How I Balance Working From Home and Being a Mom

Tuesday, September 5, 2017
This morning, I was checking in on a few social media groups I frequent when I saw something that caught my eye. An article about work-from-home life, in which a mom of two was venting about how different freelancing from home has been compared to what she had imagined it would be when her kids went to school.

She had planned to write more, but found that all her "extra" time was quickly spoken for by other things. She was running to the grocery store, squeezing in exercise and volunteering at her kids school. By the end of the week, she was spending less than 17 hours working on her writing.

I get that. I have three kids at home and a spouse that works full-time. Every single day feels like a competition between at home life and my work-at-home life. Do I catch up on emails or clean the bathroom? Do I go for a walk or write a quick draft?

Even so, as I read through her essay it became really clear the me that the author was making one big mistake that was robbing her of her writing time. I know, because I've done it and I've talked with countless work-at-home moms who were doing the same thing.

She wasn't treating her job like a job.

Her job was the last on her to-do list. It always got pushed aside in favor of her "mom" tasks. That works OK if writing is your side thing or hobby. If you're just trying to make a couple hundred a month. It won't work, it doesn't work, if you want to freelance from home full-time.

That is why, when I get asked how I balance my work-from-home and mom life, my answer is always the same:

I set office hours.

It isn't a popular answer. I understand, I hated the idea at first, too! I became a work-from-home mom because of the mom part. I wanted to be home with my kids more. Why would I start setting office hours that would make me unavailable to my kids?

It wasn't until I tried and super failed at freelancing full-time and being available to my kids full-time that I realized that everyone, my kids included, benefited when I took my job and my time with them seriously enough to separate the two.

Now, before you peace out of here because I am telling you something you don't like, hear me out. I'm not at all suggesting you start working 9 to 5 at a coffee shop down the street while your kids are in daycare. Although you can certainly do that if it works for you, that is not at all what I mean when I say I have office hours.

The beauty of freelancing is that my office hours can be whenever I want.

For me, when I'm really rocking my schedule (and when my kids are sleeping at night) that looks like squeezing in a full 14 hours of work while they're still asleep. Getting up at five each morning allows for two solid hours of work each day and if I'm lucky, I can also squeeze in some yoga or shower before they rally. Outside of that, I have "office hours" three to four afternoons a week, depending on my workload. Usually, I spend the mornings with my kids, homeschooling and playing outside, and then when they sit down for lunch I head out to work while they're with my mom.

(Side note: I know what you're thinking. If you had a mom who could help full-time, you'd be freelancing full-time, too. You're right. It IS totally awesome that she is so available to help, but I have also hired a babysitter in the past and would totally do it again in the future. It's worth it.)

My working afternoons typically allow me to get in another 15 hours of uninterrupted work. That brings my weekly total up to just under 30. In my opinion, 30 hours is a sweet spot for making a healthy income freelancing. I know a lot of women who make pretty great money working these hours. These days, I'm doing more because I am working on a huge project, so I also have a few evenings a week where I pull a second shift, working from seven to 10 and I often work on Saturday mornings while my husband takes our kids to the park or to his parents to play.

It is a lot of juggling, but it really is ideal for our family. It allows me to spend a lot of time with my kids (eight or more waking hours each day!) and it allows me to do the job I love.

So, what about everything else?

Good question. I'm not about to pretend I've got this figured out. I'm still trying to figure out how to fit in exercise consistently and how to find time for restful activities for myself. Right now, I read a bit before bed each night and try to get exercise while I'm with my kids a few times a week (usually a hike or chasing my daughter while she rides her bike).

My mom and I cook dinner together when I get back from working in the afternoons. I do basic upkeep cleaning in the morning for half an hour or so while my kids play. On Fridays, if I am able, I do what I call my "better weekends checklist" which is seven things that keep my house "clean enough" like vacuuming and bathroom cleaning.

I have a full-enough social life, although it probably doesn't look that full. I'm an introvert so I don't need much. I have good friends in our homeschool co-op and our hiking groups I visit with during those activities. I meet up with a college girlfriend at story time or the park once or twice a month. I give up a few hours of sleep occasionally to have wine with a friend after my kids are in bed. We go to church and small group. My husband and I got out on a date one or two weekends out of the month.

I say no to the rest.

There is no magic answer.

I make working from home work for me because it is important to me and my lifestyle allows it. I think you can make it work, too.


P.S. Don't forget, I'm working on a five-day course filled with detailed instruction and exercises that will help you take the first steps towards your writing dream. 

It is going to be completely free to anyone subscribed to my email list and I am launching it on September 15th. I can't wait. Sign up for my newsletter to avoid missing out on the action. 

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