I've been a work from home mom since before I started ModestPop in 2011. My husband and I were on-site apartment managers living in a forty unit complex in Eastside Costa Mesa, a midsized town a couple miles from the beach in Southern California. I still remember trying to sort through rental agreement paperwork with my then 18 month-old baby boy, a tornado of activity, messing it up in a matter of a couple seconds. All 26 pages were now out of order and I was trying not to both laugh and lose my mind at the same time. This happened ALL THE TIME.
I see you work from home moms and I know how crazy it can all be. Sometimes it feels like you're swimming through mud. You've got a million things to do and as you try to tackle them all it doesn't always feel like you're making progress, because you get interrupted a million times.
Now 8 years later I'm still walking the tightrope, trying to balance family matters, being a mom first, and running a business full-time. Luckily I also have a work from home husband who is super supportive and flexible, running errands for us and watching kids while I'm on phone calls. I couldn't do it without him.
My crew circa 2018
Because I know there's thousands of other moms out there in my shoes, let me tell you about my morning so you feel better about the chaos in your life, and then I'll share some time management tips to help us all be a little more sane.
This morning I woke up to my 10 year old telling me that my 3 year old had peed all over the bathroom floor in an attempt to get to the toilet in time. So I scooped her up and put her in my tub. Within the next hour and a half, when I didn't feel like I was being particularly productive, I did all of these tasks: give her a bath, clean her dirty clothes in the laundry, mop up the bathroom floor, pay a vendor for pre-orders, call a vendor to discuss tracking for an order, pay an influencer and plan a giveaway, pay a collaborator for a month of Instagram mentions, answer a few quick customer questions on Facebook, feed my infant, pump milk for my infant because I don't produce enough, change a diaper, dress my toddler for preschool, drive her to school, start this blog, get dressed, wash my face, send my older kids off to school with a quick family prayer, and let the dog out and back in.
It feels like a million things. Are the results from all of those things instantly gratifying? Some of them. Do I feel the satisfaction of being able to check something off the to-do list while juggling mom life? Not usually, because the satisfaction gets drowned out by a bunch of other distraction and things that need to happen.
I mentioned this conundrum to my older sister recently. She's a work from home mom and also a work at the office mom. She is a professor at BYU-Hawaii and does most of her work at her office, but has been a work from home mom for most of the past 8 years. Her tip was to only focus on the kids while I'm with the kids and when I carve out time for work, just focus on that full speed ahead.
That's good advice. The reason I was mixing both childcare and work this morning was honestly because I needed an outlet, something to distract me for a second from my crazy morning with the kids. And that's fine as long as it doesn't become the norm and you are constantly dividing your attention.
I find it funny because I used to be a life and business coach to entrepreneurs and my niche was time management. This was before I had kids. I graduated from college and went to life coaching school. To get new clients I joined a networking group and lots of my fellow group members ended up hiring me to get help with time management because it's one of the main pain points of people running their own businesses. All of the clients I worked with had kids. I didn't. I thought I had all the answers. Fast forward and twelve years later I am extremely sympathetic to the struggle.
So here's a few of my time management tips for work from home parents. Obviously, everyone's situation differs a little bit. We introduced a new family member last May when I had a baby and I'm still trying to find a new balance with a baby and a business. These tips have helped me and I hope they help you!
1) Like my sister said, don't try to work and be in the middle of helping kids at the same time. If your kids are home full-time and you also work, chisel out time for working by planning ahead. This can be during nap time, while they're watching a show, playing at a friend's house, or while you have set up stations at the kitchen table to entertain them, like a playdough station, puzzle station, coloring station, you get the idea. You may hire someone to come help you with the kids. You may need to work in the evening when they're in bed.
2) When you have that time set aside and it's work time, have a clear action plan of what HAS to happen so you stay focused. Every day I have 3 MUSTS for running ModestPop. I must ship (we have often hired this out), I must respond to customer service questions on email and social media and I must order new inventory in. Other time consuming tasks include blogging for SEO content, posting to social media, reaching out to influencers, adding new products to the website, scheduling a live sale event, posting in my VIP shoppers Facebook group, ordering print marketing materials, tidying and organizing my office, ordering supplies, doing photo shoots, sourcing modest clothes from wholesale vendors, keeping up to date on taxes, creating email marketing campaigns, looking at inventory and business reports, and planning upcoming specials or sales, etc.
It feels like a million things! That's why I can't execute these tasks mindfully and with full attention when I'm in the middle of mothering.
3) Delegate. This is why we typically hire out shipping. There's that saying that you can't work on your business while you're working in your business. You can't focus on business development while slapping labels on outgoing packages. I also get that sometimes you can't afford to delegate, so you just do your best. In the past I hired a college intern to help me with SEO. She was free, she needed credits from an internship. Another intern helped me with photoshoots and social media posting. There are virtual assistants from the US and other countries that can help too.
4) Meditate so you can stay focused. When it feels hectic and I need to slow down, I can take a few breaths in through my nose, hold it for a couple seconds, and let it out through my mouth while clearing my mind and thinking of an adjective that will help me feel empowered. My favorites are calm, strong, focused, empowered, smart and clever. Doing this for two minutes to help me stay focused is a lot more effective than "relaxing" by checking out Instagram, which turns into surfing social media for 20 minutes.
5) Don't expect perfection. Someone needs to say it. You're not going to hit a home run every day and you're not going to slay that to-do list every day. You may need to slow down to not burn out too. It's OK if you need to sit down and watch an episode of your favorite show so you feel human again. It's OK to not get it all done all the time. I never run out of things to do. I never cross all the tasks off my list. I just make sure I get done my 3 essential tasks daily and then focus on what is most pressing next.
6) Have a social media posting plan ahead of time. This works best if you're an organized person. I'm a naturally spontaneous person so sometimes I don't like putting myself in a box and forcing myself to stick to a certain schedule. That being said, it helps me to have a list of ideas of what I can schedule to social media so when I'm drawing a blank I don't have to come up with something and so that I have content ready to share if I'm in a hurry. I use Tailwind to schedule my Pinterest posts so I'm not randomly coming up with 10 pins on the fly every day. For my Facebook group I have an idea of what I'll post ahead of time. This is something I'm going to be delegating more and more to a virtual assistant so I can have more content for social media since I don't feel I can get it all done in a satisfactory way by myself.
None of these suggestions are probably mind-blowing, but hopefully they help you feel like you're not on an island. There are tons of other work from home moms like you out there trying to figure it out every day. I've been working from home since we brought my oldest home from the hospital over 10 years ago and I've had to learn to be flexible, think ahead, and get good at bouncing back from interruption after interruption. It's really important to just get comfortable with Plan A turning into Plan B over and over again.
Some people may wonder why we put ourselves through it. Why be a work from home mom? Honestly for me, my mind never stops so it give me a good outlet for my constant desire to be putting my ideas into action. And it gives me an outlet from hectic mom life. So in a way, working keeps me sane.
No matter why you are a mom with a side hustle, I wish you the best of luck! 10 years ago I never would have thought I'd have a side hustle that's turned into a full-time hustle. Owning a modest clothing boutique wasn't on my radar back then. I graduated in sociology, not fashion merchandising, but life has a funny way of surprising you with new opportunities. And it turns out I really enjoy the geeky side of running a business. Looking at reports and figuring out modest fashion forecasting is fun for me. I also love interacting with my customers and making connections with people from all over the world as social media allows me to do.
Remember, as you fine tune your own time management routine, to give yourself grace and flexibility. Life is ever changing and you've got this!