How I balance being a workaholic + a work-at-home mom

 
How to balance being a workaholic + a work-at-home mom – by Paper + Oats (www.paperandats.com)

Hi my name is Kelsey, and I’m a workaholic. How does that saying go – entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week for themselves, so they can avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else? Couldn’t be more true! I’ve always been a workaholic, whenever it’s work I’m passionate about. So when Paper + Oats got off the ground in 2013, the workaholic in me was in overdrive. I worked 9-5 at my day job, then came home and worked all evening on Paper + Oats. That timeline stuck until July 9, 2014, when I realized that wasn’t really going to work anymore. That was the day I became a mother (without a spouse, no less!), and I knew my workaholic schedule was about to change forever.

My day job gave me 6 weeks off for paid maternity leave, and I ended up taking 6 more weeks without pay to have extra time with my new little baby bird. But about 6-8 weeks into the maternity leave, I was itching to work again, so Paper + Oats got all my attention for the last few weeks (as much attention as one can muster with a newborn at home, amiright?!). I got a taste of working 100% for myself from home, and it would be another 6 months before I would officially leave my day job for that life. But it was during this time that I realized I might not be able to be a workaholic AND a work-at-home mom. 

This cute little human needed my attention, so my business couldn’t be center-stage anymore. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t have both.

I’ve learned a lot of things as a “recovering” workaholic who also happens to be a mom. Here's a few of those lessons.

 

1. Know when to stop.

This is probably the number one struggle workaholics have, right?! We can’t. stop. working. 😵 It’s a blessing and a curse. But it’s the one thing we need to be disciplined about, so we don’t neglect our other responsibilities – such as raising a tiny human.

I use my own little version of time-blocking to help me plan out my days. (You can read even more about how I plan my days, weeks, months, and even years, in this popular post.) I give myself a handful of tasks for each day, knowing I’ll need to do the most intense work while Poppy is at preschool (only 2 days a week), is having some down time, is napping (rare these days!), or after she goes to bed. Other smaller tasks can fit into the other pockets throughout the day – whenever she’s playing independently, and I have 30 minutes to an hour to knock out some small stuff.

The trick I’ve learned with this type of planning-with-a-toddler-at-home, is that I have to know when to stop. Sometimes if I get all my tasks done earlier than expected, I want to add another one on the list for tomorrow so I can get ahead. But wait — didn’t I plan my days like this so I can have the time AWAY from work? So why am I adding more?! This is where I have to know when to stop – when to close the computer, step away from my desk, and be fully present with Poppy.

Other times, one of us (or both of us!) is having an off day, and I can tell I'm not going to get everything done on my list. So I pick a few things to move to another day (or outsource... holla to my new VA!), finish the absolute necessities, and then close up shop for the day. Working with a split-attention span is going to take twice as long — a losing game for both of us — so why bother?

 

2. When you’re off, be off.

Another curse of the workaholic – you never really turn it off. Even when you’re not physically sitting at your computer, your brain is still spinning with ideas + strategies + planning + research. Even though it doesn’t feel like work, doesn’t mean it’s not work… and it doesn’t mean you don’t need a break from it. Yes, you even need a break from the not-really-working-work. 😉 You know, the mindless Instagram scrolling while you’re sitting with your kid watching Daniel Tiger. You’re still looking at what everyone else is doing, you're thinking about how strategies + ideas could apply to your own business, you’re thinking Gosh, her photos have the cutest props, maybe I need to buy some more stuff for photos. (No, you do not need to buy some more stuff for photos.)

It may not feel like work to you, but when your little one looks over and sees you on your phone – to them, you’re working. You’re not engaged. And don’t feel guilty, cause I’m preaching to the choir here! I do it way more than I’d like to admit, and it’s been a struggle to really turn it all off when I know I need to.

 

3. Take time for yourself.

This last one has gotten easier the more I’ve done it, and I can totally see the value in it. As a single mom, I get very little time to do anything for just me. I do so much to take care of Poppy, and when she’s away at her dad’s house or at school, that’s my focused work time. So what about ME time?! I realized quickly I had 3 things that needed TLC on the regular – my kid, my business, and myself 😉

This looks like stepping away from the computer AND from the kids. Self-care, some call it...

  • I like to go get my nails done every few weeks and zone out for 45 minutes watching whatever they have on the TV in the salon.
  • Rather than working into the evening when Poppy is away, I like to shut it all down on occasion, drag a quilt to the couch, pour a glass of wine, and catch up on my shows for the week.
  • I like to travel to see friends and family who live around the country, and NOT take my computer. Try it, it’s liberating!

 

So, yes, you can be a workaholic AND a work-at-home mom, but you just have to learn some discipline, self-control, and self-care. Your kids are watching. You are a role model, as they see you working hard at your dreams. But if it comes at their expense, it loses its luster. Then it turns into a fight for your attention, and I, for one, don’t want Poppy to have to fight for that. Sometimes she literally says to me, put down your phone, Mommy! If that’s not a wake-up call coming out a two-year-old’s mouth, I don’t know what is!

And I've noticed – the more you're aware of your workaholic tendencies + actively trying to keep them at bay, the easier it gets. And you'll slowly start to feel less guilty for not working... I know, shocker!

But remember – no guilt tripping. Hard work ethic is a GOOD quality, and your kids will benefit from seeing that in you everyday at home. Just remember to step away from it when they need you. And I’ll try better, too.


Your Turn

Are you a workaholic? What boundaries do you put in place to make sure you’re not giving to more to your business than your family? What do you do to take care of YOU? 


 

Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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