It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! If you’d like to make a change in your life, visit me on my Crafting my Life site, or subscribe to my mail list. If you’d like to share a story from your own Crafting my Life journey, drop me a line and let me know.
Becoming a Work-at-Home Mom
I’m a work-at-home mom, but my life wasn’t always this way. When I worked in an office, I understood the dynamic: I was there to do stuff for my employer. Full stop. This didn’t mean that I could never send a personal email or socialize with my co-workers, but it meant that my primary purpose in the office was to work, and that work should take precedence over everything else. I shouldn’t spent my time playing around online, or writing the Great Canadian Novel, or napping.
Now that I work from home, the dynamic is clearly different. I don’t have an office with a door that shuts, so my work space blends into my living space in a big way. My purpose here in my home isn’t primarily to work. I’m just as responsible for taking care of my kids, preparing meals, cleaning, and managing the basic details of living. I find this interferes with my productivity in many ways. Just now, for instance, I was thinking about how I need to prepare for my daughter Hannah’s birthday party this weekend, and I just about got out of my chair to check our supply of googly eyes. As long as I’m at home, the distractions are constant, with many little details constantly vying for my attention.
Limited Time and Competing Priorities
When my time and resources are limited – and every parent’s time and resources are limited – I have an internal prioritization that I employ. It’s not even entirely conscious, but it’s there. One of the concepts that I tend to apply unthinkingly is that the things I do for other people need to happen first. This means when my clients or employers send me an email, I hop right to it. And when one of my kids need something, I don’t even think, I just drop whatever I’m doing and attend to that need. Because my work and home life are blended, I don’t have dedicated times when either request stream is turned off. Work stuff comes my way on evenings and weekends, and my kids are around on weekdays.
This thing I do – putting other people first – is a habit I picked up a long time ago. It’s based on a social nicety that says we shouldn’t be selfish. We should be nice and giving, and then people will like us. There will always be time to spend on ourselves later. Except that if there’s anything that’s become increasingly clear to me as I get older, it’s this: later never comes. There will always be outside interests vying for your time, attention and energy. That’s just life.
Putting Myself First
As I consider my situation, the solution is increasingly clear to me. I need to put myself – and the things that matter most to me – first. That could mean getting up early to do yoga, spending more time following my bliss, setting aside dedicated time when I turn off my social media streams and don’t check email so I can work on my own project, or even going outside with my kids. Whatever it looks like, if I’m going to move forward, I need to make sure that my actions align with my priorities and core values. There won’t always be as much to to spend on my pet projects as I like, but if I take care of them before I handle other things, I can be sure that they don’t get lost in the daily shuffle.
It isn’t easy to keep your work and home life in balance when you’re literally combining the two as a work-at-home mom. The challenges of this lifestyle are a recurring theme as I struggle to create a life of purpose and authenticity. Slowly, I’m getting better at it, though. I can see the improvement as I look back over the past few months and years. Like all things in life, it’s a process, and I need to be patient with myself as I work through it.
How do you keep your work and home lives separate – or do you? And do you find that you always end up last as demands keep cropping up? How do you handle it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!