Before I had kids, I used to have a fine job as a biotechnologist – a clean 9-5 schedule and free of itchy bitchy work culture – something that moms, and women in general would love to stick around. Yet, after kids, I never had a debate to myself if I should stay at home or go to work. I just knew I would better fare well as a hard core be-at-home-mom.
Six years past now, I am still happy about my decision partly because I work from home. Of course, I miss working at my lab, meddling with DNA and live cells and straining my eyes through a microscope. However, now that I have two little lives to meddle with and get to strain my body, mind and soul with them, the game feels fair 😆
A work-at-home mom!
The demands and scenarios of work-at-home moms could be diverse depending upon the number of kids, their ages and the availability of support. Imagine a relatively worse case – two children; one kindergartner and one toddler; no grandparents by the side; no domestic help and a nearly (utterly) unhelpful father. That’s mine!
Some of my everyday routine include home chores, morning chase to school, cooking (multiple times catering to the multiple taste buds), afternoon school pick up, potty training for one (if you’ve lived through the mess!), partial potty help for the other, playtime at home, playtime at the park, play dates with friends, school homework, make them e-a-t, make them dress-undress-bathe-redress, put them to s-l-e-e-p – sprinkle some (no, a lot of) tantrums and let me add, the toddler is still breastfed! These are only ‘some’ of it. The non-routine is plethora – door bell rings, phone calls, guests, shopping, outings, school meetings and all those that can arise out-of-the-blue. Then there is this blog, that little garden, the ever-incomplete canvas, the ever-wish-to-do yoga, the inviting book shelf – did I forget the social media maintenance? AND work!
I’ve largely identified myself as a homemaker though I’ve (almost) built a new career now, working from home in the last five odd years. For once, I thought I must write about my side of a working mom. And I decided not to make this post to rant on the problems of work-from-home moms (the whole world knows about it now, anyway) or cover 5 tips, 10 tips or 11 tips like the ones all over the internet which advice to follow timely schedules, shower and dress-up before work, hang a ‘do not disturb’ board on your door and keep asking the world for help.
Not that I underestimate the potential in such tips, but from my experience as a work-at-home-mom, I see a lack of realism in such generic tips. I am certainly not one of those moms who can horde a success hat of managing home, work and kids effectively. I am just another mom struggling to come to peace with my motherhood and trying desperately to untag myself from the looked-down-upon ‘housewife’ and ‘homemaker’ titles. If you are one of those mommies like me, I hope and believe that you can get some realistic insights from my two cents of awakenings.
#1 Nothing helps as an organized home (Don’t read it as ‘neat and tidy’ home)
It’s essential for work-at-home moms to be aware of the power of an organized home. By organized, I don’t mean tidy floors and a clean kitchen. To understand how organized your home is, try answering the following questions:
- If you were to find the consumer number of your gas service, can you do it without a 5-10 minute search?
- Do your kiddos know where to put the beach toys after a sand play? (The question is not if they do; but by a rare chance they want to, do they know where to?)
- Can the father of your house survive alone without shooting multiple questions to you when you are away? (Ex. Is the oven still under warranty? Is there a cheque book at home? Where’s the new clothesline? Did we get the last credit card statement?)
- If your family was to get ready for an outing in the next ten minutes, can all of you find your respective clothes, underwear, socks, towels, handkerchiefs, combs and whatever without having to search, ask or yell at each other?
That’s what I mean by an organized home! Everything has a designated place in the house, and most importantly, everyone at home are aware of it. Well, what has this got to do with a work-from-home mom’s productivity?
As a work-at-home mom, we don’t notice how often we spend time in ‘searching for something’. And how much time the ‘others’ in the house put you to search for something.
So, I sit down to work and then my son decides to paint his cardboard house. I get out of my chair to hand him over the paint and brushes. He then whines in the next five minutes about the dirty-coloured water. I get out of my chair to refill water in his painting tray. In the next ten minutes, he gives out a huge cry because he accidentally painted his fingers yellow. I get out of my chair to fetch him a wiper. Soon, his cardboard house breaks and he needs a cello tape to fix it – now, here! I get out of my chair to locate the cello tape which I remember using last to fix a page in a book but I am not sure where I put it back…….
Instead, what if all of it was accessible to him? And he knows exactly what to find where?
That’s the power of an organized home!
If you were to begin organizing your house which could be partially organized or totally haywire now, I suggest you begin with first decluttering what’s not needed. Do you see a bunch of bills on a dusty rack which you have been thinking to sort-out for a few months now? Have you been piling-up your baby’s old clothes in the wardrobe which you are unsure if it would fit her any longer? Is there a toy bin full of toys untouched for months now?
Throw. Discard. Move to trash!
Then, sort the rest!
Of course, the problem now is to maintain what you have organized. The kids are not going to put their toys back where they belong to. The father is not going to leave the helmet where you want it to go. Yes, you might have to do the sorting-out most of the days. But, when they want to find something, they will know where to look for instead of bugging you to leave your chair. Got it?
#2 Simplify; just everything you can!
At one point (precisely, the day when I used the old, comb-cleaning tooth brush to brush my teeth), I realized that if I had to work from home, I had to simplify much of the things at home.
Let me take the example of every homemaker’s bitter friend – laundry. I feel laundry-friendly until the stage of taking-off the dried clothes from the clothesline. Post that, it’s always pile-on-the-chairs. Five minutes before guests arrive, the pile moves to the bed. Two minutes before bedtime, it’s thrown on the sofa. From the following morning, it goes chair-bed-sofa until the family pulls out all of it, one-by-one, day after day. Folding clothes and sorting them in the closet is, according to me, the most unproductive home chore. Recently, however, I found an end to this laundry circus. I bought a which can accommodate nearly a hundred hangers. Straight from the washing machine, the dear clothes get on to the hangers, to the clothesline and then to the clothes stand. Not only has it saved me from folding and arranging, but also has given a new visibility to all the existing clothes at home. And I can see our chairs, bed and sofa breathing in relief now.
Look around. What’s the most troublesome or time-consuming work routine? Can you simplify it? Arrange school bus for drop? Cut down on the elaborate cooking rituals? May be buying a dish washer can help? Hire a baby-sitter for a couple of hours? Exchange online shopping for visiting stores – Amazon, BigBasket, ItsyBitsy – the idea is,
discover or invent what you truly need.
Quit getting recycled in the age-old systems, forever!
Make your systems simple; it can ease your load at home. That means, you get more breathing space at work.
#3 Create a rhythm (No, I don’t mean strict time schedules)
Personally, I don’t prefer to work out a strict time table. With kids around, you might not be able to check mark one after the other as planned. And it can leave you with a sense of futility which you will eventually vent out on your kids and husband on top of carrying a storm in your mind for the rest of the day.
Rather, I believe in setting up a rhythm. On any given day, your kids must have a sense of awareness of how a day would pass. Say, after they are back from school, when they fairly know it is going to be lunch-crafts-snacks-park play-bath-dinner-brush-story time-bedtime, their flow of the day shall ride calmly. It’s not time but a rhythm which is important to children, and to us in fact.
Confining, for instance, dinner time between 7 and 7.30 can make dinner almost breathless. Instead, freely embracing a delay a few minutes later than 7.30, knowing that brushing and bathing times which are to follow can be adjusted, helps us and children to breathe freely. In other words,
A schedule is breaking the day into smaller tasks, while
a rhythm is, going along with a fairly-expected flow of the day (week or month)
I’ve observed that telling my son, “From 3 O’clock to 5 O’clock, it’s mommy’s work time. You mustn’t disturb,” projects hardly any significance to him because as a child, his sense of time is still under progress. However, when I tell him, “After lunch, it’s your crafts time and mommy’s work time. We will focus on what we do,” he gets geared up to look forward to it. And when every day, it is always crafts time after lunch, he understands in the background, what is expected of him when mommy is working.
#4 Watch what’s keeping you pre-occupied
As I sat down to work today, my son poked a question: “Why is it T-R-E-E when T-R-E sounds the same?” I could comprehend that it was a good question but my reply was sharp: “That’s how English is!” The next minute, I stopped to analyse what made my response jump down my throat. That’s when I picked out the sad story of the Juniper plant from behind the scenes. I had bought a bunch of plants from the nursery last week. Of all, the Juniper plant began to wither its leaves soon after re-potting. I have been thinking to read about Juniper care in the internet but I’ve been putting it off for sometime now. And this sad story had got me pre-occupied, slowly stealing my sanity away. If I had not identified the Juniper tale and cared to stop, analyze and complete the reading task, it would have further dug a hole into my work productivity, not to mention, my boy would have got the highest share of my insanity.
Yes, we’ve read and heard a ton about mindfulness and mindful parenting. Unfortunately, our vices often mask the good things and all the mindfulness we read about gets out of our minds in no time. Yet, here’s something tangible to do:
Every time you pull your chair closer to your work desk, ask yourself,
“Do I feel pre-occupied?”
If yes, close your eyes to quickly scan through your thoughts.
Mentally sort-out what needs to.
Here you go!
#5 Wake up before everyone does; take that mother time
Because, no one else is going to bestow it on you!
Be it a nature walk, yoga, a hot cup of coffee or planning for the day, beginning the day before the on-demand time zone begins, can help us orient ourselves toward the everyday rhythm.
#6 Indulge in happiness hormones
Yes, the home is organized. Well, your children are sweet. Good, you feel calm. Although everything you envisage for a peaceful work time is in place, sometimes, the mere lack of a good feeling can make you feel lethargic; especially when you are in your pyjamas and have the liberty to have your feet up on the table or hug a cushion. That’s why we need a surge in the happiness hormones, from time to time.
List the little things that make you feel awesome. To me, they are hot coffee, shopping at Amazon, chilled lemon juice, publishing a post, swinging, a brownie fudge and a lone ride. It need not be in between your work time (better it is not!). Rather, when you sense your mood curve is nearing the X-axis, pick something from your list quickly. Of course, it need not be a planned one as well. When you buy an ice cream for your kid, buy one for you, so that your heart doesn’t feel deprived watching your little one lick the last drops of the vanilla melt down.
#7 Don’t squeeze (yourself, everything and everyone else)
You are a super mom, of course; but you are not a She-Hulk. There’s only so much you can do in 24 hours. And everyone who live with you have a life – whether you work from home, or at office, or if you do not work at all. As long as nothing and no one feels squeezed because of you working from home, you are doing good. Else, change what you are not doing right. Remember, all of you celebrating your individual spaces in the family is as important as you feeling empowered within the walls of your home.
This post was originally published here on 25th September 2018.
Image Source: Pixabay