I’ve been easing back into a regular routine for the past three months, ever since the birth of my daughter.
I’m finding it exceedingly difficult.
Here’s my question: Can there be a balance between working from home and taking care of a baby?
I wish I knew the answer.
I have found that baby care threatens to overshadow working at home. Try as I might to find balance during the day, the fact remains that I am her primary caregiver and her needs must be met.
But just because there’s no 50-50 balance doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It IS possible to do both if you finagle things just a bit. Here’s what I’m trying to do:
- Ask for help
I used to find this really hard, but over time I’ve grown up. A LOT. And I’ve realized that everyone needs help now and then, even those of us who have a strong urge to go it alone. I need help getting everything done, and I’m really fortunate that I have a supportive family and friends. So I lean on that support network for watching baby when I have meetings or deadlines to hit.
- Rethink working hours
I would absolutely LOVE to put in my work hours between 9 and 5, but that just isn’t going to happen at this stage in baby’s life. I can do some, but not all. So I try to think creatively. When the kids are awake and active — household chores! But I work on projects at night, early in the morning and on the weekends when the kids are asleep or otherwise occupied with Dad. It’s quiet. It lets me think. Yes, I do lose out on a little sleep, but not so much that I suffer.
- Email is a mom’s best friend
I try to do most of my communication via email, when it doesn’t matter if you answer at 2am. Also, clients can’t hear the baby crying through email. It’s awesome! If I have to take calls, I try to schedule them when there’s little chance the baby will wake and start crying.
It’s not easy having a baby and trying to run a business, let alone work. But I’m managing. In the end, I love both of my jobs (mom and business owner), and I can’t imagine giving up either.
When it comes to distractions, I tend to fail more than I conquer. Not only am I a mom trying to work from home with a very active 3-year-old, but I’m also prone to being distracted.
I’ve been fighting it my entire life.
I mentioned in my last post the tools I use to stay on schedule. This morning, I read an article on one of the blogs I follow about fighting distractions. It’s a good read and worth a look if you’re anything like me.
You can read the full post here.
Now that I’m a self-employed web designer/developer, I’m learning a thing or two about managing my time and handling projects.
I’ve been focused on House on Payne Web Design for the past three weeks, and it’s been a different world.
The upside is being my own boss, setting my own schedule, and advancing my knowledge about my chosen trade as well as business.
The downside is that I don’t have a lot of hours in the day, and I have to be REALLY careful about how I manage my time.
Because I work from home now, I’m also the main babysitter for my 3-year-old son. READ THAT. 3. Have you tried to work on a computer while a 3-year-old demands your attention? Don’t. It’s not worth the effort.
Here are a few of my strategies, and while they haven’t managed to completely clear my schedule so I can work, they have managed to make my time more efficient.
- Send the child to camp or school. That may sound selfish, but kids actually love camp and they benefit from the structure of a program, mingling with other kids and planned activities. Luke adores his summer camp, and it gives me 2 1/2 free hours in the morning to work uninterrupted. I can’t wait for school to start, because that will be 6 1/2 hours.
- Make a daily schedule EVERY DAY. I was writing out two pages that broke my day into 30 minute and 1 hour blocks until I realized that I could be more efficient in Outlook, which also links to my iPod Touch calendar, where EVERYTHING is stored. My schedule looks silly to some, because it has stuff like “Shower/dress” on it, but I have so much to do that if I don’t schedule that stuff in, I’ll fall really behind.
- Use a to-do list. But make sure it’s one that helps you plan out all of those little tasks that have to get done. I use Remember the Milk because it’s online and there’s an app that links to my mobile device. It sends me reminders and it works well for me. It’s not the only one out there, though, and I’ve found that whatever task manager you use has to work for YOU.
- Set expectations with your family and friends. This is one of the toughest and most challenging parts of effective time management. As much as I would like to talk on the phone or IM my friends when I’m at my computer, I can’t because I have work to do. I try to go over my schedule with my husband so he knows what I have on tap that day, both on the workfront and on the homefront. My friends also know that my 2 1/2 hours in the morning are precious, and I’m unlikely to be able to chat much. Maybe a little, but not much.
- Reward yourself with social media, but don’t overdo it. Facebook is a huge draw for me, but I know that if I jump on just before I start working or while I’m working, it will waste valuable time. I actually schedule it in sometimes or I reward myself with a check if I finish a task earlier than I expected.
So that’s it — my strategies. I’m still figuring this stuff out, but so far, so good.