As a stay-at-home mom who also works a full-time job, I often feel overwhelmed at all that is on my plate. It is, in a sense, like having two full-time jobs. At the same time, I know that if I didn’t work I would likely end up wasting a large amount of time. My kids keep me busy, but I still have quite a bit of free time in between caring for my kids and playing with them. Having a job builds in some accountability to help me to be a good steward of the time God has given me.
Another stewardship issue comes into play, however, when I am doing these two things at once. In order to be both a present mom and a faithful employee, I have to be diligent in how I manage my time. It is hard for me to evaluate myself as a mother (does anyone ever feel like they’re doing a great job at this parenting thing?!), I do know that I prioritize my kids during the day. So, in order to evaluate myself as a worker, I have set measurable and immeasurable principles to determine how well I’m doing at my job.
In my last article, I discussed the measurable principles I use to help me balance the see-saw from mom to employee. Today, I want to discuss the immeasurable principles I use. These are quite subjective and may change as my circumstances change (kids grow more independent, go to school, etc). However, these are the principles I use as benchmarks to help me determine how well I’m stewarding my opportunity to both work and stay at home with my kids.
Presence is hard to measure when you work from home. By nature, a work-from-home job rarely requires my physical presence. In my last two work-from-home jobs, I didn’t even live in the same city as the organization for which I worked and the nature of my work meant I was fairly siloed. So, “presence” was not something I measured much at all.
That’s all changed with my current job. I now work on a team and in an environment where some of my work is dependent upon others and others’ work is dependent upon me. I also live five minutes away from my physical office.
Because of this, I have had to determine what it means to be present in my job and with my kids. Again, this is difficult to measure, but these are some guidelines I’ve set:
- I virtually attend all regular team meetings, with rare exception. While I almost always have my camera turned off and microphone muted so the background noise in my home is not disturbing the meeting, this at least allows me to remain updated on the goings-on in the office.
- Related, I also make every effort to meet in person when my physical presence is requested. My coworkers are very understanding of my situation and often make every effort to schedule virtual meetings around my kids’ schedule. However, on the rare occasion that I need to attend in-person, I trade with my husband or have a babysitter come. I do this precisely because this is a rare instance, so when someone asks me to actually attend a meeting in-person, I know it’s really important that I be there.
- I try to respond to any messages on the same day I receive them, or first thing the next day if it’s after working hours. This one can be more complicated because in my attempts to be present with my kids, I don’t want my phone to be glued to my hand at all times. This balance is something I’m still trying to figure out.
Doing Good Work
The next principle I use to evaluate my work is the quality. I don’t want to simply meet a deadline, I want to put forth high quality work. I want to make sure that our school stands out among other applicants and grant recipients. This works in a few different ways:
- I have taken the time to go through my predecessors’ work to see how they wrote grants. I’ve also researched and learned as much as I can about our relationships with the foundations who regularly give us grants.
- I am diligent to edit and proofread each grant and report I write. In my mind, a single typo ruins an entire piece. I’ll often read through my work four or five times.
- I also have a built-in review process with my superiors. I get their approval before I send anything, so their feedback helps me know if I’m doing quality work.
Note that I do not evaluate the quality of my work with how successful I am at winning grants—at least not yet. I have not been in this job long enough to understand how the grant-making process works. I’m still learning what gives us a leg up in requesting grants, how to match projects to charitable foundations, how foundations determine who receives grants, etc. As I understand these criteria more, I may include success as metric.
Going Above and Beyond
It would be easy—especially in my situation—to do the bare minimum required by my job. However, I don’t think that honors the opportunity I’ve been given. In order to be a good steward of my job, I want to go above and beyond. These are some ways I’m attempting to do that:
- I have our communications office put design touches on relevant grant proposals and reports. This doesn’t apply to every grant, as some are a simple form submitted online. However, though it would be easier and quicker not to, I try to send a visually appealing document whenever possible to help our school stand out and demonstrate the effort that goes into every project.
- One thing I have been specifically asked to do is to research new foundations and to find new grants. We have longstanding relationships with several foundations and it would be easy to fill my time maintaining those relationships without building new ones. Though that’s important, I also want to go above and beyond this by tapping into new sources of potential funding.
- I try to put the same effort into the more minor parts of my job description as my main responsibilities. However, though grant writing is my main responsibility, it is not my only one. So, whether writing content for other newsletters or publications our office sends out or showing up to help with an event when I can, I try as much as possible to be a team player even if it’s not specifically stated in my job description.
But what about the kids?
I’ve talked a lot about being a good steward of my opportunity to work full time, but have spent little-to-no time talking about how I steward my time with my kids. There are two reasons for this.
First, it’s extremly difficult to evaluate myself as a mother and truthfully, I don’t want to try to reduce motherhood into a set of measurable principles. Because I am naturally task-oriented, I don’t want my kids to become something I check off of a list.
Second, the entire reason I work from home is so I can be present with and prioritize raising my children. They get the firstfruits of my attention and their needs come first. So whether they need food, sleep, a diaper change, a book read, a song sung, a ball thrown, a boo boo kissed—I’m here to do that for them and with them.
That does not mean that I cater to their every whim. I think it’s important that they learn how to play independently and learn how to put others’ needs before their own. They are starting to understand what it means when “Mommy is working” and how to wait on me to finish a work task when the need arises—which is not often.
By the grace of God, I’ve been able to stay at home with my kids and work a full time job without neglecting either (at least most of the time!). This is an ongoing learning process and one that will change as my kids do. But if you find yourself in the same circumstances, I hope these principles will help you as you navigate this stay-at-home-working-parent world.