Moms. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, a working mom, or like me you’re a work at home mom, I’m going to bet that you struggle to find time. When you see commercials or movies referring to moms it’s almost always depicting a mom that is running off of coffee with a ridiculous to do list. To be honest, it kind of feels that way too. I think that’s why one of my most frequently asked questions is how I do it all.
How do I find time as a work at home mom to a toddler and a newborn? How is it that I run a business, a blog, do youtube and on top of that parent my children and run my household? It sounds like a lot. It IS a lot. It can be done! Mostly. But if you ask me how to find a perfect balance between everything I can’t help you there, some days my business is going great but my house is a mess or my children are happy and I feel like I’ve been a good mom that day, but I haven’t worked at all.
It’s a struggle finding a way to do it all and it’s not perfect, but I do have some tips to find more time as a work at home mom. Really these can work for stay at home moms and working moms too! But since this blog is focused on working at home this one’s for you WAHMs! And dads! These have taken me some time to figure out, but have really made it so that I can work from home, be mom and (mostly) keep the house in order.
One of my most recent changes has been that I schedule myself daily. It probably wouldn’t work for everyone and truly I didn’t think it would work for me so I avoided it for a long, long time. My thought was that I work from home so I can have freedom, why am I putting myself on a schedule?
The reason a schedule has been so helpful is because its helps me outline and break up my days which helps me focus on what needs to be done. I know exactly what I should be doing at any given time. Of course the schedule is flexible and I can change it or move things around as needed, but it’s a really great guideline to follow.
In case your curious here’s my basic schedule right now:
- 5am-7am: Work
- 7am-9am: Family & Home
- 9am-12pm: Work
- 12pm-1pm: Lunch w/ Family
- 1pm-4pm: Work
- 4pm-10pm: Family & Home
As you can see I spend about 8 hours working broken up into three chunks of time which works well for me! Of course it never works perfectly and I’m forever being interrupted, but I find that knowing exactly when I should be working and when I should be doing chores or spending time with the kids helps me get in the right mindset and work more efficiently. My schedule is really a little more complicated than that to be honest, but those are the basics.
Ask for Help
Here it is, my confession. I don’t do it all alone. Since my son was about 15 months old my mother in law has been coming twice a week for half the day to spend time with my son. I’m so lucky that she is happy to do that regularly because they get to spend time together while I get to be productive. And now my husband has quit his job to join me working from home and he has taken on a lot of the parenting duties during the day while I do most of the working.
Another confession: I have someone who cleans the house. I didn’t always have this, but I find that it is really worth the money because I’m spending less time trying to get the house clean and instead just spend a little bit of time maintaining it.
Whether you have family or friends you can have help you (can you trade off watching each others kids?) or you need to hire help: do it! If you’re feeling overwhelmed there’s nothing wrong with getting someone to help you if you can manage it.
Work When the Kids Sleep
This is an obvious one, but I like to mention it anyway. When my son and I were alone all day I would work like a crazy person when he was asleep. The key was that I made sure to focus on anything that was hard for me to do when he was awake and saved those tasks for nap time. As glorious as napping with him sounded (and I did give in a lot when I was pregnant!) for the most part I utilized that time to get stuff done.
You really can’t do it all. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow because I’m always wanting to take on more. But prioritizing is important if you want to be successful at what you are doing.
When I say prioritize I mean two things: big picture and daily tasks.
For big picture that means everything you’re responsible for in your life. Try to cut it down. A lot. I like to do this regularly because I find myself taking on too much. If you’re spreading yourself too thin that means you’re doing a lot of things, but you’re likely not doing all of them well.
For daily tasks try writing down everything and then pick just three that need to get done each day. If you finish those pick the next most important and continue that way. Of course I need to do more most days, but I’ll pick the three most important and focus on those.
Save Special Activities for Work Time
At our house we have a small cabinet of activities that my son doesn’t have access to on his own. If I need to get something done while he’s awake I’ll sometimes pull down a puzzle or some play dough. Really anything that will keep him busy because it’s something he doesn’t get to do every day. Usually this can buy me anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour without being interrupted every 45 seconds.
Focus on Kid(s)
Some days my son just really, really needs my attention. He wants to play so bad and you know what? I stay home because I want to be with him. So I spend time with him! I find that when he’s kind of in that mode all I have to do is give him some undivided attention to play whatever he wants to play. I’ll usually play with him until he seems happy to play on his own for a while. It’s kind of like I fill up his attention cup and he’s good for a while after that to play independently.
Start Independent Play as Soon as Possible
When my son was a baby I didn’t spend all day trying to entertain him. Even when he was a teeny baby I would leave him on a blanket or on the bed for a few minutes at a time to go do something. He got used to entertaining himself and didn’t always look to me for it. It might just be his personality and I know this is probably harder for some kids, but setting this up when he was a baby before he could even sit up really helped him establish the ability to hang out by himself.
In conjunction with the above I got into a routine (unintentionally) where starting at just a few months old my son would kind of play by himself in the morning while I made breakfast and then spend about 15 minutes tidying up. This is just something I guess I naturally did in the morning so it was a time he would naturally be without me to play with. Now that he’s 3 he’s used to doing his own thing in the morning because of this natural routine that we fell into.
Getting Up Early
I recently started getting up around 5am on weekdays and even on weekends occasionally. My kids don’t generally get up until after 7 so this gives me a couple of hours of quiet time and it’s my most productive time of the day! I avoided getting up early for so long because I was so tired and I also stayed up late. But you don’t have to lose sleep to get up early. I’m way more productive being awake from 5am-10pm than I am from 8am-1am. By getting up at 5 I have my quiet time in the morning when I’m refreshed. When I woke up later and stayed up late I had quiet time but I was so tired at the end of the day I would end up either just vegging on the couch with my husband (not a bad thing once in a while!) or if I did get some work done my brain was so fried I worked really slowly or didn’t do good work. Getting up early gives me a couple hours of time to work with a fresh mind.
Anyone else use a timer to get them through the day? In the morning I like to set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes to clean the house. You’d be amazed at what you can do in 15 minutes if you’re working efficiently and not letting yourself stop to be distracted. I do this with work tasks as well. If I’m dreading doing a task I’ll set an alarm to go off in 15 minutes and just do it. If I’m doing a big project I’ll set a timer to help me break it up and focus. The key is not allowing yourself ANY distractions during that time. Turn your phone on silent and close your office door (if you can). Even five minutes of undistracted, ultra focused time is more productive for me than 30 minutes of half working.
I even have this cute little cube timer that is preset to 5, 10, 15, 30 and 60 minutes on my desk. You just turn it to the side you want and it starts the timer for you. A free option is the website e.ggtimer.com!
Did she just say don’t multitask? I did. And I can’t believe I said it either. I am the queen of the multitask. I find it hard to focus on one thing at a time. But I’ve also found that when it comes to work tasks that if I’m trying to multitask everything takes much much longer. In addition, now that I have my daily schedule I don’t try to work AND parent at the same time. Of course if I’m the only one home I do have to do that, but what I mean is I choose times where I know the kids are content or asleep so that I can focus and I’m not trying to work on the couch while playing cars with my kid. It’s one or the other.
What? Didn’t she just tell me NOT to multitask? Yeah, I did. But there are certain situations that do work. Like doing laundry and tidying while you’re making breakfast. Or doing yard work while you’re outside “playing” with the kids.
One of the hardest things for us is to just say no. Not everything that comes your way is going to enhance your life or be a good fit. Really evaluate everything that you have to say yes or no to. Is it worth your time? Every thing you choose to do is taking time from something else so consider what the trade off is.
Create Systems or Routines
If you want to be efficient you need to find the most efficient way to do everything in your life. Creating systems is the best way to do that! I don’t mean you have to actually sit down and write out a system for how you do your laundry. You could! But you don’t need to. I just mean having a certain way you do things that take up time in your day so there’s less thought and less time wasted.
We kind of create systems or routines on accident when we do something a lot. We just naturally find the most efficient way or the way that works for us. For example my morning routine for the longest time has been to grab laundry on my way out of my bedroom in the morning and throw it in the washer before starting breakfast. Once breakfast is over and I’ve done my speed clean of the kitchen and anything else that needs a little help I will switch it over to the dryer. Then I usually forget about it and leave it there for my husband to deal with, but that’s not the point. Ha! It gets done. I also have systems in my business like the way I list items on eBay. Whatever it is you do throughout the day try to figure out an efficient system for it.
Be Realistic & Flexible
This one is last for a reason. Because after all of the tips I’ve given you above you still need to be realistic. Some days I don’t work at all because I just have so much other stuff that needs my attention and I couldn’t concentrate on work even if I tried with those other tasks lingering. Or some days my children are really needy or whiney and I just need to focus on loving them all day. One of the perks to working from home is that for the most part you have control of your day. Take advantage! Don’t beat yourself up if things get overwhelming and you didn’t get as much work done as you wanted to. That’s just what it’s like working from home with kids.
Hopefully this gave you some ideas and inspiration for finding more time as a work at home mom or dad! It’s definitely not easy or else people would just take their kids to work with them right? Can you imagine?
If you have any other tips definitely leave them in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!