By Melissa Lawrence
Melissa here, from CloudMom.com, talking about a topic that hits close to home with me (bad pun!) – finding balance as work at home moms. Rather than seeing balance as something we moms achieve, I see it as something we work towards every day.
Some days we feel like things are clicking: we’re productive and our kids are happily humming through their lives. On other days, nothing is coming together: your child is throwing up, you haven’t gotten anything done, the refrigerator is bare, and the washing machine is broken.
So you are asking yourself: Why did I decide to work HERE? Wouldn’t an office have provided me refuge from this sheer chaos and these feelings of uselessness?
I have worked from home with my last three babies, and each experience brought its successes and its challenges. No day was perfect, but here are the things that helped me make it work:
Set a fixed schedule and stick to it. This is a common phenomenon with writers, many of whom arise early and write every day. Figure out what your ideal working hours are and try to crank out your work during that window of time. During your working hours, try really hard not to check personal email or get distracted by anything else.
2. Baby schedule.
Just as mama needs her work schedule, having your baby on her own schedule will help you to organize your time and be productive. If you are nursing and have a sense of when your baby will feed and nap, you can plan to work during her nap times! As your baby gets older, her feeding times will get less frequent but her nap times will consolidate and get longer. Here are some videos I have on babies and sleep schedules, which really helped me during the early months to organize my day and get my work done.
3. Daily to-do list.
Start every day with a list of what needs to get done that day for your job. Then, one by one, try to get through the items, crossing them off. You’ll feel productive and less stressed, even when you don’t accomplish everything under the sun. Oh, and put your list in one place that stays the same. I have a black bound notebook that someone gave me that I have used for this purpose – before, I had to-do lists all over the place and I would lose those!
On your list, rank your priorities. If taxes are due, do those. If like me, you are in the content business, you’ll need to make sure your next post is ready to go, so that will happen first (even before taxes – ha ha). Over time, you will get to the lower priority items having finished the higher priority ones, and you’ll look back and feel good about what you accomplished.
5. Plan for your baby time.
When you are working from home, the sounds of your baby laughing or crying will tear you apart. Whether your mom, partner or a caregiver is there, you will hear the baby and if you are not with the baby, well, that is just plain difficult. Plan your day and figure out what chunks of quality time you will spend with your baby. Maybe you are nursing so the feeding sessions will be your one-on-one. With my littlest Marielle, I try to have lunch with her whenever we can, spending at least an hour eating and reading to her. I treasure this time with her alone since after 3p.m., the house is overtaken by her chatty siblings.
6. Isolate household admin.
One of my biggest challenges in working from home is getting swallowed up in the daily household administrative chores (i.e. cleaning, organizing, laundry, food shopping, dinner planning, scheduling playdates, figuring out sports schedules and game times, ordering kids necessities, planning for activities). So just as you have your to do list for work, create a list for household or “kid admin” and try to get through the several essential priority items on this list on a given day, rather than spending all day on them.
7. Meal planning.
This doesn’t make for anything Julia Child would have raved about, but one way in which I have saved time on a daily and weekly basis is by having a schedule for what we eat as a family. I know what you are thinking, BORING! And you are right. But if
every day I played around trying different recipes, and running to the store for extra ingredients, I would never be able to work. So if my poor husband gets the same pot roast each Sunday and the same salmon on Wednesdays, well, so be it. That’s the price we have to pay. Once in a while I do throw in something new… but not too often. Sorry, honey!
8. Bake, do not sauté.
I don’t know what kind of cook you are, or how you feed your family, but my M.O. is putting things in the oven versus standing over the skillet. We eat things like: baked potatoes, baked chicken legs, baked salmon, baked sweet potatoes… get the picture?
Baking means that the oven is baking, you are with your kids or working, and you are not standing over the skillet freaking out with all you have to do. Now, I do fry hamburgers and that sort of thing, but when I can, I bake. With vegetables, I quick steam them in a wok with a little garlic and coconut oil – oh, and I cook things like green beans, which are quick – brussel sprouts, bye-bye!
9. Get rid of the mom guilt.
Just because don’t spend the entire day with your baby does NOT make you a bad mom! Trust me, if you are working at home, you will have to say no to many trips to the park and mom picnics with the babies. In the moment, that can make you want to cry. But as time rolls on, you will have those adventures with your baby too, plus you will have your career. In the tough moments, sit back and think and remind yourself of why your career is so important to you.
10. Focus on the positive.
Try to find one positive thing each morning to get you through the day (ex. my husband and I are cooking a great meal together after work, my son/daughter wasn’t fussy at all this morning before bringing them to daycare, etc). When you’re feeling blue, think about that little thing and take a deep breath. And be grateful. You are a strong, productive woman with a career and a beautiful baby. That’s a lot!
Melissa Lawrence, Founder of CloudMom.com lives in New York City with her husband and 5 young children. With more than a few parenting tricks up her sleeve, Melissa posts daily how-to videos and blogs for moms just like you! Happy parenting!