I’m always curious how other moms work at home AND take care of their small children. With a 14 month old, a 3.5 year old, and a very busy husband, working can be really difficult. But over the last couple of years, I’ve done some things that have made it work and have been able to grow my business.
I’m a teacher turned graphic designer, so a TON of time had to go into the beginning stages of learning Photoshop AND running an Etsy shop. I remember spending hours into the morning learning all about Photoshop, watching YouTube videos one after the other, and perfecting designs. Needless to say, there were many nights of just a few hours of sleep (and sadly, still are). But it paid/pays off.
I had to find systems that helped me transition into a work at home role and succeed as a small business owner, while also being a good mom. I definitely do not think I have this mastered, but do think I’ve been able to help support our family financially while staying home with our kiddos.
Here are some things I’ve learned about working at home:
1. Have a good planner/calendar
It’s key to be organized both personally and in your business. I write down almost everything. From doing laundry to when my sales tax is due. I have the Plum Paper calendar. It has a weekly template behind each month-at-a-glance calendar. I use the weekly view to write down my to-do’s each day. To be honest, I’m in the works of creating my own daily page that’s suited to my lifestyle/work, but this works for now.
2. Find a good time to work
This is the hardest part about being a work at home mom. From the moment your kids wake to when they go to bed, you’re taking care of them, especially when they’re so young and dependent. The beauty of young children is they take naps (well my 3 year old doesn’t, but I’ll get to that in a moment), so this may be a good time to get some work done, even though you have one million other household things to do as well.
When Maddox (15 months) takes his nap, I set Beckham (3, almost 4) up with a couple of shows or some activities like play dough, Legos (or anything in his playroom), or a coloring book (he only JUST got into sitting down and doing something like this). I hate using the T.V. as entertainment, but let’s be honest, I do!
The other major time I use to get some work done is after the kids go to bed. Once the kids are in bed (M by 8:00, B by 8:30 or so), I clean up the kitchen and then get busy around 9:30ish! I’m a night owl and this is the best time for me to work. I’d love to transition into working in the morning, but I’ve failed at every attempt, so I’m sticking with this for now. The problem with working at night is there really isn’t a stopping point (no kids to wake up and make you stop). I go until I hit that point of “I’m going to hate life tomorrow if I don’t get into bed.” Sadly, I go past that point often. I go to bed any time between 12-2am. I wake up around 7:30 with the kids. Yes, I hurt
some most mornings, but the work has paid off and it kind of comes with juggling mom by day and work by night. Speaking of no sleep…
3. Get some sleep… or don’t
I could argue both ways how sleep (or lack there of) improves your business. Robert on Shark Tank once said he sleeps 4 hours at night. He’s quite successful so maybe he’s onto something. Just kidding. Although less sleep provides more hours to work and make money, it can also have negative effects on your health, which can in turn effect your work. For me, I’ve noticed less hours of sleep really wears on me after a few nights. Now that I’m in more of a groove with my business, I can choose to get more sleep if I need, but when you love what you do, I find it hard to go to sleep when I could design a new printable (and often times I need to stay up late to fulfill orders during busy seasons). Where my lack of sleep effects me negatively is in motherhood (and as a wife). I’m short with my kids/husband and when I don’t have energy during the day, my kids will totally make me pay. I don’t want to be that kind of mother/wife, only to make money. My thoughts are that this is a season of life that may have less sleep in it, but it’s still important to make that a goal. My body thrives on 8 hours of sleep and I’ll continue to make that my goal.
4. Have your own space
If you can, having your own space can really put your mind in “work mode” versus working on a lap top on the couch with the TV. When you work at home it can be tough to differentiate the two, so having your own space can give you the feel of “going to work.” Right now, my work space is next to our kitchen, kind of in the breakfast nook area. Although I have plans to move it someday to our study (currently a playroom) or a bedroom (when the boys share a room), this is what I do for now. At night my husband watches TV which is directly behind me as I work, so I can often get swept up in a show while I’m “working.” This is why I can’t wait to have a room designated to it, but I’m grateful for a space and the opportunity to even work.
5. Set yourself up for success
This could be a number of things, but for me this is having a clean space. If my house is clean, I work SO much better. Since the kitchen is right next to my desk, I have to have it clean if I sit down at my computer. At least the counters clean with dishes in the sink. I also like to light a candle or turn on my Scentsy. Maybe for some it’s getting dressed from head to toe, make-up included, to be successful, or listening to music while you work, or closing all your social media tabs on your computer (this kills me sometimes). When the space around me is clean, my head is cleared of clutter and I can concentrate better. I also like to sip on coffee while I work.
6. Take a break
I don’t mean a break during the day, as I don’t have much time to work anyways, but a break as you would at a regular job. My shop is open all day everyday and my turn around time for most printables is 48 hours. Therefore, I fulfill orders on the weekends (although I try and avoid Sundays). Given that, I take a good break after Christmas. Christmas is one of the busiest times for most Etsy shops so I take about 2 weeks off and close my shop. It’s the most freeing and wonderful feeling. And I’m ready to jump back into things once that time is over. I’ll also close the shop for any vacations we take during the year…or you know, when I had a baby. I’m also big on relaxing and having fun once during the week and on the weekends. I like to get pedicures once a month, have a moms night out, or even play dates where I can chat with other moms while the kids play. I also do MOPS twice a month, which is a great 3 hour break to fellowship with other moms while the kids are in child care. And I love reserving weekends for family. An hour at the gym while the kids are in the care center is also amazing (we’re still working on Maddox warming up to it…I feel guilty dropping him off, so I’ll sometimes avoid it).
7. Prep dinner wisely
I have a love/hate relationship with dinner. I love cooking and could literally spend hours in the kitchen, but I also hate it. There is something about pre-dinner time that kids also hate. They could be great all day and then once I prep dinner, it’s a whole new ballgame. Therefore, I try to prep dinner at lunch time or right when Maddox goes down for his nap (and have B “help” me). Whether that’s chopping something up, browning meat, marinating chicken, putting together a casserole or dish, throwing something in the crock pot, or making one part of the dinner, it all helps a little. I’ve also learned to make simple dinners or eat after the kids go to bed. And eat leftovers. I’m the kind of girl that likes a new dinner every night, and a really delicious one. These days though, even Cheerios can be extremely tiring to make. I mean, getting out that milk and pouring it can be too much sometimes. I wish I was kidding.
8. Pay for part time child care
This seems silly to suggest if you’re truly a work at home/stay at home mom, but a little help can be powerful. I struggled with this a lot when Beckham was almost 2 years old and I had been doing my Etsy shop for over a year. I felt like I needed to take care of him all day, everyday. I was finding it harder and harder to work and also wanting to spend time doing it. I was making more money and thought I could be more productive if I had a few hours to dedicate to getting things done without taking care of a baby. Two days after pre-schools had started, I finally decided to put him in a two day week pre-school program. Thankfully, they had a spot for him and it’s been an awesome investment, not only for me, but for my kids (I can only really speak for Beckham…Maddox has only been going a couple of weeks). I had M home with me last year while B went to school a couple of days and it reminded me how much stuff I used to get done during that time (last year was quite the adjustment and I just had to give up some things, but it was good time alone with my baby). Paying for child care will obviously depend on how much you’re making, but it can be great for the kids and also free up some time for work.
9. Ask for help at home
Again, I felt like the household duties AND child duties should be done by me. But I was wearing myself thin and watching Ryan relax (as he should be allowed to) while I spent the entire night getting everything done and working. One day he told me, “Olivia, I’m happy to help you where you need help, but I need you to tell me what you need help with.” Umm, wow, okay! I don’t know why I complicated it so much. Well, I do know…I like to do a lot of things myself, but you just can’t if you’re going to be a stay at home mom AND work at home. We have a white board on our fridge and throughout the day, I’ll write what I need help with at night when he gets home (or I’ll just tell him when he gets home). He helps a lot with after dinner kid duties, like going for a post dinner walk and/or bath time (usually while I’m cleaning up dinner). He’ll also take them for walks before dinner so I can make dinner if I need to. I hate unloading the dishwasher, so he’ll often do that for me as well. We’re a team and I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it.
10. Realize you can’t do it all
I just can’t. My #1 priority is my family. That is my ministry right now and my responsibility. I will work hard to support my family financially if possible, but I know God has called me to raise my children at home during this time in MY life. My kids are young and very dependent right now. It just doesn’t lend itself to a lot of work time…and that’s okay. I just have to realize I have a certain amount of time I can spend making money, and make it work in that allotted time. This is where social media can eat me alive. I compare myself to the BEST parts of other moms who have their kids at home and also a business, and I feel like I should being doing everything they’re doing. That is absurd and impossible. I’ll work hard at motherhood, being a good wife, and my business, and I believe God will bless that.
The key? Remembering I’m created by God to flourish exactly where I am with hard work! He did not create anyone else like me and I need to celebrate that.
Do you have any tips for working at home? Or being more organized as a stay at home mom? Or for moms who work outside the home, how do you stay organized?