“There’s no way I can get anything done when the toddler throws things everywhere the second I start walking away.”

“I’m so, so tired.  I just don’t have the energy to attempt to get anything done tonight.”

“The baby screams if I try to put her down, I don’t know how I’m supposed to do anything without hands” (discover a baby carrier, total lifesaver by the way – I used a wide scarf for the super little).

“After working, mothering, and trying to get a load of dishes done, there’s nothing left of time or energy in me to give to my partner or kids today.”

Sound familiar?  I absolutely know the feeling.  In addition, if you have mental illness or a special needs child, my heart bleeds for you.

(PIN FOR LATER)

Although I definitely still have rough days (days of depression are basically worthless), I have found several ways that I am able to be a work at home mom of a very busy two year old, while still having a little left over to clean something and hold a conversation with my spouse at the end of the day.  Plus, I try to keep at least Sundays as a family day, or at least only do creative things or a lazy sorting project that day.

(See also: My Family Doesn’t Need Me – Depression Will Not Destroy OR How I’m Managing Mom Depression Without Medication)

During the weekdays, I have a human resources consulting business, in which I mostly source employees for other businesses, do phone interviews, and prepare new hire, job description, or hiring strategy paperwork.  Mondays and Tuesdays are especially busy at my desk, as I also usually work on this blog those days.  In the later part of the week, I work on DIY projects to sell.  In addition, I’m basically a single parent, as my husband is a retail manager and has a very erratic schedule, often working 12+ hours in a day (and he’s not the first to notice something should be getting done on his own).  Although I’ve begun to understand how to manage my depression, I still have dark days of nothingness, so keeping to lists is a no-go here.

Still, imperfectly, I can keep my sanity throughout the week, and my daughter remains happy and challenged mentally.  Considering I’m her source of entertainment (since she doesn’t have a sibling), how am I able to keep the busy week going?

Hopefully one or two of these will help you out.  I see questions and comments every day on social media from parents who are so overloaded and hopeless, drowning in their workload and to-do lists that the “self care” movement is a laughing matter – I think to most of us, if I’m honest.  Whether you stay at home, work from home, or work away from the home, this theme unites us – there just aren’t enough hours to take the guilt away.

Here’s what works for me, I hope you can find hope in trying one of these in your family!

She has special toys in my office.  Her Little People buildings, a favorite of hers, lives in here, along with her favorite doll, an assortment of books on rotation every couple of days, a special snack, a feltboard dollhouse, and usually an art project (right now it’s stringing pony beads on pipe cleaners for colorful bracelets).  These things don’t leave this room, so she doesn’t get bored with them.  They’re some of her favorite things, so she looks forward to quietly playing alongside me as I work.  It’s all quiet stuff, but not enough things that it creates a massive disaster and yet another frustrating distraction in my life.

I save things that I can’t do when she’s awake, for when she’s asleep, no exceptions.  Listen, I can run laundry upstairs on a stand up break from my desk, while she keeps playing.  However, I can’t conduct an interview, go out and clean the car, bring totes up from the basement, or write a post with her around, so I leave those things for when she’s sleeping.

I have gotten over my hatred of the TV.  Well, kind of, anyway.  I used to not allow her to watch much television, maybe a 20 minute episode on PBS a day while I made dinner or something, but that was it.  Eventually, I was not keeping my cool anymore.  While she doesn’t veg all day, I have accepted the TV babysitter for an hour or two a day, with her watching something that teaches her.  However, she actually really likes kid music videos on YouTube (they do cartoon graphics of songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, and she tries to follow along with the directions…it’s a life skill and she’s moving, so WIN!)  She has screen time when I’m making lunch or dinner, have an interview I can’t move, or when I decide to move around the house a lot to get something done (like vacuuming or putting clothes away).

I rotate her toys every week.  When she’s watching TV, she’s in the livingroom, which is also where her toys and coloring table are.  I have her toys in four boxes, and she gets a different one each week.  Especially on my busy Mondays and Tuesdays, this is a lifesaver, as she LOVES discovering favorite toys she hasn’t seen in a month.  It keeps it fresh for her, and I think she is able to enjoy a larger number of her toys this way.  It also keeps the toy clutter to a quarter of what it could be, which is another win!

When I’m with her, I’m with ONLY her.  This really helped my mom guilt.  Yes, she entertains herself a large part of my workday.  However, at least two hours out of the day, it’s her time.  It’s usually broken inter smaller chunks of time throughout the day, but I’m on the floor playing with her, helping her with a (messy) craft project, going for a walk to the playground, reading book after book.  No phone checking, no interruptions, just learning and discovering together.

I assign certain tasks to certain days.  I already mentioned that I do the bulk of blog stuff on Monday and Tuesday.  Thursdays is when I do the grand cleaning sweep of the house, since our trash and recycling pickup comes on Friday morning.  This is when my focus in any “free” time is cleaning the bathrooms, finding the diningroom table, scrubbing the floors, etc are done, as well as the bulk of the laundry (however, I do clean throughout the week a bit, around 20 minutes a day so we don’t live in squalor).  Saturday is when you can usually find me getting dirty in paint, sawdust, or poking my fingers with needles or wire, while Wednesday I work late on business and hiring plans.  Having a rough routine took the guesswork out of much of my to-do list.  Instead of sitting there for a free ten minutes trying to figure out what to accomplish, if it’s Thursday, I probably need to swap laundry and sweep a floor, leaving business and creative tasks out of the way.  This also usually prevents burnout on one part of my life, since I’m not focusing on one thing for days at a time.  Try different systems to figure out what works best for you – I definitely didn’t settle on this one quickly.

(See also – When You’re Drowning in Mom Life OR The Only Thing You Need to Do to Be a Good Mom )

I set aside a day.  I work very hard over the week so I can have a solid day to recharge with my family.  Sundays are reserved for family and household – I read for fun before the rest of the family wakes up for church, and after church we usually go out for lunch or people watch somewhere.  I also write out the next week’s bullet journal trackers, to-do lists, dinner menu, pay bills, as well as surf Pinterest for a fun activity to do with the little during the next week.  I do use this day as a “catch up day” too sometimes, where I’ll complete a big sorting project, paint a room (I’m slowly renovating a 125-year old house), or write a blog post outline.

I broke up with my phone.  Well, we don’t see each other as frequently, anyway.  Quickest way I shaved off time to complete tasks so I could move on to the next during the week?  I put my phone down.  Seriously – the purpose of texts is to answer on convenience, and I was surprised at how much time I wasted checking my notifications every five minutes.  When half the time I was with my daughter and I noticed I was scrolling Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram…she deserves more than that.  A Like can wait, but my dishes, and my free day goal, can’t.

Do you have a system in place to help manage all of the hats your kingdom commands?  Comment, I would love to hear your perspective!  Or, are you drowning in life and feeling a bit frustrated and hopeless?  I have been a stay at home, work from home, and work outside the home mom, and if there is anything that unites our differences, it’s that we are all exhausted.  I’d love to see your perspective too.

Hang in there, we’re in this together!

Ashley

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18 thoughts on “How to Find Balance in Work, Home, and Everything Else As a Busy Mom

  1. I was just sitting here eating your words up! I really need to get a system in place and stick to it! I’ll be trying some things to see how they work out.

    1. Haha, thanks Esse! I think that’s really what makes it work…some trial and error on what systems work in your family. What works for one mama might not work for another. However, stealing bits and pieces and trying them out never hurt anything. 😉 Good luck!

  2. Well you are a busy bee, but you’re doing it. I appreciate you posting all the hard work that it takes to be a mother and also just simply a woman. You rock and you’re doing a wonderful job at it.

    1. You’re so sweet Chastity! I think it’s in our nature for most of us to try to wear as many hats in a day as possible, in one way or another. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I love this!! Such great tips for compartmentalizing your day and making sure all of your responsibilities are met. I work from home as well so it can be really tricky to feel like I am fully committing to everything that needs to get done.

    1. I’m totally stealing that word, compartmentalizing. 😉 What a great way to describe it. I absolutely still feel that way as I work with the toddler at my feet, often coming up to show me things. Although I feel really guilty about it, I know that soon I’ll be taking a break and giving her 100%, while her sleep times I give work or house 100%. Figuring out the compromise really helped me to get through the day and not feel like I was leaving something out.

  4. Its not easy being a mum, am not a mum but I can relate to this because I was once saddled with the responsibility of taking care of my little ones when I was younger but breaking up with my phone will be like the most difficult thing to do.

    1. I absolutely get you there! That was probably the hardest to dump, especially as a blogger and consultant. The “what ifs” constantly run wild. 😉 Reassure yourself that if it’s that important for the next hour, they’ll call. I check my phone for about 20 mins every three hours at this point, and work on social media mostly while I wait for things (the final laundry spin, daughter’s dance class, as a car passenger…), as well as at night when I want something pretty brainless to do. It’s honestly incredible how much time I’ve found. Good luck to you Oyibo!

  5. I really think it is so important to find balance, as hard as it may be. Disconnecting from technology is a must too.

    1. I agree. It was very hard to do, especially as a blogger and a consultant. Starting little by little, it’s incredible how much time I’ve found by not checking my phone notifications every few minutes! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I love this post 10000000% . I wish there was a love button for it. It’s so true, it’s hard to find balance but I think all these things help balance out. I agree with Sundays being the schedule, household, get things done day. That’s what I do on sundays too, plus it helps sundays I can usually guarantee my husband is home(unless hes deployed) to entertain while I do other things.

    1. Very true, I often have some sort of help on Sunday’s too, which makes things SO much easier. It’s my get things done day, but without making deadlines for myself – I want to feel free enough to have the right to enjoy my family, after working hard for 6 days. It’s honestly all about finding the system that works best for each family. Thanks for commenting Jessica, and I’m so glad you loved it!

  7. Lots of great tips on how to manage a busy life. I liked the way you laid out what you do each day. It’s something I need to work towards.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Kelli! Honestly, it’s all about trial and error, finding a system that works best for each family. It’s not possible to have every day be seamless, and there are plenty of days that my toddler is clingy and I can’t get anything done. However, eventually finding a system that worked for us did make the good days outweigh the bad. 😉 Good luck in finding yours!

  8. I love your ideas. I think doing things with intention makes the biggest impact. We left everything to travel 50 states in 50 weeks this year with our 3 small girls – and it has been so good for us.

    1. Paige, doing things with intention is seriously the biggest take away! Blocking things and doing them to the fullest is the only way to keep sanity long-term. Also, what an AWESOME trip!! I want to do something similar when my family is a little older – what a neat experience for them!

  9. These are great ideas for work from home moms. Thats a topic frequently discussed on our Networking and Collaboration platform for women.

    1. It’s a topic frequently discussed everywhere, and for good reason…especially with babies and toddlers (kids who can’t fix things themselves), finding that balance as a work from home parent is so important for our own sanity, let alone our home life. Thanks for stopping by Aditi, I so appreciate it!

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