appointments and errands. Now, if I wake up early, I just think of that list and I can go back to sleep, secure in the knowledge I have everything written down.

2. Shut down. When I really need to focus, I close all of the program windows and browser tabs on my computer that aren’t in use for the task I’m tackling right then. I switch my iPhone over to silent mode and flip it over so I won’t be distracted by any visual notifications. When I need to stay focused, social media can be a real distraction for me, so I eliminate it from my surroundings until I’m ready to take a break.

3. Prioritize. When the list of items gets too long to accomplish in one day, I start moving things up and down the list. For example, I can send out product samples another day in order to meet a deadline today. I do the tasks that require my undivided attention during the day, and save housework and other jobs that require less focus for the evenings. Laura Watt, owner of Cubits Organic Living agrees.

“Do not do laundry when kids are out! You can do that with them or with your partner or have [him or her] do it.”

Smart advice, Laura!

Do you work at home or run a home-based business? What’s the best method you’ve come across for staying focused?

Being My Own Boss (Gulp)

Categories: Working? Living?


Have you ever tried to think of a word that you would never imagine being used to describe yourself? For me, that word is entrepreneur. The word always seemed really exotic to me. I can recall my grade nine business teacher, Mrs. Bezaire, using it to describe people who ran their own businesses. I sat there in that classroom wondering why anyone would want to do such a thing when there were big companies like McDonald’s and Sears to work for.

Later on I fell in love with a man who owned a seasonal small business and although I could certainly appreciate that owning his own business was satisfying and appealing to him, I still didn’t really understand why a person would rather be responsible for generating his or her own income. It seemed much more safe and secure to work someplace where a steady pay cheque would be issued on a regular basis. I kept thinking that it would be much better for one of us to always have the kind of income that was steadily reliable and provided by a big company with a well-known logo.

Recently I decided to dig further into the idea of running a business. When I Googled the term, I discovered that the very definition of entrepreneur can include a scary, financial risk factor:

The word entrepreneur…is commonly used to describe an individual who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on financial risk to do so.

The last couple of years have marked a transition for me out of my financial comfort zone into running my own business. Now that I’ve had a taste of working for myself, I understand much more clearly why Graham loves it so much. I get to decide how my day will be spent, which tasks I’m going to tackle, and I’m responsible for providing great customer service to the people I deal with on a daily basis. While it is a bit scary sometimes to rely only on myself to be successful, I’m surprised to discover that I love every second of it.

Image source:

Do you work for yourself in some capacity? What do you love about it?

Three Awesome Apps for Busy Working Moms

Categories: Career, The Juggle, Working? Living?

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Is there a working mother alive who doesn’t feel like something is missing if her smart phone isn’t nearby? If there is, I’d like to meet her, and ask her how she manages to stay connected to her job and her family without the use of the technical tools I’ve come to rely on so much to do business and be available to my family. Of course, I realize that it’s physically possible to get through the day without my iPhone at my side, without Facebook to connect me to my network of colleagues and customers, but it would be a challenge!

I use my phone not only to make calls, but to make sure that my daycare provider is able to get in touch if necessary if something happens with my son. I use my phone to answer e-mails from students and clients who get in touch with me throughout the day. Judging from the responses of other working moms I’ve talked to about smart phone use, this is pretty much par for the course.

There are some other apps, though, that I’ve come to rely on almost every day for staying organized and running a business and household.

Motivated Moms. Motivated Moms is “a yearly chore calendar”, and it has been a lifesaver for me on occasion. When the house is just too cluttered, too dusty, too messy, I start using this app to help me get the house back on track. Every day there is check list of household chores that need to be done and I just check them off as I go. After about a week of using the app, I’ve made my way through the house and feel much better about things. If I had the time, I’d love to use this 365 days a year but a mom has to sleep, right? Motivated Moms isn’t a free app, but it’s one I feel is worth buying.

Track My Mileage. Now that I run my own small business, it’s important to keep track of the mileage on my truck to make sure that I can claim the right amount for our taxes next year. I started doing this task in a notebook but I was really bad at it. I forgot all the time in the beginning, until I got an app installed on my phone to take care of this. The best part is, you can e-mail yourself the tracked data as an Excel document for business bookkeeping purposes. I’m using the free version of this app.


ArtKive. Once in a while, Nate brings home something special that he’s made at daycare. I’m totally the kind of mom who would keep every piece of artwork he creates throughout his entire school career. The collection has started and he’s not even in school yet! Then I discovered ArtKive. According to the Apple App Store, “Never again feel guilty about throwing away artwork your kids bring home. Get rid of the clutter and start to enjoy your child’s work.” This description gets it just right…all I have to do is take a picture of Nate’s creation and I have a copy saved for good! I can also send the picture to a select network of family members if I want to.

What are the apps you can’t live without as you go about the business of working and caring for your family?

Who Needs Sleep?

Categories: Parenting, Uncategorized, Working? Living?

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It’s late. Our room is quite dark, and now that Graham and I both use our iPhones for alarm clocks, we no longer have the red or neon blue glare of the current time in our bedroom. Our son is down the hall in his bed, coughing. I can’t let it go on any longer.

I sigh, get out of bed and head down the hallway to his room, where I give him some cough medicine by the glow of his night light.

“Mommy, you snuggle me?” he asks. It’s what he always asks when I end up down the hall in his room in the middle of the night.

“In a minute, buddy, I’m going to get the humidifier for you,” I answer.

I bring the humidifier down to the kitchen to fill it up and discover it’s two o’clock. No wonder I feel so groggy…my own cold medicine is still working in full force, making me feel fuzzy as I stand by the sink and wait for the humidifier base to fill with tap water.

Once I get Nate settled back into bed, I lay beside him, but I’m restless. I’m restless because he’s restless. He’s wide awake, and coughing almost constantly. There’s no way I’ll get to drift off here beside him.

I begin to count the seconds between coughs to keep my busy mind occupied and away from other thoughts that are invading my middle-of-the-night brain. I count to twelve between coughs and begin to feel there’s a little bit of hope that I might get some more sleep that night, after all.

Finally Nate seems calm and still enough that I sneak out of his room and back to my bed. I’m not there five minutes before I hear his small footsteps come down the hallway and settle on the floor beside me.


“Come on, Nate, back to your bed,” I say quietly.

He protests.

“I’ll come with you. Come on to your room so Daddy can get some sleep.”

And there it is, the thing that creeps into my tired mind while I tend to our sick son. The need for Daddy to get his sleep always seems to trump Mommy’s in our house, especially on a week night. Graham works on a construction site all day long, so of course it is important that he is alert enough to stay safe. I know this logically but in the middle of the night it seems so unfair. I work from home most days lately, full days in front of a computer instead of on a construction site. So naturally I can get by a lot easier the day after a rough night with Nate than Graham can. It’s still hard, though, and in the middle of the night, lying down next to a coughing kid for an hour, I resent that I have obligations the next day beyond caring for our son at home.

Who gets up with your kids on a week night when they are sick? Do you and your spouse take turns?

Where’s the line between private life and public office?

Categories: Career, Working? Living?

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The news of Herman Cain’s latest sexual scandal has caused the candidate to “reevaluate” his campaign and split the internet into three main groups: those who think he cheated on his wife with Ginger White for 13 years, those who think White is out for a little quick cash, and those who are so sick of politics that they’ve tuned out of the 2012 election race even before it’s really begun.

Personally, I’m… starting to wonder where the line is between a possible politician’s private life and his (or her) bid for public office.
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How often do you undermine yourself?

Categories: Career, Hacking Life, Making Time, The Juggle, Working? Living?


Chris Brogan recently featured a brilliant post written by online marketing strategist Tommy Walker about the 106 excuses that prevent you from ever becoming great. It’s an eye-opening read, because I’ve heard myself say some of them time and again, but hadn’t really thought of the way I was undermining myself with my own words. Words like these:
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Juggling work and family when you’re away on business

Categories: Career, The Juggle, Working? Living?

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My current job takes me away from home about once a month, sometimes twice. It’s always to one of the same two places—to meet with the rest of my team in New York, or to political events in Washington, D.C.—so my youngest kids can easily understand where I am when I’m away, and why.

That doesn’t mean that they like my absences, though. My husband holds down the fort without a hitch (though more pizzas are ordered when I’m gone than when I’m home, oddly enough), but he has his own career, complete with a long commute, to juggle. So I find myself trying to minimize my trip, squeezing two days worth of work into a single day in order to avoid being away overnight.
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How to say “no” gracefully

Categories: Career, The Juggle, Working? Living?

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It happens to most professionals, regardless of their line of work: People want you to weigh in with your opinion, but they don’t want to pay you for your time because it’s “just a little question” or “it’ll only take a second” or “we’re family, after all.” But when those request pile up, it goes from a minute or two here and there to actual, billable hours for which you’re not getting paid—a sure sign that it’s time to say no.

But saying no feels… wrong, sometimes. You don’t want to leave a friend in the lurch, and how do you tell a relative that you usually get a-certain-dollar-amount-per-fraction-of-an-hour when the “quick question” is coming from a client rather than a cousin? And what if the request is coming from someone with whom you want to build a bridge, not burn one?

I’ve written in the past about whether it’s ever OK to work for free (and whether it’s worth it to keep working when a job stops paying you), but the real tough part for me—and for many people—is saying no gracefully. Here are four tips on how to do it:

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