That busy homemakers-slash-career women like yours truly are called WAHMs (work at home moms) is no coincidence. “Wham!” is definitely that onomatopoeic sound I feel like creating whenever I want to butt my head against our living room wall due to frazzled nerves. anxiety- I have an active five year old daughter who can be as meek as a lamb one moment and as causing as a tornado the next. I love her to itty-bits, which is why I opted to do home based writing as a career so that I can devote most of my time to watching her grow up. As an extra ingredient to the recipe for a mommy breakdown, there have been countless times when work adds to daily stress, apart from juggling tasks and home concerns.
Thankfully, I have learned a few tips and tricks to avoid prematurely graying hair in my thirties, for keeping my sanity (well, most of it) intact, and my family well fed and groomed. Here are my five top tips for busy WAHMs.
Set up a work space independent of the home space.
Doing home-based work is no excuse to get peanut butter and jelly all over the computer keyboard, or to miss deadlines because your dog chewed on the Internet cable. Establish a work space in the house which has the look and feel of a real office instead of working at the kitchen table, bedroom, or anywhere in the home where distractions abound. Doing this sends a clear message to other people in the house that you are busy, and sets a demarcation line between home and work matters.
Keep things neat, planned, and organized.
Never set down paperwork and work-related files anywhere that they can get misplaced or damaged. I learned this the hard way when my daughter accidentally stepped on a portable USB drive that fell to the floor in my haste to do a chore. It’s a good thing I backed up work files in another drive, or else I would’ve lost several months’ worth of articles. I have since learned to keep an actual in-tray, an office diary so I can keep track of tasks, and a small filing cabinet so I have hard copies of my work as well as digitally saved ones.
Take mini-breaks once in a while.
Just like in a regular office, it is good to take a break from work every now and then. It doesn’t have to be a grand vacation that entails plenty of planning. Sometimes an overnight stay at a boutique hotel or a spa treatment is enough to rejuvenate a WAHM and make her feel more than ready to take on multi-tasking head-on. Based on personal experience, delayed gratification makes these mini-breaks sweeter, so I take mine on a bi-monthly basis, usually with my husband involved. (Sometimes, though, as I sweetly but firmly remind him, I need a mini-break from him as well).
Practice saying “no”.
My tender mommy heart had a hard time following this particular WAHM tip in the not-so-distant past. Whenever my own mom requested me to accompany her to an orchid show out of the blue, or my neighbor would ask me to dog-sit for them, I used to find it difficult to refuse for fear of upsetting them. Whenever I did give in to their requests, my work immediately suffered and I had feelings of resentment. So I learned The Fine Art of Saying No, and had to be firm about it. The trick is in prioritizing: everything else that doesn’t have a deadline and isn’t concerned with my family’s well-being can be kept at the back burner until the weekend.
Stick to work hours and allow minimal interruption.
Businesses have business hours; home based work must have home based work hours. It can get confusing, juxtaposing “home” and “work” in one phrase. Still, it’s important to be disciplined enough to stick to a schedule that clearly demarcates between work and home stuff. I discovered that breaking up the hours of a day in manageable chunks is best for me. When my daughter Isabel wakes up around seven in the morning, I prepare her breakfast and get her to preschool by nine, and I have three hours of uninterrupted writing time before I pick her up again and get lunch ready for her. She understands that she can interrupt mommy at work only for urgent matters.
It isn’t easy being a WAHM, but learning how to properly manage time can mean success in juggling a career and home life. I’m still getting the hang of it, but with the abovementioned tips, I realized that it’s not at all impossible to do!
This guest blog post was written by proud WAHM (work at home mom) Kristen Swope, who does freelance writing about everything from swimming pools to home lighting. She devotes most of her quality time to taking care of her five-year-old daughter Isabel, and being a loving companion to husband John. She lives in Fremont, California in a house with a kidney-shaped swimming pool.