When my son was born almost 9(!) years ago, I made the decision to quit my job and stay home full-time with him. It may have been because he was born at the beginning of winter, but it was only a matter of months before I started getting antsy and looking for ways to return to the workforce. I knew I didn’t want to go back to the office full-time but I also wanted to work in some capacity.
I discovered that I could pick up jobs as a freelance writer pretty quickly and create my own schedule. Since my little guy was napping quite a bit this work suited me. I could be a fully attentive parent while he was awake and then pick up my computer and be productive in my work while he napped. I have now been working from home for close to 8 years, juggling two kids, a few moves, a health scare, and a dog along the way. It hasn’t always been fun and easy but it has allowed me to participate fully in my children’s lives while also working in a field that I love.
Through clever scheduling, a few ground rules and some hard core flexible thinking, I have figured out how to share my workspace with the (not-so)-little ones. When you exclusively work from home, physical boundaries between work and personal life can feel virtually nonexistent. Even the most organized can still find difficulty successfully managing a career and a household in the same space.
The following are a few key strategies I implement throughout the day to be successful, bring my whole self to work, and be present in my life. Over the years these have changed a bit, but the idea of creating a healthy balance for me to feel successful remains the same.
I make it a priority to be transparent from the get go to whomever I may be talking to that I am working from home. That way, if a child does bust into my “office” or the dog starts barking (and she always does) I can just keep going without having to explain away the background noise.
I try *** to wake up an hour earlier than my children to set daily goals, check email and plan so when my children wake up, I can focus on breakfast and school prep knowing that I already accomplished something before I actually started my day.
Giving your full attention to a specific task, regardless of whether it's work- or home-related, can be tough with all the distractions that pop up throughout the day. I want to give so much to my family and so much to my work and it can be a real struggle to divide time between the two, especially because they both happen in the same space. What is most helpful for me is to set aside specific times on my schedule for my personal and professional to-dos. Dedicating time to one area (like answering emails!) helps me stay focused during those moments and ensure I'm giving my all to the task at hand.
“Turn off” my business
Although being connected and communicative with my team is important, it's equally important to shut off when the day is over. If I make myself available all hours of the day, it will quickly become an expectation and work-life balance ceases to exist. I set general working hours, which is communicated to my coworkers. That way, no one is expecting me to be available around the clock.
Take time to unwind
I recently discovered the value of creating “white space”, a transitional time between work and non-work to reset. Meditation, having a cup of tea, stepping outside for some fresh air, and doing stretches are great ways to spend "white space" time. It allows me to turn my “work” brain off and turn my “mom” brain on.
What worked for the toddler (race to the computer to get two hours of solid work time while he naps!) has changed dramatically with the preschoolers (schedule a playdate and practice some hands-off parenting to snag a few sneaky hours) to now school-agers (fill the school day a chunk of work). But it has all been worth it. Spending time and being available to my family is one of the key reasons I work from home.
With a lot of flexibility, I have discovered it is possible to have a successful professional career and a fulfilling personal life.
Balancing motherhood and a career is always a work in progress. For more on how the Gild team finds that sweet spot be sure to read, “Through the Lens of Motherhood: Returning to Work.”