Are you a full-time mom, who also happens to work from home? Then chances are good you feel or have felt out of balance with your two roles.
Either you’re not getting as much work done as you’d like to, or you feel like you’re not getting enough time with your child. And, to be honest, you might be feeling a bit of both.
Take heart that it’s not easy to navigate being a good parent and a good worker. As a work-at-home mother myself, I’d like to share with you my five-step guide to keeping the balance between both being a stay-at-home mom and working on your career.
Step #1: Identify your non-negotiables in both arenas
I have often found that when I feel out of balance in either of my big roles – small business owner and mother – it’s because I’ve given up at least one of my non-negotiables. A non-negotiable is what you are not willing to do or give up in order to get ahead because it comes at too great of an expense.
For example, I have several non-negotiables as a stay-at-home mom:
- My child will not watch more than a few episodes of a show, or one movie, per day.
- We engage in at least one activity together for an hour every day (on top of out-loud reading times, eating times, and other daily interactions).
- I shut down my laptop by 5 p.m. every single day.
I also have non-negotiables for my work life, and those include:
- Work time at the coffee shop every single Saturday.
- Tracking and prioritizing my work time using the free tool toggl.com.
- Taking at least a one-night business retreat each year.
The more that you practice putting your foot down around the boundaries of your non-negotiables, the easier it gets to protect what is most important to you.
Step #2: Revamp your to-do list
As a work-from-home mom of four years, I can tell you that traditional to-do lists no longer cut it. They leave you drenched in guilt as you look at all the things you didn’t do, and overwhelmed as you look at all the things you have left to do.
There are several ways to revamp your to-do list so that you aren’t left feeling crummy or overwhelmed, and I’ll share my favorite two with you. The first is a system I used for an entire year that did wonders for my self-esteem: my “Bare Minimums List.”
I identified three daily action items that, if I were able to get nothing else done all day, would continue to grow my business. It was liberating to know that growing my business was doable within the confines of my new schedule.
The second way you can revamp your to-do list is to actually scrap it altogether and make a “Ta-Da List” instead. A Ta-Da List is when you write down everything you accomplish throughout the day, instead of writing down everything you have yet to do.
It’s the difference between celebrating the mini-milestones and staring at a never-ending list of disappointments.
Step #3: Find a hybrid childcare approach
Just because you are the primary caregiver for your child, does not mean you have to forego childcare altogether. By figuring out a hybrid childcare solution – one where you’re still the primary caregiver, but you get some fringe hours to work at much lower rates than traditional daycare – you can tip the balance back in favor of your work.
Our hybrid solution cost just $267/month, and included two weekly trips to his grandparent’s house for three hours each time, and a membership to a local community center where they offer 90 minutes of free babysitting (coupled with free WiFi in their café).
This hybrid approach equaled about 50 hours/month of focused work time.
Step #4: Plan for both your mom-week and your workweek
If you just plan out your work week, then you’re going to experience imbalances on the mom-side of things. I learned this early on and started to take just 30 minutes on Sunday afternoons or evenings to research a few activities I could quickly prep for my son and I to do together. I also used that time to list out a few errands I was hoping to run and print out any materials needed for some busy-activities.
You can even do this while watching TV on Sunday evenings – just get out your smartphone and something to write on. Research a few ideas off of Pinterest, write them down on a piece of paper you attach to your fridge (so you can quickly find an activity in a pinch), or email the webpages to yourself.
It’s amazing how much more put-together and balanced your next week will feel.
Step #5: Introduce intentional imbalance into your life
Here’s the thing: you actually are not able to achieve complete balance at any given point in time. You could take that as a depressing fact, or you could take it as a reason to give yourself grace. Instead, what you can hope to achieve is something productivity expert Brian Moran calls Intentional Imbalance.
Sometimes you give more energy and time to being a mom. You make that intentional choice to have that imbalance in your life, for whatever reasons that matter to you. Then, you can intentionally imbalance towards your work for short periods of time, as needed.
As long as you make sure to flip-flop and give more time and energy to the other side of the equation, afterwards, then your overall life will feel more in balance.
Be kind to yourself
I’m a work-at-home mom, too, and I know how tough this gig can be. So, while I can’t guarantee that following these five steps will cure all the imbalances in your life, I can definitely promise that working through them will bring about more peace and less guilt than you’ve been experiencing up to this point. And that is something worth working towards.
You don’t have to achieve perfection — your child and your work will recover from a bad day. It’s just important to have a plan and try to do well by both sides of your life.
–By Amanda L. Grossman