By Emily McClements, Contributing Writer
It's 5:00 pm. I've been staring at the computer screen for the past hour/hour and a half. My husband sends me a text that he is on his way home from work, 30 minutes away.
I look around the house - toys, art supplies, books and the leftovers of a blanket fort are scattered everywhere, evidence of the kids basically having free reign of the house while I worked. I have no idea what we're going to have for dinner. The kids are whining asking to watch a cartoon, and I can hear the baby crying as she wakes up from her afternoon nap.
This has been the reality of my life most days as a work-at-home mom.
These days are hard, and filled to the very brim, bursting with all of the day-to-day responsibilities that I juggle. It's often overwhelming, and sometimes even chaotic.
If you're in a similar situation, feeling overwhelmed and burnt out with working from home, and taking care of your children and your home, I really want to encourage you. You are not alone; there are other mamas out there who do both of those things and feel the same way as you and I do.
Those of us who are writers and bloggers paint pretty pictures of our lives with the words that we write, that may make it sound like we have it all together and all figured out.
But, I've talked with many of my blogging friends lately about how messy our houses are, or how we stay up too late and wake up too early because we have work deadlines to meet, or how we called our husbands to bring home pizza again, because we just didn't have time to make dinner.
Often, working from home can seem like the best of both worlds. You get to do meaningful work that brings in income for your family, while also being home with your precious children. And in some ways that is true.
But in other ways, working from home, while also being a stay-at-home mama of littles, can be very difficult and draining. It's like working two different jobs, at the exact same time.
I love my work, and I love my family, but sometimes juggling both becomes overwhelming, and I don't do either one well. That's when I know that something has to change.
Today, I want to share with you some of my experience over the past few weeks of trying to get control of the craziness of our days, addressing some of the things that I was really not doing well, or completely dropping the ball on, and working on a better routine for managing my work and home responsibilities.
3 Things I Don't Do Well As a Work-at-Home Mom
This one has been killing me lately.
The 5 o'clock rush to figure out what we're going to have for dinner and get it prepared and served to the family before it's bedtime has led us to eating more convenience food and eating out more often than I would like.
There was a time where I meal planned regularly, and it was great. I loved it. But for some reason, I've really been struggling with scheduling meals lately and sticking to any kind of plan. It's not good for our health or our budget!
What I'm Doing About It
We purchased bulk beef and pork a few months ago, so we have lots of great meat available in our freezer. At the beginning of the week, I've started pulling out a couple of different packages of meat I think we could eat during the week and defrosting them in the fridge, even though I don't have actual meals in mind.
Once I have that meat out of the freezer, I know I need to use it up. So either the night before, or the morning of, I'll look through what we have available and come up with a meal for that evening.
Then, and this has been key in helping to make dinner time less stressful, I work to do as much prep work during the day as I can. I chop veggies, brown meat, or put together casseroles and stick them in the fridge, so that throwing dinner together at 5 o'clock is so much easier.
I might not have a weekly, or monthly, menu plan at this point, but this way of planning and making meals is working for me right now.
2. Staying on top of my house
Oh, how my house gets out of control so easily with little ones at home! And I will be honest, I am the type that gets so easily overwhelmed and fails to take action if things seem too messy and out of control. So, I will sit on my computer and browse Facebook instead of going in the kitchen and doing the dishes.
There have also been life-changing events in our lives over the past year: the death of my father and the birth of our third child, that have contributed to my feelings of being overwhelmed and incapable of doing anything about it. But, I have decided this is just too stressful to my family, and I can't let things get so bad any more.
What I'm doing about it
The main thing I decided to do that has absolutely changed the state of my home is keeping my computer in our upstairs office/guest room. I've started going up there when I'm working, and when I'm finished with my work time I leave my computer up there.
Keeping my computer away and out of sight means that I don't get on it "just to check my email real quick" and the next thing I know I've wasted an hour of time and haven't actually accomplished anything significant for my work.
This also makes my work time more focused. When I know that my daughter gets home from preschool at 11:45, and I'm leaving my computer upstairs so I can make lunch for us, I work faster and more diligently for the hour or so that I have available, instead of leaving the computer open and trying to keep working while making and feeding my kids lunch.
And then, when we're finished eating, I don't jump right back on my computer to finish up one more thing. I take care of the dishes right away, clean up the kitchen, and work on some dinner prep. The difference in my house, and my stress level, over the past few weeks has been amazing, just by leaving my computer out of reach.
As mamas, our kids go to sleep at night, and our minds start turning with all of the things that we still need to do, whether it's tasks around the house, or work projects to finish up.
Often time we burn the candle at both ends, staying up later than our families, and waking up earlier, just to find the time we need to get things done. I have been doing this more often than I know I should lately.
I have not been making sleep a priority, and it definitely caught up with me. I would put my kids to bed at 7:30 or 8, and fall asleep while rocking or reading to them and be out for the rest of the night.
Then I would be frustrated the next day because I didn't get the things done I needed to and would stay up late trying to finish everything, and the cycle would repeat itself.
What I'm doing about it
Keeping a consistent bedtime is the biggest thing that helps me to get the sleep I need.
Like with my work time, if I know that I'm going to bed at 10:00 no matter what, then I work hard to get the things done I need to before I have to go to bed, and I also allow myself to be okay if some things go undone.
A well rested-mommy is a happier mommy than one who has everything crossed off her to-do list!
3 Things I Do Well As a Work-at-Home Mom
There are also three things I think I do pretty well as a wife and mama, and it's important to me and my family that I maintain these things no matter what. If I'm not doing these things well, because I'm overwhelmed by my work and home responsibilities, then it kind of defeats the purpose for me of being a work-at-home, and stay-at-home, mom.
1. Love my Kids
It's so important to me that no matter what, my kids know that I love and cherish them, every single day.
We spend time snuggling first thing in the morning, and always again before bedtime, reading books together and often just talking about whatever is on their minds.
We eat our meals sitting at the table together, and I talk to them about things that are going on in their day.
I hug and kiss my kids as often as possible, all day long. The older ones are starting to get to the point where they sometimes resist, but that doesn't mean I will stop trying!
2. Love my Husband
My husband knows that I love him, but we have found that when we are really intentional about loving each other that our relationship is stronger and more connected, we feel happier, and things run more smoothly between us and for the household.
We try to maintain physical contact on a daily basis, hugging and kissing, or even just a quick squeeze on the hand, shoulder, or even discreetly on the bum, as often as we can throughout the day, just to let each other know that we love and cherish each other.
We also think it's important for our kids to see us loving each other in a tangible way on a regular basis.
3. Connect with Friends
Despite my busy schedule, I try to hang out with friends and stay connected on a regular basis. I try to have at least one time a week that I am connecting with a friend, or several friends.
This can look like having a friend whose kids are in school all day, over for coffee in the morning, meeting friends at the park or zoo so our kids can play while we chat, or going out for coffee in the evening, without the kiddos.
I am an extrovert by nature, meaning I get my energy from spending time with people, so these times with friends are so important for me to help me feel recharged and connected beyond the four walls of my home.
Encouragement for the Weary Mom
I want to encourage you, whatever season of life you're in, there will always be things that you are doing well, and things you are not doing so well.
Find the things you are doing well, acknowledge them and give yourself credit, even if the things you're not doing as well attempt to steal your joy.
And for those things you're not doing well, first of all, give yourself grace.
We are not supermoms; we are not perfect; we cannot do everything all the time. We are beautifully finite and broken people in need of Grace from our Savior, and also from ourselves and our own expectations.
Then, after you have covered yourself with grace, work to find solutions that will work for you and your family to help you in the areas that you are feeling the most stressed and overwhelmed. Pray for guidance and direction, and follow God as He leads. Blessings to you and your family!