How to Survive & Thrive
The toddler was on the toilet shouting, “I need you to wipe me!” and the baby was in a full throttle tantrum because I’d taken away his pen (just before he autographed the wall) when the phone began to ring. Of course, it was the
a number of the guy I’d been playing phone tag with all week, trying to schedule an interview for an upcoming article. This is a classic scene of “stay at home mom” clashing with “working from home woman.” A scene which you might easily have witnessed had you popped in for a visit at my house this week.
As I shared in my bio, I’m currently working from home as both a consultant writer and teacher’s assistant. These jobs were truly an answer to prayer because they enabled me to make the switch to become a stay at home mom. They’ve given me the best of both worlds where I can use my God-given talents while also being home with my precious little ones.
But if you’ve ever worked from home, you know that there are both unique challenges and benefits to working from home. You have the flexibility to work around your own schedule, are able to set your own goals, and often times you determine your own salary. Yet with those perks also come the challenges of time management, the dangers of becoming a workaholic, and (when you’re doing it with toddlers) the difficulty of carving out time to work while also remaining sane.
So if you’re like me, trying desperately to maintain a balance of professionalism with your role as a stay at home mom, here are my tips
learned from blood, sweat, and tears on how to make it all work.
How To Make Working from Home Work as a Stay at Home Mom
1. Prayer – Although this seems obvious to any believer, sadly this is often where I go wrong first in both my
professional and personal life. Especially when you’re working from home with toddlers, time is always of the essence. You never know when nap time will be cut short or when the next crisis will manifest itself. If you are going to get anything done, it’s essential to maximize your time, working in a focused and efficient manner.
And this is all true, except it has to begin and end with prayer. If I want my day to be fruitful; if I want to get the impossible done; if I want what I’m doing to matter beyond the paycheck then I have to get my strength from Him. There are many ways to do this, but one of my personal favorites is to say the prayer that I learned from my dad: The Jesus Prayer.
2. Get Organized – As moms, we’re almost always low on sleep and almost always have a million things to do. If you are expecting yourself to remember and stay on top of everything, you are setting yourself up for failure. I’ve learned this the hard way, like when I set up a phone interview and then completely forget to call at the agreed time. Seeking to save myself from future embarrassment, I’ve begun setting reminders in my phone ten minutes before the scheduled call. This ensures that I remember and have time to prepare beforehand. I’m also the queen of to-do lists. For me, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed, there is something almost therapeutic about checking off a box and seeing my list dwindle down.
I also think it’s important to have a designated workspace. This makes it much easier to locate items and to have everything that you need when that impromptu call happens. It allows you to create a little corner of professionalism amidst your domestic life. My work desk also currently doubles as our school room, as can be seen in the picture.
3. Create a Designated Work Time – If you are going to get things done without neglecting your children or coming across as completely unprofessional, then planning out your day as much as possible is essential. Carve outset times each day when you can accomplish the majority of your work. Then you can fit the urgent things in when necessary.
In my case, nap time is my greatest ally. I keep my kids on a regular schedule, ensuring that I can count on at least on hour per day of quiet, focused time for work. Recently, I’ve also hired my sitter to come once a week for two hours. That has also been huge because I know I can count on two uninterrupted hours to write, make phone calls, and grade. You will be amazed at how much work you can accomplish during those two precious hours.
4. Create Appropriate Boundaries – This is another struggle when you work from home, regardless of whether it’s with kids or not. Your job has no boundaries. True, this means the skies the limit but it also means you can easily fall down the slippery slope called workaholic-hood. Especially with smartphones and tablets, it is easy to work from anywhere. Though I’ll admit I enjoy the convenience of these devices, it becomes a problem for me as a mom because at times I struggle to put work away. When I get a new writing assignment or a client emails/calls me, I’m notified almost instantly. Mindful of this, I have to deliberately step away from working mode in order to be truly present to my children.
5. Remember Your Priorities – Tying in with boundaries, I have to constantly keep my hierarchy of priorities in focus. If work is consuming me and I’m not truly being present to my children, then I’m missing out on the whole reason I started working from home in the first place–to be with my kids. During those moments when my mommy and professional world collide, I deliberately decide to put work aside in order to comfort my children and see to their needs.
Though I try to schedule calls during times when I can guarantee focus and professionalism, if someone calls me at an unscheduled time, I always make sure to explain upfront that I’m happy to talk with them but also inform them that I work from home and there may be background noise. And this doesn’t just refer to my kids either. If I’m working late every night when my children go to sleep, then I’m also missing important opportunities to visit with my husband and keep our marriage central. That’s why, as I mentioned in Romancing Beyond I Do that I try to make sure at least one weeknight and one weekend night per week I can set aside all work and enjoy quality time with my husband.
Yet no matter how many “best practices” you have in place, it’s still definitely a work in progress. Some weeks will go much better than others. Others you’ll get off track, and then will have to get re-centered. Just be encouraged and know that you can do it; it is possible to survive and thrive.
If you’re working from home as a mom, please share your advice/wisdom as well!