Last year, when I first became a work at home mom, there were many nights when I was up way after everyone had gone to bed finishing up various projects. I wanted to do a good job and prove myself to my new employer, so it was very rare that I said “no” to a request. Eventually, I learned that creating boundaries for work was necessary in order for me, and my family, to really be happy. As the school year kicks back up, and I find myself feeling a little overwhelmed and burnt out already, I’ve decided that I need some rules. The thing is, it’s easy to say that I have boundaries, but actually sticking to them…that’s the hard part. So, I’m putting this out here. A manifesto. Because I want you all to help me stay accountable. And I want my friends that are work at home moms to consider adopting these same practices.
Come on, Ladies! Let’s stop putting our families, and ourselves, last behind jobs that can (and trust me, they will) replace us at the drop of a dime if they need to. Let’s stop making our husbands go to bed without us, or trying to type and talk to our children at the same time. If we work hard enough, we can have it all, and we should have it all. The Work At Home Manifesto ensures that we’ll get to enjoy it all in the process.
I will eat at least as often as I feed my family.
When I worked in an office, one of the highlights of the day was figuring out what we were going to eat for lunch. Now that I don’t have anyone checking on if I’m eating or not, it’s my responsibility to make sure I feed myself breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Not only will it help me to be more focused and productive at work, it’ll give me energy to play around and hang out in the evening during family time. When I’m planning Ayva’s lunches for the week, it’s easy to plan my own as well, and SIGN OFF to eat, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. And no, coffee doesn’t count as food.
I will set, and stick to, boundaries.
Since communication for my work is done 95% online, and since the internet is always open, it was incredibly important that I set boundaries. There have been plenty of nights and weekends when I was answering emails or problem-solving when I should have been spending time with my family. At a certain point, I think folks started to expect that, and there were several times when I received phone calls on a Saturday to take care of a task, when the requestor was on their way out to enjoy some fun family activity. I don’t do that anymore. Unless it’s a life or death situation (which, seeing as I work in social media and not medicine, chances of it being life or death is pretty much impossible), it can wait until normal business hours. Now, I don’t expect to only work 40 hours a week, or to never check my emails at night, but there has to be balance. And it’s not my employer or my clients’ job to help me achieve that. It’s mine. I have to set those boundaries up, and I have to stick to them.
I will own my experience and abilities.
Just because I work out of my home, that doesn’t mean I’m any less professional or knowledgeable than someone that goes into an office everyday. When I first started working from home, I found myself deferring to the folks in the company who were working together in person, and were able to problem solve or make decisions at the watercooler. Once I began owning the fact my ideas and thoughts were just as important as my colleagues, and I had just as much to offer, I started being more assertive in my role. A little bit of that was reminding folks to include me, and a lot of it was reminding myself that I deserved to be included.
I will shower daily.
When Ayva was a baby, and I was a single mom, I would put her in her high chair at the open door of the bathroom while I took a shower. I’d put some Cheerios on her tray table to keep her occupied, and clipped a toy to the chair for her to play with. I didn’t use excuses then, so I need to stop making excuses now. I’m not saying that a luxurious 20 minute shower escape will happen all the time, but there is no reason I can’t put some soap and water on my body at least once a day. And while I’m at it, I can put some decent clothes on, and brush my hair. There have been many times that I’ve thrown a cardigan over my pajamas for a meeting on a Google Hangout, and that’s ridiculous. I have started to carve out 15 minutes in the morning to shower and get dressed. On really good days, I’ll put some makeup on. If nothing else, my husband likes it and I don’t look like I’ve been lounging around eating bon-bons all day.
I will ask for help when I need it.
There are no awards for doing it all without help. And it just makes things ten times more difficult, too. Instead of pretending like I am single-handedly able to work full-time, blog part-time, cook for my family, take care of my preschooler for the majority of the day, and do any and everything else around the house that needs to get done until I burn out and crash, I’ve started asking for help. Sometimes the help comes in form of a carpool, other times it means that Terrence makes dinner. I am willing to give up my SuperWoman badge in order to be sane, because ain’t nothing cute about crazy. Regardless of where she works.
I will multi-task in a reasonable manner.
Somehow the definition of multitasking has evolved from being the practice of one person doing many things at the same time, to one person doing the work of several people at one time. I am one woman. ONE WOMAN. Even though I work out of the home, there is no way that I can take care of the house for 40 hours a week, and complete work projects for 4o hours a week. Multi-tasking is throwing clothes in the wash, taking a phone call, and then putting clothes in the dryer when the call has ended. It’s not mopping the floor while dictating an email on Evernote as you color your hair and bake cookies with your child. When you try to divide your attention for the sake of getting it all done at the same time, the short end of the stick almost always goes to the most important task. Dinner for your family gets burned, or your child walks away because they can sense that you aren’t really listening. No one expects you to do it all. At least, not at the same time.
I will make time for myself.
When you’re fortunate and able to turn something that you love into a career, it’s easy to forget that it’s work. Writing used to be what I would do to wind down or to be creative. Now that I do it a lot for pay, I have found that it’s less of a stress-reliever than it used to be. What that means is I have to find something else, something not work related, to help me relax and get my mind off of business. You know, something that’s strictly for pleasure, and only for me. I’ll be taking a cake decorating class next month, and after that’s over, I’ll find something else to do. Making time for myself is going to allow me to clear my head and will probably even charge my creativity and make me more productive at work. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll be fun, and sometimes that’s all that really matters.
I will acknowledge when it’s time to let it go.
It’s really hard when something doesn’t work out. I mean, who wants to admit that they really are human, and they can’t do everything? But you know, priorities change, the balance shifts, and sometimes we have to make a decision to let certain opportunities go. It’s not the end of the world. We are living in a time where women can make money, lots of money, from their very own living rooms. You might have to think out of the box a bit, or move out of your comfort zone in order to find those opportunities, but it’s possible. If a job starts to take precedence over your family, over your friendships, over your marriage or your health…it’s time to reevaluate and make a change. Right now, my job is okay with the boundaries that I have in place to protect my time with my family, but it’s a growing company, and that could change. If it does, it’ll be tough, but my family comes first. Your family comes first.
Okay, Work At Home Moms. Are you with me? Let’s think of our work as children. Just like with children, our work does better when we give it boundaries. Are you ready to put your family, and yourself, first? Let me know in the comments!