A-Man is hysterical because we turned the wrong Thomas the Train movie on, Mr. C has decided that he has to talk to himself through his entire math worksheet, Baby M woke up too early from his nap (thanks to A-Man’s hysteria) and now hates everything, and I have a migraine and a deadline.
That’s how my typical morning goes as a work at home mom. It’s chaotic and it’s messy, but also incredibly worth it. Unfortunately, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. With homeschooling lessons to plan, special needs therapies to attend, and a pregnancy sapping your energy, it can be all too easy to throw in the towel!
Somehow, though, we survive. We meet our deadline. We fix Thomas the Train and we grade the math sheet. Somehow.
How to Beat the Overwhelm as a Work at Home Mom
Keep Your Priorities Straight
Chances are that you became a work at home mom so that you could stay home and be a mom to your kids, so don’t let your work take over your entire life! Now, everyone’s priorities look different and that’s okay. Every family is different, so you need to find out what’s most important to you and your family.
If that means that your house needs to stay clean or you’ll all go crazy, make sure you have time for cleaning. Here? My boys need to be fed, school needs to get done, and we need to make all of our appointments for therapy and specialists, so my work has to fit around those priorities. I don’t keep a Martha Stewart house, and my husband does a large majority of the cleaning.
Again, do what works for your family!
Find a Natural Rhythm
Now that you have your priorities set, work to find a natural rhythm and routine for your family. For us, this means that the boys have breakfast as soon as they come out of their rooms (and by breakfast I mean cereal, I told you I’m no Martha Stewart!) As soon as they’re done with breakfast, Mr. C either comes into “our office” or I bring my laptop to the dining table and he starts school work while I do some work tasks that I can easily be distracted from. Usually it’s emails or social media work.
A-Man and Baby M play during this, and after a while the baby goes down for his morning nap and A-Man goes into my room for a movie. After Mr. C finishes up school he gets to watch some TV or play with A-Man, and then we have lunch (sandwiches) and rest time.
This routine has no set times, and it gets interrupted occasionally. Sometimes the boys are out for breakfast at 8, sometimes at 10. But using this as a general guide to our day helps make sure that I get plenty of time to work (so long as I stay off Pinterest..) and we get everything that we need to done before Chris comes home.
Keep To Do Lists
Okay, this is like, time management 101, but hear me out. Without a to-do list I end up on Pinterest all day long. Now there are tons of ways to write a to-do list, so do whatever works for you. An app on your phone? Awesome. A scheduled list in a planner? Cool. A paper with a long list? Great. Whatever it is, there’s a few ways that you can actually use your to-do list instead of just writing one.
Keep it specific and as short as possible. Don’t write “social media”, write “schedule Facebook posts through Thursday”. And keep in mind that this is a to-do list, not a “if I am somehow granted an extra 6 hours today this is what I would do list”.
Only write tasks that you can reasonably accomplish plus one or two. If it helps you, write down some estimated times next to the tasks so that when you sit down and know that you’ll have 15 minutes, you can knock off one of your tasks.
One of the biggest reasons we procrastinate is because we don’t know what to do with ourselves, so take back your time! When you sit down at your desk, have a list ready to tell you what you should be working on that second.
Build In Wiggle Room
Things happen when you work at home. The stomach flu, internet outages, teething, morning sickness, and so much more can happen and throw a wrench in our best laid plans. When you’re discussing a deadline with a client, give yourself wiggle room for if the what ifs happen.
Trust me, you’d rather finish something early and surprise them than miss a deadline and have your client waiting on you. Our routine allows for me to be working roughly 5 hours a day between the early morning before the boys are up and rest time. I very, very rarely get to use all of those hours, and you can often find me up way too late working while watching TV with Chris.
I build a *lot* of work time into my schedule because I know that my work time will constantly be interrupted. 4-5 hours a day with kids home is more like an hour or two of actual productive work time. Build in wiggle room, mamas, you’ll thank me!
Being a work at home mom has been a huge blessing to me and our family. I’m able to take care of the boys, homeschool, get them to and from therapies, and still contribute financially to our family. I just need to stick to these tips to make sure that I don’t become overwhelmed and burn out.