Life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep your balance you must keep moving
I love this quote, and when I discovered it, I was already a working mom with 2 little ones under 4. It helped me understand with more perspective, what I'd always felt/known to be true...in my journey from being a demanding non-profit finance career in Manhattan to staying home, raising my daughters, and working for myself as a business owner, health coach, and partnering with a health company for a solid monthly income base and leadership opportunities.
Fast forward 3 years--I'm a proud business owner momma with 3 little ones (7, 4 and 1) and let me tell you, what a blessed and incredible journey it's been. Wilder and tougher than I'd ever imagined! I'm here to be as real and raw with you as I can be while sharing some things that have helped this momma continue to find her balance on her ride through life.
Balance is found when we know where we're going and we move in that direction. This perspective freed me up from so much potential guilt or worry---some days the house will be clean, and we won't go on outings.
Some days I'll have work calls or a quick meeting and we'll have to adjust our plans around that, or I'll take the call during an extra-curricular activity or at the playground, so as to be minimally impacting my time with my kiddos (and because my clients and partners understand what and why I do what I do). I think that on the days when I want it all to be happening perfectly, simultaneously--is when I hit overwhelm moments that can sometimes lead to--why am I doing this?
How did we get to this?
I certainly remember I cried every morning for 6 months when I was pregnant with my 2nd and was leaving my oldest (At a lovely Montessori program) to be at work...at a job that was wonderful, meaningful, but didn't fill my heart the way being with my child did. I had fought so hard to make every opportunity count in that career, and I knew that I would do the same, and more, for my own future if I could have to say in a few more of the terms. Some days, in this work from home juggle-- all goes according to plan and I either get a power-hour as I call them--in the morning right after breakfast when the baby is napping.
The girls are in school , or in the summer they know it's time to play quietly, read, watch a show, or even--gasp--do a chore from their chore chart, unsupervised (imagine!).
Give busy moms a mobile device/laptop and a quiet spot and miracles happen.
We know how to be productive fiends when given the chance, and especially when our passion and purpose meet an ability to serve and create something that the world needs. We as women are uniquely positioned to be able to see and create value based on needs we discover.
I'll wind up the early evening with another quick session--usually entirely from my phone--though at home, the laptop is always at the ready--a standing desk right on the edge of the family room & activities (something I like for health reasons but also so I'm not tempted to linger--and I can see what's happening while doing the small tasks that don't require the deeper levels of attention).
Every mother does it differently and each set-up is finely attuned to her best work times and goals, the overall family needs and schedule, and it's amazing to see it in action.
Why does this work for me:
why do I feel the need to emphasize this possibility? Because in my heart It's just never felt like anyone day could contain all the things that bring my heart it's deepest joys---major messes and fun with my kids, occasionally a spotless house (yes, outsource that when you can! Toilets don't care who cleans them...while little ones do!)....and yet also huge desires for a business and an exciting future for our family, that I can help create alongside my husband and his own fulfilling and demanding career as an architect.
Some days lean way in the direction of strategizing the next month, mentoring other business owners(yay!), prepping for launches, new client support (my clients are anywhere--another beautiful aspect of this flexible working life!) and other days lean largely in the direction of making fun healthy meals for my kids, exploring new places, and hanging in parks, museums and with friends...sometimes with my phone nearly off or just available for texts/urgent matters.
How do I stay on track with the bigger picture?
To set the course for the year (and 6 month periods)...I start with a vision board, and this has been a game changer for me to take the work to a more mindful and purpose-driven level. Why do we do what we do, what do we want life to look like--putting your deepest values and desires into picture form, something you look at daily, is very very powerful. It's completely transformed my business and experience of my work in the tougher moments. This could deserve another article...so I'll save that for another day.
Then--getting into the nitty-gritty, over the course of the week and month, I rely heavily on my planner for setting incremental goals, and being able to do these with major heart and passion, not just an external pressure of goal setting for its own sake. We all need a healthy dose of grace and gentleness, with ourselves, and with other mothers--knowing that life just throws unexpected stuff at us all the time, and we have to work with it...and even embrace it as part of the beautiful aspect of what we're about.
For example: with having a 1-year-old, the bedtimes can be both unpredictable (he's pretty regular, but sometimes needs extra rocking and cuddles)...and evening phone calls have had to be shifted around or scheduled differently. I know at the end of it all, I won't regret these months of shifting back my work priorities and shifting up the mothering moments; I can make it all happen in the timeline that works for me, and it's something any mom can tell you they would do in a heartbeat if given the chance. Creating leverage and better systems in my business--is all part of honing my craft, taking advantage of the type of business I'm privileged to run with other moms as teammates, and ultimately, I'm becoming a better person through this process of juggling, discernment, shifting, and flexibility. Ask any work from home mother what she's learned in the process, and what you'll hear will likely blow you away.
Finally--if you desperately need to carve out time--to either create/jumpstart your business/freelancing--or to take it to the next level---And you're hesitant to bring in full-time babysitting (though there are wonderful balances to be found with outside help too!) I'll tell you about this recovering night owls' joy in a newfound habit of early morning workouts and power sessions ala Miracle Mornings.
Read the book if you think you might need & want to start out your day fired up and moving your goals forward before your kids even know what they want for breakfast or that their socks are bothering them ;) It helped me in tremendous ways during our more relaxed summer schedule, and the morning sessions of working on myself are helping me in new ways within the context of our more structured school year!
What I've learned and am learning:
Each day looks slightly different, and my husband also is incredibly supportive of this arrangement, and knows that sometimes that might mean he takes over bath and bedtime while I do an evening team call or client conversation, and other times I might do a quick Saturday meeting, after being around for all the after-school snacks and convos that week, or on another occasion we might all travel as a family to Orlando in the name of work--tacking on some pure vacation to go with it. Balance. If we're leaning a bit in one direction or another...we have a conversation over tea or beer, and shift things accordingly.
As mothers, I believe we really understand intuitively what the various needs of our family are at different stages of our kids, and adapt our daily rhythms and work patterns to suit those. During some stages, I've had babysitters come for short stints of time, and escaped to a nearby coffee shop, and at other times I've had drop-off school or playdate exchanges, though always at a min of 4 hours or less...when I've spoken with other moms--especially stay at home moms early on when I was fumbling through, trying to figure out the working mom thing...I often hear "you're lucky". It must be nice to use your brain once in a while and to use those work clothes in your closet for the occasional meeting/etc. Other times, I'll hear--but don't you miss your career? (meaning, someone else calling the shots). Honestly, Not. At. All. I don't think I was cut out for a desk job, and the fact that I'd have to be away from my kids for hours at a time (oh yes, I did it!) was just something our family didn't want to have as the norm for all of my kids growing up years.
However, I did always have a sense that I would like to have something to call my own, something that would call forth the best in me and challenge me in ways I had loved about my time in a traditional career. So here we are. I thank God for the wild and wooly journey that has brought us here.
4 essential tips for Self-Care:
Drop the guilt. Period. Why bother? It's a waste of energy. Some days your house will be a hugely blessed mess, and other days you will have it spotless but the kids will be melting down and you'll be hours behind on a deliverable, and you'll just have to laugh, pour yourself another cup of coffee, and do the best you can (and let everyone around you understand you're doing just that). I know it's hard, I'm working on it too, but life is too short to get caught up in the guilt traps, and by nature what you're doing is a very intricate juggle, not all the balls will stay up all the time:) Just the main ones need to...the ones you've decided are non-negotiable.
Block out and respect rest times just like you do work times. This I've learned the hard way...it can be so tempting to always be on it and think--Oh, someone emailed me, I need to respond...on a Saturday. Set your work schedules (the times that are not for chores and when you have kids in school, with sitters or in activities)...and also set your absolute boundaries around rest and regrouping time, whether it's in evenings, middays or Sundays. You'll be so glad you did. And you'll come back to your work more creatively energized...I promise.
Set up a culture of support: by this I mean: explain to your spouse, family and support network, what you're up to, and how they can help. Discuss what them what an ideal day looks like for you, and what success looks like. As the boss, you get to define that...so go ahead and get your whole team on board with it! Sometimes this support will be with the literal juggle (can you pick up so-and-so while I have this meeting?)...and other times it will mean: I'm working towards this big goal in my business (last year it was a dream vacation in Mexico for the family that we aimed for as a measure of growth)...and when your family has moments of what is this all about?/this is hard we remind each other--this is our bigger why, what we're working for, and we're on the same team, each doing our part! When you finish a big project or hit a deadline, celebrate with a nice dinner; so the family knows how important it all is--for them as well as for you.
Take care of yourself! This cannot be under-emphasized. You're setting out to do superhuman things each day--mothering and raising little ones, while also changing lives through your work in the larger sphere. Give yourself the structured self-care that allows you to be your best self; adjust things and realize each day will look a little different, and find the tools to energize and renew often.
Even in the 7 years that I've been on my own personal journey in work/mothering balance--I've seen a shift in opportunities and the rise of a generation of women that knows we have something important to contribute, but also know we can do it on terms that work better for ourselves and our families. The rise in freelancing, contract work, and firms targeting moms looking to re-enter the workplace with strong resumes (but a 10-year gap from staying at home with kids)--all point to the very real shifts in how this balance is being figured out by so many. I'm encouraged by the beautiful things I see happening in my team, company and immediate tribe, as well as by the larger landscape in creating meaningful work for ourselves while being able to mindfully parent and mother the way we want to raise our children. It's not about "having it all"...it's about being present to our most pressing truths and values. We'll shape our path and shift what "it all" means from month to month, year to year.
I look forward to hearing what your own journeys look like, and how you strike a balance while moving your own goals forward. It's always touching and unique how each mother and family makes it all work best for them.
Is a certified holistic health coach, a successful business owner, proud mama of 3 and the founder of www.maddypidel.com. Share your stories with her at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay in touch via Facebook and Instagram where she shares inspirational tips and exceptional recipes.