Finding Time to Play as a Work-At-Home Mother

Because I work from home, work never seems to leave at the end of the day. Before I was married, my desk, stacked with to-do lists and paperwork, sat in my room. When I tried falling asleep at night, it hovered over me like a haunted ghost. The second I awakened, my heart would start pounding at the sight of colorful post-it notes scattered all over the desk. Things improved once I married. We bought a house, and although small, it has enough space for a little office.  At the end of the night, I try my best to shut the door and avoid the obvious unfinished projects.

While newly pregnant with my daughter, I remember feeling overwhelmed with the number of unfinished items stacking up while I lived in the depths of morning sickness for weeks. I’ll never forget one nagging thought that played over and over again in my head:  “How in the world am I going to raise a child and work from home, if I am failing to do it without a child?” Yes, part of that overwhelmingly negative thought process could probably be attributed to little bouts of prenatal depression; however, the thought had merit. Starting then, I focused my thinking on how I wanted to spend my time as a working-stay-at-home mother.

Fast-forward a year:

Every second I am away from Cooper, I analyze its importance. Is depositing checks at the bank while Cooper is with the babysitter worth being away from her? The answer is no because I can do that errand while Cooper is in the car with me. On the other hand, if I need to make work phone calls while depositing checks, then that might qualify. This same assessment of time applies with regard to her nap time and bedtime.  I need to be as productive as possible while she is sleeping because I know how valuable that time is. Eating lunch can be done while she is awake, but for those tasks that need my complete focus and can’t be done when Coop is awake, I double down and accomplish as much as I can while she off in dreamland.

The problem continues to be I am busy all day long, yet I feel I never get anything done.

I compare myself to the Pinterest-worthy-full-time-stay-at-home mothers who manage to keep their houses clean and check off their many errands one by one.

I compare my accomplishments to the amount of work completed in the uninterrupted day of a full-time working mother.

However, even the moms who are able to give their undivided attention to their careers or the moms who devote their time 24-7 to mothering seem disappointed in how little time they have to accomplish every task at hand.

I am a person wired to fill out daily, weekly, monthly planners and to-do lists. I constantly brainstorm ways to create more efficient days and ways to best balance motherhood.  I am the type who loves a good old-fashioned planner as I consistently try to figure out ways to be more efficient with my time. At the end of the day, I want to feel I have accomplished something important. The weight of constantly feeling like my time needs to be productive is balanced by Cooper’s awake hours. While she is awake, I try to put away all pressures and play.

I read an article once about a mother who admitted she wasn’t very good about getting on the ground and playing with her children, but she was wonderful at facilitating play. I was convinced that would be me. I never enjoyed babysitting children, but I loved coaching children. The difference to me was playing versus facilitating play. To my surprise, crawling on the ground with Cooper and moments engaged in true play are often times the highlights of my day. The joy I feel trumps all pressure to work. It is when I multitask while attempting play that the moment feel forced.

For other work-at-home mothers, here is some advice I can offer:

1.        Separate work and home as much as possible. This task becomes increasingly difficult for mothers who work from home. I have learned the only way this is possible for me is to include Cooper in the parts of work emotionally and physically beneficial for her and to figure out times to do the rest. My solution for the rest of my tasks is to work during naps (if you have enough energy), work during the day (hire help for a scheduled number of hours), or work during the evening (I only try to do this when my husband is distracted by sports on TV or gone for the night, otherwise, I want to spend the evenings with him).

2.         Schedule play. Remember why you choose to work from home. One of the most convincing reasons for me was the flexibility to travel and be a stay-at-home mother.  With that in mind, reap the benefits of being home with your kids and PLAYING with them. Yes, sometimes this can mean being playful while doing dishes or laundry, but much of the time should be actually playtime. Schedule quality time activities to move you outdoors. Our new favorite activity is Tuesday mornings at the farmer’s market at Irvine Regional Park.

3.        Accomplish one thing in each category: Errand, Work and Personal. I have found the most important accomplishment on a daily basis is the love I give to Cooper and Cory. With that being my priority, everything else can easily fly out the window from time to time. When I stop to think about it, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I have found a simple way to become a little more productive with the other responsibilities. At the start of each day, choose three things you want to accomplish, along with “loving on” your little one(s). My list today:       

-Errand: Deposit Checks

-Work: Send game schedule to players

-Personal: Research airline tickets for friend’s wedding

I know hundreds of other tasks could be on our lists, but this trio of top priorities has been helpful at the end of the day. If I accomplish feeding, playing and loving Cooper plus one errand, work and personal responsibility, I can pat myself on the back and say: Great job, Aly!

I don’t ever feel like I am going to regret being a working mother, as long as I prioritize my family. I have committed to separate work from Cooper has much as possible. I do not want her to continually see me texting on my phone or sitting behind the computer. I love including her as much as possible in tasks that bring me outdoors to work with people (such as coaching and Be Better workouts).  It is a thoughtful decision, which makes me value my time with Cooper. I want to ensure it is quality time. I surround myself around others who are forgiving, and I understand the flexibility necessary to be a working mother. I am thankful that in 2016 I was blessed with motherhood and the positive energy that surrounds being the CEO of the Be Better Movement.