I am so excited to share today’s post! Not because I’m an expert on this topic by any means, but because so many of y’all have asked for it which I’m assuming means we could all use encouragement in. To be perfectly honest, I have written these over the span of a few months and I have found myself not doing some of them at times because I simply forgot so I’m not perfect at these all the time so I’m bookmarking this post to remind myself often.
I feel like by this point, if you read my blog, it’s understood, but I’m simply sharing what has worked for me. There are a thousand different ways to do things. I don’t necessarily think my way is the only way.
So here’s how I find balance being a work at home mom:
CREATE YOUR TEAM
1. I have an assistant that comes every Wednesday for 4ish hours. I can’t remember when my first assistant started but it was sometime soon after Vivi was born and I have had one ever since! (I’m actually looking for one now as my current assistant is moving away! 🙁 ) Consolidating our ship day to one day a week makes it affordable to hire an assistant. Anytime you can batch work, you will save time meaning hiring an assistant for 4 hours once a week instead of 5 days a week for an hour or 2 a day. As far as the journals go, the only thing I do throughout the week besides Wednesday, is answer emails about orders and order more inventory and packaging. The rest of my work time is on wedding invitations and business admin type things. I know hiring is a hard option to commit to. I shipped out those first 100 orders over two days when Vivi was only 2 weeks old. It’s possible to do on your own but if you have a shop, hiring help is normally well worth the cost.
2. Vivi goes to Mother’s Day Out on Tuesday and Thursdays from 9 – 2. This is where I get a lot of work done during the week. When she first started, I had the mommy guilt feeling and would tell myself “But I’m actually home. Why am I sending her away if I CAN watch her?” I rationalized that it was good for her socially and now that she’s been going a few months, she laughs and kicks her legs so hard when we get to her class. She LOVES her teachers and the kids and I love that she gets that time to be independent from me. If you are on a budget (who isn’t?) Mother’s Day Out is a great option. It breaks down to $4 an hour which is impossible to beat AND she’s also learning about the Lord through music and Christian teachers and more as she gets older. Don’t let the price scare you of the quality. This is an outreach and ministry for moms through local churches! I also have a babysitter that I depend on in busy seasons (like during Tinsel & Treasure) but for consistent weekly sitting, MDO has been incredibly affordable. I know any sort of day care seems out of the question but I thought about it this way, if I am able to make more than an extra $160 with the extra hours of work, it’s so worth it.
STREAMLINE YOUR WORKLOAD
3. I did lots of prep BEFORE pregnancy. THIS is a BIG one. I spent several months of pregnancy streamlining processes that I did a hundred times and I knew I would do a hundred more times. I got rid of Baby, Holiday and Grad cards because the time I spent on them was not worth what I profited off of them. I go over some more specific details in one-on-one sessions for stationery shops if y’all need more tips but the most helpful thing I can say is to ask yourself how can I take steps out of this process by preparing in advance?
4. I say no ALOT. Motherhood has forced me to do this. There are projects I’d love to do, but when I think about whether it’s worth it to spend 3 of my 16 hours (at the most!) of work time a week on, it’s easier to say no. I don’t do work that is not worth my time. Plain and simple. This was NOT the case when I was starting out, so I think it doesn’t hurt to learn the hard way. There are things I learned from the mistakes I made that are ingrained in my brain forever.
5. I figured out what my time is worth. Write down what your time is worth, how much time certain projects take so you know whether to say yes to certain jobs. This goes hand in hand with #4. If you know how long something takes and someone says they can only pay half, you know it’s not a good use of your time. There are of course exceptions to the rule like great causes you want to support, but these are exceptions and you will know in your heart whether they are worth it without even evaluating dollars and cents. It’s also a good idea to figure out how much pro-bono work you can do each year keeping in mind, you are running a business.
6. I am considering some sort of auto-response email. As VMP grows, I get more emails about different random things and am spending a lot more time on email. I would love to be able to respond to everything but #4 and #5 have taught me that I can’t if I want to have any sort of balance in my life. I haven’t implemented one yet, but I have several friends that have set up an auto-response email that addresses several of the common emails they receive and may point them to helpful information or blog posts for designers looking for tips or help or an assistant’s email or letting anyone looking for donations know they are currently full.
EVALUATE YOUR GOALS
7. I took a pay cut. I bring home about 75% of what I did before Vivi was born. In the new year, Vivi will go to MDO 3 days a week instead of 2 days and I’ll be giving myself a raise since I’ll have a bit more work time, but this was a decision we made. It means I can spend a little less time working and a little more time making our house a place we all find rest and joy in after a long day.
8. I don’t make a million dollars. I didn’t before my pay cut and I certainly don’t now. ; ) There are things we don’t spend money on right now, which means I don’t have to work as much. Our cars are paid off. We no longer have a gym membership and have never really had cable or designer anything.
9. I set ambitious but realistic goals NOT based on my pre-Vivi schedule. It’s easy to forget to change our mindset when we have a baby. We are so used to doing a certain thing. Adjusting goals to fit your new lifestyle will mean you won’t get frustrated or feel defeated when you can’t meet nearly impossible goals. Seeing progress is motivating so make it manageable.
10. I celebrate. There are days I wish I could do more, make more money, work with more brides, get more features, etc. Then I remember that I’m getting to do what I love and stay home with Vivi. That reminder puts things into perspective for me.
KEEP HOME LIFE SIMPLE AND FOCUSED
11. I try not to clean during naps. Vivi takes a morning and afternoon nap, each for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours. I actually try to do a quick tidy about 15 minutes before she goes to sleep so I am not distracted by the mess. This is usually enough time to have the place decent.
12. Vivi doesn’t have a lot of toys. This might sound weird to throw in here, but clean up takes very little time. Our house stays clean most days (except the sink!) so if someone needs to pop by, I’m not frantic and I don’t spend her whole naptime cleaning up.
13. Sometimes I multitask. Multitasking gets a bad rap. It’s hard to give our full attention to our kids when we are folding clothes or doing dishes, BUT in the same way Vivi needs social time at “school”, she also needs time to play by herself so I do some chores while she’s playing by herself. My goal is that atleast one of her stretches of awake time morning, lunch or afternoon is spent just us playing together.
INVEST TIME IN BABY/SLEEP TRAINING
I know a lot of the above info won’t help at all if your little one isn’t sleeping much, if at all, so here are a few things that I think have helped Vivi become a good sleeper.
14. Sleep training started at the hospital. I remember reading that you should let them sleep in the bassinet at the hospital instead of just in someone’s arms just so they would learn how to sleep alone. I know lots of moms who had babies sleep just in their arms for the first 6 weeks and they were perfectly happy with it so if you do something different, that’s obviously fine. I love Vivi more than I ever knew I could BUT I also love my time alone while she naps and needed it to work so I asked Tyler to help me remember our end goal of getting her to sleep by herself even when I just wanted to cuddle her all night.
15. We have a fixed, but flexible schedule. This really helped me probably more than Vivi. I knew what to expect for actual work time and she got in a routine as well. The days were predictable enough to where I knew how much work I could do in a day without being TOO overly ambitious. There were still plenty of days during growth spurts or teething where I couldn’t put her down but these were the exception to the rule rather than the rule. I have heard a few moms ask for advice on getting work done when their babies don’t sleep for longer than 30 minutes. The best advice I can give for getting work done is to focus on stretching out their naps and consider trying different sleep methods to see how your child does. If Vivi slept for only 30 minutes here or there, I don’t think I’d get anything done either! It’s such a short time so in my opinion, stretching the naps is what will ultimately help productivity. So fixed schedule BUT flexible. This just means we aren’t so by the book that I am ignoring Vivi’s needs. She loves the routine but can get off schedule and I just kind of roll with it.
16. Go to bed early. Wake up early. OR Go to bed late, wake up late if you are a night owl. Vivi goes to sleep around 7:30 and Tyler and I eat, watch TV, chat, tidy up and bathe, read and go to bed by 9:30 or 10. That way I can wake up at 5 or 5:30 to read my Bible and tackle things like this blog post. Vivi wakes up around 7:30 or 8 so I have a good chunk of time to spend with the Lord, prepare for the day and even get a jumpstart on work. Again, I know her sleep schedule is a big factor. One thing I make sure to do is to have that first feed of the day at 8. If she wakes up before 8, we go for a walk, which she loves. This has helped her not get in the habit of eating earlier and slowly inching her wake up time earlier.
17. Vivi knows how to play by herself. If I am having a crazy work day, week or month, I normally spend her awake time in the morning working while she is happiest and can play by herself the best. This is strategic of course. I know her temperment and she’s much more likely to stay entertained after a hearty breakfast. She’s definitely a morning girl. I wish I knew how to tell you how you train a kid to play by themselves, but I’m guessing it’s just letting them play by themselves. Since she was a few months old, I’d let her roll around on a blanket next to the kitchen while I did dishes and she has slowly extended the time she can play by herself.
18. I keep an open perspective and look for solutions. As WAHM’s we have to be flexible because their schedule seems like it’s always changing and we just have to work around it. When Vivi’s naps started getting shorter, I thought it was the end of the any productivity and whined a bit about it, BUT then she started being able to feed herself and I could pull her chair up to the kitchen and get dishes done while she ate. Also, she doesn’t sleep as much but she entertains herself more so if I have to work while she’s up, it’s not impossible. We just have to get creative and work WITH our kids.
19. I don’t fight it. There are days like after 4 month shots or rough teething days where I really just have to say “I’m not going to get anything done today and that is OK.” When I mentally decide that, I stop getting frustrated with Vivi and actually enjoy the time with her just getting to be her mom and comfort her.
So there you have it! What tips would y’all add?? Leave a comment below sharing what has worked for you!
Below are a bunch of Instagram photos of Vivi “helping momma work.”
Love these tips, Val. Being a work at home Mom and finding that balance is so tough. Going to incorporate some of these!
I love this. Being a work at home mom is tough. Thanks for sharing your tips. Some of these will be changing the way work gets done around here!
Thanks for sharing this!! It was super helpful to hear from another working mom, it’s not easy but so worth it!
Valerie, cannot even BEGIN to say how awesome this post is! As a fellow WAHM, it encouraged me so much! A few of your points were reiteration of what I already do but wondered if it was actually helping me being effective; seeing them in writing and with your reasoning for them just made it feel like an ah-ha moment. But some of your points were absolute lightbulbs to me! Thank you for your transparency in sharing your mom tips! I know it’s easy to feel like every other mom is observing the way we do things with a critical eye, but this was such a huge help for me! THANK YOU!
Yay!!! I’m so glad to hear that Mandy!! I’m so curious, which ones were light bulbs? I may have more up my sleeve for a few of these!
Holy cow, I needed to hear this today 🙂 I’m a single mama to my 5-month old Poppy, work part-time at a design firm, freelance design on my own, plus run my shop Paper + Oats, so I feel the mom-guilt you talked about ALL the time! Being a mom is the toughest job in the world, and so many days I feel like I’m not present with her. My daughter is on a similar schedule as yours, so your ideas about spending at least one chunk of her awake time not working and completely engaged with her is a great idea. And you are so right, I need to just tell myself that somedays I won’t get done what I wanted to get done and that’s ok. Aaaand she’s waking up now, so that’s all I got! 🙂 Thanks again for this post, it is a huge encouragement to know other WAHM’s go through the same!
Definitely filing this one away 🙂