The picture of work at home moms is a beautiful one. You might imagine that you type out perfect articles while your sweet toddler snuggles quietly on your lap, or perhaps you envision waking up extra early to conquer your business tasks for the day before your kids and husband are even up.
Well, at least, that’s how I like to picture working at home. In reality, it is more like promising a client a tight turnaround on an article only to have your children decide this is the week to boycott naps and sleeping through the night. Other days, the urgency of getting your editor what they need or getting your pitch in before the other hungry writers competes with your literally hungry children. Um, didn’t I just feed you?
Motherhood is messy regardless if you work or not, and I am truly thankful to be able to make money and pursue passions while still keeping my family number one on my priority list. Here are the top 20 tips I have learned from the past 4.5 years of being a work at home mom.
1. Sleep Schedules Are King
Both of my kids are Babywise babes. The first slept 12 hours at 10 weeks, the second, not so much. My second still wakes up several times throughout the night at almost two years old (but can thankfully put herself back to sleep now), but is in bed for 12 hours.
Sleep schedules can be hard to integrate at first, but they are my number one lifesaver. My children go to bed earlier than most kids at around 6:00-6:30 p.m. They sleep until 6:00-6:30 a.m. – sometimes 11.5 hours, sometimes 12.5 hours. The predictability of the schedule
2. Routines Are Queen
If sleeping schedules are king, then routines are the queen. I don’t believe in hard schedules, i.e. eat breakfast at 7:05 a.m. on the dot. However, I am a big believer in following the same routine most days. It makes the day go smoother and helps you to be more productive.
3. Create Several To-Do Lists
Having one giant to-do list is kind of crazy. If it works for you, then stick with it. However, I find it more helpful to have a to-do list for the different areas of my life. For example, I have a cleaning checklist, daily homeschool to-do list, daily writing to-do list, an ongoing list for my books, an ongoing list for my blog, and an ongoing list for home projects.
I feel that this helps me focus more. When I have guests coming over in 30 minutes, I don’t want to look at my to-do list and be reminded that I need to write an article. Similarly, when I am ready to work, I don’t want to be reminded that I desperately need to wash everyone’s sheets.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Hire Help
I was very hesitant to hire a babysitter, but it ended up being the best thing I could do for myself and my work. Now, I needed the break from the kids (and they needed a break from me), regardless if I worked or not.
Having a babysitter come allowed me to get a mental break, even though I was writing. I come home refreshed on those days, and it has even helped my marriage since I don’t dump the kids on my husband when he walks through the door.
5. Be Present
I find that the more present I am with my children in the morning, the less needy they are throughout the day. I really try to engage with them and lavish them in snuggles and love so that their love meters get full for the day. This allows me to tackle chores and other mommy tasks later in the day without much resistance.
Of course, this does not always work out perfectly. There have been many days where my youngest has been attached to my hip while I sweated through making dinner.
6. Don’t Waste Nap Time
Nap time is your golden hour. Do not waste it on cleaning or social media. Spend it doing the one thing that will impact your day and goals the greatest. For some, this will mean working out, and for others, this will mean working on their business.
7. And Implement Quiet Time for Kids
I stopped giving my eldest naps when she was four because it had become more of a problem than a blessing. No matter how long she napped, she would then have a hard time going to bed. She is the type that will just lay in bed thinking and talking to herself for three hours (which is totally me). I was all for giving up nap time if it meant I could keep her 6ish bedtime.
8. Set Time Wasters on Timers
If you feel like you never have time to pursue your passions or do something for yourself, evaluate how much time you waste. Do you constantly check social media, watch television shows, or play games on your phone? I get it.
Cut what you can live without from your life and set timers on the rest.
9. Motivate Yourself with Timers
Timers are also a great way to get started. Whenever I am faced with a task I want to procrastinate on, I try to trick myself with a timer. I tell myself that I only have to devote five to 10 minutes to it, and then I can jump ship. Most of the time, I have regained my focus within that 10 minutes and am able to stay committed to the project, whether that be writing an article or cleaning the kitchen.
10. Use Driving Time Wisely
Don’t waste your driving time. That is precious time that you can listen to an audiobook, connect with your kids, take a business call, or dictate an article. Usually, I have my kids in the car, which means princess music time. However, if they aren’t in the car, I try to capitalize on every minute.
11. Automate Everything You Can
My tithing and bills are automated, my book sales are automated, and my site is automated. It is all about working smarter, not harder.
12. Get Away from the House
I feel slightly guilty calling myself a work at home mom when a lot of my work takes place away from the home. I have a babysitter come for two 6-hour shift during the week, and this is the time I get most of my work done.
I also do some work at home during nap times and the kids’ bedtime. However, I get much more work done at Starbucks with the buzz of the café then I do at home sitting on the couch.
13. Work Seamlessly
I use tools like Trello and Google docs to keep most of my work on the cloud. This allows me to work on any device at any time.
See also: Must-Haves for Writer’s Productivity
14. Stop Multi-Tasking
Moms multi-task, I know. However, when it comes to your business, you need to drop that habit like a cheating boyfriend. I set hours to work, and then I focus on one task at a time. This allows me to be the most productive me possible. If I constantly shift windows, check my email, and try to research something, it takes me forever to do my task.
15. Declutter Your Life
Think how much time you can save each day if you had fewer items to clean and take care of and if you shopped less. When my house gets out of control and hard to manage, it usually means I need to do a big declutter session. Clutter sucks up so much time and energy. Try getting rid of 100 things and see how much better you feel.
Declutter your desktop, computer files and email too. Since I am constantly saving Word docs and images, my computer gets messy quickly. It takes so much more time to find an important document or image when your desktop isn’t organized and clutter-free.
16. Simplify Your Schedule
I’ve had to say no to several things to create white space in my schedule. I am an introvert by nature and get overwhelmed easily if I am always running around or socializing.
17. Work at Home Moms Can’t Do It All – So Give Yourself Grace!
We live in a world of mom bloggers that have 4+ homeschooled children, beautifully decorated homes, amazing craft sessions, and make several grand each month from their blogs. Oh, and they also look ah-mazing in their size 2 mommy jeans, mostly because they eat an organic vegan diet. Jealous much?
Even if some work at home moms paint themselves to be like that, the truth is that no mom is supermom. No mom can do it all. Stop comparing and focus on what you are good at.
Yes, some clients pay me a ton to write about term-life insurance and whatnot, but the list of things I am not good at is pretty long. I’ve learned to be okay with that because I truly don’t want to be the super fashionable woman that knows how to sew and decorate amazing cakes. I still get jealous of that woman sometimes, but deep down, I really would rather be me.
18. Simple Meal Plans
I’m all about themed dinner nights in my house. Each week, my family has taco Tuesday, breakfast for dinner Wednesday, pizza Friday, and crockpot/soup Saturday. Having these themed nights eliminates so much time and planning, and it gels perfectly in our schedule.
For example, I set taco night for Tuesdays because that is the one day my husband visits his sweet, Mexican grandma. There is a 70 percent chance he comes home with a container of homemade beans. I started making breakfast for dinner on Wednesday nights because it is a busy church night, and whipping up eggs and pancakes is super quick and something my kids don’t complain about.
19. Schedule Time Off
When you’re a work at home mom, there is always something you can be doing or working on. The hustle never stops, which is why you have to force yourself to stop. I love working – probably too much. I am aiming to be more intentional about being work and email free on the weekend, as well as scheduling an unplugged week once a year.
20. Remember Your End Goal
When you are in your 70s, what do you want to look back and see? I have to remind myself that the only thing that truly matters to my heart are the relationships. I want to look back and remember all the sweet memories made with my family and friends, not look at a decked-out resume.
Okay, work at home moms, what does working at home look like for you? Share your tips below.