Four years ago, I made a bold decision to stop working outside my house, and start working from inside it. I had always volunteered for organizations and hosted several blogs and maintained social media pages for years (I was on social media before Facebook, cause I’m that old), however it was more of a hobby, something I fit in between working outside the home and maintaining our home.
However four years ago, I decided to make that “volunteer” work my actual work, and started charging for my services. This was fueled mainly because I found myself pregnant-something that wasn’t planned. It had been ten years since I last had a baby and a lot had changed. Including childcare costs. Daycare is expensive! If I continued working outside the home my salary would go almost entirely to paying someone else to spend all day with my baby, so I decided to save the money and save all the cuddles for myself.
Working from home is NOT easy. It’s probably the hardest job out there, especially for moms, as we have to continually juggle the normal stay-at-home-mom duties of cooking, cleaning, and caring for kids (to sum it up) with our work duties, and they don’t always easily blend together. I’ve had countless calls where I have to apologize for my son in the background, taken several meetings while he plays quietly in the corner, and have been known to lie awake at 3:00 am typing out emails and doing research since it’s the only time I can be guaranteed no one will bug me.
Over the last four years I have built a system, one that works for me and is built on several tips and tricks that I learned on my own, read about online, or flat-out stolen from other mothers I know. I thought I’d share them with you in the hopes it can help you too, and feel free to
steal borrow these and make them your own. And be sure to leave your own best tip for balancing work/home life…because even if you get to escape your house for an outside job each day, we all could use some new tricks for our bag!
MAKE A LIST
I admit I am a type-A, enneagram #1, planner, so I basically live for lists…but it also is my number one tip for staying on top of things. As a matter of fact, I have multiple lists because I’m that OCD, too. Every week I make a to-do list of “work” duties and a separate list of “home” duties I’d like to get done, in addition to the daily routine stuff (more on that in a minute). And I cross it off as I get it done. I don’t make a daily list-because that’s just asking for failure and bad feelings (more on that, too); but having a weekly list is manageable and doable. I also take great satisfaction when I cross something off, which is more of a personal challenge against myself.
MAKE A PLAN
Fun fact: I drive my husband, my kids, my ex-husband, and just about anyone who is close to me nuts with my need to make a plan, and even sometimes a back-up plan. Okay, I always have a back-up plan. And it’s not so much fun for them. They love me anyways though! Every month, every week and every day I make a plan for that time frame, and communicate it with all parties involved. Kids know where they are going, who is taking them and what they need to bring. Hubby and ex-hubby both know when and where I need help with the kids and their schedules. Other friends and family and even work clients know what to expect from me and when. And I stay sane. Seriously. I have massive anxiety and having a plan for the time frame helps remind me it’ll all be okay. It also helps everyone stay prepared and keeps everyone on the same page, which is super helpful since communication is the key to life basically.
Plans are great, but you know what they say about the best made plans. This is why I have back-up for everything, whether it’s another time I can sit down and work, or someone I can call to help watch The Maestro if I need some time on my own to get things done. This isn’t always perfect, but knowing that if worst case scenario happens, I am covered is a big relief.
HAVE A SCHEDULE…AND A ROUTINE
This is basically the same thing, and yet it’s not the same thing. Again, since I am an OCD planner, having a schedule is something that comes naturally to me, but having a routine was NOT something that came naturally. However when we realized how much routine could help the Elder when she was younger and the autism started really showing it’s colors, I realized it wasn’t only her that benefited from a regular routine, it was all of us. For me, I have my daily and weekly routines, mainly dealing with housework. Laundry, dishes, dinner, cleaning up, all of that I have assigned a day and/or time and try hard to stick with it. If we have a trip coming up, or I have a deadline or outside job I have to do, then we adjust it of course, but again, this is where the plan comes in. Knowing my routine also helps when making the schedule, so I know what needs to be moved or worked around.
SCHEDULE DOWNTIME…AND ALONE TIME
Years ago, when I was just started to make the transition to full-time work from home, I had a very kind lady ask me how I did it all without losing my mind. I admit I had a dumb blonde moment and had to ask her what she meant, and she referred to how calm and collected I seemed even when life was chaotic and busy. At that time, I was in the middle of a divorce, had a young infant and a lot of outside factors all dictating my much-beloved schedules and routines. My answer to her was simple: I don’t just schedule work and housework, I also schedule time off. Daily, weekly, and even the occasional longer time off that I can sneak away with several times a year. And this isn’t time off where I cuddle with hubby on the sofa or play with my kids, this is time off away from everyone and doesn’t involve anyone. Me time, as they say.
Every day, I make it a point to find 15-30 minutes where I don’t worry about work or chores or kids or dinner or hubby or anyone or anything else. I simply worry about me, and doing something I enjoy. This may be reading a book, watching an episode of Real Housewives (okay so that is more than 15 minutes, but so worth it), playing a game on my phone, or anything that is solely for me and me alone! I also find longer stretches on a weekly basis and even occasionally sneak away for several hours by myself to go shopping (for me-grocery shopping for the family doesn’t count), get my hair done or just sit in a parking lot somewhere and eat junk food and read (guilty pleasure!). No one is asking me for a bite, no one is texting me a million times about some stupid meme, and no one asks me for juice, food, clothes, or their attention. This was a hard habit for me to implement years ago, but I had to when I realized I was so mentally stretched thin I was about to break.
I use to apologize for taking time to myself, but now I just insist on it and don’t apologize at all. I will call the kids’ dad and ask him to take them for a couple more hours, or get hubby to take all the kids on some phantom errand just so I can take a shower without interruption. I hire babysitters (or insist my older girls watch their brother) and go on a date with hubby. The point is-just make time for yourself. It is also key to staying sane.
Okay so schedules, routines, plans, and lists are great…but sometimes you gotta roll with the punches and just let life happen. Letting go may be hard at first, but then you realize the world keeps spinning, your husband can actually put his own underwear away (especially if it’s on his side of the bed-hint hint) and your kid will not die if they have the iPad or watch back to back animated movies. The best tip I can offer any mom, working from home or not, is to stay flexible and not get stressed when life doesn’t perfectly fall into place. Of all the keys to making this working from home gig work, staying loose is the biggest thing that has led to me successfully doing this for the last four years, and why I plan to continue doing it for many more years to come.