The moment I saw the word “Pregnant” on my Clearblue test, I could almost hear my brain click over into a new gear. This baby wasn’t a surprise. My husband and I had just started trying that month, so we knew there was a chance our journey into parenthood would be starting soon. I guess my “need everything planned out completely” side was not exactly ready to take on this whole new side of life.
I have the extreme honor and privilege to work full-time from home as a writer and editor. Before I was pregnant, my days were filled with WordPress drafts, conference calls, brainstorming and researching upcoming blog themes and topics, and other daily tasks. I also made sure that the house was kept up and that dinner was planned well before 5:00PM rolled around. And when I could, I would make time to meet up with friends and family during the week for coffee or lunch.
Pre-baby, I would go to sleep at the end of the day with a sense of accomplishment at all I was able to get done. My mind would serenely tic through what I knew I needed to get done the next day as I drifted off into a nice, undisturbed eight or nine hours of sleep.
Now I have a four month old.
Before my son Dean came into the world, I had grand plans of how I would continue to keep up with my fast-paced and highly organized workflow. I knew exactly what gear I needed, precisely what kind of schedule I needed this little blessing to get on within his first few weeks of life, and no one would really even know that I was a new mom because of how smoothly everything would still get done.
So how did my expectations measure up to my now reality? Let’s take a look…
Expectation #1: My workflow would be unaffected.
Reality: It has and it hasn’t been. I know, that’s a really vague answer. Let me explain.
Prior to Dean, I was routinely available Monday through Friday from nine to five. I could answer an email within a minute or two of receiving it, and handle spur of the moment tasks the same day I received them. If someone needed to call me, they could just hit “call” and I’d be there.
After Dean, my workflow had to be a little more fluid. The team I work with has graciously adjusted to me not being available in virtual real time. My past nine-to-five schedule now looks more like 5:30AM-7:00AM, then 9:00AM-noon, then 2:00PM-4:00PM, and then random emails might trickle out after dinnertime.
I can confidently say that even with the hours shift, I feel like my performance has remained largely intact. While the speed with which I complete tasks might be altered, the tasks are still completed. I live and die by my task book, Calendar, Asana, and Google Calendar. I’m a fairly organized person when it comes to tasks, so mentally I can keep myself on course. But when the mental machine starts to lose steam (possibly due to sleep depravation), having those backups in place have saved my backside many times.
Conclusion: My workflow was altered, but my performance remained intact.
Expectation #2: Baby will get on my schedule.
Reality: Baby laughed at my schedule.
My son started off as a champion napper. On his own, he got himself into a routine of sleeping three-hour naps every two hours. This was AMAZING for my work schedule. I was able to break my tasks into chunks and plow through them as soon as his little head met the crib.
Now, he’s decided that naps are of the devil. He only relinquishes this viewpoint for a single three-hour nap. For the entire day. Enter the baby gear.
While I was pregnant, I researched any and every piece of baby gear available. I pulled together a list of what I decided would best fit my needs and got everything ready to go before I had Dean. Some of these items were immediately put to daily use, like the ingenious Boppy Lounger. (If you or someone you know is expecting, BUY THIS.) Other things were not as vehemently accepted by our son.
Even with every amazing gadget under the sun, getting everything done during the day has come down to prioritizing and trying desperately to calm the already screaming throes of mom guilt. I routinely go back to an article former 4word COO, Sandra Crawford Williamson, wrote about balancing work life with mom life, and it always talks me off the ledge. I’ve had to teach myself that Dean whining because he’s bored with a toy does not mean I need to drop the email I was working on and rush to his side. If a call is coming up and I have a wide-awake baby sitting in my laps, he gets to go spend some quality time in his crib while I take my call.
Many times I’ve looked down at my peacefully dozing son after he finishes nursing and I want nothing more than to keep cradling him as he naps. Enter the mom guilt as my mind immediately pulls up every task and project still waiting for me at my desk. When he was a newborn, I could just let my son sleep on me while I moved over to my desk chair and got back to work. Now that he’s more alert and active, napping in his crib is best for him adopting a schedule and best for me to keep diligent with my responsibilities. Do I miss the nap time cuddles? Absolutely. But my cuddles just come at different times of the day now.
Conclusion: Schedules are great and doable, but sometimes you’ve just got to wing it.
Expectation #3: I can keep juggling everything on my own.
Reality: I’ve never needed God’s grace and strength more.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
God equipped us to perform at amazing levels and handle impressive amounts of things. But that doesn’t mean He’s made it so we never need Him again. This was something I dealt with occasionally before I became a mom, and it’s now something I must remind myself daily.
Here’s an example of needing some grace. On a recent Wednesday (my busiest day of the week, for some reason), I woke up with every intention of not only knocking out my work to-do list, but also attacking the mountain of laundry at the foot of my bed, cleaning the floors of caked-on muddy dog footprints, and maybe attempting my first solo run to Target with an infant. Oh, and putting on some makeup.
At around 10:00AM, everything started to slowly tumble downhill. My usually excellent napper decided he only wanted to sleep for 20 minutes, every two hours or so. A few last minute work projects chimed in my inbox, so I began attacking those while bouncing a fussy baby in my lap. Then my phone lights up with a call from my husband, in the middle of the day. I knew it couldn’t be good news. Sure enough, animal control had called my husband to let him know they were bringing back one of our three dogs. Apparently, they’d all gotten out of the backyard, totally unbeknownst to me. I put Dean down and went out to the backyard to wrestle the gate, which had blown open, shut just as animal control arrived and put one of the dogs back for me.
I knew the other two dogs would show up eventually, so I went inside to get back to work. Dean had fallen asleep (praise the Lord!), so I quickly seized the opportunity to run through the shower and maybe attempt that makeup. Right after I’d redressed, the second dog showed up, tail between his legs. I immediately deposited him back outside and was about to grab a really late lunch when I heard crying coming from the baby monitor.
I went upstairs and collected my son from his crib, only to discover that he had thrown up all over his newly changed sheet. Trying not to get mad, I cleaned him off and changed the sheet for the third time in a day. (No lie.) I picked him up and brought him into my bedroom, thinking he would play happily on the floor while I started on the laundry. The second his body touched the blanket on the floor, he decided to have an epic “blow out” diaper. So epic I had to shower him off and immediately launder his clothes if I ever wanted them to be wearable again.
Then the doorbell rang. Third dog was back.
And Dean started crying, little tummy growling now that it was completely empty.
And my stomach loudly reminded me that I had completely forgotten about that lunch.
The tears fell as soon as I shooed the third dog out into the backyard and sat down to feed Dean. I showered him with my frustrated, defeated sobs as I texted my husband and asked when he’d be home. In the midst of my little breakdown, I squeezed my eyes shut and pleaded with God to just help me make it until my husband got home. I prayed for my nerves to calm and my overwhelmed mind to quiet and focus on what really needed to happen with the remainder of my day. As I opened my eyes and realized Dean had stopped eating, I looked down to find him just watching me. As soon as our eyes met, he gave me a giant toothless grin. And I knew it was God telling me, “It’s going to be just fine.”
I have no problem admitting I’m a control freak. I know it. I embrace it. But the need to control everything inevitably leads to the crushing weight of anxiety setting in when things start to go off course. And anxiety is not something anyone needs to deal with, especially since God has promised to always be with us and not give us more than we can take. When Lori Berry, Director of Operations for 4word, wrote about the importance of daily prayer, I knew God was knocking at my heart with a friendly reminder to bring all my stress and frustration to Him. And so I did.
In addition to my prayer life quadrupling in size, I’ve learned that there’s nothing like the wisdom and insight of those who have gone down the path before you. I’m blessed to have my mom close by when I have a “Is this normal?!” question, or when I need someone to relieve me of “mom duties” for a little while so I can finish up an article or bathe. Many of my friends are also moms now and some are working moms, so it’s been so nice to have a “sounding board” for when stress levels get high or when I need a recommendation on something.
I’m also incredibly lucky to work with women who have been in my shoes as a new mom and are willing to share some wisdom with me. As someone who works remotely, it’s so nice to have my own little network built up. Diane Paddison, founder of 4word, wrote an excellent article on finding support around you, no matter where you are in life. If you’re a working mom in a more traditional work environment, find out if there are other working moms around you and see if they’d be interested in forming a “mom group” in your office. You’ll be happy you have them when you come to work on less than an hour of sleep and an endless supply of coffee.
Conclusion: I have the ability to handle everything, but that doesn’t mean I should be by myself.
I’ve only been doing this “working mom” thing for four months, and so far I’ve loved every high and low. There have been many times where I’ve felt overwhelmed, and there have been many times where my heart literally could not contain anymore love and appreciation for this life I live. I’m so thankful for all of the support I’ve received, both at work and from family and friends.
If you’re a work-from-home mom, what are your secrets for juggling it all? With a growing number of people leaving the traditional workforce to start new careers as freelancers and contractors, more and more women (and men!) will be meshing work and home into one constant balancing act. Share your tips and help spread some sanity!
Work-from-home moms, we CAN do this.