When I quit my job to stay at home with my baby, I thought, “What a great opportunity to start my own business and work from home!” I had always dreamed of doing videography and photography full time. I thought that with not much to do during the day but keep my baby alive, it seemed like great timing, and I could make up a little of the income I was giving up.
Hah. Hah. Hah!
The myth of the relaxing life of the stay-at-home / work from home mom was busted quickly and I found time only about once per week to work. I did successfully launch a business and even got a couple of paid gigs during that first year; but, the timeline I gave myself to obtain steady work was extended quite a bit.
But this post isn’t about the realities of being a SAHM. Fast forward to me now, nearly two years later, and I have a steady amount of gigs. I’m proud of that; but, what I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to work from home with a toddler, a husband who rightfully also deserves attention, and a work environment that I am responsible for cleaning and keeping intact.
I found myself constantly feeling like I should be working, tending to my child, cleaning, paying bills, researching, and spending time with my husband. Those responsibilities are all housed in the same place, and I felt pulled by them all at once. When I was doing one thing, I felt guilty for not doing the others. I felt anxious and always behind.
I didn’t know what to do when – having difficultly prioritizing and concentrating, I would try to multitask. I even moved the computer into our main living space so that I could work and also (kind of) spend time with my family. What that created, however, was divided attention. I wasn’t really spending quality time with my husband if he was watching a movie and I was working, even if I was in the same room. On the other hand, I wasn’t giving work my best focus and quality if I was also watching a movie at the same time with my husband.
Here are the two main changes I made that worked to help me feel less anxious and divided about my work from home life.
1. I moved my work back into our office.
I had good intentions by moving the computer into our living space – I just didn’t want to be isolated. But it took me twice as long to work because I was surrounded by distractions. Not only would I also try to chat with my husband or play with my daughter, but I’d also spy laundry that needed to be done or a shelf that needed dusting and I couldn’t resist. By working only in our office, none of that surrounds me and, mentally, when I am in there, I know it is time to only focus on work. I no longer feel pulled by anything else.
2. I scheduled my life.
It made perfect sense for me to finally do this. I scheduled everything when I worked full time – from email time to coffee time. It gave me order; but, also put me at ease when I would take a break, because I knew that the work that had to be done was scheduled to happen later.
In the same manner of thinking, I now schedule not only work time, but also cleaning time, husband time, finance time, and the all important ME time. The rest of the time, of course, automatically goes to my daughter. This allows me to work more deliberately and also to enjoy my non-work times guilt-free. I also don’t feel as much urgency about house cleaning. If I see a dirty carpet that needs to be vacuumed, I don’t feel like I need to take care of it right away, because I know that I have a scheduled cleaning time coming up soon.
I don’t schedule myself for anything other than mothering when my toddler is awake, but the timeframes I do schedule are nap times, evenings, and daycare day. I also schedule some time on the weekend when her dad is around to spend time with her.
The hardest part was figuring out how much time I really needed to set aside for working.
As an ambitious person, I can easily feel like I need every moment of free time to be devoted to my business, but that causes all of the other aspects of my life to suffer and, suddenly, I’m totally unbalanced and on the verge of a breakdown. So, I had to be honest about what the minimum number of working hours are required for me to stay successful and produce high quality work. I schedule those and use the leftover hours for the other things that are just as important. Having that schedule keeps me disciplined and balanced.
I always thought I’d love working from home with the flexible hours and lack of dress code, but I never previously understood how it has its own unique set of challenges.