I get asked one question more often than any other: “who watches Ada while you work?” When I respond with a simple “me”, the looks I get are priceless. Because anyone who has ever been around a toddler knows, they are not easy. They don’t watch themselves, and if you take your eyes off of them for a second a wall is either going to get colored or something is going to break. Somehow they have the ability to find the one small piece of your house that’s not child proofed. It never fails. Heaven forbid I leave a cabinet unlocked or the baby gate cracked. It’s a never ending battle between safety, entertainment, sanity and work.
The pre-crawling stage was EASY!! Ada would lay on her play mat for as long as I needed her to, and would be happily entertained with those little dangling toys. Then she started rolling, and crawling, and walking, and each stage along the way has brought new challenges. She never liked playing in a playpen, so that has been out as an option from the beginning. Until she hit 15 months, I could generally give her a pile of toys and she’d entertain herself for a good 30-45 minutes while I sneaked in some work. These days, she wants to be in my face, on the computer with me, involved in everything I do. Simply put, she wants to be a big girl.
There is no one right way to raise a child and run a business, but I’m happy to share what has worked with us to hopefully help any other mom out there who’s trying to do the same thing. My goal since the day she was born was to keep a healthy work life balance…for the sake of my family…and my sanity. I want to live each day and not regret the amount of time I spent with her. I want to complete my work during reasonable business hours so I can spend my evenings with my family. I want to stay on top of my work so I don’t feel overwhelmed, and my clients don’t feel abandoned. I want to be Ada’s role model. I want my daughter to see her mom building a successful business! That is my work life balance mission statement if you will.
Up until now, I’ve managed to do all of that without external child care on a regular basis. I’m debating hiring a part-time nanny, because toddlers are a game changer, but so far our system has worked! I can’t promise it’ll work for you, but here is how I’ve survived 0-18 months as a working, stay at home mom.
- Create a work life balance mission statement. It doesn’t have to be formal, more of a general guideline to hold yourself accountable.
- Find your comfort zone. Every mom has a different level of involvement when it comes to their kids. I’m comfortable not spending every single moment with Ada, and giving her some time to play alone. I believe that’s important for her development. I have friends who are much more hands on and that’s what works for them. You have to find and be ok with your personal comfort zone.
- Checks and balances. For me, if Ada is craving attention regularly, then I need to refocus and restructure. That’s how I check myself. If she’s happy, then my system is working. If she’s not, something has to give.
- Focus during nap times. This is your productive time!!!! Turn off email and get your work done!!!!! Unless of course getting caught up on email is what you need to do during nap time : )
- Work with your child on comforting themselves to sleep. If I’m having to rock, and hold Ada during naps then my productive time goes out the window. We worked with her from 6 weeks old, to learn how to sleep on her own, and we have an AMAZING sleeper now. This is a personal parenting choice, and if your dream has been to hold your children while they sleep, then do it! You’ll just have to find another time to get your work done, and that’s ok. Remember it’s your work life balance, not mine! If you’re looking for help in the child sleeping arena, I’d highly recommend reading Becoming Baby Wise. It was a life saver for us!
- Figure out what keeps your child entertained. Recently I discovered if I give Ada an apple, she’s entertained for a good 20 minutes! Do you know how much I can get done in 20 minutes when she’s trying to crawl in my lap!!!
- Make sure your child is always full. Ada entertains herself much easier if she’s not hungry! We do snacks in between most meals to make sure her belly is happy.
- Spend quality time with your child. I try to stop every 30-45 minutes to focus on Ada for 10-15 minutes. We read books, eat a snack, play on the floor, go outside, whatever she wants to do. I put the phone away, close my email and focus on her. I find that helps keep her need for attention in check. Then I close everything around 4:30 to have some family time each evening.
- If you’re feeling really overwhelmed, ask for help. Hire a sitter for a day or call grandma if you can. If the distraction of work is keeping you from focusing on your child, then spending money on a sitter for a day to help you focus and eliminate that distraction is worth it. Ultimately, your child’s wellbeing is most important!
- Outsource!!! I learned the beauty of outsourcing my editing this year, and it has been a lifesaver!!! There are so many more ways than just editing to outsource, but for me that was my biggest time spender. Outsourcing my wedding edits has taken my editing time down from 4-6 hours to 30-40 minutes! If you’re looking for a great company check out Post Partner. They’ve been amazing, as they’ve worked with me to nail my style!
- Know that your routine and system is going to evolve as your child grows. Every few months, I’ve had to re-think how to make it all work. Just like I am now that she’s turned 18 months and is getting into everything. Just because a system/routine works today doesn’t mean it’s going to work tomorrow!
- Create boundaries for your work. I rarely do meetings, even on the phone, after 5PM or on weekends, except for the extremely special and rare circumstances. I also have certain days designated for shoots that work with my family’s schedule. It’s not that my time is more important than my clients, it’s that it’s equally as important. They all understand my boundaries, and usually don’t have an issue with them. If they do, then they’re probably not my right client.
- Know when to say no. This is huge!!!!! It’s hard, but once you learn it will change your life!
- Communicate with your spouse. If I need to work late, I talk to Kyle about it. Sometimes it happens, and that’s ok! We’re on the same page, and that’s what’s most important.
- One last thing, please keep in mind that if you’re going to be a full time mommy and full time business owner, you aren’t going to be able to go at the same pace you did before children. It’s not realistic and it’s not fair to your child if you expect that. I hate to say that you can’t have it all, but you can’t. Something has to give. If you need to keep the same level of focus on your business as you did before your child, then please hire child care for the sake of your little one. It doesn’t make you any less of a mom because you hire care. It makes you a great mom that you can admit you need help!!! Your child, your spouse, your clients and your sanity will thank you!
Does anyone have any tips for surviving the toddler years while working? I need all the help I can get!!!
For all of you ladies looking to streamline your business into more effective practices so you can spend more time with your children, then consider joining us at Darling Wedding Workshop. We’re going to be going over all my systems that help me manage it all!!! Plus with two gorgeous styled shoots, you’re going to leave with some pretty killer images!!! And tickets are on sale right now for $700!!! You can’t find another two day workshop for that price! Click on the link below for details on how to register : )