On my to do list today is write a blog post. I’m quickly finding that writing is becoming a creative outlet for me to get thoughts, feelings, and ideas out of my head. It’s like a therapy of sorts. For the last hour and a half, I’ve been struggling to get Poppy to sleep for her morning nap. I’m at the point where if she starts crying one more time, I’m just throwing in the towel on the morning nap and hoping for the best this afternoon. Any other mamas reached this point lately?! I find that I easily get frustrated by her fussiness and lack of sleeping because it means time away from my work. Next comes the guilt for feeling this way. And then the reminder, usually from a fellow mama’s Instagram post about a similar struggle, that my daughter should come first, and my business second.
I take my creative business very seriously because it is the only source of income for me and my Poppy girl. It’s how I make my living, put food on the table, and keep the lights on. If my income takes a dip, I feel it. There’s no spousal income to fall back on, so I often feel a lot of pressure to keep moving my business forward. But I’m also a mom, and sometimes I forget that. It’s been a battle for me trying to find the balance between single motherhood (or just motherhood, period!) and solo entrepreneurship. I am in the trenches of this battle and have, by no means, figured it out yet. But today’s post is meant to be an encouragement to other mompreneurs who are fighting a similar battle to find that sweet spot of blending the roles of mom and business owner. As I wrote this post, I realized I had a lot to say on the subject, so it's split into two parts. Let’s dive into the first few things I’ve noticed as I struggle to find this balance.
Realize that working from home with kids is not glamorous
Working from home sounds like a glorious existence to a lot of people who work normal 9-5 jobs. They may think that as a work-at-home mom, you get to lounge around in yoga pants all day, binge on Netflix, and happily play peek-a-boo until your faces hurt from smiling. Yes, there are perks to working from home [re: yoga pants], and yes, there are days when everything goes according to plan and your day could be compared to a perfectly posed stock photo. But these are not most days. A peek into an average day for me looks like a constant toggle between the laptop and baby toys. Switching my brain from mom mode to business mode about 50 times a day, which is no exaggeration.
Pause for a moment, while I go soothe my napless baby...
Ok, I’m back. She refused to nap AGAIN, so we went on an hour-long walk until she fell asleep, and now she’s strapped in her stroller parked next to the kitchen table, snoring away, so I can get back to writing this post. This is the life of a work-at-home mom. Yes, I’m so thankful I get to stay home and raise my daughter instead of being stuck in an office all day, but holy mother, this is hard work. The perfectly styled photos you see on Instagram? They’re staged. Even I’m guilty of it. You want others to see your life as a perfectly styled coffee cup next to a completed to do list and vase of fresh peonies. These glamorous images are beautiful and motivational, and heck, I post them from time to time too. But please know that just beyond that 2 inch square there are screaming kids, spilled juice, and barking dogs.
Being a work-at-home mom is not glamorous work, it is hard work. But the flip-side? It’s totally worth it to us. It’s worth it mother our children, even in the midst of their tantrums. It’s worth it build a business from the ground up with our own two hands. It’s worth it to show our kids that hard work does bring about a harvest.
Know your office hours and try to stick to them
Once my maternity leave was over, I had the opportunity to continue working for my day job from home as a designer for a small agency. Five minutes into Day One, I realized my entire perspective on office hours needed a serious adjustment. My day now revolved around this tiny human, and she did not care about my deadlines. Before kids, I could work at a leisurely pace and complete projects and tasks on my own schedule. Post baby, I tried to continue this mentality, but quickly realized those days were long gone. After a few breakdowns, I realized I had to shift my expectations for my day to be much more intentional.
I was trying to blend my two roles as mother and designer, when what I needed to do was separate them. I was stressed out of my mind trying to keep Poppy entertained so I could answer a simple email. A task that normally would take maybe 5 minutes, turned into 20 minutes or more. And any task that required focus and concentration was nearly impossible with a baby around. So I figured out a new system – I stepped back to look at what my typical days looked like as a mother, and built my work schedule around that. My office hours became nap time and bedtime. I forced myself to be present with her when she was awake, so that I could be focused and intentional with my time when she was asleep. By no means have I mastered this — I have to remind myself of my office hours daily! But bit by bit, I’m getting better at shutting the laptop, putting down my phone, and just being with her. Again, I am still learning how to do this whole mompreneur thing, but on the days I embrace my new office hours, my stress level goes way down, and I notice a huge improvement in my overall mood and attitude. I still have my moments of frustration and guilt, but slowly Poppy and I are figuring each other out.
For you, maybe you’re a morning person and your main office hours are before the sun (and baby!) is up. Maybe your spouse takes over parenting in the evening, so you can get some work done. Or maybe you’re like me, and you’re a night owl. 8pm to midnight is your jam. Figure out the times of day when you feel your most creative and that are realistic for you to actually spend quality time on your business, without distraction. It’ll make you feel more present during the time you spend with your kids, and more productive with the time you spend on your business.
Ok, I have 3 more tips for you on finding your balance between motherhood and your creative business, but this mama’s tired and this word count is getting up there, so I’ll be back next week to share these last few tips with you. Plus Poppy just woke up . . . so . . . ya know. Gotta switch to mom mode.
What are your struggles with juggling motherhood and business? How do you find balance? Or maybe it's realizing there is no balance? Anyone else feel like their work day starts at 8pm?
Photography by Adie Gateley at Salt & Sky Studios