I am self-employed and a work at home mom. With both of my jobs there is no set amount of hours I have to put in, and the schedule and projects are dictated by however much I choose to take on. That makes it awfully tough to prioritize. I always struggle with how much I should be working, how much I should be playing with my child and let’s not even mention managing the household tasks. “How much money do I really need to make?” and “How clean does my house *really* need to be?” are both constant questions in my head. An even more present question I always ask is “Am I giving my daughter enough time and attention?”
I know this is not exclusive to my life though. Stay at home moms, working moms, single moms, married moms, young and old moms all face similar challenges in managing the delicate balance that suddenly is so important when you become responsible for someone other than yourself. Your decisions no longer just affect you, but they have a lasting impact on someone else as well.
Our children are so important to us that we want to make sure we give them all the time they deserve, but at the same time we need to maintain our own identities as well as do the things necessary to provide for our children.
I came up with a list of ten reminders to help me keep my sanity and to maintain balance.
1. This child will only be young once. True, this is said often, but it is indeed a fact. She’s seeing the world through brand new eyes and with that comes a magic and an excitement that can truly renew a spark of excitement in my own life. You need to cherish this time and soak up all that enthusiasm.
2. Your child has her own schedule. She will not always nap when you intend for her to; her giggles and smile may come when you had work planned instead. Be flexible to enjoy those moments that come unplanned and unexpected and learn how to rearrange your schedule when needed.
3. Make time for yourself. It’s easy to get caught up making plans for work, for your child, and your house that it seems like there isn’t even time carved out to take a simple shower. Enlist the help of family and spouse to make sure there is some alone time carved out whether it is indeed for a bit of pampering or just a moment of quiet.
4. Don’t let one thing be a time-suck. Remember to turn off the computer, turn off the TV, heck even put down a book at times. It’s helpful to set aside decent blocks of time for work but never let yourself get too consumed in a project that it takes the entire day away.
5. Make time for exercise. You’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll have more energy.
6. Ask others for advice and help. Talking to someone like your spouse can help put things in perspective. It may help you to recognize areas of improvement, or help you to recognize your achievements as a parent as well.
7. Don’t be afraid to let your child play alone (in the same room with you of course) Babies do indeed develop through personal play. They can teach themselves skills by manipulating and exploring their toys on their own as well as with you. At the same time, watch her cues. She’ll let you know when she’s had enough personal time and needs interaction, cuddles or soothing.
8. Don’t be afraid to bring your child along while you complete some tasks. There is no reason why you can’t let your baby snuggle in a carrier while you fold the laundry or do the vacuuming. Your baby can play in a bouncer in your home office while you pay the bills. There are many tasks that you can talk to your child while completing and explain what you are doing.
9. Sometimes it’s ok to give up. Yes, give up. Only do those things which truly matter to you. Cut out the tasks and activities that take up too much time but do nothing to enhance your life or that of your child. Give up things that you simply can’t manage with everything else in your life.
10. At the end of the day there is always tomorrow. If you feel like you have failed to balance the day appropriately you can always adjust things and try again. Never think of a day as a failure but as a growing experience. Remember motherhood (or parenthood!) is a journey through which you progress.