Balance.

Ive been meaning to write this for a while. Ive been a work at home mommy photographer housekeeper, all in one, do it all, person for several years now. and by “stay at home” I mean, my two boys have never gone to a daycare. ever. They are home 24/7 with me. I want to write about what works for me, and offer advice, and rationale, as well as tips on how to feel balanced while being at home with children.

1) Balance is a semi-joke. Meaning to find true balance, you have to first realize what that looks like. Lets think about a visual of balance. I visualize a balance scale, you know the one with two bowl like objects on each side, equal in height. That is NOT balance when it comes to working from home. Its important to realize that some days work will be where it needs to be and the house will be a wreck. and other the days, everything will be in its place in the house and work will be behind. What balance really truly looks like, is a little bit of this and a little of that and at the end of the day, we don’t feel as if we failed. So, to find true balance, you must first realize there is no balance in a balanced life.

2) Many many mannnnnny days I felt like a failure at the end of the day. Sure, my work was caught up, but my house was dirty and I felt guilty at the end of the day that I didn’t do it all. This is why the perception of balance and perfection is the most important part of finding true balance. If you believe that balance means perfection, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

3) The first two hours of my day are the most important. If can start my day off right, I feel good at the end of the day. So, what does this look like? It requires me getting my coffee in, making breakfast for my boys, starting a load of laundry, and vacuuming and tidying up. If I start with a clean home before even checking my email, I get to start off feeling on top of things and in control. The feeling of control is what keeps me from losing it. Now, you’re two hours in the morning may look different than mine. But finding out the morning routine that leads to the best day is an important step in finding balance at home.

4) I don’t check my email until 11 am or later. This one sounds strange, but again, its what works for me. I find that if I check my email, glance at a newborn photo, or get on Facebook early in the morning, it messes with my mind. It gets me into work mode and I cannot stop myself from working. So, I try to spend a few hours with my boys, once things are tidied up (because I need that first to let myself sit and play). Then, shortly before or after lunch, I will work a little.

5) What my kids do while I work: They don’t sit quietly reading politely and educating themselves, thats for sure. Their morning has to have some structure, like art activities, getting out in nature, or reading books. And then I will let them do iPad games or play ABC mouse on the laptop for one hour. The 2nd hour of my work I will let them watch a little TV. This way, if they don’t do part 1 they don’t get part 2. and it keeps them from watching too much tv. Usually this allows me to get through most emails, and get a gallery nearly done or completely done. Im not one of those who can work late at night. Im tired after they go to bed and Im ready for my veg time. So, usually, I end up with about 30 minutes of work left after these two hours. After the boys are in bed, I will sit and finish it up and then head down for my personal time. After this, I don’t clean, cook or do anything domestic. Its MY time and I need to take care of myself in order to give others what they need.

6) After I work, I usually try to get a head start on dinner, or simply clean up the kitchen etc. Many times, the boys will help, or they’ll just play. It took us a while to get into the flow of things, but it now works well. I finally feel like the majority of days, I feel successful. I feel that my problems in the past were that I was not taking care of myself, I would expect too much out of myself, and I didn’t have that good start to the day that prevents me from feeling overwhelmed. Still, to this day, if Im overwhelmed, I clean first. Because if my house is clean I feel on top of things, even if Im 5 weeks behind on work 😀

Thank you for reading. I know so many moms work from home these days and get very stressed out. Its not easy, but its a great life regardless!

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Hi Kristen!

The best thing you can do is work when baby sleeps and find some way of entertaining your 4 yr old. And realizing that some days, that means more work, and some days it means less. But you can only control so much. Thats what worked for me, but it was a hot mess that first year with two kids!

I super appreciate this and continue to struggle since having my now 5 month old and 4 yr old boys. There just isnt enough time and its even harder when nursing. Guilt sets in when I should be playing outside with my son and then not cleaning the house as well. How did you handle things with a baby?

Thank you so much for this! I think you’ve got it right. And I really need to jump on your plan! I feel so much better when the house is clean. And I need to step away from the computer and mobile devices until I take those first couple of hours to tidy up and hang with the kiddos. I always feel like I’m inefficient. Can’t complete one thing because I’m pulled in every direction. I’m definitely going to try your method. (And I tell myself regularly I’ll stay up late…and RARELY do! I’m always exhausted.)

Jennie, thanks so much for writing this! I struggle with this so much, and have during this pregnancy especially. It sounds like you have developed a system that works for y’all — I certainly hope after this baby gets here, I will be able to cultivate a good routine, too. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it together 100% of the time!

Thanks so so so much for posting!!! This was a big help reading. I have a 2 year old and a 10 month old that I am with everyday all day and everyday I am trying to figure out the right “flow” it’s really hard at times but you give me hope 😉

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