For about half of my working life post-college, I have had a remote job. I love working from home. For me, the benefits far outweigh the challenges, though the challenges have certainly increased over the last couple of years. One of those challenges has simply been the addition of kids to the mix. The other challenge has been transitioning from part-time to full-time work in the last eight months—the first full-time job I have had since having the aforementioned kids.
The transition to full-time work while remaining a stay-at-home mom created a need for me to significantly shift how I operate in my daily life. It is important to me that I am both present and involved with my kids, while also being a faithful employee.
I’ve received a lot of comments and questions about how I am able to both stay at home with my kids and maintain a full-time job, usually along the lines of “How does that work?” While I am certainly no expert, I’ll attempt to answer that question in two articles, hopefully providing a helpful framework for others who may find themselves in the same position.
For context, I am a grant writer for the seminary from which I also hold a master’s degree. I’m learning this job as I go, though I’m not brand new to the financial development or writing world.
My kids are currently two and one. I made the shift from part-time work to my current full-time role in September of last year, just after my oldest turned two and my youngest was seven months old. We’ve never put them in regular childcare. I wanted to stay home with them and am thankful that I’ve been able to do so.
My job is also one of just a few roles at our school that can be done remotely and not be inhibited by being offsite. While I do interact with people around campus, I am not in a front office position that requires my physical presence to interact with office guests or handle in-office tasks.
My role is primarily outward facing, dealing with charitable foundations around the country. I typically communicate with foundations through snail mail, email, or phone. I often need to meet with offices on campus, but am able to conduct most meetings virtually. On occasion, I need to attend a meeting in person, so I do arrange childcare on those days. My kids will both go to preschool in the fall for a couple of days per week, during which I will go to my office to work.
I realize I am in a unique situation where I’m able to both do my job and care for my kids at home. Even still, I often feel like I’m doing a poor job of balancing it all. So, I have come up with some principles—both measurable and immeasurable—that help me attempt to find a balance between being a good and present mom and employee. This first article will discuss my measurables and I’ll follow up with a second article about my immeasurables.
Though your situation may not be exactly like mine, I hope these principles will help you if you find yourself searching for that same balance.
Determine your most productive time.
This time should also be the hours that are most likely to be free of interruptions. For me, that time is early in the morning. I am up by 4:30 most mornings so that I can read my Bible, pray, and work. That gives me several hours in the morning to start my work day before my kids get up. I do the tasks that require the most focus during this time.
The rest of my work is done in scattered times throughout the rest of the day, while my kids are playing by themselves, napping, or after bedtime.
Of course, any work I do that requires other people has to wait until normal business hours. I do generously use the schedule function in my email for messages and/or documents that I’m working on before or after hours. I’ll schedule these to send during normal business hours so that a) I won’t forget to do it and b) I respect my coworkers’ workdays and family life by not regularly sending them stuff when I know they’re off work.
Fortunately, though I’ve not been on the job long enough to know for sure, the nature of my work means I rarely seem to have last minute projects or deadlines. That means I can work on grants or reports far enough in advance that if I do have something come up (like a teething baby waking up at 5:00 in the morning), it’s not as detrimental to my work as it could be.
I do also occasionally work on weekends to make up for any time I may have missed during the week while doing something with my kids. I don’t mind doing this because I like that my job is flexible enough to allow me to be present with my kids.
Prepare for the day.
I’ve read a lot of things on productivity and one common theme seems to be the idea of prepping for the next day the night before. By planning ahead before I go to bed, I can get up the next morning and know what I need to do without wasting my most productive hours organizing tasks.
I admit that I like this idea better than I execute it. I don’t plan ahead very consistently, but when I do, this is what my evenings look like as I prepare for the next day:
I shower, so I don’t have to take the time to do it in the morning. I review my task management app (my team uses Asana so I use it personally for simplicity’s sake) and prioritize what I need to for the next day. I schedule the coffee maker to brew the next morning so the coffee is ready to drink when I get up. This is all really small stuff but it does make a big difference in my time management.
The last measurable principle I use to determine if I’m being a good employee is by simply meeting deadlines, preferably without having to scramble or do much last minute work. This works in two directions. A decent bit of my work requires assistance and reviews from other offices or my superiors. Knowing that everyone is busy with their respective jobs, I try (to the best of my ability) to give enough advance notice of my needs so nobody is rushed when I have a deadline coming up. I also do not want to inhibit anyone else from doing their job by my lack of planning or foresight.
That’s another reason why I try to work ahead as far as possible. I never want my working from home to cause me to become a bottleneck. I also do not want to be the reason we need to ask for a deadline extension.
I realize that none of this is earth shattering information, but but I do think it’s important to institute good habits and organizational skills. These lay a foundation for the immeasurable principles that I will discuss in my next article.
It’s constantly fascinating to me how staying at home with my kids is, in and of itself, a full-time job. Adding a full-time job on top of that has required me to be diligent about how I manage my time. I want to be a faithful employee and a good steward of the opportunities the Lord has given me. It is also important to me that I not just care for my kids by meeting their physical needs but that I am also present with them, playing with them, and enjoying them.
Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash