When my second son, Connor, was born six months ago, a dear friend gave me some advice. She said, “Forget about taking life one day at a time. Just take it one hour at a time.” I’m so grateful that I took this veteran mom seriously. During those early days of getting used to having two kids, when my stress and anxiety peaked, I remembered that phrase. It instantly calmed me.
Who knew that six months later I would be reminded how important it is to take life one hour at a time? Like many of you, I have gone from a mom that works while her kids are at daycare to a mom that works from home with her kids—well, in the home.
Luckily, I’ve had some experience with this and am finding creative ways to manage my work and my kids all at the same time. I learn a new way to be productive and efficient every day. Work certainly looks different than a few weeks ago, but I’m going with it—because what else can you really do?
The first day I became a working mom with kids at home 24/7 I woke up at my normal 5:30 am and enthusiastically wrote out a schedule for our day. By lunchtime it was in the trash, there were toys all over the place, and food littered the counter. I was praying milk wouldn’t get spilled on my laptop.
Keep in mind I have a 3-year-old and 6-month-old. Schedules, I quickly realized, don’t work for this age. However, I will emphasize that routines do. So, what’s the difference? A schedule adheres to specific times. A routine follows a similar flow each day but doesn’t mess things up when you veer out of your scheduled timeframes. While it may seem trivial, not holding myself to a schedule makes life feel easier and less stressful. And I really need that right now.
As we’ve eased into our new routine, life has become more pleasant. Sure, I’m up later finishing work most nights, but I allow myself to sleep past 5:30 am now. The term “agile” is often used in the workforce and I’m adopting it at home as well. I no longer try to plan out my entire day. Instead, I know what I want to get accomplished with the kids and for work, and then I head into that hour by hour mindset.
Depending on when Owen and Connor wake up, Hour 1 might be at 6:00 am or 8:00 am. Mornings look fairly similar each day as we start with breakfast, coffee, pumping, and email checking. On a side note, I never used to check my email first thing in the morning. But adapting to new environments is important and this is my new “normal”. So checking email early is just fine right now. Then, I usually send my toddler to play independently for about a half-hour while I complete a few tasks for work. The baby is usually in the ExerSaucer by this point. Again, hour by hour wins the race.
Hopefully, I check a few things off the list for work before Owen is at the pantry door wanting a snack and Connor is ready for a bottle. I step away from the computer and shift into mom mode. Talk about an identity crisis! We play ABC Mouse which has been a huge help in implementing educational activities. I LOVE seeing him get so excited when he finishes a level.
When I start thinking about our next hour, I know I need to continue with some work so Owen gets TV time and Connor is likely sleeping. I try to dive into a project knowing that I will get interrupted several times. In fact, I’ve stopped and started this article about 15 times over three days. This is an adjustment for all of us so I’ve decided to give myself grace and realize my kids are just that—kids.
Our next few hours are filled with a mix of dirty diapers, a messy kitchen during lunch, writing a few paragraphs, jumping on a quick call, and changing the laundry. And then (go ahead and cheer with me) it’s NAP TIME! Finally, I dive into real work. The meaningful things that take clear thinking, energy, and creativity finally get their time.
The afternoon looks a lot like the morning, and just like that, it’s time to make dinner. On most days I still have a lot to do, but I’m pretty proud of everything I’ve been able to get done. Actually, as I finish this it’s 11:00 pm and I’m okay with that. The days of work-life balance are over. Now, it’s about integration and taking things hour by hour.
But you know what? Despite managing a tantrum one minute and a conference call the next, I’m enjoying my time with my kids at home more than I ever imagined. And that’s coming from someone who has always said I’m a better working mom than a stay-at-home mom. I’m trying to be grateful for this extra time I have with them. It’s also allowing me to reevaluate if I can be more efficient with my work time and scale back on their daycare time in the future.
Here’s what I know for sure. I’m doing the best I can right now and, to me, that’s all that matters.