Recently posted on the Modern Mom Message Boards (and this is much abbreviated):
“I am a WAHM and I need help structuring my day. My daughter is four-months old and I have worked at home since about her 12th week. I wanted to get advice from other WAHM’s on how you do it– work for a corporation, run a business, while managing the laundry, play time, nursing etc. At most, two days of the week I drop off the little one with a sitter since I need to be mobile in my work – do a lot of site meetings, visits, and client coaching. I just feel like I am falling behind, the house is a mess and my work is suffering. Any suggestions? I can’t afford a nanny or full-time childcare. I just thought perhaps I needed to schedule myself better?”
This message pierced my heart because my greatest frustrations as a Modern Mompreneur have come from trying too hard to fit my work and motherhood into a perfect picture of tidiness: tidy schedule, tidy work, tidy house. There have been many times when I’ve been on the verge of tears because a carefully planned workday had to be scrapped because of babysitter issues or my son getting sick. I also have meals, laundry and clean bathrooms at the top of my list of family necessities.
So I want to talk about time management today, but not in the way that you think. I’m not going to talk about calendars or schedules—these things do come into play and you will use them as you see fit. But right now we’re going to talk about what needs to get done.
The Shape of a Day
It’s been both my experience and, from what I’ve heard and observed, those of other Mompreneurs, that the day gets filled with activities from our many roles as wife, mother, businesswoman and housekeeper. In the course of a day, a Modern Mompreneur will handle business, do some laundry, take care of children and make meals.
But do you really have to do ALL of those activities every day? And when you do, do they really all get done? You might throw a load of laundry in while doing phone calls, but does that laundry ever make it into the dryer? When does it get folded and put away? You might be working on a project for your job or business, but can you really focus on it while breastfeeding at the same time? Here’s the thing:
Multi-tasking is highly overrated.
I think it’s the number one cause of that common complaint mothers have of working hard all day and nothing ever seeming to get done. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do the laundry or make a meal for your family. I’m saying you can work differently.
When my son was about eight-months old I started using a babysitter two days a week. He now goes to school three days a week. During the time he’s out of the house, I only do work-related activities. No grocery shopping, no laundry, no cleaning. I keep a list (which I’ve usually made the night before) of what needs to get done that day for my business. I’m careful to keep this list short, because it’s also frustrating to have a list that’s never finished.
In terms of working through your day, I recommend “batching” your activities so that you do one thing at a time. I try to do “focus” work, such as writing, in the mornings when I’m fresh. I do phone calls and appointments in the afternoon. In the evenings, after my son goes to bed, I often host my teleseminars, or clear my email inbox.
The weekends, usually Saturday morning, are spent catching up with the housework. I do laundry, we clean the bathrooms and sometimes on Sundays I’ll make a meal that can be reheated and served again over the course of another day or two. This strategy also gives me another set of hands on deck since my husband is home to help.
Whatever you do, try to complete each project you’re focusing on, whether it be doing the laundry or writing an article. Projects tend to pile on top of each other if they remain unfinished.
Keeping an Open Mind
Of course, working this way means you have to learn to let go and allow things to be not perfect for a few days. The laundry will sometimes pile up when I’m under deadline. The bathrooms will only get a wipe down with those disinfectant wipes. Sometimes we’ll have to order a pizza for dinner.
You have to learn to be okay with that. Why? Because you have children and you have to deal with unpredictability at every turn. There’s no use in getting frustrated with events you can’t control. Many times I have planned to wake up an hour earlier to work on a project only to have my son wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and he can’t get back to sleep because of a stuffy nose. Recently I had to take him with me to a speaking engagement at Fairfield University when our childcare fell through. I could have been frustrated and upset, but I smiled at my child and said, “Would you like to have an adventure with Mama today?” And smiling is the most important part. It’s easy to take this all too seriously. I recommend laughing as much as possible. It also makes you a nicer wife and mom to be around!
I used to be afraid to say I had to reschedule due to childcare issues. But at the end of the day your colleagues and clients are really only interested in two things: their work or project and when it will get done. Always communicate your progress and alert someone soonest if you have to miss a deadline or reschedule an appointment. Be prepared to tell exactly what you’ll do to complete the work. You can say why you’ve been delayed, but don’t go into any more detail than necessary unless they ask to know more. Nine times out of 10 they won’t. Communicating in this way will help you to stay confident so you can come from a point of strength. You might be a harried mom, but they don’t have to know that!
Most of all I want you to know this: Managing your life as a Modern Mompreneur is like steering a ship in a choppy sea. You’ll constantly have to make adjustments to stay on course. And sometimes you will get capsized or tossed overboard. But you’ll float to the surface and begin again.
Sophfronia Scott is executive editor of The Done For You Writing & Publishing Company. After 15 years at Time Inc., she left the corporate world to start her own business helping aspiring authors to write and publish their first books. You can learn more about her work at www.TheBookSistah.com. Have a question for Sophronia? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org