I have been a Work At Home Mom (WAHM)* for almost four years. It was totally my decision to stay home, and I am beyond blessed to have the opportunity, but real talk: it’s hard!
*Work at Home Dads, this one is for you, too!
Once, in response to a Facebook status that my house was a disaster, a “friend” remarked, “Well you do work from home, isn’t it easier?” I resisted the urge to spit fire at her and politely responded that there is NOTHING easy about working two full-time jobs simultaneously, especially when one of them is raising kids.
I am far from an expert when it comes to juggling work and children, but colleagues who have just started their families have asked me for tips. I’m sharing the same tips with you because there are far too many people like my Facebook “friend” who believe being a WAHM is a cake walk. Keep in mind that my kids are just about two and four, so you may need to tweak a few of these.
1. Enlist help. At least for a few hours a week, hire someone to HELP you. Help comes in many forms: babysitting, house cleaning, meal prep–whatever! If you don’t have the coinage to pay for said help, offer to swap services. Can your neighbor hang with your kids for a few hours on a Wednesday so you can make phone calls or attend virtual meetings? Offering to return the favor on the weekend, thereby allowing her a date night with the hubs, will stack the deck in your favor.
2. Admit defeat. If whatever you’re currently doing isn’t working, own up to it. And then change it. I tried like crazy to stay in grad school while parenting while working while…you get the picture. Something had to give. It may take me 15 years to complete my Masters, but that’s a small price to pay for saving my sanity.
3. Have a plan. If I have to present or attend a live meeting with my kids in tow, I break out The Box o’ Stuff. The box contains toys, games, and/or DVDs that they’ve never seen before, or rarely get to play with. The novelty keeps them occupied, and it allows me to look somewhat professional while interacting with my colleagues. Word to the wise: make sure toys and games are age-appropriate; otherwise, your plan will backfire when your kids ask for your help opening 10 cans of Playdoh.
4.Be realistic. I know my kids’ average attention spans are proportionate to their ages. My two-year old is interested in something for about two minutes. I liken this to my attention span when my husband insists we tune in to The Masters (live from Augusta! nobody cares). Anyway, if you need a big chunk of time to dedicate to work, chances are you’re not going to get it while the kiddos are with you. Refer to #1 and ask for help or…
5. Wake up. I thought I was a morning person until morning meant a naked preschooler demanding breakfast at 4:30am. I now choose to work into the evening rather than begin my day so ungodly early. To each her own.
6. Set a timer. I actually do this on the days that my kids go to the babysitter’s (twice a week). I will check and respond to email for thirty minutes, DING! Assess and return student work for an hour, DING! Throw some dirty clothes in the washer and fold the clean ones for fifteen minutes, DING!
7. MOVE! Working from home more than likely means working at a computer. You don’t need me telling you why it’s bad to remain stationary all day. Sit on one of those fancy exercise balls, stand up while you type, and take frequent breaks to stretch, AKA: chase after the child who is trying to ride the dog like a pony.
8. Include the wee ones. My kids want to do what I’m doing, so I’ve set them up in their own little office, laptop on desk, sippy cup in hand. We work together for as long as they’re interested. If I get lucky, playing pretend Work Like Mommy evolves into another game and they amuse each other for even longer!
9. Change the scenery. Is it possible to work outside while your kids run themselves ragged? Can you set up shop at the park for an afternoon? The kids will think it’s an adventure, so you score Cool Points in their book AND a chance to be semi-productive.
10. Schedule YOU time. My husband can attest to the Breaking Point of 2012: I had had enough of changing diapers, returning phone calls, taking meetings, making lunches, and trying to do it all with a smile on my face. I realized I needed ME time. If you think that makes me a bad mom, it’s cool, I’m not offended. But you’re a dummy. My husband would take over parenting duties for just 30 minutes so I could gather my thoughts, which were usually all over the floor with the crayons and Legos. Sometimes I used my minutes to take a relaxing bath, sometimes I read, other times I ignored everyone because I could. And it was glorious. Communicating my needs and making sure I had time for ME helped more than anything. The saying if Mama ain’t happy, then nobody happy is true, pals. Make yourself a priority and life will get a little easier.
Do you work from home? Have any more tips? Sharing is caring–leave’em in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow my crazy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more fun. Fun like the SCARY MOMMY BOOK GIVEAWAY. What?! You don’t know what I’m talking about?!! Click HERE to find out more!