Image Source: UnSplash / Colin Maynard
When I was pregnant, I could picture my life as a work-at-home mum perfectly.
It looked something like this:
I would feed my brand-new baby in the soft, purple morning light before putting her down easily for a long nap. During her first nap of the day (one of many), I would sip my dark roast and listen to the birds welcome the day as I tapped happily away at my keyboard, answering emails and exceeding my daily word counts, my babe sleeping contentedly in the next room.
She'd wake up, of course, for another meal and diaper change, but after an hour or so of feeding, bonding, and pure delight, I'd suggest another nap and, of course, she'd comply.
So it would go, day in and day out, until I'd achieved all of my professional goals all while raising a happy, healthy baby.
Then I actually had my baby.
For parents welcoming a child, love at first sight is an understatement. What I felt when I held her for the first time was too far beyond love to name. The changes that come with growing a family are inexpressibly beautiful. But it's change nonetheless, and it takes some getting used to.
We wouldn't have to spend half of our income on child care, and I'd be able to achieve my supermum goals with a happy, satisfied baby in my lap as I typed away until my portfolio was full and my heart was content.
Prior to getting pregnant, I worked part-time in finance and part-time as a freelance writer. When we learned our baby was on the way, I transitioned to full-time writing, knowing that if I worked hard enough (and smart enough), I'd be able to bring in a decent income from home. I'd also get to spend more time with our girl throughout the day, which was even more important to me than taking a temporary pay cut. Besides, I'd seen other mums do it, so I figured I could do it, too.
I put my nose to the grindstone, started my blog, wrote three books, and hustled to get as much exposure as I could. I had a plan, and my plan was to make it as a writer while sitting at home in my PJs, surrounded by books and coffee, and answering to no one but my cat. It would be easy because I loved it. Even more, it would be easy once our baby arrived. We wouldn't have to spend half of our income on child care, and I'd be able to achieve my supermum goals with a happy, satisfied baby in my lap as I typed away until my portfolio was full and my heart was content.
We brought our baby home. We changed diapers. We ate meals at strange times. We wore the same clothes for days. We cried tears of frustration and joy. We forgot what eight consecutive hours of sleep felt like. We became uncomfortably familiar with daytime television.
After a couple of weeks, my husband, who runs his own business, went back to work. I did, too. It took me half an email and one cup of cold coffee to realize my work-at-home days weren't what I thought they'd be. While I used to spend hours writing books, perfecting blog posts, pitching websites, and scheduling social media posts, I now got to send one email, maybe two, before feeding the baby or changing her diaper or lulling her back into a nap. I loved it. But it made me think twice about how I really needed to structure my days.
I looked at my priorities first: what was most important? How much did I need to fit into each day? Could I forgo work, at least temporarily, to focus wholeheartedly on the sweet new life we'd created? One swift look at our goals (and our mortgage bill) reminded me that I needed to work at least a little bit if I wanted to give our baby the very best. But I also knew I'd need some help.
Image Source: UnSplash / Daniela Rey
It became essential for me to delegate daily tasks and find the right tools to make my work life simpler. Because I blog and write books, I knew my writing time would be more precious than ever. I needed to either simplify or automate everything else.
First, I had to make sure I didn't drop off the grid completely. I used tools like Buffer and BoardBooster to schedule my pins and tweets, because suddenly I had no #MotivationMonday, let alone time to tweet about it. I also made sure all of my notes, schedules, and works in progress were uploaded to Google Docs so I could work from my phone during those early marathon breastfeeding sessions.
Admittedly, my blogging dropped off for those first few weeks at home. Again, I needed to use my spare time to write. I couldn't spend an entire morning taking my own photos for blog posts or tweaking them to suit my style. Instead, I started relying on websites like Burst, which offers free stock photos for personal and business use, and PicMonkey, which makes photo editing quick and easy for nondesigners like me.
Implementing the right tools has been essential in my work-at-home journey. They've allowed me to streamline my process to focus on my writing, but more importantly, our new baby.
You can try to do it all with an infant in your arms, but it's OK if you don't. Priorities shift. Responsibilities do, too. And just because something is on hold for a season doesn't mean it will be forever.
You know the saying, "You can do anything but not everything"? That's never truer than when you're balancing your professional goals with something as precious — and as demanding — as motherhood. You can try to do it all with an infant in your arms, but it's OK if you don't. Priorities shift. Responsibilities do, too. And just because something is on hold for a season doesn't mean it will be forever.
This morning, as I took my first sip of coffee after our baby's 4:30 a.m. wake=up call, I felt my shoulders tense at the thought of everything still undone. Emails I needed to answer. Phone calls I needed to make. Words I needed to write and write and write. I'd convinced myself that I'd fallen behind enough to never catch up again.
Then I looked down at my sweet girl's face as she ate — her blue eyes wide and wondering in the soft puddle of light, her delicate fingers clutching my own. I knew that no matter what pressure I put on myself to perform, I wasn't behind. Not at all. I was exactly where I needed to be.