“Just this morning, I was thinking about all that I accomplish in 24 hours. Most of the time, I’m incredibly thankful to be a working Mom in the 21st century for one main reason: flexibility. But with flexibility, I found, comes this crazy idea that I can cram in even more into my day because, well, I just can! My work day is no longer a set day of 8 hours, but rather as 16 hour days that intertwine work, personal errands, self-care, and whatever else comes up throughout the day all with the intention of keeping my personal and professional life on track. While this system worked beautifully when I didn’t have children, and truthfully it worked okay with one child, it completely short-circuited when I added three kids to the mix. I started dropping the ball in all areas. I would begin tasks, but not complete them. I would find myself physically present with my children, but not emotionally or mentally available. I was often grouchy because I was running myself into the ground. I realized it was time for an intervention. I became open to the idea that I needed to update my own operating system when it comes to getting it all done. So, I took a new approach. I played with the concept of setting boundaries between work, motherhood, marriage, and personal care. Just when you think it isn’t possible to set boundaries as a working Mom, I invite you, for one
week, to experiment with these tips:
1. LIST OUT PERSONAL PRIORITIES NIGHT BEFORE – Keep this to 3 items so that it’s realistic. This will help you really get focus on priorities. Ideas can include: setting up doctors calls, setting up summer camps, ordering a gift, dropping off dry cleaning. (hint: What will give you the greatest relief if you can cross it off your list?)
2. SCHEDULE 1 HOUR OF ‘PERSONAL TIME’ DAILY ON YOUR CALENDAR – This time is to be used for your 3 personal calls and errands. By grouping them together, you’re going to be way more efficient in taking care of personal business, and this will be much less disruptive to your paid job.
3. BE TRANSPARENT WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES ABOUT YOUR FAMILY TIME– I strongly encourage you to be upfront with your manager and day-to-day colleagues about your needs. This honest communication builds trust and loyalty. For me, my team knows that between 5:00pm and 7pm most days, I’m with my children and I do not answer the phone. I’m available before or after if they need me.
4. REMOVE OBSTACLES – When I’m with my family I’m starting to carry my phone less (gulp!). I’ll admit, it’s not easy. It means I can’t Instagram in that very moment, but my whole intention is to set boundaries so I can feel more present. I encourage you to remove any and all obstacles, and start with your phone!
I’ve implemented these tips and I’m starting to feel human again. I feel a sense of calm, and I’m not running around with so many incomplete tasks around me. I also feel like I’m accomplishing as much as I use to under my old system, but I’m more connected to family, and finally have a few minutes to myself. Give it a go, and let me know how you get along with it.
I get asked this question at least twice a week, and it goes something like this, “ How on earth do you get anything done from home?” Now remember, I’m an extreme case, because I have 3 boys, 5 years old and under, two of whom are still at home. We live in a modest size house and, while I do have an office, it also houses the boys coveted train table. So, I have lots of visitors throughout the day. My husband continually questions how I get anything done too. Like most of you, I work for a corporation, so with that comes expectations from the HQ offices and my fellow colleagues regarding my quality of work. Because I work from home, I do find that I hold myself to a very high standard of work, in effort to demonstrate that working from home can produce results. So, the answer is Yes! Before I share my tips as to how I’ve found success in working from home, I just want to share why I’ve chosen this route. First, let me start by saying I’m incredibly thankful for the gift of being able to work from home. I recognize that not every working Mom has this choice (yet), but I believe the world is waking up to the need of offering more flexibility to parents.
Because I’m able to work from home (incredibly appreciative), I still think its better than the alternative of spending time commuting to and from home to an office and then being away from home all day, is not a good use of my time and ultimately would leave me feeling disconnected from my children during the week. As some of you working Moms with children who are in school have already experienced, we still live in a world where it’s not necessarily conducive to a dual working parent household, so having one parent work from home, I feel also helps with stability and continuity.
Pre-schools end at 1pm, grade schools get out at 2pm, so not only does it help on a practical level, but it also allows me to be involved in the day-to-day experiences of having children. That being said, I’ve absolutely had to refine how I work from home given the addition of children (multiple) and the various ages. Here’s what I’ve found that works, and I welcome hearing your ideas too!
1. SET UP SOME SORT OF CHILD CARE – I have a nanny that arrives at 8:30 and leaves at 5pm (this is a luxury). It’s extremely important you have someone to watch your kids albeit for as many hours as you can afford and someone your children trust, like and want to be with even if you’re present. Trying to work from home without any care will result in major frustration.
2. SET EXPECTATIONS WITH YOUR CHILDREN EVERY MORNING – I talk to my boys about my ‘work schedule’ each day. While they may not know exactly what I do, it’s important for them to understand how to be respectful of Mama’s time when she’s working. They also know when they will see me, which helps manage their expectations (often we have lunch together if I’m at home for the day, or I’ll read to
the younger ones before putting them down for nap).
3. BE FLEXIBLE IN HOW YOU STRUCTURE YOUR DAY – I always start my day with a short list of 3 – 5 intentions or actions for the day. Sometimes, based on the children popping in and out of my office, I have to rearrange the priority of them. This regular set of interruptions use to frustrate me, and then I realized it’s okay. By being less rigid, the children actually pay less attention to me, and I’m able to focus on my actions for the day.
4. PLAN A 20 MIN BREAK TO VISIT WITH YOUR CHILDREN – After all, isn’t that a perk to working from home? I usually do this over lunch or I read to them before nap. It’s amazing how just 20 minutes of undivided attention fills their tanks up, and it fills up mine. I find my children are less likely to interrupt me when I’m working if I’ve communicated when I will visit with them. Knowing what to expect puts their minds at ease.
5. WORK SMART – If you have children that nap like I do, use that time wisely. Often, I do a lot of my work that requires critical thinking, difficult phone calls during those hours because I’m guaranteed silence. Look ahead at your day and plan accordingly.
6. HAVE A BACK UP PLAN – Sometimes none of the above works, and you have deadlines or phone calls to make and can’t be interrupted. I get it. So, have a back up plan that’s in a mile radius. I often walk up to my local library or coffee shop and set up office (side note: just make sure you bring your laptop charger!).
We all know being a working Mom is not for the faint of heart. I would argue that the challenges that come from working from home far outweigh the feeling of being isolated from your children all day and wasting time commuting back and forth. Again, I’m very thankful to be in a position to work from home and to have the opportunity to be a fly on the wall and hear my children play in the garden and squabble over toys throughout my work day. It keeps me connected to one of my greatest purposes in life: motherhood.