I think we all want to know the secret to balancing motherhood and work. I guess when you are trying to do both at the same time, it feels like you are on another level of existence. I am going to go through some things that I do during the day and things that I try to keep in mind when I am starting to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, because, let’s be honest, raising babies and building businesses at the same time IS HARD.
First of all, I want to give you a little background on my situation. Having context is important when figuring out what things might work for you.
I have a 4 y/o named Jay and an 18-month-old named Sienna.
Jay goes to daycare full time (M-F) and Sienna is home with me 24/7.
My husband is very involved and is a teacher at a high school. He gets home at 4 pm every day. (Thank you to the husbands who are more involved and contribute on a daily basis)
I do not have family close by and I don’t have a group of mom friends that I can lean on for help.
I have a full-time job as a graphic designer and I also manage my business with Erin at Market St. Creative.
On a daily basis, I am juggling watching my toddler and managing meetings, design projects, cleaning, washing dishes, changing diapers, and doing laundry.
Here are some main things that help me stay organized and check all of the things of my list (or at least most of the things).
Make a list every morning
Since I have so many things to juggle on a daily basis, I have to make a list and write everything that I need to do, plus things that are just part of my daily routine. Even if “make breakfast” is on the list, it feels really good to cross things off as I go through my day. I feel a sense of accomplishment and that confidence rolls into the next task.
Typical To-Do list
Salaried Job: Project #1
Salaried Job: Project #2
Salaried Job: Project #3 (Anything more than 3 projects is probably not going to get done that day, so whatever I don’t get done will be on tomorrow’s list)
Market St. Creative: Client Project #1
Market St. Creative: Client Project #2
Daily Social media post/content planning
Business needs (website maintenance, email marketing, etc)
Laundry (x2) - Clothes and towels
Notice how this is a pretty long list already and it doesn’t even include feeding, playing with and taking care of my toddler of whom takes up 80% of my time! This brings me to my next point.
I know that on average, I have 5 hours of time when my children are asleep and I am awake. That’s usually 3 hours of daytime sleep and 2 hours of time after we put our kids to bed at night. As soon as I put my toddler to bed, I get out my computer and I start working. There is no time wasted because I’ve already made my project list so I know exactly what I need to work on first.
I try to sneak a peek at my emails in the mornings before my toddler naps so I don’t have to play catch up.
Schedule meetings during nap time (or vice versa)
Having meetings when my toddler is awake is certainly not ideal, but sometimes I have no choice. When my work schedules group meetings or important meetings during her wake time, I just have to plan ahead. I make sure that the room we are in is safe and she can basically roam free if I am not able to give her my full attention. I am always ready with snacks and check her diapers before calls.
If I am able to schedule meetings, I will usually schedule them at night when I can have uninterrupted time. I’ll also schedule them during the daytime naps. In some cases, if I am meeting with someone who is particularly baby friendly, I will schedule meetings during her wake time. I had a client that I had to meet with during the day while my toddler was awake and our babies were part of our meetings. It was actually such a pleasant and really sweet experience that I’m glad we did that. Shout out to @sleepeasysleepconsulting!
Leave chores for when the toddler is AWAKE
I’m sure this one is for much debate, but I rarely do chores when my kids sleep. My alone time feels so precious during the week that I can’t spend any time on chores. The laundry, the dishes, and dirty floors are all going to have to wait. As I said before, I get 3 hours during the day to work, so I am taking advantage of it!
Set clear boundaries and expectations
I feel like this is where I start to flex. I am very very good at setting clear expectations of my co-workers and my clients. I have a really good idea of how long things take me to finish and I always try to underpromise and over-deliver. I also have to push back on people when I know they are asking me to do something that is going cause me to either neglect my toddler during her wake time or cause me serious stress over getting it done. At the end of the day, taking care of my toddler is my #1 priority and if I don’t finish a design project on that day, it’s not the end of the world. The project will be there tomorrow and if it’s really urgent, then it was likely poor planning on the person who requested it, so it will be a learning opportunity for them. ;)
I heard this fantastic quote from a podcast:
Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.
Protect my energy
Now I know that I have a long to-do list every day, but believe it or not, I really love my job and I love what I do. Being creative and designing gives me energy, and gives me purpose. When I finish a project or get positive feedback, it gives me such a rush and excitement and always reminds me why I do what I do. So shout out to the moms to work in the office or away from home because you simply love what you do and you want to be there. I totally get that!
And as exhausting as it can be some days taking care of my toddler, I simply enjoy her company and watching her grow up every day is the more rewarding thing.
Unfortunately, not everything gives me energy. A lot of things suck the LIFE out of me. When I look around my house and see clutter and dirty dishes, I just wish someone would magically appear to clean up after me and my toddler. I know that I have to do some tidying throughout the day so I don’t get overwhelmed by the mess. Otherwise, it’s almost debilitating, am I right?!
I also need to protect myself from people who will either give me energy or take it away. My partner Erin is absolutely a person I get energy from. I lean on her for advice, to get organized or just to vent about anything. I also have people who can be… let’s just say, not very helpful and more critical of how I do things. And those people I make sure I see sparingly. I’m sure you know who those people are in your life too!
Rockstar Days VS. Zombie Days
I am very very aware that I am still a human and life happens! Some days I feel like I am untouchable. I am knocking out design projects, and keeping the house clean and my toddler is happy. On other days, I recognize that sometimes I have zero energy. And on those days, my only goal is to keep my toddler alive. Everything else will have to wait!
Drink Coffee. Lots of it.
This is no secret. I love coffee. I drink it every day and I am not apologizing for it. It brings me joy and caffeine. And every morning I tell my 4 y/o that “mommy needs her coffee before she can play.” It’s a self-care boundary that I need in this season of life. Maybe it won’t always be this way, but for now it’s quite literally life-giving.
My goals for the summer:
Self care- Anyone else feel like taking a shower is like an event?! I take showers so infrequently that I have to do everythiiiiiing, you know what I mean. My goal this summer is to schedule more massages, go to more dinners with friends, and get more alone time for things that bring me joy other than work.
Working out - Most days I feel like I just don’t have it in me because I am barely keeping it together 24/7. And if I have to drop the ball on something, it’s working out. I know that it’s good for my health and leads to making better eating decisions throughout the day, so working out is going to be put on the list this summer too!
Asking for help! - Can we all put this on our list?? Why is it so hard to ask for help from people. Hopefully you have an easier time to put yourself out there and get the help you need, however that looks. I am going to be more honest with myself and reach out to people around me to get some much needed assistance. Whether it’s a grandparent to take the kids for a weekend or a cleaning service to come and clean my house. I am going to call on others to pick up the work!
Count my blessings! - I am extremely lucky to be in the situation I am in and how I am an able-bodied person who can be there to raise my kids. I have a wonderful husband who is there every day to support me. It's easy to fall into the trap of being bogged down with the endless list of chores, but I have to remember to count the things that I am extremely lucky to have.
I hope this blog post helps you manage your day-to-day responsibilities and makes you feel like you can conquer anything. Send us a DM if you agree! We’d love to continue this conversation.