The alarm goes off and I lay there, Hayes quietly sleeping to his sound machine. It is dark outside, I sit and open Instagram to get my mind going and push through the groggy feeling of waking up when it is still dark. If you had told me two years ago I would be waking up every day before 7 AM I would tell you that you are nuts. Becoming a parent makes you do crazy things and waking up early by choice is one of them. That is just the slew of things that have come into play in our lives as we have tried to find this balance between having a business together and a family.
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In all honesty, I had a very serious plan when we found out we were pregnant. Actually, I had a serious plan even before we were pregnant. The idea: I would start “maternity leave” about 3 weeks before my due date so I had time to relax and do any final preparations. Then I would have the baby at some point. After 2 months I would be back to work on some level and by 3-4 months we would have a part-time nanny. We would do 3 days with her watching him from 10 AM – 5 PM and we would work from our studio on our property. The other days Mike and I would flip flop on care and balance it depending on schedules and deadlines. All would be good. Sounds easy right?
Well as you know if you are a parent; Nothing goes according to plan…ever. That boy ruined every plan or prediction I had for how I would be a parent. He shook me to my core and I couldn’t even handle the idea of handing him over to someone who wasn’t one of our mothers. I felt extremely fortunate to have the flexibility in my career to attempt some level of balance of life with him and work. I have struggled to find the courage and place to begin with a sitter. The first time I ever left him at all was with my parents and it took me inching my way into these situations to finally ever feel comfortable to let someone else babysit him. I never anticipated that and in many ways I envied women who seemed strong enough to separate things well so they could continue on in their career goals the way they had hoped or at least it seems that way from the squares on their social media. This left me wondering how anyone had kids and was an entrepreneur. How was it possible?! Even now in all honesty, I struggle and by no means have it together. A big deadline comes along or I fall short on a goal I had to finish a personal project. Just this week I had a moment I felt as if it all fell apart even though it hadn’t. Nevertheless, parenthood is hard all on its own, but then being a mom too?
Mike was a different story. He actually took a large consulting job when Hayes was 2 months old and so I spent most of my days from 2-4 months alone with Hayes most days balancing emails, blogging, and shoots. The trouble I had in all of that was the lack of consistency. Hayes didn’t nap much longer than 45 minutes, but I was always on duty so if he woke up I was back on. I always felt bad just setting him in his swing while he gazed at me chugging away on emails and work. I hated that my computer would sit between us many times, so I would do lettering, talk to him, and listen to music together. Hayes never was a content very long lounging though, so those moments of being able to get things done when he wasn’t mobile weren’t ever in the cards for us. He constantly wanted to do be doing something so it was very hard to get much of anything done while balancing life with him. Also, at this stage balancing a baby and career was also about balancing sleep. I was doing all the night wakings with Hayes because I was nursing and Mike was working from 5 AM to sometimes 11 PM so he couldn’t handle the wake ups even though he wanted to. This time was terrible on our relationship as you might wonder. Needless to say at month 4 he ended the job and we started reworking the system and finding ways to balance things more equally.
We traveled a ton between 4-7 months with Hayes. These were the roughest months of sleep for him. Sometimes he was waking every 1-2 hours. Some of it was a mental leap, but I think it was the inconsistencies in his life at the time, but this left us as groggy business owners and parents. Mike and I would typically switch off awake times during this age. Hayes was taking a bottle well and was eating solid food, so it was easier for Mike to take over so I could leave the house and work at a coffee shop or get some time for myself. At about 5 months he would sit calmly and play or go wild in his bouncy seat long enough for us to both work together sometimes. If we had to brainstorm or work through some new ideas it was easiest to go for a walk with him in the carrier or stroller and then execute things while he slept.
At 7 months Hayes was army crawling everywhere and needed constant attention. So the idea of a regular sitter was becoming a very necessary for us not only so we could get a breather, but because it was hard to work with him moving everywhere. When we got settled at our rental in Michigan after 2 months in Michigan for the summer and then moving from Raleigh, we took some time to slow down for a while. We got VERY serious about sleep training and other than a bought of being sick we narrowed him down to three great naps a day and only one wake up a night. It also meant we could actually work better and more consistently together. Things were more predictable and we learned just how important a schedule is for us to get the most amount of work done. Typically Mike and I would strategize our mornings together while Hayes ate breakfast with us and then we would decide who took first shift, second shift, and third. Every day was different on who got what duties, but we did it we also use tools as this paystub maker to manage payroll in our business. Somedays were rough as I was finally feeling some sort of ownership over my career again in a big way, but wasn’t sure how to handle it. I was realizing what I really wanted and what I didn’t, but this also meant finding the mental space to create, which I think will always be hard as a mother.
Now, before I get to where we are now, I want to note that it took me a very long time to get here. I had a very hard time finding any sort of balance between my duties as a mom and my duties to myself and my passions. I had a hard time seeing the lines between them and also accepting the gray areas of it all. It literally took me till almost 9 months postpartum to feel I was gaining some sort of myself back creatively and mentally. I struggled to find clarity and passion again for what I wanted in my creative career outside of being a mother. That all took me by surprise since I have always been so driven and focused on my passions. Motherhood consumed every inch of my heart and soul so I had to learn to find the space again for all the other things who make me who I am.
Right after Thanksgving, this last year, I came back ready to get very serious about drawing lines with my work and family life. I had read a lot and felt like it was time to really take control of it. Hayes at this point started sleeping through the night and taking 2-3 very good naps a day so it would be easy for him to have a regular sitter. Then we began the elusive search for a sitter. This took weeks for us to find someone who was 1. available 2. would drive the hour (even with pay) to come from town to our home (we live 30 minutes almost from town) 3. felt like a good fit for us. After some digging and suggestions from people, we landed on a lovely and very sweet girl who we feel so lucky to have found. We looked all over on Care.com and other websites, but ultimately through friend recommendations found our regular sitter.
Now, since we have a sitter we have help for about a total of 12 hours a week. Every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday she comes right now for about 4 hours and helps with Hayes. He enjoys his time with her while Mike and I either take meetings together, work on projects or blog posts in our office space we have above our detached garage, or we go and get a parental and business owner refresh.
That all said, I wanted to share with you what our schedule is as business owners, parents, and while doing it all right at home.
6 AM – Alarm goes off and Mike and I slowly wake up talking and looking at our phones
6:30 AM – up and out of bed and letting the dogs out and starting hot water for coffee. Hayes is still asleep.
7 AM – Coffee done, dogs fed, and breakfast started. During this time we talk about our day, what is ahead and expectations for that day such as calls we each have or deadlines that are looming.
7 -8 AM – This is when I do all the tasks that are rhythms such as checking blog comments, Instagramming, adjusting my calendar for shoots and plans and deadlines. I run through my email and tag necessary things to respond to, but I don’t email unless it is urgent. I do my emails closer to the end of the day because my time is so precious I use my lowest energy for those tasks. I also will do our blog email at this time of day if there is a new post for the day. Typically I will start working on something creative at this time once those quick and simple tasks are done, which is different every morning depending on what I am inspired to work on.
8 – 9 AM – I continue working on that creative thing till Hayes wakes up sometime between 8 and 9. Once Hayes is awake the day really gets going. Mike usually takes him with him to his play room and Hayes plays while Mike does his workout and I finish up whatever I am working on and get Hayes’s breakfast ready for him.
10 AM – By this time Mike typically will go and work in the studio. Most days Mike takes the morning shift to work and I take the afternoon. Currently, he is working on a large consulting job on his own and so it is important for him to have as much time on the company’s office hours as possible to stay up on things and to take calls. I typically will get Hayes breakfast and then do pilates while he plays and climbs all over me. I enjoy having my mornings with him especially since a lot of my basic tasks are knocked off in the morning before he even wakes up.
11/11:30 PM – Hayes typically will take a nap. He doesn’t fight naps anymore and just passes out for at least an hour and a half so I can take calls during this time, answer emails, and check in on any projects. A lot of times I will also get some final edits in on a blog post till he wakes up. I also sneak in a quick shower at this time.
12:30/1 PM – This is when he typically wakes up from his nap and at that time depending on the day we all have lunch together. Then this is the flex period of time in our day. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday sitter comes and hangs with Hayes from 1:30 – 5:30. This means Mike and I work together, do shoots, or even run an errand (now that we are starting the house this time is adding up to contain that even more). On Thursdays, we go to the Chiro typically, get groceries, and then sometimes set up social experiences for Hayes. Wednesdays, Mike and I typically switch off weeks on who takes this time depending on who’s workload is heavier. This time of the day is always dependent on the situations of the day.
3 PM – Hayes takes his last nap for at least an hour and a half if not 2 hours sometimes. How we handle this time varies depending on the day. If our sitter is here we continue working while she is inside with him. If one of us is on duty one of us or both of us will work in the house during this time.
4:30/5 PM – Hayes wakes up and work is tied up no later than 5:30 depending on the day. This is typically when we have our time as a whole family. We make dinner, Hayes destroys the kitchen, and then we all eat dinner together. It is a chaotic frenzy but it is life right now for us and I love it.
6:30-7:30 – We play as a family together at this time and it is a lot of fun. Sometimes we facetime with Mike’s parents in Texas so they can see Hayes or we just play together. Typically Hayes runs around with only a diaper on running off all his energy.
7:30 PM – Bedtime routine is started for Hayes and whoever is on duty that night does bedtime and the other helps clean up the house.
8 PM – Hayes is asleep or at least in bed at this time. We then typically will work inside cozy on the couch most nights on things. On Friday and Saturday nights we do everything we can to not work. Instead, we will enjoy relaxing, reading, writing, watching TV, or having a drink by the fire.
10/10:30 PM – Head to bed so we are asleep by 11 and for sure no later than 12.
A few notes:
- In our future home, our office will be a spare room and eventually will create a space in our finished basement.
- We live about 30 minutes from town on a peninsula so trips to town are very specific and intentional.
- We decided to opt for a the child care option, because of our distance to town.
- At least once a week we sleep in with Hayes, especially on really busy weeks. We find the early wake ups add up so sleeping in one day a week helps our energy levels perk back up so we can finish the week strong but still have less work during the weekends.
It took us nearly a year to land here in a schedule where everyone is happy (at least for now). Things will shift and change but with every shift we adapt better than before. That said, I wanted to share a few thing that really made a difference in finding our rhythm as parents working from home:
- Wake up early:
They say the early bird catches the worm and I absolutely believe them now. I hated early wake ups but after a solid 8 months of it not by choice, I have learned how waking up early actually is a blissful thing. Now that Hayes is sleeping in later I find these moments easier to get. The key is going to bed early and setting your alarm. We use the iPhone’s bedtime app in the Clock. It reminds you to go to bed and has the wake-up sound.
- Get your baby on a schedule:
I know it is hard. We aren’t schedule people before having a kid, but after the pushing from a few entrepreneur girlfriends, we took the deep plunge at about 5 months after some really rough nights. It took time to find his patterns and even what worked for us. It wasn’t till we traveled to Texas we realized the kid is an 8 o’clocker. Who would have thought? I worked from awake time lengths to find his points for sleep that meant he was tired but not exhausted so he went down quickly and easily. I watched and observed a lot and put in a ton of work to get him to this point so that I could have the freedom and comfort of handing him off knowing that his routine and schedule was in place so he knew what to expect, our sitter knew what ot expect, and I knew what to expect. It allows one person to pick up where the other left off without missing a beat.
- Dedicate space for your work:
Take it from me, working in the living room and dining table is a bad plan. Set up a space that inspires you and makes you happy whether it is in your bedroom or above your garage. It has to be somewhere you can disappear out of sight from your baby so a sitter can easily care for them. It will also is key to separating yourself from personal life and work life.
- Get some help:
Know that you don’t have to go it ALL alone. We looked hard at our finances to see where we could afford the help and what we could cut out to accommodate it. I set a budget for help of about $350 a week max. We knew the value of our time and if $350 would buy us a solid 15 hours of work a week together it was invaluable to us. We weighed what made sense and what didn’t. I thought about my work load and my goals and so did Mike. We talked about what we could balance together and what felt like too much. What resulted was I opted for someone to clean our house once a week since that was something that bugged both of us and then we hired a part-time sitter. We also hired consultants on risk assessment for small businesses. They have been the best investments because it leaves us those 15 hours or so a week to invest in our company.
- Consider some sort of childcare:
I know part of working from home is to offset the high cost of childcare. We looked at every option for Hayes and now are even looking at toddler programs for next Spring for him. It is hard to comprehend the costs, but I highly suggest even for your own creative sanity to find a way to get some help even if it is once a week dropping them off with a family member or going to your local YMCA and working in the lobby while you get free childcare…yeah that is a thing! haha. There are a ton of options just find the one that fits you and your family best.
- Separate Family and Work wherever possible:
We always dedicate our mornings and evenings to family time. We focus on having meals together and being present as much as possible together. We try to talk with Hayes instead of only about work in front of him. It isn’t always easy, but we are always trying our best. Separating your personal life and work life isn’t easy either when you work from home, but dedicated spaces make a huge difference. I’ve also seen a lot of people using the virtual office service from https://www.virtualoffice-london.co.uk recently and it’s a brilliant way of keeping your personal postal address private, so if you need to do that then have a look into that.
The biggest hurdles now I am working through is being able to step away from being a mom when I am given off-duty status. It isn’t easy, but I know it is good for all of us. Mostly because I need the freedom and time off and so does Mike. Not to mention at nearly 1 year old it is good for Hayes to experience being without us as his sole providers so eventually he will feel comfortable heading out to school and having new experiences with other people. Independence and security in his independence are very key to us no matter how hard it is to step away. As for other aspiring business owners out there, learning details like professional indemnity insurance cover can lift a lot of weight on your shoulders.
I would love to hear from some of you other moms who work for yourself…how do you do it?! Do you have questions about what we have done? I find it so interesting how other parents care for their children, themselves, and chase their dreams? The balance is hard as can be, but it is also very rewarding when you can find some way to balance it all.