Motherhood on its own is exhausting, time-consuming, and completely rewarding. I often find I'm the one handling all the cooking, laundry, playing, clean up, stories, morning routines, bedtime routines, and then trying to find moments between all that to sit without someone needing you. I mostly work from home (my main job is freelance writing), but I have some side hustles I like to dedicate time to as well, like sewing and selling kids' dress-up clothes, painting, and photography. On top of that, I homeschool my kids. It's a lot to balance, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Since I'm always busy, I've struck upon some ways that help my days run a little smoother. Maybe they can help yours, too!
- Get help.
Ask for it. Beg for it, even! Just don't be afraid to reach out when things get hard. I'm lucky to have a solid support network of friends around me (most of my family lives thousands of miles away), and I'm thankful that I can call on them when I'm struggling. I also have several reliable babysitters that I try to keep on hand so that I can give one a call when I need quiet time to get work done or need to make time for self-care. It sounds indulgent, but I know that if I take the time to decompress, I'll be more productive. And when all else fails, I use a drop-in childcare service in the area, bring out the tablets, or, if it's warm outside, I have the kids swim or play at the park while sit nearby and work.
- Find some quiet time.
I finish tons and tons of work late at night. Everyone is sound asleep, so I can get out my sewing machine, lay out all of my paints, and dedicate my fullest attention to whatever I need to get done. Yes, I often feel completely wiped out by the end of the day, but I've found that doing yoga (even a few sun salutations helps wake my body and mind) can re-energize me enough to get some work done. Also hiring a babysitter or asking a friend to host a playdate is another way I try to get some quiet time in the daylight hours.
- Put important info in one place.
When I don't plan ahead, I lose track of due dates and what needs to be completed. I like to write down my daily goals and checklists in the same place and always add a few bonus to-do items (like calling the doctor or paying the phone bill) that will make me feel accomplished when completed. When I'm juggling so many balls, I find it's easier to write everything down every single day to get all of that information out of my head and into an organized system.
- Know your limits.
There are times that I bite off more than I can chew. I'm supporting two kids and have a lot of interests, and I'm also passionate about the work that I do. All of those things combined make it very easy to overbook myself to the point where I can't meet my deadlines. So I've learned that it's important to constantly assess my limits (which might change each day because life with kids can be unpredictable) and work to set boundaries for myself — and communicate to others when I'm feeling overwhelmed.
- Streamline your systems.
Efficiency is everything. If I can knock out two jobs at the same time, I will. If the kids are busy with activities or playing with friends, then I'm squeezing in whatever work I can, even if I only have five minutes before someone yells for me. I like to use online productivity programs like Evernote, Trello, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Calendar, and Freshbooks to keep track of ideas, deadlines, finances, and most communications. I find it super helpful that they sync between my computer and phone — it means I can work from anywhere, at any time. Like, say, if I end up getting stuck under a sleeping toddler. When my systems are synced, I can start writing an article from my phone while snuggling with my little one.
- Try to find balance.
I know, I know. But I truly believe that with all of this work and a jam-packed schedule, I'm inevitably going to slam face first into burnout if I don't find time to do things that aren't necessarily "productive." I know I have to nurture my body and mind to stay on top of things, so I try find that balance by listening to my heart . . . and also listening to my kids. My 8-year-old is quick to let me know if he feels like I've been distracted. I take that as my cue to slow down and go do something fun, either with the kids or by myself. When I'm alone, I try to find time for meditation classes, yoga, or a quiet afternoon at the library. With the kids, we love playing games or heading outside.
I believe it's possible to juggle the needs of a job, motherhood, and a side hustle. It takes a lot of diligence, perseverance, a constant reassessing of needs . . . and a good dose of positive self-talk. But I feel strongly that it's worthwhile to do the things that I love. And I love that my kids see me pursuing the things that bring me joy, and they, in turn, will know that they can achieve their goals as well.