By MeOhMy Founder Siobhan (@meohmymum)
Working from home while raising babies is the dream gig, right?
Yes. And no.
If you can't already tell, I have massive mixed feelings about my 'work at home mum' (WAHM) role.
I got into it for the right reasons. When our first born Harry arrived, he completely changed my world. A cliche maybe, but it’s true. I gave up my full time (and full on) media and PR career, and decided to be a stay at home mum for a little bit.
For the first six months, I was completely content. Then, increasingly, I felt unfulfilled. In giving up my job, I felt like I’d lost myself. I had a huge identity crisis, as my career had always been very important to me.
Originally, I'd thought that maternity leave was an "ideal time" to follow my passion - I've always written a lot, but mostly for corporates and about stuff that I don't really give two shits about. This gave me the chance to write about what I wanted. Oh, the freedom!
But on it being the "ideal time" - BAHAHAHA. The expectations you have while you're pregnant about how much "spare time" you're going to have when you have a baby are so far from the truth it's not funny. Yes, they sleep. But that's when you a) nap, if you're lucky b) clean up c) do piles of washing and d) actually wash your hair. Or none of the above because they don't actually sleep...
I started writing for me, as a 'mummy blogger' (oh, how I hate that term!) about my transition from career woman to stay at home mum, and also started freelancing writing parenting articles and for a few corporate clients such as lawyers etc (check out my freelance site).
I loved it. I could watch my little man grow, work whenever it suited me (after hours, during his naps, and even in the early hours of the morning when I had pregnancy insomnia with our second bub Aoife) and decide what work I really wanted to do (and what I didn’t).
It was hard to begin with, getting a following on my blog and gaining clients. But it was a great challenge. It still is great, getting to follow my passions.
BUT...nearly two years later, the juggle and the struggle is real!
Raising two babes under the age of 2.5, while writing/running my blog and my freelance businesses, is full on. Scrap that - it's kinda insane.
Working from home has its perks. You can work sans-shower in your pyjamas with your feet up on the couch, grab food or a drink whenever you like, take a break to pick up your child or watch a TV show, have private conversations and get some jobs done around the house in between work tasks.
BUT working from home with a child (or multiple children around) is a different story. It’s a logistical puzzle. Change nappy, do a bit of work, feed child, do more work, play with child, finish that piece of work...and, inevitably, other jobs have to be done as well, such as laundry or dishwashing, which is a huge productivity killer.
You lose your place more times than you can count on both hands, concentration wanes and sometimes your day just does not go to plan.
Many of you have asked for my tips for being a WAHM. To be honest, I don't know if what I have to say will be all that useful. But, as always, I've told it like it is and kept things pretty real. So here goes...
It's not easy. Some days it's damn hard. Sometimes (many times) I long for complete separation from my kids. For the headspace to just focus 100% on what I'm doing.
That said, I do know how lucky I am to be here for my kids whenever they need me. And I've worked out a few things that help, and a few things that hinder...
1. Organisation is key
I've always been very organised. But these days, I've taken that to the next level (sometimes to my detriment..hello post natal anxiety!). Having both my bubs in a routine helps. A lot. My best work happens when the kids are asleep at lunchtime, as I usually have a solid hour or two to focus properly.
2. Get help
Harry goes to daycare three days a week, and it's on those days that I get most of my work done. In saying that, that's getting increasing hard with Aoife being so active and close to turning one...sniff sniff. I'm rethinking things a tad.
Your time is limited, so you really need to determine what work is important and when. Deadlines, lists, time management - all of that shizz :)
4. Space stuff out
Don't try to do too much in one day. Kids like to throw curve balls, as you know, so less is more. And you'll probably have to do little bits at a time. Bite size chunks is the key.
I've learned the hard way that if I write myself a long list of stuff I HAVE to do, I panic about how much there is and get so stressed that I'm not productive at all.
5. Multi task
Become the master of multi-tasking. A typical day working at home with Aoife (see below for my days with both) goes a little something like this...
6am - Get the kids up (well, they usually wake me ), get them dressed and give them brekkie, daycare run, stop off at a cafe with Aoife on the way home to grab coffee and answer a few emails, then head home and play with her for a little bit until she has her 9am nap.
9am - Answer emails or start writing for the half an hour she's asleep, get her up and she plays while I write a bit (she's usually pretty happy to play alone for half an hour or so - I either pop her in her stand up play centre or on the floor with loads of toys.
10.30am - Give her a bottle and change her nappy, pop her in the high chair to munch on some toast while I'm doing a bit more work, give her lunch, play with her for a bit then put her down for a nap (12-2pm/ish).
12-2pm - I try to get as much done as possible over lunchtime, including some tidying, with a bit of downtime in there for my own lunch and maybe some trashy TV ;). Aoife gets up around 2/2.30pm and I give her a bottle, then I might get another half an hour or hour work done while she's playing.
Then it's the daycare run around 4pm, home to prep dinner, do the solo dinner and bath time thing...maybe more work when the kids go to bed, if I need to (I try to avoid this as nighttime is the only time I get with my hubby during the week).
Obviously, this isn't a full day's work - I probably only get four or five hours done, if I'm VERY lucky.
6. Be all there.
The best advice I've ever received, from some amazing work at home mums with thriving businesses, is to try to separate work from kids as much as you can. For example, 'this is kid play time', 'this is work time'.
I still struggle with this, as I have Aoife home with me and no one to help with her. But I do make sure that if I need to work for a little bit I'll get the urgent stuff done, then make time to play with her. Then pick it up again when she's napping or at night. Otherwise you'll feel like you're doing a half-assed shitty job at both.
On the days I have both kids I only work when they nap (lunchtime - which will be IMPOSSIBLE now that we're dropping Harry's lunchtime nap!) and the rest of the day is all about them. I put an automatic reply on my freelance email making it clear which days I work and which days I'm not on email as much. It takes the pressure off me to reply instantly.
I also took the auto refresh off my email so that when I'm with the kids I'm not tempted to 'check out' and check emails instead of giving them my undivided attention (because I was feeling like a huge failure trying to do everything at once).
I'm not going to lie, it's a hard juggle. You have to be disciplined and try a lot of things to work out what's best for you guys. Sometimes I really miss being around like-minded people and an office environment. Working from home can be very isolating.
However, I don't underestimate how lucky I am to have been able to work from home for as long as I have. I’ve been there for all of Harry and Aoife's important moments, and it's amazing.
I count myself very fortunate to be able to follow my dreams with them by my side (ish!).
Just keep the coffee coming people ;)
[As always, if you have any questions or comments just hit me up on Insta or Snap].