10 Tips for Busy Work at Home Moms (who can’t afford a nanny)

tips for busy work at home moms

When I started on my journey as a Work at Home Mom a year ago, I felt as if I was jumping off a cliff.  I came across a few blog posts here and there claiming to describe “The Day In the Life of a WAHM.”  But after poring over the (highly edited) schedules of 30-something CEO’s with full-time nannies and flexible incomes, I felt even more clueless than before.

Not only did I not have a clear idea what the “work” part of “work-at-home” would look like, but I was brand new to being a mom as well.  It took time to adjust myself to the “routine” (I use that term v-e-e-e-e-r-r–r-y loosely…) of WAHM life, but after  an entire year of working out what my new role looked like, I’ve been able to nail down some tried and true pointers for other mamas looking to find a better work – life balance by moving their careers to their homes.

BUSY MOMS 1

The biggest key to productivity is getting off to a good start.  Set your alarm to get up a bit early and knock out any morning chores, feed yourself a nutritious breakfast, and set aside a few minutes to set your intention for the day.

tips for busy moms

I like to end each evening by writing out the next day’s To-Do list.  It not only allows me to get started on my work right away (because I already know what needs to be done) but it actually helps me sleep easier because I’m not lying in bed going over the next day’s tasks.  When I take the time to plan my day (and my week) on paper, I find that it’s much easier to stay focused because I’ve set proper expectations with myself.

BUSY MOMS 3

At the beginning of each week, I create a schedule for each day that aligns with my task list.  I estimate the amount of time I need to spend on each of my projects, and that way I know exactly what my work week will look like.  Then I can plan around my week to work in things like laundry, grocery shopping and other errands.  One of the trickiest battles of working from home is not letting yourself get distracted.  Give yourself specific hours each day to focus only on work, and don’t let housework or other distractions weed their way into your schedule.

BUSY MOMS 4

This is crucial for success in any job, but when you’re working from home it can be particularly easy to loose sight of what you want to accomplish.  Keep your focus by giving yourself constant reminders about what you are doing.  Why did you decide to work from home?  More time with the kids?  More freedom to pursue your ideal career?  Whatever the reason, make sure you have a good understanding of what “success” would look like.

BUSY MOMS 5

If you’re working from home, chances are that you are looking for more flexibility to spend time with your family.  The ironic thing about working from home, though, is that it becomes increasingly difficult to separate your work life from your family life.  When you work outside the home, it is usually much easier to leave work at the office.  But when you work at home, your work is always there.  You really don’t ever leave the office.

If you’re able to, set up your home office in a part of the house that receives the least amount of traffic.  If that’s not an option for you (it isn’t an option for me…my office is a main thoroughfare in our home), then you’ll have to make a conscious effort to step away from your work.  I often fall into the trap of sitting down to check email every time I come into the office (which is frequent).  Because it’s so easy to get consumed by work when it’s always right there in front of me, I have to always stay aware of how much time I’m spending on work as opposed to with my family.

tips for busy moms

BUSY MOMS 6

This goes right alongside #5.  I am almost ashamed to admit how many days I have looked at the clock at the end of the day to realize I’ve spend the last 5 or 6 hours at the computer, with only a couple of trips to the bathroom or the kitchen to refuel.  We’re all pretty familiar by now with the dangers of sitting and what it can do to our long-term health.  But even beyond the physical benefits of exercise, moving around and standing up more is good for your brain as well.  Fortunately, when you are working from home, you have the freedom to create an environment that promotes activity.

BUSY MOMS 7

My daughter is in daycare a couple of days a week, and in a dream world I’d be able to finish all of my work within those hours.  But life isn’t that tidy, so I very often have work to do on days when she’s home with me.  That means I have to be really flexible with when I work and how much time I’m able to spend on my work.  Luckily she’s a good napper, but even so we’ve had occasional days where a knock on the door woke her up earlier than expected or she just decided she wasn’t into a nap that day.  Preparing yourself for the unexpected  - the short or nonexistent nap, the surprisingly cranky baby, the cold that came out of nowhere – is an essential part of any mother’s journey.  But when you factor in managing a career at the same time, it is even more crucial for you to be able to shift your schedule at a moment’s notice.

BUSY MOMS 8

tips for work at home momsYour work environment is almost as important as your work schedule, in my opinion.  I know I work much better in a well-organized, well-lit space than I do in somewhere cluttered, dark and depressing.  Set up a space that feels good and that allows you to access the tools you need easily.  For me, that meant installing a pegboard to house all of my supplies.  I keep a basket on my desk for stray folders, and a large desktop calendar to keep me on schedule.  Figure out what sort of environment you work best in, and create a space that embodies that.

BUSY MOMS 9

I have a Pinterest Board full of inspiring words, images and people.  When I’ve lost my motivation or when I just need a little kick in the creativity department, I browse that Pinterest Board for a few minutes.  Sometimes I’ll print off a quote or an image that has really inspired me and pin it up on my office wall in plain view.  Achieving your goals depends on your ability to maintain your motivation and stay focused.  For me, the best way to do that is to surround myself with things that inspire me.  Sometimes all I need to get back on track when I’m feeling stuck or overwhelmed is to shift my mind to something that reminds me what my goals are.  There is power in inspiration.

BUSY MOMS 10

Maybe it’s a fluke but it seems like a big trend among us busy, career-driven moms is that we rarely allow ourselves to reach out for a helping hand.  We’ve been taught since girlhood to go after what we want and not let anything hold us back, but unfortunately we’ve equated that with asking for help.  I know that I’m guilty of suffering through stressful moments on my own when all I need is someone else to handle dinner for one night.  My husband works long hours and helps when he can, but I’ve found that many of my friends are more than happy to help me through a tough moment when I ask.  Even if all I need are encouraging words or a playdate to give myself a break, just having a bit of help makes a huge difference for me.  We all know we CAN do it on our own, but we forget that we don’t have to. 


♥The Midnight Mama

 

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A Complete Guide To Having It All

having it all

Last week I wrote my last post for the Austin Moms Blog, entitled “Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom.”  It’s fitting that this should be the subject of my farewell post for AMB since my departure is a side effect of my ever-evolving SAHM identity.

In my post, I wrote that the decision to leave my full-time office job to stay home full-time with my infant daughter was THE MOST difficult decision I’ve had to make in my life thus far.  It may sound overdramatic, but I stand by that statement.  (Besides, I’m still in my twenties so there isn’t a lot of competition since life is just now starting to get real.)

From day one of my pregnancy, I weighed the pros and cons daily.  And the central theme surrounding my inward struggle was the idea of “Having It All.”

having it all In it’s simplest form, to “Have It All” means to be able to give equal resources of your life – money, time, energy, emotions –  to your family, your career, and your personal life, and to do so perfectly.

Somehow along the way, as women have fought against social norms to ensure their daughters could express their political voice through the vote, be compensated equally for their work, and choose the life they wanted, we collectively began imaging The Perfect Mother.  She is able to balance her dream job with her perfect family and active social life while looking gorgeous all the time.  She gets the promotion that pays the bills while getting a gourmet dinner on the table every night.  She sends urgent emails during playdates and never misses a morning workout.

At least that’s what I envision.  Maybe The Perfect Mother in my head doesn’t match the one in yours.  But admit it.  We ALL see her, and deep down we are all striving to BECOME her.

That silly little phrase – “Have It All” - gets tossed around the mom community all the time.  “Can women really have it all?” “How to have it all as a mother.” “You, too, can have it all!”

You could literally write a research thesis on the psychological and sociological impact of those three words on mothers all over the country (maybe the world? is this just an American thing?).

But here is the dirty little secret that so often gets overlooked in the conversation:

We already Have It All. 

That’s right.  Our lives are already filled with so much good, most of which is overlooked, that it is silly to take our focus off of the now to create an ideal life that will most likely never exist.

having it all

To invite the question into your mind of whether you do or do not “have it all” is to allow comparison of your life to an imaginary one.  The so-called perfect life that you imagine might incorporate all your life’s goals at this moment, but those goals are in constant flux.  What we desire today could shift with changes and opportunities we weren’t expecting, so how we define “having it all” now is just a mirage.  We will never be in that moment.  To place the imaginary permanently in our minds as the end goal is to invite an ungrounded sense of failure into our lives.  We will constantly be striving for something that will always be better than what we have.

I’m not going to say we need to stop using the phrase altogether because I honestly hate blogs that ask all of humanity to eliminate a word or phrase from our vocabulary.  As if ignoring common language would erase an issue from our minds.

In fact, I’m all in favor of continued use of the phrase “Having It All,” but only in a different context.  Instead of applying the phrase to the future tense, I’d like to see us talking about why we ALREADY have it all.  We miss so much good in this present moment because we are wondering how we can get more or do more or be more.  But we are fooling ourselves, because we already Have It All.

♥ The Midnight Mama

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What No One Tells You About Babyhood

babyhood

It hit me the other day that in less than six months, my dear sweet Little H will be TWO YEARS OLD.  That means the end of counting months, the end of diapers (hopefully!!) and the end of babyhood.

Technically speaking, we entered the land of sticky hands and plopping feet known as “toddlerhood” months ago when Little H hit 12 months, though in my heart I have still considered her a baby.  Before my eyes, I’ve seen Little H grow exponentially in her mobility and language skills, as well as an exploding sense of wonder only experienced in this precious age.  And I have rejoiced.  For many reasons, the approaching end of diapers not least among them.

what no one tells you about babyhood

When babies are new, each accomplishment is met with wonder and awe by the parents.  And truly, this worship of FIRSTS is one of the peculiarities of babyhood, one of the hallmarks of the first year.  Eventually, the Age of Firsts is phased out by the Age of Exploration, marked by less newness and more routine, less dependancy and more adventure.  It is a transition from infancy to childhood.

The change is subtle, so much so that it can literally seem as if your little one has grown up while your back was turned.  Each day brings new words, phrases, and now sentences that make Little H seem older and wiser.  Her awareness of her surroundings, her decisions made independently of her father and me, her bursts of personality all become more accentuated as each day passes.  And in exchange I’ve watched the remnants of babyhood slip away before my very eyes.

Some remain, though.  When we sit and rock in her chair before bed and she nurses as I sing her to sleep, those chubby cheeks and drooping eyes looking up at me are the very same as the day I met her.  Her smell is the same when I bury my nose into the hair on top of her head.  And her laugh, though fuller, is in essence the same as the very first laugh that melted our hearts months ago.

babyhood

As mothers, we willingly celebrate our child’s pilgrimage into independence, while simultaneously clinging grievously to the final strands of babyhood that remain.  We know we can’t have it both ways, that our babies will grow into toddlers who will grow into big kids who will become teenagers and ultimately adults.  Babies don’t keep, after all.  That’s the saying, right?  We all know it will happen eventually, and we’re not ignorant to reality.

Even so, I know I’m not alone in mourning the passing of my daughter’s babyhood.  And the though that two extremes – joy and heartbreak – can coexist in my heart is not foreign to me.  A mother’s fate in life is that she will constantly mourn the past and celebrate the future at the same time.  And we all know now what our own mothers knew long before we did – that five, ten and even twenty years from now, we will still look into the faces of our grown children and see the baby they once were.

♥ The Midnight Mama

Posted in Baby Stages, Parenting Thoughts, Raising LIttle H | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fighting the Vines of Negativity

negativity

For the last few months, I have been on a (somewhat) self-imposed hiatus from the blog world.  The reasons for this leave of absence are many, including moving to a new town, purchasing our first home, moving into said home, having home broken into…etc.  Not to mention the roller coaster that is being a working-from-home mom to a toddler.

The past six months of my life, in fact, have been a whirlwind of activity and busyness that has transformed me in a number of ways.  Between transplanting our family to a new town and having our sense of security threatened - an experience I shared on the Austin Moms Blog recently- I feel as if my entire sense of identity has been compromised.

I hear people say so often that they are not good at adapting to change.  Sometimes I am right there with them.  I am amazed by anyone who can be faced with unexpected, life-altering bumps in the road and not blink an eye. My biggest struggle lately, and anytime my so-called plans go awry, involves figuring out how to remain focused on the positive things in my life without letting negativity take root.

When unexpected changes happen to me, whether dramatic or not, they often throw me off course, which can sow seeds of self-doubt, envy, frustration, and weariness that were not there before.  If I’m not careful, I become so entwined by negativity that I am incapable of functioning in my daily life.

TMM_Vines_2We’ve been spending a lot of time lately cleaning up the fence line around our property, which was taken over by thick, spindly vines when we arrived.  The young trees growing along the fence were struggling to fight for sunlight against these super-strong vines, and they were unfortunately being choked out.

While working the other day, I was taken aback by one tree that seemed to have absorbed the vine that was growing up it’s trunk.  My guess is that this particular vine lost the battle, and having stopped growing was eventually fused with the tree’s trunk, as any static object would be in time.  And as a result, this is one of the few trees along our property line that is thriving.

What made the difference for this tree?  Sheer luck? Or a more developed ability to fight off the attacks from the creeping vines?  Either way, the image has been stuck in my mind ever since, and spoke to me as a reflection of how I would like to approach the so-called vines in my own life.

Aspiration is not something I am lacking.  Neither is inspiration, for the most part.  But unfortunately, I often find myself with an abundance of negativity in my life that discourages my growth.  Bursts of productivity and excitement are intermittently interrupted by ‘creeping vines’ of idleness and anxiety and envy.  It is not until I find a way to cut off their life-source and absorb the remnants – until the climbing, sneaking negativity is killed – that I can continue growing.

Lately I’ve been given an increased effort to figuring out exactly what I can do to proactively ward off the malicious tendrils.

WRITE OFTEN.  As someone who gets paid to write, this is rarely a problem for me, though I do have to make an intentional effort to write for myself.  I neglect my journal far too often than is good for my soul.

CONFRONT NEGATIVITY.  Perhaps it is a trademark of true adulthood that I am now able to recognize when I am being attacked, which gratefully allows me to confront what is holding me back head on.

STAY ACTIVE.  Endorphins are magic, am I right?  Running, yoga, yard work, gardening…activity feeds the soul.

BE FLEXIBLE.  Recognize that your plans are written on paper, not stone, and that most of what you experience is beyond your control (outside of your own reactions, of course).

BREATHE DEEPLY.  My anxious self is held at bay when I take a moment to breathe deeply, calming my heart rate and my mind.  Essentially, this is meditation, which I strongly believe in as a method to encourage well-being.

BE THANKFUL.  A while back, I listened to a TED talk about positive thinking.  I wish I could remember who the speaker was because his message really stuck with me.  One of his tips that has really worked well for me is practicing gratefulness by writing ON PAPER three things I am grateful for EVERYDAY.  After just a few days of doing this, recognizing the good in your life starts to become second nature. (UPDATE: Thanks to a quick-thinking friend of mine, I now know that this was Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think, Inc. and author of The Happiness Advantage.  Click here to watch his TED Talk.)

negativity

♥ The Midnight Mama

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What Kind of Girl Does America Want, Anyway? (on Miley Cyrus and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show)

Y’all, I’m confused.  And I’m hoping someone out there might be able to clear something up for me.

A few months ago, we – the American public – were confronted by this:

miley cyrus

Source: Huffington Post

And we all let out a collective groan of disgust that someone who was once a Disney channel icon for crying out loud could suddenly act so…so…disgusting.  Honestly I think most of us were confused.  (Can anyone explain what that foam finger was about?  Was that some sort of code that I’m missing out on now that I’m old and a parent?)

Foam-finger, tongue-wagging, and twerking aside, this was certainly not the first moment in Miley Cyrus history that made us all stop and scratch our heads.  The only difference was this time it sparked a nationwide debate about women, sexuality and the media.  (speaking of media…y’all do know there were, like, wars and stuff happening while we were busy talking about Miley Cryus, right??)

But I digress.

Months after Miley-gate had waxed and waned, I hopped onto Facebook late one evening to see what was going on in the world and was struck by the sheer number of posts discussing the highly-anticipated Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.  You know, the one where grown women parade around on stage looking like this:

victorias secret fashion show

Source: Business Insider

Okay, so yes, I do agree that these women are beautiful.  I mean they are drop-dead, brick-house, I-will-go-eat-my-weight-in-cookie-dough-thank-you-very-much gorgeous.

But let’s look past that for just one second and compare the situations above.

Exhibit A: Miley Cyrus, age 21, August 2013

miley cyrus

Source: Mirror UK

Exhibit B: VS Model Clara DeLevigne, age 21, December 2013

victorias secret fashion show

Hmmm…eerily similar…yet different?

When you get down to the bare bones of it, Miley and the VS models are not all that different.  Which is why I just can’t understand why we, as a culture, could be so utterly disgusted by the former and so openly approving of the latter.  Which is it America?  Do you want girls to be sluts or not?  I can’t figure out what you are looking for…

To be perfectly honest, I do not have a major problem with the idea of lingerie models or nudity, for that matter.  The human body – both male and female – is a beautiful thing, and I am certainly in the camp that we can enjoy the beauty of this creation without crossing the line into something that is profane or degrading to either gender.

What I have major beef with is the message that our double standard is sending to girls (and boys) everywhere: feel free to be as sexual as you want, as long as you at least pretend to be innocent.

In defense of Miley Cyrus (yes, defense!), I honestly think she knew what she was doing – at least to some degree – and saw the irony in it.  Her interview with Josh Eells at Rolling Stone Magazine is worth a read. She said she wasn’t serious, and, well, I sort of believe her.  I can appreciate wanting to overstep boundaries for the sake of a reaction (though I can’t say I appreciate her methods).

But I simply cannot defend the reactions of the media and our society, who hold contempt for one woman while applauding another for doing essentially the exact same thing.  This is NOT the message I want my daughter to build her identity around.

I do not consider either of these women to be good role models for my daughter.  And while I sympathize with those who cried “foul” at Miley’s risqué jaunt with Robin Thicke (who somehow came out of the VMA’s unscathed, by the way), I am dismayed that the folks who so loudly voiced their concern at her behavior seem to be the same ones applauding Victoria’s Secret for their questionable display of “fashion.”

Am I going too far to assume that the hyper-sexualization of women by Victoria’s Secret and other companies, and our approval as a culture, is at least somewhat to blame for Miley’s behavior?  What other lesson can she and other young women her age possibly take away from their culture besides the one that says they are sexual objects, here for the pleasure of others?  And if that is the case, what behavior might we expect other than what we have seen from Miley and others like her?

What I would like to see instead – and what I hope my daughter will see – is a society that values women for their achievements, their intelligence, and their contributions rather than their ability to wear a bra and fake angel wings on live television…

♥ The Midnight Mama

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Blogger Love: Oh Happy Day + A Contest

First of all, if you aren’t following Jordan Ferney at Oh Happy Day, shame on you because she has the b.e.s.t. DIY tutorials and party ideas.  If ever I’m feeling blue, I just take a gander at her Pinterest page and instantly get a mood boost from all the wonderful cheerfulness of it all.   I mean just look at her…totally adorable.

ohhappyday

Photo Credit: Oh Happy Day

And now is a great time to start following her blog because Oh Happy Day is part of a holiday blogger contest with the home design brand Serena & Lily, and you can enter for a chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree.

SerenaandLily

Photo Credit: Oh Happy Day Bog | Paul Ferney

Just visit the Serena & Lily Facebook page and vote for the Oh Happy Day holiday moment (pictured above) for a chance to win!

serena&lily

Photo Credit: Serena & Lily | SerenaandLily.com

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Winter on the Farm

I can’t even begin to describe how crazy the last few weeks have been.  Our lives have been changing at a rate that’s on pace with Lada Gaga’s wardrobe.

But in the midst of all of this, we have been consciously choosing to take breaks.  Even though we are now blessed to be surrounded by free babysitters…I mean, family…it can still be a challenge to allow ourselves to take advantage of their proximity and give ourselves some time to unwind.  So for us, choosing to hand over Little H for a few hours has been a deliberate effort.

I am always hesitant to step away but once I do, I am never disappointed.  Recently we drove the short distance out to my father-in-law’s farm outside of town to hopefully hunt down a Christmas tree.  The tree hunt was unsuccessful but we had the best time wandering our the land with just the two of us while Little H played inside the warm house with her Nana.

I was quickly transported back to the first years of our relationship, when we were so carefree and yet so unaware of our freedom.  We would hike around and ride the four-wheelers for hours, exploring beaver ponds and following cow paths through the woods.  I have been so distracted by the chaos of our new life as parents that I had forgotten how nice it was to just be, at least for a little while.

 

lance pond

creek

water depth

grass

fungi

juniper
giant leaf



 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Fun Times, Life Lately, Self-Love Rituals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments