I’ve worked from home for 6 years now, and for over half of those I’ve entered the world known as the WAHM (Work at Home Mum)
Don’t get me wrong, I love working from home BUT it’s definitely not all coffee dates and Ellen episodes like I thought it might be, especially since Winnie has come along. I love the flexibility of the hours, I love that I can take holidays whenever I want and I especially love that I can wear no shoes and comfortable clothes every day but finding the balance between work/family/me time is an ongoing battle, and one I’m actually not sure I’ll ever manage to get “right” – but I have learnt a few WAHM tips along the way.
#1 – It’s all about the tilt
I’m not talking about your shoulder while your toddler is hanging off you, whilst you’re trying to email, I’m talking about that work/life balance.
I recently spoke to my friend Robyn from Bless this Mess who was talking about work/life being like a seesaw. Society suggests that ideally your seesaw is going to be perfectly horizontal all of the time. That perfect balance of work life and home life, realistically though, it’s not perfect. In order to truly achieve it you first have to learn to accept that, and work out the best ways to manage it.
On the seesaw of life, somedays we are flying high and kicking goals, yet on another we hit the ground and it all seems like too much. The art of achieving a positive work/life balance is in the prioritising of what is most important in the moment, on that day, for others and, most importantly, for you. There are only so many hours in each day, therefore it’s impossible to achieve it all in just one day. Achieving balance is more in the understanding of what we need to let go to sustain an achievable level, rather than what we need to take on or complete. Do you ever feel like your life is so overloaded with tasks and not enough fun? Maybe it’s time to unpack some of the task weights. Balance is in the understanding of knowing when to TILT.
The first letter of WAHM is WORK, and workloads go up and down, just like the seesaw that is a 3-year-olds emotions. So the weeks that the work is making your seesaw tilt try and balance it out on the other end. Can Nana babysit one night this week so you can go to the movies? Can hubby finish early one afternoon this week and take the kids to the park for an hour after school so you can go for a walk? Can you catch up with a friend one night after bedtime for a burger and a beer? (I did this on Tuesday night and it was awesome!) Find that one hour on your busy work weeks to do something for you, so that your seesaw can balance out.
Read this article it’s a good one – www.slowyourhome.com/t-for-tilting/
#2 – Try to exercise, especially if your job involves a lot of sitting
It doesn’t take long to start feeling like a blob when you sit at a desk or table all day, and one of THE best things I did was start MAKING TIME to exercise. OK I can hear some of your moaning already, but don’t worry you don’t have to buy a gym membership or join the local cross fit box, just go walking. It’s free, it can be as easy or hard as you want, you can do it with friends or all alone, and, if you make it a priority, you can always find half an hour a few times a week for it. Walk with the kids in the pram, go for a bike ride, jog while they scooter or try one of the many exercise apps available. One app that Fleur put me onto is PT in my pocket. It’s a $10 download from the app store and gives you a bunch of different length and intensity workouts you can do ANYWHERE! If the only thing it does is give you some time away from the screen or the seat, then it’s a good thing (but of course there are many more reasons why a bit of exercise is always a good idea).
#3 – Surround yourself with online “workmates”
OK so you might not have the office printer to chat around anymore but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some workmates to chat to when you need, and even better to help you out. Virtual assistants are everywhere these days and can help you with almost anything you need. Invoicing, social media, checking and replying to emails, making phone calls and you can hire them on an as you need basis from around $20 – $50 an hour – depending on what skills/tasks you need them for.
Join a few Facebook business groups – just make sure you choose the right ones and LEAVE the ones that get bitchy or end up wasting more of your time than helping. They’re great for networking, asking for advice, finding like minded businesses to chat about ideas with, and also just stay in the loop about new business ideas, social media tips and tricks and even just a place you can have a bit of a moan when you need to.
Some of my best “workmates” I’ve never met face to face and I’d be a bit lost without them some days. (ahem Adele and Sarah I’m talking to you!)
#4 – TRY to set some semi-consistent work hours
One of my favourite parts about working from home is the flexible hours BUT don’t fall into the trap of working whenever you feel like it, or trying to “fit” work around everything else. IT WON’T WORK.
You don’t have to get down to exact hours, but try and sit down and plan what days, and roughly what times are WORK hours. For example, my daughter goes to her Nanny’s late on Thursday’s which means I have a shorter work day, so I have decided that Thursday nights is a work night for me. So after she’s gone to bed my husband knows that I’m working, so I don’t feel guilty about working at night. Friday’s are my day off with my daughter and we almost always spend the whole day together with no work allowed. Of course this doesn’t ALWAYS happen and I’m definitely guilty of a few “ipad hours” on a Friday while if I need to send some urgent emails or finish some jobs that can’t wait, but I try to make sure I balance out the tilt that day with a good playground session afterwards.
#5 – Get yourself a work space
Whether it’s a nook, a spare room or a pimped out “she shed” (dreaming) try and move away from the kitchen table or the lounge and dedicate a spot in the house for work. It’s much easier to turn on, not get distracted and really make the most of your work hours when you feel like you’re in your work space. Depending on the type of work and if the budget allows get yourself a good chair, and your own desk or table and get on down to Kmart where you can pick up seriously funky office storage and supplies to make it a place you want to be. You can get a desk for only 29 bucks from Kmart at the moment! (ps this post is not sponsored by Kmart, I just bloody love the place!)
#6 – Get “ready” for work each day
One thing I’ve never once done is start work in my pyjamas, I just don’t have the will power to get motivated with my Peter Alexander’s on. That certainly doesn’t mean I’m sitting here typing in my pant suit from Country Road, but I always make sure I’ve showered, had breakfast and ready to go in my standard shorts and tee “uniform” (ok yes I do admit I rarely wear shoes though #perk)
#7 – Play Cafes
A WAHM’s God send. Free wifi, coffee, and entertainment. I used to always feel really guilty about doing this BUT use them sparingly there is almost no better option if you need a couple of hours extra this week. I know for a fact my daughter would MUCH rather run around and play than sit at home while I “just send one more email.” Just try and keep it to a special treat every now and then and please don’t turn them into your office, I don’t want to hear about kids spending 8 hours at Wiggly Worms because Kids in Adelaide said so! A few hours every now and then when you need it folks!
#8 – DO NOT FEEL GUILTY
Yep, I check my emails at the playground sometimes. Yep, both of my businesses rely heavily on social media and I’m on Facebook quite a lot. Yep, I’ve used up some iPad time to keep the house semi-quiet so I could make a business call. Yep, I’m guilty of husband neglect while I sit in front of the computer until 3am. But yep, I’m finally okay with that because I’m conscious of the tilt, and I’m finally learning the ways to make sure my see saw is balanced. I’m definitely a work in progress though, so if you have any other tips please share!