Let’s take a quick moment to giggle at the title of this post because we all know there’s no such thing as “doing” or “having” it all and there’s certainly no way to do it all well. We’re all just doing our best. I just didn’t think How I’m Making Being A Stay-At-Home-Working-Mom Work For Me had quite the same ring to it. But that’s the gist.
I’m now four months into being home with Miles full-time while still managing my full workload and you know what? We’re doing great! And frankly, I’m astonished. Before Miles was born–and even when he was a baby–I truly didn’t believe this was possible. I mean, I sat in front of my computer for 8 to 10 hours per day. Certainly there’s no way I could accomplish all of that work and keep my kid alive (and fed, cleaned, entertained, engaged, and happy). But when push came to shove–a.k.a. he was always terribly sick while in daycare, I didn’t want to hire a nanny, and I hated being away from him–I decided to make it work. So that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Since I didn’t believe doing what I’m doing was possible and I didn’t know anyone else who was juggling a full-time career while staying at home with a baby (and not working while he’s awake or ever plunking him in front of the TV) I hope that sharing my experience and how I’m making it work could help someone else who might find herself in the same boat. And, at the end of this post, check out the four things I’m NOT doing, just to keep it real and highlight the fact that there are concessions we’ve made, tasks we’ve outsourced, and things I’ve had to let go in order to make this work.
Here are my tips for making it work:
- Get your baby on a schedule. I have such a love/hate relationship with schedules. But at the end of the day I couldn’t possibly be doing what I’m doing if Miles wasn’t on a schedule with his naps. From 5 to 9 months old we followed Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and put Miles down for naps every 2 hours. Once he turned 9.5 to 10 months old we shifted to a “by the clock” approach (also from that book) where he takes two 90 minute to 2.5 hour naps per day, one at 9 a.m. and another at 1 or 1:30 p.m. He goes to bed by 6:30 p.m. every night. Yes, there’s some degree of flexibility in there if we happen to be out of the house longer than usual or he takes a nap that’s shorter or longer than usual, but 90 percent of the time this is how things go. I believe one of the reasons he’s a great napper is because he’s on a schedule. Being able to depend on his consistent nap times means I know when I can safely schedule phone interviews and get my work done.
- Protect nap time for work time. What that means: Sometimes I have to do household tasks while Miles is awake and that’s A-OK. This often includes doing and folding laundry and diapers, cooking (see more at the end of this post), cleaning up after meals, neatening up, walking the dog, running errands, and more. There are times when I feel a little guilty about it, like I’m not interacting with him enough while I do them, but I try my hardest to find a balance. I talk or sing to him while I’m doing them and he usually happily crawls around and climbs on me while I fold laundry on the floor of his bedroom and steal kisses from him. I’ve also found that the times when I’m engaged in other things are great opportunities for him to learn to play independently, which is an important skill and he’s getting better at it. I’ve also convinced myself that it’s important for him to see that these tasks take time and work and don’t just magically happen, though I’m not sure how well he grasps that concept yet at 13 months old : )
- Eat when baby eats. This is closely related to the tip above, but I believe it deserves its own space because it took me a while to learn it and it has made a big difference. Before, I’d feed Miles and clean up and then put him down for a nap and fix myself a meal and then have to clean up after that. What a waste of time! This has meant shifting when I eat my meals to much earlier times so I’m usually having breakfast at 7:30 a.m., lunch at 12 p.m., and dinner at 5:30 p.m. It took me a while to get used to it, but I really enjoy it now–I love sharing my meals with Miles, it’s so much more efficient to do it all at once, and I especially love eating dinner much earlier in the evening than I used to.
- Keep up with e-mails all day. This is one of the biggest concessions I’ve had to make. I try my hardest not to work while Miles is awake, but keeping up with e-mails from my phone is essential. Otherwise, every time he goes down for a nap or to sleep at night I’d have to spend a big chunk of time responding to e-mails before I ever dove into my work. Being quick to respond to e-mails is also crucial for my job. Editors who are contacting me with assignments could reassign them to another writer if they don’t hear from me quickly enough. And responding to their e-mails lets editors know that I’m responsive and dependable, which then makes them count on me for future assignments. Some editors know I’m with Miles all day and some think I’m at my desk like I used to be. To me it doesn’t matter–they should be able to depend on me just like they always have no matter how I choose to allocate my time.
- Set a monthly income goal. Of course this won’t apply to all jobs, especially if you’re salaried, but when you’re freelance like me it can be super helpful. First of all, having a monthly goal helps make sure I’m on target and am bringing in the income our family depends on. (My goal is the same every month). If I’m a little short then it means I need to pitch more, reach out to more editors, and so on. However, if I’ve met my goal in assignments for the month then it’s a sign to ease up. I know that I can realistically manage the amount of work needed to meet my goal while caring for Miles full-time, but once I surpass it things always get hairy. I used to just take on more and more work, but I now know that as I creep closer to my goal I have to think carefully about taking on additional assignments because it almost always means more stress, late nights, working on the weekends, and I inevitably become unhappy with the whole situation and then no one in this house is happy. More dinero is always nice, but the pressure it creates isn’t always worth it. To track my income, I use a Google spreadsheet that Robert created for me that’s made a tremendous difference in how I run my little business.
Here’s what I’m NOT doing:
- Exercising. There, I said it. There were so many times when I tried fitting in even 20 to 30 minute exercise videos as soon as Miles went down for a nap, but I just haven’t been able to successfully pull it off and get all of my work done without feeling super stressed about it all. So you know what? I stopped trying and I immediately felt the greatest sense of relief. This just goes under the fact that you can’t do it all and right now my work and my family are my priorities. I take Miles for a walk in his stroller almost every day and our neighborhood is incredibly hilly so I’m still active, but exercise–in the traditional sense–has taken a backseat for now.
- Cleaning. Let’s be honest, I’ve never cleaned. I HATE it more than anything and I’m terrible at it. I can keep the house somewhat tidy–as much as one can with an almost-toddler–but I do very little scrubbing. We have a cleaning lady who comes every other week and she’s worth every penny.
- Cooking. Okay, okay, I’m still cooking, but it’s just nothing like I used to do. Since I do the majority of the cooking while Miles is awake this means most meals can take no more than 10 to 15 minutes of prep time because that’s all I have before he wants to picked up. I’m the biggest fan of baby-wearing, but I’d rather spend my time playing with or reading to him than lugging him around on my back while I chop onions. No thank you. This means I buy a lot of pre-cut veggies so I can easily toss them with olive oil and throw them in the oven. We do a lot of pre-made beef or turkey patties, meatballs, pre-marinated meats, rotisserie chickens, slow cooker meals, pastas, and other things that are quick and easy to pull together into decently healthy meals. Fortunately, we use Fresh Direct, a grocery delivery service in the area, and they have an amazing selection of prepped items with clean ingredients. Is this ideal? Not exactly. But right now, I’m all about doing whatever works and right now this is what works.
- Getting “ready”. I’m not one of those people who has to take a shower, put on real clothes, and do her makeup to feel ready for the day. I fully respect and admire people who do, but that’s just not who I am. And that stuff takes time. I’m happiest in yoga pants, a comfy top, a ponytail, and no makeup. I’m not afraid to go out into the world like this, either, and you better believe I do it every single day : )
Anything you would add? Any questions? Let me know!! I hope this is helpful.