Balance

3 Tips to Finding Balance as a Stay-at-Home, Work-at-Home Parent

By Erin Blaskie

Any self-employed person knows that when your work is at home, there are no real breaks.  You don’t necessarily have the option to “leave work at work” because your office usually lures you in with the sound of new e-mail, the nagging to-do list and the endless possibilities to push your business just one step further.

I remember saying to my husband, over the past eight years, “Just one more e-mail…” or “I just need to finish this one website tweak – I’ll be a few minutes!” more times than I can count.  Even when I walked away from the computer, I would obsessively check my smart phone for new e-mail, check Twitter or Facebook for important updates and I would often leave him feeling a bit ignored.

Even as a self-employed person with fewer commitments, I still found myself unable to strike a good balance between my family/social life and my work.  I had an all-or-nothing attitude about my business and I wanted to be successful.  To me, at that time, success meant working around the clock to achieve more, more, more.

Then, in November of 2010, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Willow.  Willow changed our entire lives for the better.  However, there are unique challenges to parenthood.  Lack of sleep, lack of a schedule/routine for awhile, endless stages of growth that upset your child’s temperament and the inability to truly take time for yourself, can all lead to a very unbalanced parent.

After having six years of uninterrupted work time, the ability to pull all-nighters and the luxury of being able to travel at the drop of a hat to conferences and client meetings, my entire life changed the moment she came into this world.  I could no longer do any of those things, as I had to deal with new challenges – childcare, extensive planning for travel and having a child in the background when I did my client calls.

I had never found great balance when I was “just” a self-employed person and now, I was trying to achieve balance with a new baby in the picture.  Needless to say, it was not easy to do and I had to get really clear on my priorities. The good news is, we have found balance in our life now.  My husband, my daughter, my work and myself all get the attention we need to really thrive.  Now, not every day is perfect and some days things slide a little but if you look at the view from 50,000 feet, we’re doing pretty good.

The three tips that follow are things that I learned are important to achieving and maintaining balance as a stay-at-home, work-at-home parent.  I hope they help you gain a bit of solace and mostly, help you realize that you are not alone.

Tip #1 – Give Yourself Permission to Let Some Things Go

If there is anything in this article that you read, let it be this tip.  Give yourself permission, right now, to let some things go.  You don’t have to be a super parent.  You don’t have to get every piece of laundry folded and put away today.  You don’t need to get your dishes cleared from the sink in this very instant.  Your clients can wait another hour or two until you get the baby to bed.  Be okay with letting some things go.

I’m an over-achiever and I hate asking for help so in my quest for balance, I had to really stop and have a conversation with myself.  I had to say, “Look Erin, it’s okay if not everything is perfect.  In fact, it’s probably better that it isn’t perfect because if it were perfect, someONE would be left out.”  You see that emphasized one there?

In our quest to perfection, lots of THINGS get done but people get ignored and the important stuff is missed.  Think of it this way, when you are on your death bed, do you want to recall how clean your home was, how perfect your meals were and how nice smelling your laundry was?  Probably not.  Instead, create memories and experiences and let some of the other things wait.

Tip #2 – Schedule, Schedule and Then Schedule Some More

Before I had a baby, I never believed in having a schedule.  I flew by the seat of my pants and I could drop stuff on a whim if something else came up on any specific day.  Now that I have Willow, I know just how important a schedule is.  In the examples that follow, you’ll see why scheduling will help you to maintain balance.

Schedule days in your calendar that are just for client calls.  If you are self-employed, you are naturally going to have calls with prospective clients and current clients.  These calls are just part of doing business and to do them, you will need some time in your calendar that is devoted to doing just that.  You don’t want your baby screaming in the background during a call so the schedule becomes extra important.

For me, I like to schedule calls on a Monday.  It lets me get my game face on and see what lies ahead for the week.  It also alleviates the stress of having a few calls every day for the entire week.  When I know that calls are happening on a certain day, I can be prepared, I can arrange for childcare and I can get in total work mode.

Schedule days in your calendar that are specifically for your child.  Whether you do a group play date with other parents and their children or you just do an activity with your child, make sure to schedule at least one day per week that is dedicated solely to your child. 

In our case, I have a nanny on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, so Tuesday and Friday are dedicated to Willow.  We go to indoor playgrounds, go swimming at the pool, visit the library and just spend the day having fun together.  This is super important and should be continued long into your baby’s childhood.

Schedule date nights into your calendar.  Once you have your work days scheduled, dates with the baby scheduled, you now want to make sure to give some attention to that spouse of yours!  Schedule at least one date night per month where you get a grandparent or a relative to come and watch the child(ren) and you go out.

We like to get grandma to come over and watch Willow while we go out for a movie, dinner and coffee all by ourselves.  It’s a fantastic time for us to reconnect, reengage and be able to have adult conversation without yelling over Willow’s “singing” and without being interrupted.  Since this is an activity we did a lot pre-baby, it also lets us enjoy that time of our life again too.

Tip #3 – Put Your Pride Aside and Ask for Help or Hire Help

One of the biggest pain points for any parent, especially a new one, is asking for help.  We don’t want to appear weak or like we can’t handle it so we just let all of the responsibilities fall on our shoulders until we can no longer bear the weight.  If you are one of those people who take on way more than you should, tip #3 will be helpful.

People weren’t kidding when they told me, “It takes a village to raise a child” because it really does!  To achieve balance in your life, you need help.  Look at your life right now and see where you might be able to delegate some of your workload.  Whether this means hiring a housekeeper once a month or hiring an assistant to work in your business, get some support so that you can focus on the other important things in your life.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.  In fact, it’s actually a sign of strength and intelligence because you’ve recognized what you are truly good at and you see the value in delegating out that which you aren’t.

I hope that you find these tips helpful and I hope that it helps you to achieve balance in your life as a stay-at-home, work-at-home parent.

 

About Erin Blaskie

Erin Blaskie is the founder of BSETC (www.bsetc.com), a virtual assistance company based out of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  When Erin isn’t helping her clients create stronger online presence, she can be found blogging (and vlogging!) about social media, entrepreneurship and motherhood.  Erin can be reached at @ErinBlaskie (Twitter) or www.ErinBlaskie.com

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