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The Secrets of a Work From Home Mom

My name is Jen. I am the mother of two high-energy and frantically loveable preschoolers that regularly keep me tap dancing through my days. In addition to shuttling them around to preschool, playdates and activities, I work from home as a writer and executive recruiter. I love my life. But it takes a lot of work.

It’s the first day of Spring. Well, not really. Technically it has been Spring for weeks now, but with the freakish weather we have been having, there has been more hail than sunshine and temps dipping regularly into the 40s. I might be from Texas, but even I know that hail and Spring are not intended to coexist. Today the sun is bright, the skies are clear and it is a delightful 80 degrees. My children are running in and out of the sprinkler, wearing last year’s swimsuits that are small enough that its almost inappropriate. I have just added “buy new swimsuits” to my always growing, always evolving to-do list.

Today my office is outside. I am able to breath the fresh air, although I am squinting at my computer screen because even a MacBook Pro can’t eliminate all the glare. But to be outside, is truly glorious. I am a full-time mom, but also work from home close to thirty hours a week and finding the balance between outside office hours with the soundtrack of sprinkler revelry in the background and actually feeling like a professional adult can be challenging.

I have worked from home since the birth of my daughter almost five years ago and while I have not perfected it (just as an example it took me five minutes to write that one sentence because I had to get up from my chair eight times to threaten my children with turning off the sprinkler if they couldn’t lower the screeching level….), I do have an idea of how to make it work. I have tips tucked away that I sometimes follow, sometimes forget to follow and sometimes follow but still fail at hopelessly.

In the last five years I have transformed from a fairly confident and successful professional to someone who can melt into a total mush of tears when she realizes that its 5:58pm and there is absolutely nothing to prepare for the kids’ dinner other than a bowl of applesauce and some fritos. As time goes by, as the weeks fade into months and ultimately into years and I grow older and wiser, I find that the bad moments are less and the good ones are more frequent. These are the rules I have for myself that seem to keep me steered in the right direction.

  1. Keep a calendar. I have an iPhone but don’t trust myself or iCal or google calendar to keep my busy and fluid schedule accurately enough. I use the momAgenda. The pages are big enough that I can write notes to myself in the margin and keep up with all the schedules and timelines I have going at once.
  2. Schedule exercise. For the last four months I have been training for a half-marathon and a ten-miler. In order to mentally and physically prepare, it was imperative that I not only write down the workouts and distances that I needed to accomplish each day, but also schedule them into my day. I am not an early riser and could not possibly accomplish long runs in the morning before my husband heads off to work. Instead, on any given day, I might run at 9am, 3:30pm, 1pm or 4:30pm. Two weeks out, I take a look at my schedule and put the runs in. I then build the rest of my day around it. It might sound fanatical, but I know that without exercise, without running, the rest of this circus would just fall to pieces. It is my time.
  3. I have a babysitter. I do not work full-time but I work enough that it is important for me to have a sitter who regularly comes to the house, helps with entertaining the kids, and helps with bath time and dinner. She only works about 6 to 8 hours a week, but I have come to depend on her to offer me a bit of respite, some sanity in what could be at any given moment an incredibly overwhelming day. We also use babysitters so that my husband and I can go out to dinner once or twice a month. We find we communicate with one another better and are less frustrated when we treat ourselves to a date night. It helps us reflect on the core of our family, which is our marriage.
  4. I embrace my imperfections. It has taken awhile, but I am able to look at the mistakes that I make in my work, the parenting choices that got the better of me, the frustrated annoyances that spew from my mouth and realize that not only am I not perfect, I am 100% human. Thank god for that. And the only reason I am comfortable with that is that I don’t know any perfect mothers. Which brings me happily to my next point.
  5. Mommy happy hours are a regular and crucial survival mechanism. Once a week my friends and I get together for two hours of total mayhem; wine and goldfish included. We talk, we complain, we laugh, we comfort, and we sit with the peace that there are other mothers who haven’t gotten it quite right either.
  6. I turn off at the end of the day. With the growing trend of telecommuting and nationally distributed staffs, work can easily become a 24-hour a day thing. It is not easy, but I try to shut down the computer and my phone early enough in the evening that I am allowed some fun time with the children before the pre-bed witching hour sets in. And when I can’t shut down, when there is too much to do, I forgive myself for plopping them in front of The Backyardigans. Thank god for Pablo.

It has been a gift being able to work from home, to make my own schedule and to have the flexibility of taking my children to the park on beautiful days. Most days it is a challenging and delicate balance of mommy vs. employee, but I am getting the hang of it. I am grateful for the constant support of my husband and friends and for the joy my children bring me on a regular basis. With that said, I could use a vacation. Like last week. Because just now I realized I double-booked an important phone call with an equally important playdate for my son and I am going to spend the next few minutes working out the merits of both, and unfortunately my little guy will get the short end of the stick and his playdate will have to be rescheduled. But I will make it up to him. With some ice cream after my conference call. For now, I have to go. My daughter just got her hair stuck in the zipper of our trampoline netting.

14 Responses

  1. Nicole, RD said on April 12, 2011 at 7:47 am

    You sound tireless! I give moms all the credit in the world! Your kids are beautiful!

  2. elyse said on April 12, 2011 at 8:36 am

    love it jen!

  3. Heather (Heather's Dish) said on April 12, 2011 at 8:40 am

    hopefully one day i’ll be able to apply this! your children are gorgeous 🙂

  4. Elizabeth@The Sweet Life said on April 12, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Thanks for the really honest glimpse into your life!

  5. Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) said on April 12, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I love this! Great post!

  6. Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons said on April 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    This is like a personal cheat sheet! =) Thanks for giving us a peek into your life! <3

  7. Alysa (InspiredRD) said on April 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I loved reading this as I am trying to balance the work-from-home thing and family life too. Thanks for the glimpse into your life and how you do it all 🙂

  8. Heather @ Side of Sneakers said on April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Mommy happy sounds essential!! Do I have to be a mom to sign up? 😉

  9. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said on April 12, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    I am a FT mom, work FT out of the house, and run my blog, another FT job. I can totally relate to everything!! you just said and do the same on all accounts 🙂

  10. Julie said on April 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    FT mom of 2 and work FT out of the house – I can relate to the craziness of motherhood! What is your blog site?

  11. Lisa Kanarek said on April 12, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Great post. Juggling motherhood and work can be tricky. You seem to have it under control. I especially like the mommy happy hour idea!

  12. Helen @ Business Plus Baby said on April 13, 2011 at 6:50 am

    I was nodding and smiling as I read this because it’s all so familiar, even though I’m over here in England. You’ve had a few more years experience of this than me, so I’ve learned a few things from you today. And it’s great to read that you really can survive and thrive with all the frantic juggling!

  13. Alma said on April 13, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Like Helen, I was nodding and smiling … It sounded very familiar for me too even though I am in Italy!!

    This makes me think that juggling between motherhood and professional life is very similar all over the world: we all face the same challenges.

    We may implement different solutions but ultimately we know and we prove that it is possible!

    To widely spread the potentials of moms working from home has become my mission in Italy: a country were far too often women are forced to sacrifise their professional life because of a diffuse “cultural entrapreneurial rigidity”.

    Thanks for your great post!