WAHM Reality with Karen Arnold of Automattic

Welcome to a series exploring how real-life moms work alternative jobs in order to work and mom the way they want or their family needs. For many, this means working at home. For some it means jobs with flexible schedules. For others it means more traditional business hours, but owning their own business. As we examine the different ways moms make it work, you’ll see a lot of creativity and hopefully be inspired to make your job, traditional or not, work best in your life.
Karen Arnold is a Happiness Engineer at Automattic.com (yes, the WordPress.com people), wife to her family’s Manager in Chief and mom to four homeschooled kiddoes.  Her parenting journey has taken her from stay-at-home mom to small business owner to work-from-home employee.  Read about her journey and how her family OWNS their alternative work lifestyle.


PM: What jobs have you had in the past?
k_arnold_wpKA:  I’ve worked retail, at an animal hospital feeding and walking animals, and as a receptionist for the corporate office of a drug store, but the most fulfilling work I ever did was be home with my kids. The only job I ever had that had any real meaning or significance to me was that of stay-at-home-mom. And while we genuinely enjoy my current work, nothing compares to those years of SAHMhood.


PM: How did you come to do what you currently do?
KA:  In 1999, after the birth of my first son and after I had settled into the newness of being a mom, I found I was restless. I was busy with tending to the needs of my kiddos and my home, but I needed a creative outlet. I started scrapbooking, baking my own bread, making pasta from scratch, and then I turned to our computer. We had a desktop and I was already using the internet and messing around a bit, and somehow I discovered HTML, CSS, and Blogspot. I found myself drawn to learning as much as I could about coding basic HTML websites. One thing led to another and quite a few years later I made the somewhat tardy realization that one could make money making websites for other people. I went from freelancing to starting a web design shop with my husband. I did the creative/code side and he was the administrative reins behind the operation. I eventually come across WordPress, a powerful platform for creating websites.  It’s open source software, and as such, has an extensive community supporting it. I helped bring that community together in Albuquerque and through that found out about my current job.

In 2012 I got hired by Automattic to be a Happiness Engineer supporting WordPress.com customers.Automattic is a company that is 100% distributed, meaning there is no corporate office, all of my colleagues work from the location of their choice, a coworking space or from home.


PM: How long did it take to get to where you are now?
KA:  Well, I first dabbled with web tools and code in about 1999 and got hired at my current company, Automattic, in 2012. It was a long journey 🙂


PM: What are the biggest challenges?

KA: The biggest challenge to working from home is keeping all the plates spinning and feeling like they

Karen with her family
Karen with her family

are all teetering on the edge all of the time. Going from stay at home mom to work at home mom meant that there were things I needed to let go of. I’m not good at letting go of things. Especially when those things have to do with homemaking, parenting, and homeschooling. We’re fortunate in that when we closed our business when I started to work full-time for Automattic, my husband was able to become a stay at home dad. It’s a role that he loves and is very good at, and I’m sure he wouldn’t disagree that I have trouble not being involved in the day to day when I should simple let go and let him and the kids do their thing while I do my thing.


PM: What are the biggest advantages?
KA: Freedom! We own a motor home and can take off to almost anywhere at any time. Provided there is reliable internet or good mobile Broadband coverage. Case in point, I am writing this while on a long vacation to Costa Rica and Panama.


PM: What are your next goals?
I don’t know 🙂 I love where I’m at right now with my current job and am really happy to be able to work for a company that brings in a steady paycheck while giving me the freedom to work 100% from home or the location of my choice. I’ve thought about going back to school but don’t want to do that until I have a clear idea of what the end result of that would be.

  PM: What advice do you have for moms looking to work at/from home or start their own business?
KA: Create your routines. Figure out what kind of environment works for you and make that happen to the best of your ability. But be prepared to make sacrifices, like you might need to wake up really early to get quiet work time when te family is still asleep. And accept right now that you cannot be all things to all people.


PM: What is your best productivity tip? What makes YOU a Productive Mama?
KA: My best suggestion is to find the time of day during which you can think clearly and get stuff done. My most productive times are between 6am and 9am so provided I get to bed at a decent time I get up and get going. And exercise! When I don’t exercise I can tell my brain doesn’t work as well and things start to break down.


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