I plan on talking more in detail about how I felt once Watson was born and how it changed me—both personally and in my professional life. But today I thought I’d scratch the surface and share a few tips and thoughts I have on how I try to keep my day running smoothly while raising a toddler and keeping up a full time job.
But before I get into all that—because it’s a lot—I wanted to share details on what we’re wearing above. And you can see more links at the very bottom, too. Have you ever seen anything cuter than this little toddler vest? OMG! It kills me. His wool shirt just sold out in a flash, but look at the other precious pieces this brand has. And his Tucker + Tate pants come in grey as well. So cute and comfy. I’d say they run a little big, but now he has room to grow into them all throughout the winter. I can’t get enough of these fall clothes from the Nordstrom Kids Shop. I love putting Watson in his cute jon jons and longalls, but seeing him look like a tiny gentleman in these clothes makes my heart melt into a puddle. And they are all so interchangeable, so we can mix and match. Anything to make getting dressed in the mornings easier is good with me…
Which brings me to what I wanted to chat about today… managing being a work-at-home mom and making the best use of time. The title of this blog post? You know, how to “master” being a work-at-home mom. Never going to happen. The whole idea of perfecting the “Work/Life Balance” is something I’ve thrown out the window. I will never feel balanced, I’ve come to realize and accept. But I’m constantly taking measures to be more efficient with my time, to be more present when I’m with my family, and to feel like I’m being a professional in my career all at the same time.
A little background if you’re new here. Almost four years ago, I took the jump from having a 9-5 “desk job” to making my own career path through blogging… and I have to say that I’ve never looked back. Then when I had Watson and decided to be a stay at home mom as well, my daily life suddenly had two full time jobs—in addition to also being a Realtor. When I think back to having a desk job, sometimes I really miss having the structure of knowing exactly what my paycheck will be. But then I remember something I realized about myself back when I was phasing out of my desk job career. I realized that I don’t do my best work when it’s all so predictable. I love the whole “work hard, play hard” mentality—the self motivation aspect and being able to call my own shots is where I thrive. Sometimes I miss being able to come home and really BE HOME—no emails to catch up on at night, photos to run out and take, or blog posts to finish. But then I remember the flexibility I have now and how I’m able to take a whole day off if I want to, as long as I make time to catch up later on. And sometimes I think about how life might be easier in some ways if I had my desk job. Yes, I’d have to take Watson to a daycare while I go to work which would make me sad, but I’d get to socialize with my peers throughout the day (I miss this!), have uninterrupted time to concentrate on my work, then really appreciate the time I have with Watson when the workday is over. You know… I’d just have a break sometimes from “mom mode” and have my own identity away from that. But then I remember that even though it’s tough raising him all day long while working full time at home, being able to have a huge role in watching his personality and brain develop every day makes it all worth it.
So, all this to say… a big number of you can probably relate. Maybe you quit your desk job to stay home with babies and wonder if you made the right decision. Maybe you’ve started an Etsy shop and are busy plugging away there as well. Maybe you’re a single mom and work full time outside of the home, then come home to manage the house all alone (bless you). Whatever the situation may be, if you’re trying to work while managing a household that’s constantly getting messy with toys and baby throw up all day, I feel ya, girl. (For us most recently, Watson has been taking off his diaper and peeing on the floor, but that’s a different story for a different time.)
Here are some things I’ve started doing along the way. Being a full time mom around the clock and a full time career person is hard to juggle, but using these little tricks has helped me manage it.
Analyze your schedule and find windows of opportunities. When Watson wakes up, he drinks his milk and has breakfast, then he’s super occupied for an hour or two while playing with his toys. I use this time to answer emails and tie up any loose ends on my blog posts/social media. Then we typically have a snack together and then I play with Watson for a couple hours until lunch.
Find as many “mommy and me” activities as you can. At least for me, being a work-at-home mom comes with a lot of guilt. Am I devoting enough time to Watson or is it good that he’s learning independence and how to play alone while I knock out some emails? I try to balance the two, but since it’s often hard to separate work, I found it to be helpful to get out of the house for activities when we can. They really make the day more fun and mix up the week. I bet your local library has free “toddler time” classes—we love those. We also really like the toddler time at our local SkyZone trampoline park. Plus, it wears Watson out so that he naps better, which gives me more time to work.
Keep the house clean as you go. If I’m going to remain productive throughout the day, I have to be in a clean space. I can’t do my best thinking for work when I’m surrounded by play trucks and light up bears. I know, easier said that done. Don’t get me wrong, our house looks like a warzone almost every day because I never ever discourage Watson from pulling out as many toys as he wants to (we don’t have too many, so it’s never an obscene amount), but I have to go through and do the quickest clean sweep ever a few times a day. I always do this after Watson eats lunch, right before he goes down for a nap. The reason I clean while he’s awake rather than after he goes down for his nap is because I try to get him to help me, I want to lead by example, and mainly, I like to come downstairs after putting him down to a picked up house. That way I can get right to work.
Use naptime wisely. Think about what is super hard to do while your baby/toddler is awake. Maybe it’s showering, maybe it’s cleaning, maybe it’s hopping on a call for your job. For me, taking photos for my blog is something that I always try to do during naptime. If he’s awake, it’s nearly impossible to take a picture without Watson running into the shot or messing things up that are going to be in the photo. I also write a lot of blog posts during this time because I don’t have as many distractions. And full disclosure, if I’m working on my computer during his naptime, I pretty much always do it on the couch under a cozy blanket with one of my recorded shows on in the background. I’m sure I’d be more productive at a desk or table, but this makes me feel like I’m getting some “me time” during his nap, even though I’m working at the same time.
Keep a running to do list, then carefully space tasks out throughout the week. For me, a to-do list is KEY. I make one every night before bed and add to it throughout the day. I write it in a side column in my weekly planner. But here’s what changed when I had a baby. I used to pile as many tasks into one day as I could, then just let what’s left undone roll over to the next day. I eventually found that this overwhelmed me. I did it for years because I have a personality where if I want something done, I want it done yesterday. So I naturally would feel like I had to tackle a whole to-do list in one day, which only left me feeling anxious and often, unproductive because of it. I’d say, “Oh, I just can’t do all this today.” and so I’d do nothing and then my list would pile up on the next day.
NOT ANYMORE. I have changed the way I approach my to-do list. I found it to be way more efficient for me to write my task list, then plug each item into my planner where it makes sense throughout the week. “Call Habitat to schedule donation pickup” …ok, that can be done on Friday. Carefully scheduling my week has made me more efficient because if I have 15 things on my weekly to do list, it’s not so daunting to do 3 of the tasks each day of the work week. And let’s face it, that’s all I have time for each day now anyway.
Seek help. It takes a village, right? Sometimes if I have meetings, I will either schedule them while Watson is at his “mommy’s morning out” preschool a few hours a week (we just started this in August and I highly suggest, especially if you’re a work at home mom!), or I ask Brandon to help. He works a very demanding corporate job, but luckily is able to remain flexible at the same time. So he sometimes goes into work late while I run out for an appointment first thing in the morning, then he just stays later to make up that time. Or we meet on his lunch break so that he can keep Watson while I have a lunch meeting, etc. I also am not afraid to ask Brandon to help with errands and he is an angel because he is more than happy to do them (or so he says, haha!). I shop online a lot since Charleston doesn’t have big stores, so I’m constantly needing to return boxes at the UPS store. Brandon does this for me. He will pick up a few things here and there from the grocery store when we need them in between the bigger grocery runs I do. Together, we decided that it’s a lot easier for him to do these things on his way home while he’s already out (and baby free!!) than it is for me. When you’re a work at home mom, it’s not just about what’s easy and convenient, but about remembering what’s the most efficient and best use of your time… because time is money.
After all these tips and tricks are done, I still am up late working. But for me, I love what I do, so it’s not dreadful. My goal is to get where I don’t look at my computer at all for work in the evenings, but Brandon and I are both workhorses, so he’s normally running around the house doing projects and things while I work, too. But freeing up that evening time is something I’m working towards. I think the main takeaway for being a work-at-home mom is constantly evaluating how you spend your time and taking strides to make the smartest use of that time. Our new baby will be here in under three months, so I know then that all this will go out the window for a while until we develop a new schedule, analyze it, and figure out the best use of time and how to manage our new lifestyle.
Do you have any tips or tricks for managing work/life balance or being a work-at-home mom?
Thanks to Nordstrom for partnering on this post.