I’ve called myself a stay at home mom for over 5 years since I left my full time job when my first daughter was born. I realized recently that I have never been a stay at home mom in the true sense of the word. Yes, I’m home with my kids and they are my priority, but I have always worked even when it was just a few hours a week.
Working from home is a blessing, but it can also be a challenge. It ranges from the 5-year old in quiet time who pops out of her room to say hi to everyone on my conference call, to the 3-year old who rises early when I get up to work before the kids start their day. It’s a challenge on days when I count on school time to finish a project, and both kids end up home sick.
Life with kids is never dull…and never predictable. Amidst these challenges, there are a few things that help me keep my sanity and keep my family my priority while working from home.
Make a Schedule and Stick to it
This fall I entered an exciting new phase for a work at home mom. My oldest daughter entered kindergarten and my youngest is now in preschool. I have 2 kid free mornings! This is a first for me and this time is gold! I can focus on my work, and accomplish much more without constant interruptions.
The first day of preschool (my first free morning) a meeting popped up for a volunteer commitment. The responsible side of me started to panic. I mentally rearranged my family’s schedule for the week, frantically trying to figure out how I would get my work done without that precious kid-free work time.
After a few minutes of panic, a freeing thought crossed my mind.
I could say no.
If I worked outside of the home, no one would expect me to take off work to attend this meeting. I need to treat my work at home hours the same as I would if I were working in an office. Then and there I decided to guard my work hours. Especially the hours my kids were in school.
The following week I received a text from a friend asking if I could watch her daughter. When I checked the calendar I realized it was a preschool morning. I didn’t agonize over my answer this time because I had predetermined to guard my kid-free work hours. I sent a quick text letting her know I was sorry but I was working that morning.
Does this mean I can never adjust my work schedule?
Of course not.
One of the blessings of working from home is flexibility. If my daughter’s class has a field trip on a work morning, you can bet I’ll be there. I can be there for a family member or friend that has an emergency. But, if I adjust for every little thing other people want me to do, my work time will spill over into my family time, which will have a negative impact on my marriage, my kids, and me.
Know When to Ask for Help
My business has grown a lot over the last few months. At first I tried to keep all the plates spinning. I soon started to feel like I was failing in every area- wife, mother, contractor, and friend. I realized if this was going to be sustainable long term, I needed to ask for help.
Around that time, a friend mentioned a teenager who wanted to be a mother’s helper for the summer. She was a godsend! My girls loved their time with her, and I could focus on my work without feeling like I was neglecting them. I could also give her little tasks to do with the kids (like cleaning their rooms or straightening the play area) and come out to a cleaner home.
Yesterday I started feeling overwhelmed. I realized I was either going to be a stressed out mama that afternoon or I needed to call in reinforcements. I ended up texting a neighbor to see if her daughter could come over to play with my girls for an hour that afternoon. What a relief it was when she arrived! My girls were overjoyed to see her, and I was able to slip back to my room to focus on my work project guilt free. Once the hour was over I was able to leave behind the work and focus on my family for the evening.
There are other areas you can ask for help too- house cleaning, laundry, cooking, yard work. The important thing is to realize when you’re getting stressed. Ask for help before you become completely overwhelmed. If it’s hard for you to step back and identify, have a close friend or spouse who will gently mention to you when they notice stress starting to mount.
Know Your Purpose and Priorities
There are endless opportunities for us to get involved in as moms, from volunteering at school and church to extracurricular activities and community causes. The problem is that I don’t want to just fill my time- I want to be fulfilling God’s purposes for my life.
I recently took a personal retreat. I had been planning to attend a conference, but at the last minute I realized how overwhelmed I was. I didn’t need to attend a conference and take in more information. What I really needed was to slow down and take time to pray, and to determine who and what my priorities were so I could be intentional about keeping them first in my life.
I want to encourage you to take a personal retreat- even if it’s just a couple hours at a park or coffee shop. Take a journal or notebook and pen with you.
Here are some tips of things to do if you don’t how to use your time:
- Start with prayer. Ask God to guide your time. Ask Him to give you clarity and reveal to you where your focus should be and His purposes for your life- in this season and in the future.
- Write down what your primary roles are and place them in order of importance.
- Write down what your primary goals are for each of these roles.
- Think over a typical week (or month) and write down your current commitments. How does looking at these commitments make you feel? Are you overwhelmed or is your current commitment load good for you? Are there any commitments that don’t fit with your primary roles or your goals? For example: One of my goals as a mom is to be actively involved in my kids’ lives. While there are numerous opportunities to volunteer on committees at school, many don’t involve spending time with my kids. Instead of joining committees I chose to volunteer in the classroom and on field trips because they include my children.
- Take home your list of primary roles and goals, and place it somewhere that you will see regularly. Perhaps, above your desk or on your night stand. Revisit and refine your goals as needed.
I came away from my time reconfirming that my primary roles are as a child of God, wife, mother, friend and consultant. I wrote down goals for each of these areas that will guide how I spend my time and energy. I was also able to narrow the scope of my work to creating strategic plans, managing content, and building communities to mobilize the messages of Christian authors and speakers. Having this down on paper gives me a guide to refer back to, helping me know when to say yes and when to say no to opportunities in my work, my ministry and my personal life.
Remember the Season You Are In
I always appreciate when older women validate that having young kids is one of the most demanding and exhausting seasons in life. In addition to our love and support, young kids need us to get them dressed, feed them, buckle their car seats, help them on the potty and (if you have one like my 3 year old) do just about everything for them- including carrying them.
Recognizing that I’m in a season when my kids need more of my time, reminds me to give myself the time and energy to focus on them. While I am excited to grow my business, I don’t have to do it all right now. I can limit my work to what is feasible for my family’s needs in the season we’re in. My kids will not always be this little, but business opportunities (though they may vary) will always be there.
Whether you’re new to working from home, or have been at it for five, ten, or twenty years, I hope that you will take some time this week to seek the Lord, define your priorities and find the right rhythm for you and your family.
Brooke Martinez lives in Southern California with her husband Mark and their two daughters. Brooke has a passion for God and connecting others with Him and each other. Brooke runs a successful consulting business as a project and content manager for authors with an emphasis on launch coordination.
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