Monday, March 21, 2011

Balancing Work From Home and Motherhood

Note: This article originally appeared on Theta Mom as a guest post.  Visit here to read the original post

“Hello, Dr. George? This is Jean. I am so sorry to do this with only a month until school starts this fall, but I won’t be coming back. You should find someone to take my Kindergarten position. The Johnson and Johnson commercials were right; having a baby does change everything.”

I quit my teaching job with just three courses left for my Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration, and about two years from becoming a principal. My life turned in a direction I hadn’t expected.
I was officially a stay at home mom.

Now what?

Nine months in I got restless, missed adult interaction and my own income.  I found myself nitpicking my husband, stressed over little things and feeling a little less intelligent. I absolutely loved being a stay at home mom and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but had other personal goals I wanted to fulfill. We had recently bought a house as a two income family and were now down to one income; I needed to contribute financially. I searched until I found something to do from home that was right for me and our family that I would enjoy. I began marketing on a freelance basis for an amazing health and wellness company…

In the three years that followed, my first child was diagnosed with Autism. We began intensive therapy and a complete overhaul of our future. We reformulated plans, dreams, and ideals, especially when my next son was born with enough health issues to end up in the NICU for a month, where his life was finally saved by a blood transfusion. In the midst of all this, I continued to work my home business as well as keep up a personal blog and a work at home resource blog.

The number one challenge as a work at home mom is balance. I strive to make my business hours and actually stick to them. Both of my boys require a lot of attention, especially my special needs son. He needs guidance, validation, and praise from me constantly. It is near impossible to work while he is home and awake. Recently, in the most pitiful sad voice he said to me, “Mom, I told you to watch and then when I turned around you weren’t looking.” And on an anniversary date in December my husband said, “It’s nice to talk to you face to face, instead of the back of your head as you work at your computer.” Ouch. Hence, the need for some balance and prioritizing.

So how do I stay focused when I stare at all the duties I have as a work at home mom, a special needs mom, and a housewife?

Passion, success and discipline.

Because I am passionate about my business, Autism work and blogging, I rarely procrastinate and don’t mind sacrificing other things to fit them into my day. That being said, my family is always top priority, I can’t stress that enough. A friend of mine recently said he would be content to be financially comfortable. Not me. I am comfortable now, but what I want is a future with complete financial freedom. Discipline is what makes or breaks each day for me. If I organize and prioritize my day the night before, or in the morning, I am focused and on track.

All areas of my life are put into Must Do, Should Do, and Can Do Lists.

Must Do List: Reminds me to pay bills, set up doctor appointments, make calls for work, write blog posts, do laundry since no one has clean underwear…you get the picture.  In the Must Do List, every parent has something that changes the priorities in the list. My son’s Autism adds items like: call insurance to dispute coverage, write social stories (a therapy we use), or attend IEP meetings, among many others…

Should Do List: Includes dishes, straightening, visiting blog friends, showering (that should always be on the Must list huh?), and exercising.

Can Do List: Things I really want to do, like read a Kindle book, magazine, or play Angry Birds.
It’s easy to overload my day and add too much to each list so I’m careful to make sure it’s realistic. I want to feel successful for what I have done, rather than let down by what I have not done. By the end of the day, things that can be put off by a day get moved into the Should Do or Can Do lists.

The bottom line is I am only one mom who tries to do too many things and just wants to crash on the couch with a glass of red wine and some trashy TV after a long day of Autism tantrums, work, and housekeeping. But I don’t give myself those two hours unless I accomplish everything I set out to do that day.  If I do, I can have my “me time” as well as the reward that comes from meeting my goals.

This post was my last Must Do today, so excuse me; I’ve got a glass of wine and some TiVo’d shows waiting.