Given the current stay-home lockdown initiative as we try to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, there have been lots of continued discussions on managing the work-at-home life in the motherhood. While it is wonderful to see the comradery as our online communities share time management ideas and resources, it can also be overwhelming and feel like more things are being added than crossed off your to-do list.
Instead of adding to the intimidating color-coded, hourly incremented at-home work-and-school schedules that are as beautiful as they are terrifying, I want to share just three unorthodox steps that have served me well as a work-at-home mom with two littles in the hood.
Step 1: The best schedule is the one that works for YOUR FAMILY.
While living in Chicago and pregnant with our first, Husband and I visited some dear friends who both had demanding jobs and worked from home with two young children.
Knowing that I would soon join the club of work-at-home moms, I asked her how she managed to juggle her career with the kids underfoot. What she said has changed my life:
“We defined our own normal.”
She went on to tell me that they did all the standard things needed for healthy, well-adjusted children but that they did it on an alternate schedule – like instituting a much later-than-average bedtime.
Unorthodox? Absolutely. Brilliant? Quite possibly.
Even though the girls went to bed late, they also slept in the next morning. They still received recommended hours of sleep for growth and development, but it also banked precious low-risk-of-interruption work hours for mom and dad.
This quiet time became power hours for conference calls and video chats. Once awake, Mom and Dad staggered their schedules so the girls always had the attention of one child-focused parent.
Here are some of the other benefits she mentioned:
- Consistent and quality 1:1 time with each parent.
- More family time after work hours (not rushing to complete a bedtime routine right after dinner).
- Not constantly shushing or getting after kids for being kids.
- Not setting up the kids to fail with unrealistic expectations of the “perfect home-work balance.”
Now some of you may be thinking, “That’s great; they could tag team, but what about when it is just me at home working?”
Well, I’ve got that covered too. Fast forward and picture my sweet little family of 3 living in Denver. Even though we lived in the mountain west, Husband worked east coast hours and left for work at about 4:30 AM, leaving me to manage work and our adorable two-year-old wrecking ball by myself.
At first, I was an overwhelmed 1st-time toddler mom, living in a new state and trying to do everything “by the book,” until I remembered my friend’s advice:
“Define your own normal.”
So, I did. I made a list of my daughter’s daily needs, along with my work and mom responsibilities. Then, I started thinking creatively on how to best match it up…
I realized I could get in a power-packed 6-hour work block if I got up when my husband left the house, and my work-day would be almost complete before my toddler even woke up!
By completing most of my work earlier, naptimes became my primetime for business administration, client calls, and follow-up emails.
Truth Bomb: Did this life-long night owl love getting up before the crack of dawn? Definitely not at first, but it didn’t take long to adjust, and in the end, I was happier because this shift helped me:
– be more present and less stressed.
– have less mom guilt over my to-do list.
– Enjoy more day outings with my daughter as we took advantage of the park, library storytimes, and mommy and me playdates.
In short, I found a balance that gave me the best of both worlds, and I loved it!
Step #2: Embrace your work-home-life chaos.
While I try to schedule client-facing meetings and calls during nap times, even the best-timed plans can fall apart.
- Baby is teething and doesn’t nap
- Kiddo has a tummy ache and needs mom snuggles
- An epic toddler tantrum erupts over a broken crayon
Whatever the case may be, both life and work still have to happen. I quickly learned to embrace the chaos and be the one to manage expectations for myself and my clients.
Almost every live-client interaction starts with a variation of:
“I’m excited to discuss _____ with you today, but before we get started, I want to mention that I have a couple of not-so-silent business partners that may choose to make their presence known. If that happens, we can play it by ear and decide whether or not to power through or call a brief break.”
Have fun with it, but own it.
In whatever way is comfortable for you, let them know that you wear multiple hats and that you appreciate their flexibility and understanding. Always ensure they know that you are committed to your work and that projects are completed on time and proficiently.
I started this with my first, and I seriously still do this!
I can honestly say that in the 5+ years, I have been running my business with kids at home, I have never once had someone give me any flack over needing to take care of my kids because I own up, show up and follow through.
And this brings me to the last step in my unorthodox system.
Step #3: Don’t set your kids (or yourself) up to fail.
Working in tandem with setting expectations for your clients, you also have to check your expectations for your kids and yourself.
Fact. A two-year-old is going to act like a two-year-old.
Fact. A baby will cry when he/she is hungry, tired, or needs a diaper change – regardless of your work calendar.
You know your kid(s) and what they can and can’t handle. Pursuing a work schedule that doesn’t take this into consideration isn’t fair to anyone involved and will just result in everyone being stressed and frustrated.
Instead, use that information to set them and yourself up for success! Make a backup plan for when things don’t go according to schedule.
As I mentioned before, I try to contain my calls during nap and quiet times. Still, my best and most special secret weapon for client call success is a very special pile of books, puzzles, toys, snacks, and activities I keep right beside my desk, ready to distract littles at a moment’s notice.
Now these are not just regular toys and snacks. These are Mom’ s-In-A-Meeting toys and snacks that my kids only have access to when I am on a call. This does two things:
- It stretches the novelty factor, so they don’t lose interest in the activity as quickly as everyday things
- Keeps the kids occupied in QUIET activities that won’t be distracting to the adults on the call
This contingency plan has saved my bacon over and over again. It means I am not panicking in the moment trying to manage mom-work life colliding on the fly.
Side note: As I have chatted with other online business besties, quite a few have mentioned that they combine calls with their kids’ tv/gaming system time. Depending on your kid’s age, attention spans, and parenting preferences, this too can be a great option! Remember, it goes back to creating your own normal 🙂
Once you get to the third step, then this unorthodox method of managing work and life in the motherhood becomes a simple cycle of wash, rinse, and repeat.
We all know the only constant with kids is that they continually grow and change, so stay open to tweaking your schedule, expectations, and special stash of toys accordingly.
Do you have any unorthodox Mom Methods or mantras? I’d love to hear about them!