Five Tips for Work at Home Mamas
I want to begin this post by explaining first that being a Work At Home Mom ("WAHM" if you're super cool and love acronyms) is always one of those learn-as-you-go situations. You have to be super flexible, and you need to understand that something that worked for you today may not work for you tomorrow. We don't let our kids rule us but we still must put their needs first, and they're always learning and growing and need varying amounts of attention from one day to the next. So. As with everything I ever post on my blog, I don't claim to be an expert at this, I just want to share some things that work for me – and my two kids – while I run this blog and my digital shop.
My typical day is this:
The 8 year old leaves for school with my husband at about 7:15 every morning. Then I am out the door with the 2 year old by 8:30 to bring him to Kindergarten (that's daycare). This gives me from 9:00 until about 11:45 to either come home and get blog/shop work done or to do errands. If I happen to be super organized and if I'm properly motivated, I may even have time for getting work and errands done! Either way, at 11:45 I'm back at the Kindergarten, and from there I run (I literally run – we don't have a car) to pick the 8 year old up from his school by 12:00 (Austrian schools release early everyday).
My husband typically gets home at about 4:30 or 5:00, so for 5-ish hours, I have the two boys all to myself at home, and I usually still have blog/shop responsibilities to tend to during that time. Having the boys at home with me is great – obviously I love the little turds, and it's a blessing to them and to me that I'm able to work from home – but I do have the occasional day when they cause me to question all of my life choices and wonder why God ever allowed me to have children in the first place. But you know. I asked for them, He said 'yes,' and He was probably laughing all the while (and is laughing still). Oh, children. Mom guilt abounds.
So there you have it, a little peek into what my real life looks like, so you can have some sort of context as you read further...
And now, the tips:
It's Called #NaptimeHustle
Naptime used to be the only time I had to get work done on my blog or designs (or to do household chores/other adulting-related tasks). If you've got a napping babe, consider yourself blessed while it lasts! Naptime is the Magic Hour, my friend. Naptime is your Power Hour. Oh and, you know what one of my favorite things to do during the baby's nap time was, besides #allthework? TAKE A NAP. Mamas of little rugrats need a lot of rest, so treat yourself to a little shut-eye if you can swing it! If your kids have outgrown naps like both of mine have now though (ugh), have stationary games available (reading/coloring/Legos/board games) and call for a minute or sixty of #QuietTimeHustle. Unfortunately you don't get to use quiet time for your own nap (waaaaah!), but you can still accomplish great things while your kiddos are otherwise occupied for X amount of time! Bonus Tip: Set a timer for your kids so they can count down their own quiet time, too. And mamas, don't feel guilty about employing the iSitter if you have to (in moderation).
Keep Hydrated, and Keep a Snack at Your Desk
This may seem ridiculously obvious, but to me it was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. We mamas spend the majority of our time pouring ourselves into other people and causes, and we often forget to take care of ourselves in even the most basic ways. I don't mean having to skip a shower every now and then, which also sucks – I mean forgetting to eat and not drinking enough water. When I make lunch or a snack for my boys, it's not always something I myself am interested in eating. So I'll fix up something for them to eat, and then I'll schedule social media or run a quick edit for a minute while they're eating, then it's on to the next thing on our list for the day (homework, more often than not). Usually that means I either 1) forget to eat until dinnertime or 2) suddenly feel ill at some point and realize I haven't eaten, then go to the kitchen for a yogurt and some juice, hoping my kids won't ask me what I'm eating and request a second lunch. (The struggle is real.) So now I always keep a healthy snack and a water bottle at my desk. Bonus Tip: If you're like me and are fixing coffee or tea for yourself a few times a day, refill your water bottle every time you refill your mug.
Use Block (aka Batch) Scheduling
I think most of us are familiar with the idea of block scheduling from our high school days. Did you have block scheduling when you were in school? Say you have 8 courses in a semester, but only 4 courses are taught each day. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you'd have courses 1, 3, 5, and 7, and Tuesday and Thursday you'd have courses 2, 4, 6, and 8. And maybe it would alternate week by week or something. I don't remember. (This is a very loose example. Please don't attack me, teachers – it's been awhile since I was in school.) Anyway, you can pull this idea into your week as it is now, too! If you only have a couple of hours to work in a day, for example, you could decide that on Mondays and Tuesdays you'll style and take photos, on Wednesdays and Thursdays you'll draft and edit posts, and on Fridays you'll make final edits and schedule blog and social media posts for the next week. (That's obviously another loose example.) Find a schedule that works for you. This will take some time, but by trial and error you'll end up with a schedule that makes your life (seem) way easier. Bonus Tip: Your block schedule can change based on your blog's or business's (or family's!) needs. When I'm planning my block schedule, I always keep in mind that it's temporary. An example of this would be that when my Holiday Collection launched, I dedicated 3 out of 5 days to creating, editing, and printing product, styling photos, then adding new product to the online shop. For a month or so, writing, editing, and scheduling actual blog posts only had my full attention 2 out of 5 days of each week. Now post launch, I'm back to dedicating more time to writing blog posts. Remember, you manage your schedule; your schedule doesn't manage you.
Trust Your Kids
This one is easier said than done. Obviously if your kids are teeny tiny, do not trust them. With anything. But if your kids are in the toddler stage or older, give them space. Of course keep your ears on alert and peek in on them every few minutes, but give them some space. By trusting your kids to play alone for awhile, you're not only teaching them independence, but you're also giving yourself room to breathe, which is what this particular blog post is really all about. Yes, while there are benefits for them when you let your kids play alone (or alone with their siblings), I've added this tip to selfishly point out that it's a huge benefit to you, too. You don't need to hover. You can trust them (for the most part). My 8 year old and 2 year old actually play very well together when I get out of the way. And when I do let them play together alone, if I hear crying, I wait. I wait and I listen, and you know what? 9 times out of 10 the crying stops before I can count to 60, and it usually turns to laughter! For the record, at this point mine are usually able to play safely and happily together alone for about 30 minutes until I have to call it. But hey! 30 minutes is 30 minutes! Bonus Tip: When you're "trusting your kids," remember to use common sense. I.e., make sure they don't have easy access to "destructables." (The picture below was a BEFORE shot. I looked away for 5 minutes to choose my favorite photo of the cute little kid coloring the cute little pig, and when I looked back he had colored all over the tile floor. It was easy enough to wash away since it was on tile, but I got lucky this time! Eek!)
Be "Mom" First
This is the most important tip of all! It's probably another obvious one, but one we all need to be reminded of nevertheless. (At least I do.) It's easy to get caught up in our to-do lists, and to get distracted by never-ending responsibilities; it's easy to get stressed out and to feel stretched out by the many different directions we're constantly being pulled in as Work at Home Mamas. But our kids are more important than any other thing we're responsible for. Our kids need come before our blog and business, which means before we put on our Entrepreneur Hat or our Blogger Hat or our Small Shop Owner Hat or our Social Media Manager Hat, or any other hat we own, while we're at home with our kids we need to keep that Mom Hat on permanently. That means stopping work completely for an hour or two (or for the rest of the day!) if we must, setting realistic goals and deadlines, being upfront with clients, and being so flexible that we're basically Stretch Armstrong in jeans and high heels. Or in a pantsuit. Or in pajamas with chipped nails and an ever-flowing pot of coffee. It also means many, many grainy selfies with our kids because we'll always love those selfies more than we love our styled product or workspace photos, anyway.
Friends and fellow Work at Home Moms, I hope you've been able to take away at least one helpful tip from me today!