The Work at Home Mom Balancing Act
The number one challenge for work at home moms doesn’t have to do with starting a business, online marketing, or bookkeeping. No, the biggest struggle we work at home moms face is actually the guilt we feel while trying to do it all, while trying to maintain some semblance of work-life balance.
After all, while you steal a minute to reply to an important business email, that’s a few extra minutes of screen time for the kids, and an opportunity for the laundry monster to creep in and start piling up dirty clothes.
Before you know it, your house is a disaster. No matter what you do, it just seems like something is always falling through the cracks.
Meanwhile you really can’t focus on writing that email because your 1-year old just dumped her big brother’s cup of water all over herself. The 3-year old is asking you to read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Suddenly that email that might normally take three minutes to type and send took 30 and it’s still not even sent!
While you’re trying to spread your attention between your kids, your house, your spouse, and your business, trying to make sure no one feels any burden by you working, the one that is getting sorely neglected is you. But who could think of taking a spare second for self-care with all these other truly important needs before you?
So you go on, trying to keep all the balls in the air, sure it’s all going to fall apart real soon. (Or maybe it’s you that’s going to fall apart!) With so many demands on your time and energy, you can’t give your best to any one of them, so they all suffer. That’s when the guilt sets in.
Do you see what the problem is here? Even as I typed the scenario above, the issue became more obvious to me.
What it comes down to is this: We have got to stop trying to do more than one thing at a time! It’s no wonder we can’t do any one thing with excellence (let alone everything) with our attention and our efforts constantly divided.
Finding Work-Life Balance for Moms who work from home
1. Make a Plan
Not too long ago, I had a particularly busy time for work. I was constantly feeling guilty for taking time in the evenings and weekends to get work done. I had no time with my husband. I could see that this was not sustainable, and wouldn’t lead to good things for our family if we let it continue. Practically though, I need to work for us to make ends meet.
One night I was feeling very frustrated with finding enough time to grow my business and meet our financial needs while still meeting the needs of my family. For once, I quit working and talked it out with my husband. We had to make a plan to make things better, because I was on the edge. Things could not keep going down the same path.
Out of that conversation was born a new way for me to find work-life balance as a work at home mom. (Ok, I’m not really sure my poor hubby got more than 3 sentences in that night.) The idea is to stop trying to multi-task, and to simply be where you are and do what you’re doing right now, and nothing else. Thus, I’ve scheduled my life as much as possible according to the different hats I wear, with a dedicated time to spend on each one.
I got a pen and paper out right then and put my new schedule down on paper. I find that putting my daily routine somewhere I can see it really helps me to actually stick to it.
It might feel a little weird to make yourself a rigid-schedule if you’re a mom working from home. However, if you worked in a traditional job, you would no doubt have a schedule. You would come in at a certain time, have set responsibilities, and usually go home at relatively the same time. No one would be asking you to make them dinner or do their laundry while you were trying to work. So, try applying the same principle to your work now, even though you’re working from home.
Just because you are working at home with responsibilities that include caring for your family, among many other things, you shouldn’t be afraid to create a schedule for yourself too. It’s actually even more important to make a schedule if you work from home because the extra flexibility either lets work completely take over or get completely pushed out.
I know, I know, that’s easier said than done. The kids and the disaster zone behind you aren’t going to go away just because you decide to get some focused work done. Your work load isn’t going to disappear just because you tidy up your desk and go spend time with your husband.
So, now, onto achieving the work-life balance and what that plan practically might look like.
Let me give you some specific examples of what’s working for me right now to improve my efficiency and effectiveness while letting go of some of that guilt that comes with trying to do it all. (Believe me, this is a work in progress! I hope it will help to get your wheels turning, though.)
2. Create a Morning Routine
I’ve recently started a morning routine to make sure I get all my most essential chores around the house done first thing in the morning. I don’t know about you, but housework is really not one of my favorite things. It really feels great to get my chores out of the way and be able focus on the things I enjoy like actually spending time with those little people I have the privilege of staying home with and working on building my business.
3. Ask for Help
It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do it all, and then feel guilty when we just can’t. I don’t know how we got this idea in our heads that we could be the 1950s housewife with a perfect house, dinner on the table, AND run successful businesses, but it’s time to let that delusion die!
Yes, your husband might work 40 hours a week in an office. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re probably working 112 hours (also known as every waking moment) plus waking up with the baby in the middle of the night. It won’t hurt anything but our pride to let our husbands help out around the house or spend time with the kids so we can work, if they are willing.
I couldn’t do anything without the support and understanding of my husband. I practically have to be dying before I will come out and ask for help, but luckily he voluntarily takes up a lot of the slack to keep everything at home running smoothly so I can have time to work. I suggest you don’t wait until you’re about to lose it and just ask clearly but kindly for help with a specific task.
If your husband isn’t jumping at the chance to help around the house, consider finding another work-at-home mom and take turns watching one another’s kids. I have worked from home my entire career as a mom. For the vast majority of that time, it was just me and the kids. This year as things have picked up, I’ve started having another mom come in to help with the kids a few hours a week, and that’s really helping. I understand that isn’t an option for everyone, though. I believe 100% you can still find that work-life balance even without outside help.
4. Make Office Hours
I’m a natural work-aholic. I get totally focused on whatever my current project is, and pretty nothing else exists. And I always have a project.
That worked ok, thanks to my patient husband, when we were first married. Kids though, they’re not so patient. I am learning that I really need to learn to give work its proper place, and not let it completely take over every waking moment. I’m sure you can sense the continuing struggle here.
To help me do that, I set myself specific office hours, so I know that I will have at least 20 hours a week to work. Maybe a little more depending on naps. This way, I feel less of a need to borrow time from my other responsibilities in order to get work done. (See above for how how I carve out that work time.) I’m not as stressed throughout the day when I know I will have a couple of hours of focused time to work later.
On the flip side, if you have a hard time finding motivation to get your business tasks done, this technique might help you too. Tell yourself, no matter what you will sit at your desk (or sewing table, etc) and work during these set hours.
That’s not to say that I don’t sneak in some simple work tasks if they kids happen to be playing nicely and my other chores are done. Still, I try to make sure that my main priority in those moments remains home and family, and I’m ready to ditch the work if something in the situation shifts.
5. Stay Flexible
Inevitably the demands of one part of my life will come creeping over and try to push the others out. That’s partly just a part of reality. There will be big projects for work that need more time than others. The kids will get sick sometimes, and need more snuggles and nose wipes. Even after you making your plan for work-life blance, it will constantly be in flux as the needs and seasons of the family change. This makes it important that there be a continual conversation, keeping the lines of communication of what each member of the family needs and expects. Having, a frame work beneath the surface will actually allow for flexibility, so not everything goes to chaos during the crazy times.
I’m finding that I can enjoy each part of my day in peace, knowing that there will be time (maybe not enough, but at least some) later for me to dedicate to the other parts of my life.
As you struggle to find balance as a work at home mom, don’t forget to have some grace with yourself. You’re trying to do the impossible! And if I were to guess, you’re probably already doing a pretty good job of it. So let go of that guilt sister!
What does work-life balance look like for you? Share how you ‘do it all’ in the comments!