Stay at Home Mom to Work at Home Mom | Mother Culture, Seasons & Purpose
Last year, I realized I wasn’t a stay at home mom anymore.
“What’s it like being a work at home mom?” my friend asked me.
Work at home mom? Me?? Yes, me.
I’m proud to be a stay at home mom. It was the right choice for us, for me, for our littles, and I’ve never wavered in love of it. Then a year after having Alice, I found myself hungering for creative outlets. I started a blog. I bought a decent camera and learned how to use it. I started doing family photos for friends.
Stay at home mom by day, amateur photographer on the side.
Then I started loving it. I got good. I understood the nuances of light and technique. I went deeper. Studying it. Upgrading my gear. Experimenting. Honing my skill and my ideal client. Building websites. Mastering social media and SEO. Crafting a beautiful customer experience. Delivering stunning galleries.
Somewhere between hobbyist and professional, I was no longer a stay at home mom, but a work at home mom. Mother and homemaker AND lifestyle photographer and writer.
I do not say this to diminish my role as a stay at home mom. My littles are my life and joy. My biggest, most satisfying purpose in life is to nourish and pour into them, investing in who they are and will be - world changers and life givers.
And you are never “just” a stay at home mom. You are often the homemaker, accountant, laundress, hostess, mistress, chef, cleaning lady, coach, mail sorter, judge, napkin/tissue, errand runner, cheerleader, doctor, chauffeur, etc.
But I got better at managing my tasks and time at home. I cut away busy work through minimalism. (Visit my other passion at The SIFTED Life.) By having only what we need and use, I’m not spending all day moving clutter around. Everything is streamlined and easily put away. We’ve curated our possessions and housework to require as little time as possible while maintaining maximum enjoyment from them. It’s a beautiful balance. And all of this frees me up to do what’s most important in my life - love my littles, love the people in my life, and make good art.
And so I found and made room in my life for me. Heather. Heather the Maker. Heather the Creative. Heather the Friend. Heather the Writer.
This life as a stay at home mom enabled me to be a work at home mom. Never could I be a photographer/writer/speaker if I was clocking 40+ hours for someone else, and never could I be so present with my tribe.
I am mama, and I am me. I can be both. I will be both. I am both.
As moms, we sacrifice a lot. We give our bodies, wallets, energy and careers to raising and loving these little people and it’s wonderful. Purposeful and deeply fulfilling. But I’m no martyr, and I’m not convinced I have to be - at least not all the time. There are seasons of life where I will struggle to make sure we are clothed, fed and alive - clean being optional. Heck, clothed may be optional. But when not in those sanctifying trenches, I am a multifaceted creature with many needs, many desires and many things to give.
God made me to make. I am a reflection of Him in that way. I made my kids and I am shaping who they are and how they live, but my making does not stop there. I still need to do things that refresh me, like reading great literature or listening to podcasts or writing things like this or creating beautiful images or hanging art around the house. I am a maker, and my children live with a mommy who loves them and nourishes them - and who nourishes herself.
In homeschooling and Charlotte Mason circles, this is referred to as “mother culture.” It’s the idea of encouraging mothers to go out and play. In her recent article for Wild + Free’s latest issue on Habit, Leah Boden writes, “Mother culture is a continuous drip-feeding of the soul through the things we love in order to fully be present with those we do life with.”
I know in my bones I love them better because my cup is full and I’ve made time for them as well as me.
I am not always working. Winter is my time to slow down, reflect and take stock. Before having a family of my own, I dreaded the doldrums of winter. Short days. Long nights. Artificial light. Feeling stuck. Now that I’m a mama, I relish hibernating for the season, knowing I have a long break to rest and think and read and press faces with my children, hoping I’m pressing right into their hearts.
Our life is fashioned after a season. Always changing, always adapting. These seasons allow me to be both mother and maker. Balance. Rhythms. It lets me pay attention to what’s most important. Right now in this season of life, these are the questions - the lens - I focus all decisions through: does fill-in-the-blank continue to allow me to be a present mama, an intentional friend, making the art I want to make? Does it allow me to invest in my tribe and nourish their minds, bodies and hearts? Does it allow me time to invite women across my threshold to sit on my couch with a superb cup of coffee and a kindred soul ready to encourage them? Does it allow me to create beauty and capture priceless moments for those who value my eye? On my time and on my terms? Essentially, will it allow me to continue to do what I was made to do?
Our next new season of life is homeschooling. We’re excited and encouraged. I know it will present its own obstacles, but so far it has grown into our lifestyle beautifully, allowing us to do all those things we love. We read and cuddle on the couch, talking through big ideas and words. We play with friends and go on adventures. We enjoy tea time and making new things. Mama gets to go on photo shoots and write.
Through it all we have balance, rhythms, and each other.
No two days are exactly the same. And I like it that way.